First Run

IS SPRING THE NEW FALL? STRIPED BASS AN­GLERS AWAIT THE FIRST SOLID TAKE OF THE SEA­SON

Anglers Journal - - FIRST LIGHT - BY DAVE AN­DER­SON

SSmells trig­ger mem­o­ries, each one un­ex­pected and ex­plo­sive. Spring has al­ways had an aroma, but some­how its nos­tal­gic ef­fect is not as far­reach­ing as a sniff of stag­nant pond mud and green al­gae, which might as well be a ride in a time ma­chine to the day when I was in third grade and ru­ined my new sneak­ers cast­ing curly-tail worms to bass. My mother was not pleased. But that smell of salt marsh stunted by the cool night air, that un­mis­tak­able aroma of es­tu­ar­ine wa­ter — it brings me back to the rit­ual of my fish­ing life, each sea­son a new be­gin­ning.

The ar­rival of spring is one of the things I love most about chas­ing striped bass. The sea­son al­ways brings hope. And it all be­gins with my nose. Those ol­fac­tory cues give way to early morn­ings and late nights as the sea­son inches on, the fish get­ting big­ger, the an­tic­i­pa­tion build­ing. Thou­sands of other an­glers have a cir­ca­dian rhythm set to the striper’s tides and move­ments. When spring breaks and the striped bass re­turn, the world speeds up, and eight months of in­tense con­cen­tra­tion be­gin.

Fish­er­men are all the same. We can’t help but in­hale a change in the air and process its mean­ing. Our in­stinct comes from rep­e­ti­tion and the blin­ders of ob­ses­sion di­rect­ing us to the salt. Capt. TJ Kar­bowski of Clin­ton, Con­necti­cut­based Rock & Roll Char­ters says he looks at wa­ter tem­per­a­ture and ce­les­tial in­flu­ences to time the start of his sea­son, too. “Bod­ies of fish usu­ally make their moves on the moons,” he says. “If I see 52-de­gree wa­ter three or four days af­ter a moon in May and I’m not out there, I feel like a caged an­i­mal that hasn’t eaten in a month.”

Anx­i­ety about miss­ing a good slug of fish dogs you for days. With each swing of the tide in the age of smart­phones and in­stant in­for­ma­tion, the an­gler knows what he’s missed be­fore he even kicks off the bed­sheets.

Martha’s Vine­yard an­gler Alex Fried­man splits his time be­tween his oys­ter farm and his tuna boat, and he gets a lump in his throat when sea­sonal mark­ers, in­clud­ing tree frogs, fore­tell the ar­rival of a school of stripers. “When I hear the cho­ruses of pin­kletinks chirp­ing in the trees dur­ing the longer evenings of early spring, my

heart gets warm and my mind starts to race be­cause I know those first bright schoolies will be there, down at the mouth of Tis­bury Great Pond,” he says.

In­stinct is strong in most of us who en­joy the out­doors. We hu­man be­ings used to rely on sea­sonal rhythms and in­stincts that are hard-wired to our an­ces­tral core. They tell us the time to hunt, har­vest the crop, catch the fish. Per­haps it’s this lin­ger­ing con­nec­tion to our ear­lier days that brings a flame to the an­gler’s heart.

Win­ter is a time of forcibly shut­ting one­self down, but it’s also the sea­son of prepa­ra­tion, at least here in New Eng­land. We stock up on lures. We tie rigs. We mend. We grease. We re­pair.

“I start my spring by re­view­ing my [fish­ing] logs from years past,” says hard­core New Jersey an­gler Tom Kosin­ski. “Around the mid­dle of March, I start check­ing wa­ter temps. My magic num­ber is 48 de­grees. I have it nar­rowed down to three po­ten­tial spots. When I get that first strike, I feel a strong sense of relief — the off-sea­son prepa­ra­tions are over, and it’s time to catch fish.”

Tra­di­tion dic­tates this drive to be pre­pared. It feels like we’re do­ing it to carry the torch, to up­hold tra­di­tion, for a per­ceived nod of ap­proval from the ghosts who lighted the way.

Nar­ra­gansett, Rhode Is­land, surf caster and striped bass sharpie Steve Mckenna paused when I asked what the spring run has meant to him dur­ing his 40-plus years of fish­ing in New Eng­land. He leaned in and said, “Give me a good south­west wind in early April with the for­sythia in full bloom, and I know the first fresh-run schoolies will make their ap­pear­ance along the Rhode Is­land coast­line. When I see that, I feel very happy be­cause I know I will be striped bass fish­ing again.”

It is about smells and feel­ings and in­stincts and anx­i­eties and pat­terns and cues from na­ture. We’re all search­ing for the same thing, and that thing is not just a fish. It’s a link in the chain of life con­nect­ing this year to all the years be­fore it, one that is closed with first solid take of the spring.

Spring has ar­rived when your hands clasp a sure sign of the new sea­son.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.