Fish Stories: Dumb luck

Riley Libby

We left Maine just after 11 and drove through the night.

The highway was dark as we crossed into Massachusetts. The floor was already littered with empty monster cans. It had been a long day at work prior to leaving and the plan to take a nap never materialized. At this point, we were running off caffeine, excitement and the hope of finding willing striped bass at the Cape Cod Canal.

In Boston, a water main broke and flooded the street causing a traffic backup and a reroute. It was a long, quiet ride for the rest of the way. Highway 3 seemed to never end. The road was mostly empty, but we did pass a few trucks with bikes and rod racks hanging off the back. We knew where they were headed.

“I’ve never seen so many cars,” Mike said as we pulled into the last spot in the lot. The air had a slight chill to it as we stepped out of the car. There was a perceptible buzz, as if the whole striper coast had converged on this seven mile stretch of coast line. It was 2:30 am and the night shift was leaving, but the majority of us were here for the morning tide. We geared up and set off into the unknown.

Our plan was simple: find a spot where we could squeeze in. I knew it would be busy; I had seen the pictures from 2017. But after half a mile, we found a spot that would work. My first cast into the Canal was with a 4oz Al Gags Whip-it Fish. What a feeling after months of reading and planning. We spent an hour there before I got a call from our old friend Stew, who lives in Bourne. He got word we were down and wanted to show us around. Somehow, we found each other in the darkness and went over to his spot.

We talked awhile waiting for dawn. He told us we were in for a sight once the sun came up and the tide turned. The one thing that never gets old is watching the sunrise paint the sky over the water. It sure makes being up all night worth it. This one was no different, except this time, it illuminated people up and down the banks that we had previously not seen. It also brought the bass.

I had been casting but the guys who knew what they were doing weren’t. As I was working my pencil, I found out why. While I was half way in, a massive blitz erupted. Stew finally let out a cast and was soon into a low 30-pound fish. When he landed it, I couldn’t believe the size. It was the biggest fish I had seen to date. He popped the hooks and let her go.

I slowly worked my pencil when a fish exploded on it. My rod doubled over and the Van Staal screamed.

I had never felt so much power in a fish. With a tight drag and a heavy rod, it was a battle. I didn’t know how big it actually was. In my mind, it was 30 inches. When I worked the fish to where Mike could grab it, I swung my rod and he made an attempt with the boga but the fish wasn’t having it. On the second attempt, he got it.

The joy I felt as I grabbed her; the color of her sides, those seven large stripes glistening in the early morning light. She was 25 pounds on the boga which was by far the biggest fish I had caught.

We both rested for a minute as I held her tail facing the current. She had not been out of the water for long but I wanted to make sure she was good and ready before she went. It didn’t take long and she started to kick, and disappeared into the murky water.

I checked my pencil and changed my leader. Then it was back to casting. But my mind stayed on that fish. Mike had a fish on and so did Stew’s partner and the action stayed fairly steady.

I reflected on my dumb luck. From hitting a breaking tide, to finding a productive spot along the crowded banks, to catching these fish. We had been up for almost 36 hours when we stopped at the the nearest Dunkin. We had driven through the night from Maine and drank enough Monster to keep an army awake. The drive home would be a long one, but it was all worth it. I am hooked on the Canal. I’ll drop everything again to head to the banks for a shot at breaking fish at sunrise.

Billy Mitchell

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