STRIPED BASS FISHING IN SALEM
With striper fishing being slow on the western shores of Long Island, it was time to make our annual trek up to Salem, MA, to look for some bass in their waters. Many kayak anglers wait all year for this trip. I am no different. The striped bass up in Massachusetts are mini freight trains and you will get the ride of a lifetime from a 22" fish.
By Gene Kenney
As the size goes up, so does the adrenaline level in your body.
We troll our tubes with a sandworm sample attached to the tip just for flavor.
The harbor is loaded with moorings and sailboats, so it's not going to be clear sailing when the fish hits. With more than 30 yards of line out (more if not for so many moorings), it is a major effort on your skill level to feel the tap, tap then hit. Grab the rod! Set the hook! Turn the kayak!
Look at the moorings! Look for the fish! Watch out for the sailboat! Then the run begins!
This is the true test of all your skills. The sleigh ride begins. The striped bass feels the hook. It's game on and it's not hanging around to get a picture with you! You never give the bass slack in the line or it's coming right back at you twice as fast. You let it pull or run diagonal to it, so it always has tension on it. All, by the way, with 2000 or so sailboats in your way.
You try to steer the fish to a lane that is free of moorings and gain the line back, cranking down as hard as you can on your reel. Yes, you're going to lose fish. Yes, you're going to loose tubes. But when you give it all your attention, the rewards will be great, and the memories will last for a lifetime.
Oh yeah, after many hours (10 in one day), many short fish, many runoffs with no fish, many 30"+ fish, I did manage to land a fish that will leave a smile on my face until the next time. This particular striped bass took the tube just on the outskirts of the moorings as I was running over to take a picture of a pal who had just caught his personal best fish of the trip. I was stopped dead in my tracks as the bass grabbed the tube, launched out of the water and sent my kayak spinning around towards the fish (big no no). I turned away from it. The hook was already set with the tension from my kayak. I had to start cranking and fast!
Once I felt the weight of what was on the other end, I yelled to my pal "You'll have to wait!"
This was the largest pound for pound fish I have had in my kayak. My Okuma rod was bent to a point I have not seen yet. Oh boy, are my knots good? At this point, the lever on my Avet was still at bait. Time to move it up and start bringing in some line. A little push up and as I crank, the kayak starts moving towards the striper.
Whoa, that's a big girl! I'm trying real hard to keep the nose of the Kayak pointed away from the fish. Just in case it runs at me, I can pedal away. The fight goes on! I finally get to see the leader swivel, so I know it's getting close. Reach back and grab the net, set it where I always do right behind my back facing the fish and ready to go. Big swirl comes up and I see the fish. Holy crap, this net is NOT going to work! I bring her in close, lift up, slide the net out, DOINK, then the net hits the line which I am not giving any slack to (normally it's slack and the fish slides into the net).
Oh boy, she swirls around and wants to leave me sitting by myself. Not happening!
I crank her back up to the top. Try again. She's in the net but nowhere near enough for me to even think I have her. New plan. My thumb is already raw from the others chewing on it. It's going to be a lip gripper. Now, my heart is pumping. I already missed twice and I hear next to me my other pal say, "Stop playing around. My daughter would have had that in already."
Ah, tension reliever. I laugh, look down, grab on, try to lift. Uh oh, the kayak tips slightly (enough to make me think about it). Two hands in her mouth, up into my lap and it's game over! 43 inches, 30 lbs and I am one happy Kayak Fisherman.