Thursday, September 1, 2016

Two Days on the Salt: The Best Fishing Trip of My Life

I woke up this morning and looked at my thumb to make sure the previous evening wasn't a dream. My thumb was the texture of sandpaper, with tiny scratch marks running in all directions. Good, it was real. Our seemingly impossible late summer striper bite had really happened.

When Dalton and I go on a fishing trip it is always a crazy, but this was one for the books. We both agreed on our drive home last night: this had been the best one yet. So let's start from the top

We left later than intended on Tuesday morning. We got to the shore well after the morning bit had probably ended, but we had kayaks so there was a distinct possibility of catching some deep water fish or reaching otherwise inaccessible sections of shoreline.

We cruised around for a while looking for active fish, saw some bait flipping but nothing much being chased, and stopped on a beach for a little while. There was more bait flipping around, but I suspect they were just being chased by snapper blues.

 We decided to troll on the way out, and about 100 yards in Dalton hooked into the first fish of the trip, a sea robin

That was the only fish the truly ate either of our offerings during that part of the day. As we worked our way through the bay we encountered massive schools of adult bunker. Sometimes it is impossible to fish in areas where these schools are without snagging them. We both hooked a couple. It was entertaining to have something pull at the end of the line, but it just wasn't at all sporting so we moved on after chasing those schools for a while without seeing anything attack them.

At this time in the day we new there was very little chance we would find much activity in the sound, so we decided to go hunt for some bass. I chose a pond that is only accessible by kayak, one I have wanted to get into for about a year now.

It didn't take me long to get some bass, both on the Plopper and a Deciever. They were not very big but plenty aggressive. I thought we were in for some great fishing, but after those three fish we blanked in lots of great looking water.

I knew there was a sizable stream flowing into the reservoir. I suspected that there would be fish stacked up at the mouth of that stream. There was a lot of bait fish there, and no surprise a few bass willing to hi a big Plopper. After missing a few I hooked one decent one. The I gave Dalton the right of way and he caught one on a buzz bait.

We decided to sneak our kayaks way up that little creek. We spotted some large bass way up there. It is a place I definitely want to visit again.

At that point in the day we were getting pretty sick of the kayaks. I don't know who designed our kayak seats, but whoever it was must not have thought it through much because they just wrecked our backs. We drove around looking for some car dealers and classic cars, then had our second lunch. We ate canned fruit in the parking lot of a Dollar Tree while listening to classical music. We must have looked ridiculous. Eventually it was time to hit my favorite wading spot. It was instant action there. Dalton began catching some sea robins and tiny sea bass. After about half an hour Mark Steiner showed up and started also catching sea robins. And yet I went nearly fish-less for a while. I caught all of two sea robins. Dalton must have caught somewhere in the upper teens. It was a very productive couple of hours for him! No blitz happened that first evening. No bait was around other than one school of bunker right near the shore.

Exhausted and borderline manic, Dalton and I went to my Dads to get some much needed sleep. We were going to be up early the next morning to go looking for albies and bonito. There is a very popular spot where a power plant's cooling discharge attracts the tunoids that tend to prefer the warmer water. If they are in RI, which they were, there are usually some at the power plant. We would find out in the morning.
 Well, as it turns out there wasn't really any activity in that outflow, which was probably not such a bad thing because that spot was actually dangerous. I have never been as scared being in a kayak as I was then. We got out of there to look for stripers in some more calm water.

We started to get some hits while trolling, but they were just snapper blues. Then, suddenly and without warning, my rod nearly got yanked out from between my legs. My epoxy minnow had been smashed by a more substantial fish. It was a little schoolie, the first striped bass of the trip.

I though we were going to really start catching then, but it soon became obvious that it was an isolated catch. The middle of our day was mixed between fishing for sea robins, looking for some cool cars, driving around looking for some public shoreline and eating.

When there was about a hour of outgoing tide left we went back to the good wading spot. As soon as we got there it was clear there was more life. There were many more schools of bunker, and every so often some bluefish would come in and start harassing them. It was awesome to watch. Then Dalton hooked up, and it was a good fish. His first bluefish on the flat gave a good show after trashing his kastmaster. 

The bluefish attacks were sporadic and only got more sporadic as the tide went out, so we went hunting. If you walk around on a shallow mud flat this time of year you are bound to see some sea robins. We had an epic time sight fishing for these goofy fish. We doubled up with ease because often a second or even third robin will often follow a hooked fish in. That made for some pretty epic photos.

When the robin bite slowed I decided we should head over to a rip Dan and I found last week. Maybe there would be some fluke hanging out there. We did not expect much. What was about to happen totally flies in the face of everything I've been told about LIS summertime inshore fishing. When we first got over to the channel there were a lot of bunker around of all sizes. For about 20 minutes nothing really happened other than the snagging of a couple bunker. It was getting boring. Both of us were considering leaving. Then my ridiculous little pink bucktail got eaten. It took only a few moments to see that it was a small striper. I landed and released that fish then took a few more casts with the pink fly without a hit. There was a large school of peanut bunker there in the eddy behind a small jeti. After I caught that first striper they started getting nervous. Then they got attacked. It was clear what had happened, a group of stripers had moved into that rip.

I changed from the bucktail to a popper and told Dalton to put on a spook. I was into schoolies immediately. They were blowing up on that fly almost every cast. It was not long at all before I was hooking fish. Dalton was having a harder time getting them on, but eventually he was catching fish too. His old braided line became a problem though, and he ended up donating quite a bit of tackle. If the action hadn't been so incredible he would have been upset. But that's the thing. The bite was so incredibly on that there was no time to be upset. And it was only getting better!

Not only was the average size of the fish size progressively increasing from a 14 inch average to a 18 and then 20 inch average, but they were becoming so stacked that sometimes a few different fish would come up for my fly at one time. We must have doubled up ten times.

It got to a point where we really just had to leave. We totally left them there mid bite. Both of our arms were soar, I had a good gash in my finger from doing so many hard strip sets and both hands hurt from working the popper. Dalton got his finger tip chomped by what must have been the only bluefish in the entire rip. It was by far the best two hours of fishing of my entire life. In total we must have caught around 40 striped bass in that little spot.


  1. What a great day and photos of the fish. I gotta catch me a striper on the fly rod some day. Regards, Sam

    1. Thanks!
      They are just a fantastic game fish.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks,
      Sometimes the fish gods smile on us...

  3. WOW!!! You guys found the fish. Great stories and photos! I know what you mean a bout kayak seats. Find something that give more support so you can go longer.
    Epic fishing!!!
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...

    1. Thanks,
      I've tried cushions, they don't have much of an effect.