The Bay was calm, the sun was shining and we were relaxed. It was early afternoon and Mike E. and I, anchored in 35 feet of water, had six light-tackle rods rigged with cut, fresh menhaden and set out in rod holders. The closest fishing boat to us was about a mile away.
The slick from a block of ground menhaden, submerged in a net bag astern, had spread out well behind us, and Mike was occasionally adding to it a few chunks of fresh menhaden as he prepared additional baits.
Usually when we go bait fishing, Mike and I go through an elaborate but good-natured argument about where we should fish and exactly how we should go about it. I prefer to follow a plan that takes into account recent reports of where fish have been caught, with what bait, at what depth, which phase of the tide and so on.
Mike, on the other hand, is a firm believer in the theory that however he sets up, the rockfish will come to him.
Generally our efforts are a mixture of the two approaches, neither of us getting our way completely. But the results of the last few rockfishing trips had been mixed: nothing to brag about.
Since I have never been a dedicated bait fisherman and didn’t expect much fishing that way, it didn’t bother me. But my friend invariably blamed our lack of consistent results on my presence and input. I, of course, insisted that it was he and his part of the equation that had caused us to fall short.
This trip, however, I had announced that I would no longer accept any of the blame for poor results. All the decisions were his to make. If we got skunked or caught only a fish or two, I planned to lay the Jonah firmly, and enthusiastically, on his shoulders.
Fish (Make That Plural) On
I had just reminded him of that intention for about the sixth time as we patiently waited out the bite when the line-out alarm from one of my reels began to click faster and faster. Line was being pulled out by some obviously determined fish. I carefully picked up my outfit as the fish continued to run.
At about the count of seven with some 100 feet of line having been pulled under my thumb, I threw the reel in gear. I lifted the tip smartly, and my stiff, seven-foot casting rod got a sudden and pronounced bend to it, almost to the corks. The fish was a good one, well hooked and incensed at the deception it had suddenly discovered.
A few long and exciting minutes later, we netted a 26-incher. It was an exceptionally heavy striper, thick and silver with iridescent black stripes, a beautiful sight. This was an unusually good start. We were barely a half-hour into our day.
I had just got the hook out of my fish and managed to get it into the cooler when one of Mike’s rods registered a bite. As he grabbed for his rig, the sound of line being pulled from the tightly set drag was unmistakable. Mike had his hands full with this fish right from the start.
Then, as he continued to battle the striper and I started to ready the net, another of our rods went down. I grabbed for it. Mike would have to do his own net work, for we had two fish on simultaneously. With a good bit of last-minute drama, we finally boated both. Mike’s was just a hair under 30 inches, and mine pushed 27.
Just a few minutes later, Mike finished out our limit with yet another nice 26-inch fish. We pulled anchor and headed home hardly two hours after starting. Our four fish were so fat that they barely fit into the box. It had been quite a day.
On the way back, my fish partner began planning the strategy for our next outing, completely ignoring, as near as I could tell, many of the critical elements that I thought had just resulted in our success. I was incredulous, but I was also sure of one important thing. This time I was going to keep my mouth shut about any Jonah.