Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 26 - A Successful Hunt!

The hunter in me came out today and I was on the prowl.  Fortunately for me, I was successful.  Unfortunately, it was still fish that I was hunting - rather than the turkey, goose or rabbit that I have been thinking about lately.  I dusted off my wetsuit this afternoon and got all of my gear ready for spearfishing.  It's been a couple of years since I have tried this (unsuccessfully) in New Jersey so I really wasn't too optimistic.  However, with all of the striped bass activity lately off the beach, I thought it was worth a try.  My hunch paid off.

 My first stripers - spearfishing in NJ

I geared up and drove to Monmouth Beach, carried my stuff over the rock wall and onto the beach.  The tide was high but the water was a bit murky.  This was going to be a problem.  When I got into the 55 degree water the initial shock was quite harsh.  It didn't last too long though - my wetsuit gives me full coverage and I can last for about an hour in water this cold without any negative effects.  What bothered me most was the clarity of the water.

Initially I started swimming right around the rocks but the water here was too shallow.  I could only see about 1 foot in front of my face.  This was not good.  I needed to go out to deeper water.  This was pretty easy as the current took me right out there.  It was the swim back that I was more concerned about.  All of a sudden I was about 100 yards off shore so I had to be careful.  I took a few practice dives to the bottom and at 10-12 feet the water was still too murky to see anything.  I couldn't even see the bottom until I was almost face to face with it.  I hate this kind of diving.  So typical of the Jersey shore.

Well, I decided that I probably wasn't going to see any fish so I was going to use this experience to practice holding my breath and work on some relaxation techniques.  I went out a little further which was about 18 feet of water.  At this location I took a deep breath and started my descent.  To my surprise when I got to the bottom the water column from about 4 feet down was quite clear - clear enough to spot any fish swimming by anyway.  And sure enough, after sitting still for about 15 seconds a nice big striped bass came close to investigate.  I was shocked to see it and I didn't have a very good angle on this fish.  I took the shot in haste and missed high.  It was moving away from me and I wasn't sure I would get another opportunity at a fish all day so I made an attempt.  It wasn't a very smart shot - but sometimes you get lucky.  Not this time.

As I got to the surface I could feel my heart pumping with excitement.  There were actual fish here and I had a legitimate chance at getting one now.  The clear water made all the difference.  It took about 3 minutes to reload and then another 2 to relax at the surface.  When I went down again, I waited for old Mr. Striper and sure enough another one came swimming by.  This one was definitely keeper size and I was patient not to shoot too quickly.  I lined up my spear and took my shot.  PERFECT!  Right through the head - I stoned it.  In spearfishing terms this means that I hit a perfect shot that killed the fish instantly.  No major body wound and no suffering.  It just rolled over and that was it.  Sometimes when you shoot a big fish and miss the kill shot, you have a pretty good fight on your hands to get it secured.

This was great news.  The rest of the time I spent trying to swim back to shore against the current.  I took a few more dives to try to find a really big one but the other fish I saw were all around the same size.  I shot one more for my limit and then came in.  In total I saw about 8 nice fish, shot 2 and missed 2.  I had to swim past 2 fishermen on the rocks when I came in and they were pleased to see my catch because it gave them encouragement to know that there were many fish out there.

Spearfishing is one of my all time favorite activities and having success so close to home without the use of a boat or kayak is fantastic.  Ultimately I would like to rig my kayak to take in the ocean for spearfishing - maybe later in the season.  Well, I have 2 more striped bass to clean tomorrow - not that I'm ungrateful but I am really loaded with bass now.  I should have no problem finishing out my challenge with that - unless I get totally sick of it.  I had some bass ribs for dinner and just sauteed them in some butter - that's really all you need to make it taste great.  Not sick of it yet. . .

"Expect the best.  Prepare for the worst.  Capitalize on what comes."

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