public service announcement
I, like all of you, enjoy striper fishing, perhaps to a fault. Striper fishing is more than just a past time to me. The whole endeavor is undertaken with great respect and even reverence for these fine fish. If you have read the works of Frank Daignault, David DiBenedetto or John Cole, you will understand how important striper fishing is to me and other surf fisherman. Unfortunately, this reverence and other qualities normally associated with striper fishing, are missing on board a certain NC charter boat.
I, with another guy, recently drove over 16 hours (both ways) to charter a boat from 7:00 a.m. ? 4:00 p.m. out of Oregon Inlet, NC. Shortly after being underway, we were told: (a) that the fish were located more than three miles offshore, (b) fishing beyond three miles from shore was legal as long as we released the fish we caught, and (c) we would start outside the three mile line and then as the day progressed, head inside to try to get some keeper fish. We were not thrilled with this news, but it was early in the morning, we wanted to catch some fish (keeping was secondary), and we were excited to have the opportunity to do so. The mate stowed away the trolling gear and broke out some light tackle spinning rods.
First we traveled south/east, stopped for a few moments, then turned around and traveled north/west (for what we were told was) thirty miles up the coast. We then went out several miles off shore and started fishing. After that, we kept a fast pace of moving from spot to spot, often long distances in between moves and often ignoring feeding fish.
It finally became evident that we were playing cat and mouse with the U.S. Coast Guard. After a time, the captain disclosed that the Coast Guard was in the area and was boarding boats. He claimed that he did not want to get boarded because it was a ?hassle? but that was all. We therefore had to keep moving.
Finally, the Captain told us that he was too nervous to stay out beyond the three mile line and that we had to head in. Apparently, being boarded was more than just a hassle. This was sometime around 11:30 a.m. According to the Captain, someone in the area had his number and was calling the Coast Guard. There were numerous other boats in the area. We therefore motored toward shore and then all the way back down the coast to the inlet.
After arriving just outside the inlet (where we started), the Captain advised us that the Coast Guard had been following us the full thirty miles down the coast, there were absolutely no fish inside of three miles, he would not travel beyond the three miles because of the Coast Guard, there was no point in fishing and we might as well call it a day. This was sometime around 1:00 in the afternoon. In other words, he wanted to give up. Needless to say this did not sit well with two surf fishermen who have spent many a night fishing in conditions which can best be characterized as hopeless and who had paid a considerable sum to go fishing.
When the Captain informed me of this information, I looked wistfully to the beach. There were several trucks with surf fishermen. They were fishing hard and having fun. They apparently had not been told that the nearest fish was over three miles away nor did they care.
It should be noted that for the short period of time we fished beyond the three mile line, it was beautiful. The water was calm and the fish were everywhere, in many cases feeding up on the surface. We used storm shads on light tackle. We practiced catch and release and caught many great fish. It was good fun, except for the mate?s instance on hooking fish and trying to hand me a rod to reel the fish in. I explained several times that the joy of fishing is in the catching, not just the reeling. He just did not get it.
Our trip to North Carolina thus ended prematurely, without any keepers, and with a sick feeling that we had been mislead. A few disclosures before driving to NC for our trip would have been helpful, such as:
1. The fish are all outside of three miles.
2. You will not be able to keep any fish.
3. We will try to fish outside of three miles, but if the Coast Guard is present we will spend most of your trip running from them and will terminate your trip early.
4. Striper are in great abundance so we view them as a third rate fish (based on the comments from the mate).
Of course, had these disclosures been made, we would not have booked the trip in the first place (especially number 3).
I can?t wait for spring. You will see me fishing the surf in New Jersey or from my kayak at night in the back bays. Come next February though, the one place you will not see me is on a NC charter boat.