In 20 September minutes, anything can happen
The afternoon sun was already low in the sky as we launched my small skiff on a day I hadn’t planned to fish. Not an hour before, I was finishing a long, tiring shift at the sport store where I work part time. I was thinking of a nice cold beer and a relaxing dinner at home.
But at the last minute, my friend Mike had called with tales of light winds, good tides and a few hours to perhaps score some nice rockfish on top water, just before sunset. Mike can be an optimist, especially in terms of weather, so I verified his account with some quick work on the Internet.
The NOAA report from the Thomas Point Light Station indicated a light, five-knot breeze out of the north. The latest marine forecast and Natural Resources tide charts confirmed the rest of his scenario of continued light evening winds and good water depth. Plus, I am a total sucker for topwater striper fishing. I called back and agreed; the beer and the dinner could wait.
As we motored down the creek from the launch site toward one of our favorite spots, I felt a light chill in the air for the first time this season. Fall was becoming more obvious.
When we approached open water, I twisted the throttle on the Evinrude. As our boat rose up on plane and we cleared the lee shore came a little surprise. The light north wind was now coming out of the east, and it wasn’t particularly light any more. So much for the latest marine forecast.
As we sped on to our destination, the air temperature also dropped. By the time we had arrived, set the shallow-water anchor and rigged a couple of big, flashy poppers on our rods, the officially forecast light winds had moved firmly into the brisk category. A chop was forming on the water. I shivered just a little.
Punching out a series of long, searching casts did little to warm me. Mike and I had both worn heavy, long-sleeve shirts, but they weren’t enough to offset the effects of this weather change. It was getting uncomfortable, and the weather continued to build.
Our lures were disappearing in the wind-driven waves. In response we popped them as violently as we could, but our hope for attracting results was fading as fast as the ideal weather conditions.
Then as I hard-chugged my popper down the face of an approaching wave, I was stunned to see the broad green side of a striper as it smashed the lure.
I set the hook as I felt its weight, and my rod arced deeply. The reel screamed as line pulled off against the drag and a nice, heavy fish added a substantial temper tantrum to the whitecaps appearing in front of us.
Mike yelled encouragement, cleared his line and grabbed the net. A few minutes later, a very solid and healthy eight-pound fish was welcomed onboard and into our cooler.
Just a few casts later, Mike had his own wave-crashing strike and got a fish that bettered mine by a good half pound. Then, within 10 short minutes, we landed two more fat and violent stripers. But as I slid the last bulky devil into the ice, the wind and mounting waves pulled our anchor free. The boat set to drift.
Mike quickly moved to the bow to reset, but when he had recovered the anchor he looked back questioningly as I struggled to reposition the boat. I hesitated, then called out in agreement to his unspoken query “Yeah, we’ve got our limit Let’s declare victory and get out of here.”
Nodding enthusiastically, Mike secured the anchor and we got set for a wet ride home. It had been just 20 minutes since we arrived.
As our boat surfed and slid over the wind-driven waves during the short ride to quieter water, we yelled out our excited conversation about what had just transpired. The incredible burst of great fishing was just now sinking in. We were totally stoked with the experience.
Yammering on with big adrenaline grins on both our faces, we ignored the cold wind and spray coming across the bow. The heat of the first exciting autumn action had inured us to the chill. With a start like this, the rest of the fall was going to be fantastic.