thank you all for such a wonderful first year of fish and words…
Quite a year to be a fisherman, it was. This was the first year for Fish Wrap and as is often a writer’s tradition, a few caps were twisted off during a few quiet hours of reflection. This small piece of real estate has been for highlighting your great days on the water, the storytellers, sportsmen and characters that make us fishermen and so, the word “I” never was written. Now at years end, it is I who have you to thank for all the great words stories and laughs. What follows this and next week are a few highlights from those fantastic months.
March is lovely month. Spring breezes stir the ocean, energize the daffodils and rally the laundry to dance on our clotheslines. Good-bye ice, hello crocuses! Spring’s arrival affords us a natural opportunity to forget and remember. This is how the aches of hauling firewood and pains of cold skiff seats can be lost for thoughts of open windows, open rivers and easy excuses to “go check out the water”. March for most is just a muddy gateway month, a muted grey watercolor of salted roads edged with dirty snow, dwindling wood piles slumping under old tarps, schools of small finicky cod hanging south of the island and too little daylight. Although she will ultimately unlatch spring’s gate on Thursday, this can be a long few weeks of work eat sleep monotony. A subtle tug on your rod tip can be the greatest of erasers. Spring provides us with largemouth under early blooming maples and a long overdue swing of nature’s color wheel. Dark waves of river herring from the sea will they ride her high tide complete to Main Street. It’s a wonderful bit of nature’s magic, really. My old friend Mackie Swienton at Twin Maples often said too many fishermen use too much oil on their reels, that kids today don’t listen and there’s a lot to learn from am talk radio. At months end, we toast to the great days and nights ahead for the South County fisherman and how it’s now easy to see the lights of April, Easter and the west wall.
Spring came home in April and kicked winter out but apparently never locked the door. Edna St. Vincent Millay gave us “April is upon us, pitiless and young and harsh”. We don’t have to understand Nature, we just need to observe respect and adapt to the patterns often right in front of us. Trout season opened warm clear and bright; a real bluebird morning. A cigar chewing monstrosity drifted past us like a grey Orvis smokestack, the wide rubber donut holding him snugly as he continued his speaker phone conversation about a good walk wasted. The Saugatucket’s small dock leaned with the weight of happy kids casting, jumping up and down at the first sight of fins. No sound fills a heart like that of a laughing child reeling with a tight fist or swinging a fish up from the bottom.
Apparently three times is the most a person should use the dishwasher to clean their tackle boxes. Down in Galilee, construction of the new, very accessible boat ramp is underway. We lost a wonderful writer, Peter Matthiessen, who gave us Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Baymen of the South Fork.
May is the unofficial start of the new story-telling season. Poised for some brush cleanup for returning buckies, on a trash filled section of a Saugatucket tributary, a blur of a car passed by, leaving behind an awful asthma of bargain brand cigars, the driver oblivious to the minor miracles swimming below. This is exactly why we prepare: not just to catch fish for fun and table but also to help restore a little bit of natural balance. Anyone too old to throw mailboxes around Eastward Look will remember when bass stocks crashed a few years back and new regulations had to be promulgated. Today, striped bass are considered “not overfished” by the ASMFC, but a steady population can be easily damaged by removing females weighing less than ten pounds. Squid came in force. Thankfully, jigging is a low cost endeavor; all you need is a light rod so when you snag up on a heap of barnacles and pot warp on your first cast, you can feel plenty of action before the line breaks. Summer flounder will take a red pork rind on a bucktail jig and red beads work on scup rigs. Red also appears when we pull into the lighthouse parking lot and realize our tackle bag was left on the garage floor or the canoe is packed with every item necessary for a perfect day on Beach Pond except the paddles. May 24 is World Fish Migration Day. Salmon trout sturgeon shad striped bass eel and river herring are some of our local species whose river passages far predates our jamming up natures’ gears in pursuit of power and wealth.
For June, with the water warm, bait in strong, the equinox passed and a sturdy new boat ramp, fish have us surrounded. There are fluke to the south and east, blue dogs in the dump, pogies at the mouth, bass on the ledge, largemouth on their beds and blues all around. Fluke are thick from the upper bay to the center wall to Pots and Kettles. Striped bass fishing has stayed steady in the upper bay with live lining pogies being the trick on most tides. Fishing has also begun to improve around Block Island, where free-diver Chris Blansfield reported a very recent increase in bass bathed with sea lice. Good fishermen quickly learn everything on a boat has a place and there is a reason for that place. Block Island is awash in south side weed, sand eels, wandering tourists and a decent crop of honeysuckle a few weeks out. Wild roses have blossomed bright in outside white with blackberries soon to follow.
Next week we will look back at the year starting with the warm month of July and Happy New Year to you all.