“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.
Appropriately enough, it is often the sharpest fishermen in a given area, the ones with the most refined sense of the grounds and fish and the all-important issues of timing, who tend to be its most committed — and most effective — stewards.
We Americans have what we see as a long set of traditions — cultural, ecological and, of course, economic — with codfish. It was the codfish, after all, that drew European colonists to North America, and codfish that bankrolled the first waves of New World settlers, from Massachusetts to Newfoundland. A codfish, then, is seldom just a codfish.
Among the many reasons I take up the rod and reel, foremost could be the satisfaction of feeding myself, my family and friends the world-class protein I’ve harvested from the wild with my own hands. From my earliest fishing experiences, my dad always stressed the gratification — maybe it was something nearer to a spiritual rite — of eating what we’d caught.
I liked the idea, but I didn’t always relish the experience of trying to pry bits of the baked tautog or flounder off the comb bones with the tines of my fork.
I have hooked, fought, boated, beached, gaffed, unhooked, revived, released, bled, filleted, skinned, gutted, scaled, weighed, photographed, iced, toted, sorted, netted, stacked or otherwise handled a staggering number of bluefish. I’ve caught them one at a time and 100 at a time, from 4 inches to an honest 23 pounds, on most gear types — rod and reel, hand line, gillnet, otter trawl. Of all the species I’ve targeted, bluefish have passed through my hands most often.If I retched at the sight of one now, few would blame me. It’s a strange thing: I still love the fish and respect their incredible power and adaptability. I’ve had my moments with them, to be sure. I’ve been bitten. I filleted 400 or 500 or so blues a night for years and have tried to pry bass out of rips absolutely polluted with yellow-eyes — 25 guys dragging 25 eels at a time.
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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.