John Skinner is the author of Fishing the Bucktail and A Season on the Edge. He’s the creator of the fishing log software FishersLog. He’s a consistent producer of trophy striped bass and holds the current New York State false albacore record.
My most memorable hit of the year came late Sunday morning. It was one of those hits where for the first fraction of a second you think you've hung bottom, but as I looked skyward at the rod, the moment was burned into my memory when I saw the tip bouncing. The bass would go all of 26 inches, but was special because it was my first since Sandy. Twelve more, all smaller, would follow in the next ninety minutes. With each fish I thought less about Sandy and more about the actual fishing, and the resilience that some fishing patterns have. The first time I fished this place was in 1977. It was a new stretch of beach for the then 16-year-old surfcaster, and after a fairly lengthy walk I stopped to cast there when I saw some boulder boils. I caught fish that evening, and many times after when the right combination of tide, wind, and calendar windows aligned. To me, this was fishing. No birds, bait, splashes, Internet reports, emails, or cell phone calls to draw me to the fish. Just the right combination of conditions that brought me and the fish together. A day short of one year earlier, I stood in the same spot on the same tide and caught the same number of fish, and it was this reproducibility despite all of the storm's destruction that felt comforting. The superficial structure was changed completely, as I stood about fifty feet further out than ever before on sand that had been ripped from the bluffs and now covered what was once life-filled bottom growth. The boulders, however, were immovable. The current deflected in the same way that it had probably flowed for centuries. The stripers, right where they should have been, when they should have been there, and leaving the spot right on schedule as the current weakened. This was a taste of normalcy on a stretch of beach that was nearly unrecognizable compared to a couple weeks prior. More importantly, this was confirmation that this battered part of Long Island's shoreline was beginning to heal. With the passage of time, I could only hope that those most affected by the storm could do the same.
A video shot in the above location one day short of a year before Sunday's trip.
Just before the storm hit, my 87-year-old father bucktailed this 46-pound bass in Long Island Sound a little east of Mattituck. He was fishing with his 80-something year-old neighbor on his neighbor's boat. Somehow they managed to get the big cow over the side. I hope I'm doing that well when I'm his age. They were using the "3-way rig" method, with a bucktail that my brother made. Here's a 3-way bucktailing how-to video that I shot last fall. My father can be seen landing a nice fish at the end.
It's pretty hard to think about fishing now. I feel almost guilty that I'm in good enough shape to make this blog entry from a warm and lit house. Then there's the luck of having filled up my Jeep's gas tank yesterday morning before word got out about a gasoline shortage. Still, this is a fishing blog so I'll say a few words. Most of the South Shore is impossible to get to. As many have seen in pictures and videos, the barrier islands have been damaged heavily and are breached in multiple locations. I hear the eastern North Fork beaches fared well, but a friend described the fishing out there as "sterile" as of Tuesday. The North Shore beaches further west are a mess. The beaches are stripped of sand, bluffs are collapsed, the water where I live in Wading River was muddy as of Thursday. The next few days of northwest winds should help clean it out. Below is a video I shot at high tide on Monday afternoon in Wading River. One of the problems in this area of the North Shore is that so much of the bluff is bulkheaded. This starves the beach for sand, and makes it very difficult on any parts that are not bulkheaded. My thoughts go out to those who had serious losses. We can be thankful that the insurance company hurricane deductibles did not apply to this storm, so that will hopefully ease the recovery for many from a financial standpoint. Unfortunately, in looking at all of the devastation, this storm's damage goes far beyond what can be recovered by just writing a check.