There were a few nice snow drifts on the boat, but I had it cleaned off in less then a hour, thanks to the bubbler system in the marina, there was no ice either.
I started thinking back in time...It was 1990, I decided to keep the boat in the water for the winter season, for I had heard of a some good Striped Bass fishing at the Northport Power Plant, on Long Island N.Y.. about ten miles away at 180 degrees due south from Norwalk Harbor. (The water outflows around power plants can keep the very close surrounding waters in the mid fourties and higher, even on the coldest winter nights.)
Fishing with ultra-light trout rods loaded with six pound test line, we cast half ounce white bucktails (a weighted head moulded onto a hook, then wrapped with hair from a deers tail, hence the word,bucktail) around the warm water outflow from the power plant, it was hard to believe but in mid January we were hooking up with striped bass on every cast, most weren't big but they were from sixteen inches to eight maybe ten pounds.
Rick Mola from Fishermans World, (who by the way taught me just about every thing I know about fishing, with the most important thought being, "think like a fish, imagine yourself seeing through the fish's eyes")
Rick was actually the driving force that pushed me to keep the boat in the water back then,
and to check out this power plant.
He also suggested that from his past winter fishing experiences at the Norwalk Power Plant, that black colored bucktails caught larger fish than white buck tails during the winter months.
We started experimenting. I can remember this day clearly, it was becoming late afternoon, early March, I decided to try a red bucktail, I cast and immediatly felt a very strong tug, I set the hook and the chase was on, we never anchored back then, we preferred to drift and cover ground, my friend and fishing buddy Paul Restuccia reeled in his line as fast as possible and started the engine, jamming it into reverse as my Penn 716 saw it's line spooling off the reel in record time. We caught up to the fish and it was in the high teens.
Subsequent cast with red bucktails found more larger fish, and we ended the day on a very high note.
For the next trip we loaded our reels with eight pound test line and a handfull of red and also black bucktails, wow! the darker the bucktail, the bigger the fish.
We now had to use ten pound lines since the stripers were getting into the thirty pound range and bigger, this scenario played out for a few years, and then one day...
While catching a striper on nearly every cast for a hour or so, they suddenly out of nowhere stopped feeding. This was odd, why would they suddenly shut down, and stop feeding?
The answer to this question popped it head up out of the water about fourty feet from the boat, it sure had a puppy dogs face, but I didn't think canines would want to swim underwater especially during the waning days of winter, OMG it's a seal! Very COOL!
Problem was all the fish split the area.
It became harder and harder to catch stripers during the winter months as years passed by.
I recall at the begining of the seal sightings catching a striper about twenty pounds, it's back was ripped appart below the dorsal, a huge gash, with the wound still bleeding I realised that there were no Great White Sharks or any other Shark species in the Sound to cause this wound as the water temps were in the low thirties.
The Striped Bass now have a new advisary, Seals!
Previously, in years back, returning to Norwalk from the Northport fishing trips, I would stop by Great Reef off Sheffield Island in Norwalk if it were around low tide, here we could see up to fifty to sixty seals hauled out on the off shore rock piles. Sometimes there were only a dozen, the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium caught on to this and started running winter cruises to show and educate people about these seals.
So lets take a moment and put ourselves behind a seals eyes, first and foremost is something that is most important to every living species, food.
Long Island Sound must have abundant food sources for these mammals to survive the winter here, perhaps the winter over striped bass population fits into this catagory for seals as do other native species of the sound such as tautog (blackfish) and winter flounder. Both these species have little migration from the sound and are depleted to no end,
Close seasons and size limit restrictions have made both these species a limited food source for the recreational fisherman, is it the seals fault? Of course not, they are just a small player competing amongst giants in a struggle to survive.
I like to think about Georges Banks, that vast fishery that could never end, but it did, totally wiped out by dragger and other types of fishing boats, to the point that it was totally closed down to fishing by the feds. It now has rebounded a bit, but has to be highly managed.
I'm sure there were vast numbers of seal using this area as a food sourse, we can't blame the seals for the lack of fish, they have been in balance with nature for many thousands of years.
In fact they have made quite a rebound themselves, with the vast slaughtering of seal pups having stopped, it made for increases in the seal population, but since humans compete with seals for food, other coutries have relaxed there regulations concerning seal harvest.
Let's see how it plays out.
Oh, the picture above, that is a much younger me holding a twentyfive or so pound striper, in front of the Northport Power Plant around 1992? We caught thousands and released every one of them unharmed.
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