Stripers on the Fly Forever

This is for one of my fellow Gowanus Noodlers (you know who you are), who is enchanted by the idea of catching stripers on the fly after doing the party boat thing for years. Peter Laurelli has got real cahones, nerves of steel, and I’d guess infinite patience. His work has been featured on many fly fishing blogs, but since I gather you don’t read them, I’d provide it for you.  I don’t know what possessed him to film his exploits fly casting to stripers in NY’s waters, but bless him. Enjoy.

Thanks to Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association for the find.

FYI, I’m a member of Stripers Forever. If you’ve ever fished for striper and consider it a delicious game fish that you want your children to be able to fish for, then consider supporting SF. SF believes (as do I) that Stripers should be a gamefish, i.e. non-commercial. Why? Policy across the mid-Atlantic seaboard varies state-to-state resulting in fishery that is continually threatened by commercial interests. For example,  in NC, many fishermen and concerned anglers have noted the wasteful discard of stripers outside the slot limit by commercial fisherman who trawl (not to mention the other species in the discard). Here’s an example shot on video:

I can personally attest that the direct action I took as part of the SF campaign to end North Carolina’s wasteful discard rules had some results. My email and hundreds of others were answered by the NCDMF, but I wouldn’t have known to get involved without SF’s vigilance. Fortunately, several journalists were alerted and wrote about the issue as well.

Here was my original letter and the NCDMF’s response:

Louis Daniels PhD

NC DMF

Dear Commissioner Daniels,

I recently read about the tragic discard of Striped Bass in NC waters. The story itself contains a link to a YouTube video showing pictures of the dead floating stripers as commercial fisherman attempt to achieve a limit by culling high-grade fish. I’ve also read how you and your team actually take the time to grapple with these issues (I admire that your team chose to temporarily close the speckled trout fishery just-in-case) and work with your community.  As a member of Stripers Forever, I agree that “Stripers are worth considerably more per pound if allocated to the recreational fishery in North Carolina than when taken by commercial harvest.”  I hope that you and your team will use the power of your office to work with your local community to keep this from happening in the future.

As you know, what you do in the NC fishery has a profound impact on the entire NE fishery for stripers. You’re pioneers on the front line and your actions could affect striper fishermen (both recreational and commercial) everywhere for the better or worse. I hope that you will enter this into your official comments of whatever research or community outreach your office intends to do.

Good luck and thanks for doing the hard work.

And here’s the NCDMF’s response:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

I am writing in response to your e-mail regarding your concerns about North Carolina’s striped bass fishery.

On Jan. 21, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries implemented regulatory changes to address discards of striped bass in the commercial trawl fishery. The division replaced the previous 50-fish-per-day commercial trip limit with a 2,000-pound-per-day trip limit. To avoid regulatory discards, the new regulations allow commercial trawl fishermen to transfer trip limits to other fishing vessels that hold a striped bass ocean fishing permit for the commercial trawl fishery. This way, all the fish will be landed and count against the commercial quota.

Thank you for your interest in North Carolina’s marine fisheries.

Sincerely,

Patricia Smith

Membership to Stripers Forever is free, there are no dues, so consider it.

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Kensico and a Passion Rekindled

I’ve developed a special place in my heart for Kensico Reservoir up in Westchester. Now, I live down in Brooklyn in a steel and glass box, but my closet is full of rods and tackle. After too long not fishing, I decided to start fishing again. It started two years back, with a guys-only family fishing trip to Lake Anna, down in Fredericksburg, VA where my brother is sooo lucky to live a mere 30 min. drive from. We got skunked all morning and then hooked-up with a bunch of tasty catfish. That’s pretty much all your gonna catch on a Pontoon boat. When I got back to NY, I realized I needed to bring fishing back into my life. Soon after, after I spent the night at my friends place in Long Beach, I caught my first stripers surf fishing. It was one of those “we weren’t supposed to catch anything” midday activities where you go and pull two +30″ at the wrong time of day–RIGHT in front of his apartment building. Sheer joy.

I grew-up fishing Lake Erie and waters all around the Cuyahoga, which is a spectacular fishery for smallmouth, walleye, perch. I have a fondness for a place called “Shadow Lake” outside of Cleveland, Oh. Not only did I catch my first rainbow there, I caught a dog (our family dog Duke–but that’s a story for another time). So, I’m a freshwater fisherman at heart. I was amazed to learn of all the amazing freshwater fishing within an hour’s drive of Gotham. Kensico, Croton, Armonk–all amazing, beautiful, well-kept secrets. These reservoirs are all state-owned, and incredibly well-regulated by the DEP. They are part of the Catskill Watershed that supply New York with our freshwater supply. There are no power boats allowed, no homes with big ugly docks, and these manmade lakes appear isolated and empty, blessedly devoid of human habitation…and then there are no paths and piers  either. If you want to explore the reservoirs you’ll need to buy and stow a rowboat on them. The permitting process isn’t complicated and I’m seriously considering putting a boat on Kensico. Its just a gorgeous reservoir. Actually, the reservoir was built in 1915, damming the Bronx river. In some places its over 60′ deep. And that means good habitat for Lake and Brown Trout, also, largemouth and smallies. The trout are stocked but the bass population has settled in on their own I think. The remains of the town of Kensico are somewhere at the bottom of my favorite lake.

Kensico Dam this is one of the most impressive dams I’ve ever seen. Also, there’s a lovely little park right in front. On the way up to the reservoir, you start climbing a road up the valley. You get wonderful glimpses of the lake through the woods, and if you look carefully, you’ll see “jonboats” tucked up in the coves. Here’s the dam being built 95 years ago…hmm, the centennial is coming up. Hope they celebrate this amazing work of engineering.

I’ve pulled some gorgeous smallmouth bass out of Kensico, right off the bridge on Rye Lake… the place is flush with smallies and yes, these suckers fight. I hauled in these aggressive ones going after my stickbait as a massive school of shiners was swimming up back and forth. Two of these babies leapt clear out of the water. I did make a mistake with these though–I kept them before the season was open. Some of my fishing buddies scolded me for that one–always check your season dates. I didn’t mean any harm, but there’s a reason for the season, not to mention the DEP could have busted my ass. Oh, and you’ll need a fishing license, AND DEP reservoir permit, if you intend to fish the reservoirs. The DEP really does check. They’ve got powerboats on the water.

It took me three trips to land my first “Laker” (Lake Trout). Kensico isn’t an easy lake to fish, it take patience and getting to know the other fisherman, the holes, the season.

Lately, I’ve been flying up to Boston almost every week for work. Its a 35 min. flight that takes you up the coast over Westchester into Connecticut and into the Boston-area. On a clear day, its quite lovely. I always sit on the left side of the plane so I can get a good look at the reservoirs and lakes from the air. I spot Kensico, note my favorite holes, the bridge and smile. Last week I was up in Boston again for an “offsite”. I brought the rod and my tacklebox. I figured if it sucked I could bolt and maybe throw one in the Charles River, but it was not to be. On the drive home, I realized, however, that my route would take me right by Kensico. I had about thirty minutes before the sun set. I whipped off 684 and high-tailed it down to the bridge. Nine casts later I hooked up with something big. I figured it had to be a carp but as the fish came up I realized I was on to my first Chain Pickerel. Gorgeous. Rows of sharp teeth. Catch and release. I didn’t have my camera, but I’ll never forget it. Here’s a fine example.