by Rich Troxler
Every winter, most everybody I know spends their spare time tinkering around with their tackle and waiting patiently for spring to arrive. Every winter, I tell myself that I'm going to get all my fishing related maintenance done early, just like everybody else. And every winter, I go off and get involved in a bunch of other projects, leaving my fishing preparations until the last minute. And so it is this year also.
To rectify this situation I typically take a week or two off in March, or early April, for two reasons actually. The first is to perform the aforementioned maintenance on my gear, which really only takes a day or two of concentrated effort. The rest of the time I devote to my annual spring spot hunt, which takes place throughout the entire south shore bay system of Long Island.
I'm a total spot ho, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. For me personally, the finding and exploration of new spots has always been the most satisfying and enjoyable part of fishing. Nothing beats catching fish from a spot you found yourself. It doesn't matter how many spots I already have, I am constantly on the lookout for more.
Many years ago, the task of finding spots was relegated to an old Hagstrom Atlas and a lot of footwork and test casting. Well the footwork hasn't changed, but the tools involved in finding spots has certainly evolved and improved a great deal since I began the hunt. Technology has certainly left its mark, and perhaps no other technology has impacted the spot hunt more favorably than satellite imaging. There are several well-known websites that offer arial imagery and the image resolution keeps getting better and better.
So during the winter I typically spend most of my lunch hours combing the south shore bays in "bird's eye" view. From this vantage point, you can see down into the water, so it becomes easy to identify channel edges, sand bars and rips, as well as mapping out possible routes around the many mosquito drains, for getting to distant points on the sod banks. 30 years ago, I would have never believed that this kind of information would be so easily available in the future.
Early each spring, I look forward to selecting a few of my "possibilities" and taking a few days to go look them up. Some are just simple shore-bound access points, the kind of places that only the local residents know about, and some are a little more exotic. For those long treks out onto the marshes I usually arm myself with a map (a printed arial image of the area), a rod with a couple 3 or 4 oz bank sinkers, a backpack with Gatorade and a hammer, and a sack full of stakes for marking my pathway.
Basically, I work my way along, according to the information provided by the arial image map, and where critical features are present, I drive a stake in the sod bank, kind of like a breadcrumb trail. I pre-treat the stakes with reflective paint, so when I go back at night, a quick shot of light from a spot light lets me know which way to head and where to cross drains, etc. Most times I can memorize the routes, but I have several long routes that this level of effort is required. Losing your way through a maze of muddy mosquito drains is never a good thing LOL.
Many times an arial image will show a rip or two in a channel, so I'll walk the channel edge, taking a few test casts here and there in order to gauge water depth and current speed. If I come across a drain, I follow it until I find a place to cross and then continue on. When I reach the area on the map that showed the rip, I investigate the whole area, making many casts in order to determine what is causing the rip. Anything I find, I make notes on the map for future reference. Whether working my way along a channel, or working my way out to a distant point, the exploration process is always an exciting and enjoyable one, a nod to my childhood days as it were.
In an earlier blog, I mentioned that I was working on a fishing bike, the intent of which is to overcome some serious access issues I have been having in recent years. Well the work continues. I requisitioned my daughters 10 speed for the project, seeing as she lives in Ohio and probably won't miss it. It needed a new tire and I sprayed the frame black and I've started fabricating the supports for the back milk crate I'll be mounting, but that's as far as I've gone, so finishing that will be a priority during my time off in the near future.
By all accounts, it looks like it's going to be an early spring. I'm hoping for long runs of stable weather and no brown tide. Probably asking for too much LOL.