And he said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A "Taylor"-Made Weekend - If You Like Blue Sky and Blue Fish

Last weekend Mike and I were invited by my brother to join him for a weekend of fishing up on Fenwick Island, DE.  I hadn't been there in easily 15 years, and hadn't fished there in over 30, so I jumped at the chance.  Mike had never been to that stretch of the country, so he was happy to go, too.  We left early Friday morning, right after rush hour, and before long we were crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel onto the Eastern Shore.  Less than an easy 2 1/2 hour drive later, we were driving across the Rte. 90 bridge to Ocean City, MD.  A turn left before we hit the ocean, and as soon as we crossed into Delaware, we were in Fenwick.

Ted, unfortunately, had had a tougher morning.  Having arrived late the night before, he had driven onto the beach early in the morning only to discover that the 4WD on his Expedition wasn't working.  After he stopped to talk to some fellow anglers, he started up again only to suddenly sink up to his axles in the soft sand.  Fortunately he had a shovel, so an hour later, he had dug himself out of the hole, lowered the air pressure in his tires, and was able to pull off the beach.  After re-inflating his tires, he headed north to Rehoboth to the Ford dealer there to see what the problem was.  He needed a new part, and wouldn't have 4WD until he returned back home.

That didn't stop Mike and me from getting to the cottage, unloading, and heading to the beach.  We found a beach access and met "Irish Joe" (an old man with a rod -- and a brogue accent), and asked him where the tackle shop was.  He told us it's two blocks that way.  (He pointed west).  "You can't miss it."  We missed it.

But two miles west, we found another one -- Captain Mac's.  We bought some fresh finger mullet and live spot, and headed back to the beach.  We had to walk on to the beach, and by the time we had made 2 trips each for our stuff, Ted was joining us.  We greeted each other, got our lines in the water, and enjoyed a beautiful "bluebird" afternoon on the beach.  Before long, Ted's line wiggled.  He reeled in a taylor bluefish, so the weekend wouldn't be a skunking for us.  (Don't laugh... we've had weekends where we've caught nothing.)
The first fish of the weekend -- not a monster blue, by any means... but not the smallest of the weekend.  Stay tuned.
 A little while later, Mike's rod wiggled.  Reeling in, he saw he had outdone Ted, with a "double" -- 2 taylor blues on his rod.  This, of course, usually means he wasn't paying attention when the first one hit, and just was lucky that a second hit, too, before he noticed.  Anyway, the weekend was shaping up well, we thought.
Mike's double!  Twice the fish, for twice the fun.
Just a few minutes after that, Mike's lighter rod wiggled again -- a little heavier this time.  He picked it up, reeling in, and the fish ran north for a minute.  This was a nicer fish than the taylors we had been catching.  A minute later, he reeled in a "shortie" striped bass.  Unfortunately, at 18" it was just 10 inches shorter than what it had to be for us to keep it, but it was encouraging.  Maybe the water wasn't too warm for the stripers.  (But this one had all the coloration of a local schoolie that didn't migrate.)  Still, we were hopeful.
It's "Rock"tober.  Even if this one was too small to keep.  We had hopes that there would be more....
A few minutes after releasing the small rockfish, Mike's rod bent harder again.  He grabbed it, and the fish went screaming down up the beach.  Could it be a nicer striper, or bigger bluefish????  After a fun minute of watching him work the fish up the beach, it came to the shore and we saw it was.... a skate.  What a bummer.
The skate:  The one Mike caught really ran down the beach, making us think he had something worthwhile.  Usually, however, skates just suck onto the bottom, and then feel like dead weight when you are reeling them in.  One of these days, we are going to start keeping them, cutting off the wings, cut them in circles, and fry them up like scallops.  They are supposed to be delicious!  I just haven't tried them yet -- knowingly.  (As opposed to who knows how many I've eaten in various restaurants that serve "scallops", just like they serve "krab".)
As the sun set behind us, we stayed a bit longer, but then decided to head back and get something to eat.  Ten minutes later we were back at the cottage unloading.  After showering and getting presentable again, we took the short drive to Nantucket's -- an upscale bar/restaurant.  It was too crowded, and we were hungry, so we went two blocks south and hit the pizza joint.  An order of Philly Cheese Steak with lettuce and tomato, with sides of onion rings and fries hit the spot more than I expected.  By the time we were done, I was tired.  We were all tired.  We went back to the cottage and hit the hay.  Tomorrow would be a long day....

By 5:30 the next morning, we were on the beach in my truck with the permit.  It was well before sunrise, and we admired the beauty that was the predawn darkness.  There was almost no ambient light, and the constellations were as bright as could be.  Orion shone directly overhead and when I looked up at him, a meteor flew towards the ocean from his belt, like a "thunderbolt from his arse", I said (a little Zeus-like reference ... or Braveheart). 
"Thunderbolts are coming out my arse" or was it the fried onion rings I ate last night.... 
When the sun finally did start to rise, we had already had our lines in the water for a while.  It was a new day.  Would it be another good day?
The cool of the morning quickly gave way to another "bluebird" day, with temps in the 60's. 
As the sunrise occurred, the bite was on.  Unfortunately, it was only a bite with taylor blues and skates, but it was better than nothing.  We all caught several of each, and Ted finally had the chance to use his new "Stingray Heavy Hooker" rod.  (He hadn't used it in Nantucket a few weeks earlier.)  Aside from making a noise we couldn't immediately identify, it wasn't long before he caught his first fish with his new rod -- a blue.
Ted with his first fish on his new rod.  It wasn't big, but it counted.
Blues were the fish of the weekend, so we dug into our tackle box and found 20 year old blue fish rigs.  It had been quite a while since we had purposely targeted blues.  As the day wore on, we moved to the Three R's ramp to the beach.  There were more people there, but we settled in and caught a few fish.  But the middle of the day was sunny, warm, and the water was calm.  Most fish don't like "bluebird" days, and this was one of them.  Still, we continued to check our lines often, because the rock crabs were having a feast with our bait.
checking my rod tip for a wiggle... Is it a crab, a small blue, or another skate.  And why do I have a raccoon line by my eyes?  Oh yeah, I forgot to put sunscreen on my face.
After several hours, and watching Ted get irritated at people closing in on our "spot" (including a mother and child playing near their father/husband and his brother who were fishing), we decided to go back to where we had started the morning fishing, so we loaded up the truck and pulled off the beach.  And I made a mental note of how I can irritate Ted....  (insert evil giggle here.)

As we drove back south, we passed an old WWII submarine watch tower, and Ted and I each recounted our escapades we had done in our younger days in and around those things.  They are now historic landmarks -- for the record, not because of what we did, but because of their significance to looking for U-boats during the war.
Oh the things these towers could say, if they could talk.... 

We went back to where we started the morning, and yes, we started catching fish again.  That is after we got "fresh" bait.  If by "fresh" you mean frozen that has recently been thawed, then that's the bait we bought.  Frozen bait of any kind never works as well as fresh when you can get it.  And the freshest is what you catch, yourself.  So when we caught a bluefish again, he became our bait.  Since bluefish are cannibals, it's hard to feel sorry for one who has already shown he is willing to eat his brother.  So into the bait cooler they went, as we continued to wait and hope for another striper.  but to no avail.

Then Mike caught a memorable fish.  I'm not even sure how it hit and stayed on his hook, but he reeled it in, and here it is.  The smallest blue of the weekend.
Not sure why he's so happy and sticking out his tongue, but this is Mike flashing his baby blue.  The smallest fish of the weekend.  It ended up going back in the ocean -- on his hook.  That is, until it got off.
As the sun went down behind us, we got our headlamps ready, and prepared for some evening fishing.  It was a beautiful sunset, that hopefully signaled some decent night fishing.
As we watched the sun go down the second day, we hoped it was a good sign.  The weather was just too %$#@*& nice!
Sure enough, after the sun was down, my rod wiggled.  "Fish on!"  It wasn't a blue!  No, it wasn't.  It was a...  dogfish.  Dammit!  Now the doggies were feeding at dusk.  Within an hour of catching several, I was suddenly being called Dogfish Dan.  No thanks.  But I do like Dogfish Ales.
I would happily trade 6 of these things...
for 6 of these anyday.   Which is appropriate, since we were up in Delaware, and Dogfish Head is a Delaware microbrew.
We sat in our chairs, looking up at the stars again.  The sky was clear, and we watched several satellites fly by at 17,000 mph (according to Ted).  There's another one, a German one this time, that's supposed to fall to earth soon, I said.  Duck!

Sometime after 8 p.m., we had had enough and went back to the cottage, showered and went back to Nantucket's at around 9.  The crowd in the bar was light, and we found three seats in the bar.  A Maker's 46 for me, a martini for Ted, and an Elijah Craig for Mike, and we sat, watching the World Series, and ordered some food.  I must say, the food was excellent!  I got the famous chowdah and the duckling, and was impressed with both.  I'd go back.
Located right at South Carolina Ave. on Fenwick Island, it's an upscale bar/restaurant.  Excellent menu, and excellent wine/beer/spirits selection.
After a delicious meal, we decided to see if any tackle shop might be open that may have REAL fresh bait.  I suggested we go to Captain Mac's again, since theirs was fresh yesterday, and at least see what time they open in the morning, after all, it was almost 11 p.m.  We drove there only to see the "Open" sign was lit, and the door was ajar.  I walked in.

"Hello?  Are you open?"  Finally from the back came a father and son.  He quickly turned off the sign and smiled, "what light was lit?" he said kiddingly.  He and his son were getting ready to drive all night to upstate New York for some Steelhead and  Brown trout fishing.  Suddenly I got jealous.

Well, they weren't open, but he was happy to sell us some finger mullet, and that was one less thing we had to do in the morning.  So it was back to the cottage and off to bed.

By 6:00 the next morning (we slept in a little later) we were back on the beach, enjoying the clear predawn sky filled with stars again.  But this time Orion wasn't the only one with meteors shooting out of his body parts.  We saw numerous meteors within the 30 minutes or so before sunrise, and it was a sight to see.  And once again, as the dawn brightened, the fishbite began....

With more skates.  More dogfish.  And yes, finally more bluefish....  And now the blues were at least a little bigger -- up to 14 inches or so.  So it was a little better action.

Ted caught the biggest of the day with his Heavy Hooker, and we all caught several "keeper" sized taylors.
A nicer "Keeper" blue, caught on Ted's Heavy Hooker rod.  It's pretty sad when you get excited about catching a 14" fish after a long weekend, but I guess it's all relative.
We were back at the "quiet", more isolated part of the beach, where we were alone, and where we had success earlier.  It was nice being alone on the beach with nobody around, except for only the occasional person taking their morning stroll.  That's why I couldn't resist irritating Ted when the opportunity arose a little later in the morning when an older man drove up and parked about 50 yards away from us to the north.

As I have said time and time again, when the fishing is slow, one must think of something to do to occupy one's time.  I just happen to enjoy practical jokes (such as I wrote about with Jerry wading to the sandbar -- "And They Call It Puppy Love", or Mark falling asleep in the sand -- "In the Beginning; the Genesis of Boys' Weekend".)

Purposely within earshot of Ted, I sarcastically said, "Oh sure, please park right here next to us.  Because this is the ONLY place that the fish are."  Ted took the bait, and looked over to see the old man getting out and setting up his tackle.  And he was even setting up THREE rods, which was one more than you were supposed to.  He cursed, calling him a name I can't mention on this P.G. blog.

As fate would have it, the current was moving north to south, and Ted was the northernmost of us three.  The man cast his three rods, and sure enough one of them "sliced" towards the south.  We were sure the current would do the rest.

"That son of a B----" crossed my line," he said disgustedly.  I could tell he was hot.

"Why don't you reel your line in," I suggested.

"No, I'm going to leave it in until he reels in and brings in my line."  Ted was looking for a confrontation.

Ten minutes later Ted's line drooped as the man started reeling in his empty hook.  (Daggone crabs.)  Ted walked over to his rod, held it, and waited for the man to reel up the two rigs.  Ted started reeling, and when the man grabbed both rigs, Ted yelled,  "That's MY LINE!"

The man undid the tangle, tossing Ted's rig in the sand.  Ted reeled it in.

"THIS BEACH IS BIG ENOUGH FOR ALL OF US!!", he yelled at the old-timer.  Steam exuded from his ears.  He had finished his cold coffee hours earlier, so it couldn't have been from that.  (My work is done, I thought, as a silent smile crossed my face.  This one was TOO easy.  That softball was just lobbed right in my wheelhouse.) 

The morning wore on, and we finally had heard too much of Ted's new rod squealing.  We walked over while he was reeling, and realized it wasn't the reel  making the high pitched noise; it was the tip of his rod.  The "glass" of the eyelet was cracked, and it had been shredding his 20# test line all weekend.  He thought he was reeling in some kind of "cottony" substance from the ocean, but when we saw the line scratching through the cracked eyelet, we realized it was a good thing he hadn't caught a big cow striper -- or it would have broken the now weakened, strafed line.  (Oh, what we would have paid to have that problem occur....)

Anyway, he put away the rod until he could get it repaired, and used a different one.  But the reality was that the sun was getting higher, the day was warm, the ocean was flat, and the bite was over. It was another damn "Bluebird" day.  A little before noon we wrapped it up, and slowly packed up our gear.  There would be no big blues, and no more stripers.  I kept four of the larger blues, filleted them, and put them in a ziploc bag.  They would go toward a nice little fish fry dinner in the not-too-distant future.

Before we left the beach, however, the old man walked over to us and told us that he had been here yesterday and caught a bunch of blues.  "Yeah, No $#!+, Sherlock.  The Blues are F---ing everywhere!"  Ted was thinking.  I smiled again.

We dumped our bait for the seagulls to enjoy, and I'm sure Ted was hoping one would fly over and poop on the old man.

After packing and helping clean the cottage, Mike and I said our goodbyes and headed out.  Forty minutes later we were back, as Ted had called after he realized his coat, wallet and cell phone were still in my car.  But we enjoyed the ride back.  It was an easy drive, especially as we each enjoyed a nice Romeo y Julieta cigar, and as we finally reached the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, the late afternoon sun was shining on the bay making it shimmer and glimmer like gold.
The bay was calm, the water reflecting the sun, and the boaters were out -- including a couple of kayakers, fishing the pilings of the CBBT. 
We stopped at the restaurant/giftshop/fishing pier on the first island, as Mike had never done that before, and enjoyed a quick walk to the end of the pier.  Sea mullet, striped bass and tautog were the fish the anglers were targeting.  And we realized that for the cost of going on the CBBT, a whole carload of people are allowed to fish -- at a much cheaper price than the various other piers in the area that charge on a per person basis.  Hmmm, something to keep in mind, if we ever want to get into pier/bridge fishing again.

Forty minutes later when we arrived at Mike's, there wasn't too much sadness that the weekend was over.  We had had fun, and both agreed we would do it again; but we also knew we will all be getting together again in less than four weeks to enjoy the 25th anniversary of our Boys' Weekend on the Outer Banks.  And it should be a fun one!  Can't wait!!

Until next time,

Fish ON!

(And in anticipation of our big B.W, here's a blast from the past -- in the days before email, when I had to send out a newsletter to all the participants.  Here's the "Header" from my '93 Newsletter.  Can you identify everyone?)
Yes, the classic caricature drawing of all of us, that some even have framed.  A few pounds lighter, fuller heads of hair, and boy did we drink a whole lot more back then.  But at least our fishing has improved.


  1. Now that's a report! Nice job. Stumbled upon your blog today through OBN. I'll keep my eye on it.

    The Average Joe Fisherman

  2. The tales of lore, yore, and more continue...
    Another one hooked!