Dropping right out all the time, announces a familiar voice from above and behind me. The captain squints into the gathering breeze at a traffic jam of small scud clouds that have been piling up for several hours along the horizon to our southwest. Oh, yeah… droppin’ right out, he mutters again, the refrain thick with mirthless sarcasm. I look down, prepare to sling another scoop of butterfish chum off the starboard bow. I swing hard with the ladle, but the chunks don’t get far. When I look over my shoulder, the captain has disappeared.
Chumming is the practice of slinging some form of cut bait, ground bait or scented liquid into the drink to attract desired game fish. It is known to be so lethally and universally effective that it’s considered borderline unethical, relative to more “sporting” tactics. And as usual, that reputation has been advanced almost exclusively by folks who’ve never so much as attempted the method.
Editor’s note: Last month’s column focused on initial preparations for a canyon run. In this installment, we look at the best ways to gather current offshore intel and the gear you’ll need, and run through some of the finer points of high-summer trolling action.
Maybe you’ve painted yourself into a corner, promising your nephews a shot at a fish thrice their combined weight. Maybe after a couple of months of hard scratching inshore, you need a change of venue. Maybe it’s something more universal: the pull of the seaward horizon, a primal need to clear the inlet and instead of hooking right or left you just keep going straight — 50, 100, 300 miles past the last road sign.
“That guy’s not looking so good,” Ray says, motioning to a figure hunched over on the starboard side. Seasickness is a reality when you fish for striped bass at night, in large part because the places that have the most and biggest bass also have strong currents and pronounced bottom features. Put the latter two together, and there’s potential for sporty sea conditions.
In the immediate situation, a tide change half an hour ago has pitted a strong breeze out of the south against a south-running ebb tide at Block Island’s southwest corner.
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Tim Coleman died May 3, in Weekapaug, R.I., doing what he loved to do best at that time of year: scouting the salt ponds and outer beaches for spring striped bass. He was an exceptional saltwater angler and a prolific writer. Thousands of readers lost an advocate and authentic storyteller for fishing in the Northeast, and anyone fortunate to have known Tim lost a good friend.