striper country...When he lies on his side in the surf, a 50-pound
striper is as big as a man, or at least seems to be. For those who
believe in luck, I have had the good fortune to bring seven such fish
to gaff, three of them for others.
My first came in '64, at a time in my life when 50 was
only a numerical quantity. We were in our first beach buggy, a walk-in
of vintage which brought little glamor to the family image. A short
beach in Westport, Massachusetts was the hang-out. Among its charms was
its proximity to Cuttyhunk; just seven miles across Buzzards Bay on the
horizon lay a series of bumps--the Elizabeth Island chain. A large
impression was cut through the center of the beach to keep marine life
in the back pond healthy, and when the tide turned, a hard, deep rip
formed a perpendicular to the beach. Bars made up on the outside where
the rip is softened.
I did all my heaving hoping with eels
in those days, and I had been swimming this one for three hours since
the turn. It occurred to me that I was repeating myself, for every time
I got within 50 feet of the spool, I traded the drift for a slow
retrieve, in vain. On the next drift, considering the level of
activity, I rolled it all out. When the pick-up came, my one option was
to walk seaward at a better clip than the fish. I stored 20 feet of
line and belted him.
Have you ever heard the chimes--the
sound of well drawn mono? It only takes a few knots of breeze with this
condition to make that sound. With one coil of line around my fist, the
20 held. I saw the bottom of my spool once more before he turned. There
was no surf. The fish was 30 feet out in quiet water, idling. A dorsal
broke the moonlit surface occasionally to betray his presence. I got
ten feet away and reconsidered, for in those days how could I be sure
it was a lineside. Ashamed of my fear, I did anyway, backing up the
beach--gaff, 52-pounder, nine-footer and a bad case of shakes.
There's something camp about fishing where you can see
Cuttyhunk. As a point to start from, it would seem appropriate to set
Cuttyhunk as the geographical center of the monster bass population
(the three largest rod and reel fish, over 70, came from there). When
you include the 100 miles of cold sea west to Montauk and
east-northeast to Provincetown on Cape Cod you encompass nearly all of
the yielding geography. Your chances diminish sharply outside this area.
is no organization that maintains statistics on the number of 50 pound
plus stripers caught. A few unrelated promotional endeavors do,
however, recognize the taking of a 50 as the epitome of piscatorial
achievement. One organization, because of the magnitude of its activity
and the season and geography it encompasses, comes nearest to recording
the real total of these monsters. There is no way of knowing what
number is not recorded, consequently a treatise of this sort lacks the
purity of having all the facts. But, I'll stick my neck out and say
that 90 per cent of the "biggies" within rumor shot get reported. From
1964 to 1969, the number reported varied from 75 to 200 per year. I
will concede that the latitude of these figures leaves something to be
desired. My only intent is to bracket the thinking a little--to dispel
the guess from as few as a handful, and narrow the idea that there are
untold hundreds caught.
The hottest year, 1964, produced
about 200; of that number 27 were from the surf. In the years that
followed, roughly ten per cent of the total were shore-caught. That's
right; let's underline that. Statistically, the boats take ten for
every one the waders do. Other factors may be responsible for this.
There may be more serious fishing in boats, or perhaps once a man gets
with it, he is prepared to plow financial resources into a hull. I feel
that the reason more lunkers aren't taken from the surf is simply that
no one is fishing for them.
Many take up their gear every
fall for the schoolie run and can be found at daybreak every morn
pumping a popping plug. They may do this for a week for a pair of small
fish, or perhaps catch their weight in fish each morning. Some of these
lads shape up at daybreak in famed Narragansett, Rhode Island, and they
do well. One glaring question bothers many of them. Why can't they take
a "fifty"? I've heard of no 50 pound bass landed on those rocks in the
last five years. But the tales of woe, heard in any bull session in
that town, indicate that they are there.
select a particular rock to cast from, because of the vantage it
offers, without ever considering the fish-landing qualities of the
terrain. Now if catching one of these giants is a rare accomplishment,
it certainly isn't because King Neptune doesn't cooperate. We thrust
these impossible conditions upon ourselves. The reason I chose
Narragansett as a case in point is because there is perhaps no other
town with a heavier play of surfmen. There is a high level of success,
but only to a point. That is to say many fish are caught, but rarely if
ever is the 30 pound mark exceeded.
It is when you are
able to observe a large number of fishermen at one time that you
realize the inadequacy of gear in use. Difficult to forget is the
morning on Newton Avenue, when there were four men "on" simultaneously.
All broke off, and two went to the bottom of their spools first. The
shiniest novice usually shows up fishing with 12 pound test line. Light
tackle, I would think, is for pro's. The novice, more than anyone,
ought to be packing artillery. By artillery I mean line in excess of 20
pound test. I will concede, however, that 20 has got the power--if all
conditions are right. You don't control all the conditions.
It is not practical in a normal surf casting situation to exceed 20
pound line with a fixed spool or spinning reel. You guessed it, buddy,
the old timers were right all along--you've got to go conventional.
Taking another tip from the old timers; stay away from mono unless you
are chucking tin or lead. Braided line (nylon or Dacron) is soft and
much easier to handle. It is less prone to backlash, and if you do
snarl it's a simple matter to pick it out. As in spinning, the small
diameter line gives the longest casts. There are two basic materials in
common use--the more accepted nylon and Dacron. Dacron is generally
smaller, which results in longer casts; nylon has a tendency to
stretch, like mono, which provides a cushion-like safety factor. Dacron
is firm, like wire, and you will feel every quiver when on a fish. I
prefer the latter in the 45-range.
does take a little getting used to, but it is not as bad as you think.
You will find it adds spice to your fishing, though, if you have done a
lot of spinning and feel that you're ready for the change. I have a
couple of friends who made the change and love it. Today's revolving
spool reels are much more reliable than their spinning counterparts.
You don't really need to carry any spare parts (accent on
bail-springs). Of course I make these remarks conscious that there is a
place for spinning gear and you will want to be proficient with it.
Sweet water people have always referred to the revolving spool as the
bait casting outfit. I believe it is here--casting bait--that this
tackle really shines. For instance, if you were fishing bait on the
bottom with a sinker, and the rod was mounted in a sand spike, you just
might not be looking. The tell-tale click acts as an alarm. You may
prefer to allow the fish some line when he picks up the bait; with the
clutch open and the click on, tension (contact with the sinker) can be
maintained. The fish has the freedom to move off with the bait and be
heard. A simple flick of the clutch lever and your drag is in play.
With fixed spool, the only option you have is a set drag, never walk
from an open bait. The former enables you to fish heavier line for
bigger fish. With an adequate tip, you will be comfortable chucking
lures up to four ounces and still get by throwing two. The big bait/big
fish theory has much merit. Perhaps one reason is the large,
Our hearts were heavy for the Cape. Columbus Day was on a Thursday,
and I could think of no way to get Friday off. We pointed the family
pick-up toward the Rhode Island south shore for a short run. It's
different there somehow. The tidal fluctuation is smaller; rips are
harder to find. There are no bars. Rhody cast the illusion of a
biological void, with its straight nothing-to-go-by beach. I soaked a
whole squid and plugged a large swimmer. Each hour, a light pickup went
by. The second time, the fellow stopped, and we spoke. His name was
Andy, and he chartered out his buggy for fall runs along the beaches.
His charges sat--weapons carrier style--in the rear of the covered
pick-up, facing one another in two rows. Andy watched me closely, for
he never failed to inquire. It was a poor night.
CONTINUED 1 | 2
This article was first printed in June 1970 in Saltwater Sportsman
magazine. It is reprinted here with the permission of Frank Daignault.
The article was produced from photostatic copies of the magazine which
unfortunately was missing one page. The "gap" is noted in the body of
the text. Please keep in mind that this article is 35 years old,
fishing tackle technologies that were new at the time have been greatly
improved and are now modern day standards. This article is covered by
US Copyright Law, no part or parts may be re-printed, distributed or
quoted in any form or any medium without the express written consent of