Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Special Fish in Trouble, "Running the Coast"

In August of 2016 I caught my first striped bass on the fly. I wasn't fully smitten from that moment, but it changed something deep inside me and by the fall's end I had become striper obsessed. I will never be the same, because of this one magical fish. There are three species that did this to me. Brook trout, Atlantic salmon, and striped bass. All three are more important to me as species than any belongings. I would give up fishing in a heartbeat to ensure that these three species survived throughout their native ranges for the next 100 years. Seeing wild Atlantic salmon, native brook trout, and striped bass killed makes me sick to my stomach. So this has been a hard day for me....

Photo Courtesy Sal DeCarli

Photo Courtesy Sal DeCarli

Photo Courtesy Sal DeCarli
These were casualties of prolonged cold in shallow water, in a Connecticut River tributary. This is, to a degree, natural. But climate change has had demonstrable effects on the striper migration, holdover populations, and extreme weather changes. I've spent the day seeing and hearing about striper kills in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia, all due to the cold. Now that it has warmed up these fish are becoming visible. Who knows how many striped bass in total were lost during this event from Virginia to Cape Cod. Tens of thousands? Hundred's of thousands? It adds up, as does the catch by commercial anglers and recreational anglers, and the mortality from poor catch and release methods.

If you really, truly care about these fish, think twice the next time you are considering taking one home. Too many big cow stripers are killed to be weighed and are never eaten, and too many breeding females are taken by commercial anglers and party boats. This is not sustainable. If we aren't careful we are going to loose one of the most spectacular game fish in the world. 

Now, this isn't something I do a lot of. I don't do product reviews, I don't do book reviews, and I don't do film reviews. But I'm about to review a film. It isn't really a new one, but it is one I'm sure quit a few of you have not seen, and I'm going to urge you to buy it. I'm not being paid to promote anything. I just love this film and think it's absolutely worth sharing. 

When I saw that trailer sometime last winter, it made me want to see Running the Coast more than any movie trailer I've ever seen, and I am not exaggerating in the least. It kind of got into the soul of a striped bass angler. And if the movie was even a tenth as good as the trailer made me believe it was it  would be worth seeing. I was not disappointed. For five years Jamie Howard and crew followed the striped bass migration, fishing with and interviewing characters like Greg Myerson, Paul Dixon, Alberto Knie, Tyler Nonn, Peter Laurelli, Bill Wetzel, Jaime Boyle, and Bob Popovics... that is the short list. If these names aren't all familiar you should watch the film. Running the Coast manages to capture striped bass fishing almost at it's best in many locations between Maine and the Chesapeake. Big fish are caught, and big fish are released. It is a true feat of fishing film making, something that is probably unrepeatable now. Running the Coast celebrates the striped bass migration in a beautiful way. If you love striped bass, if you've spent the night in your truck to get on the bite, if you would chase these fish to the ends of the earth, this is a must see. If you have never caught a striper but want to, this will make you want it even more. Everyone who thinks about striped bass more than once in a year should probably buy and watch Running the Coast. 

Striped bass are an incredible fish that give anglers a so many different ways to catch them. Flats fishing. Deep water eeling. Early morning topwater. Surf bucktailing. Casting squid flies into a rip. Running the Coast manages to cover a broad range of locations, conditions methods, and anglers. I don't care if you have 20 years to work with, you won't get it all. But in five years these guys came pretty close. Watch it. Enjoy it. Then go out and fish for striped bass, and when you catch a big one, like this:

Let her swim away so she can make more stripers. Give back. We've been taking much more than we should.


  1. Well said Rowan! And just think, if everyone who loves whatever species paid attention, we could save some of all of them.