Cathedral Road in Capitol Reef. Not too many fish, but what great scenery!
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Every summer begins the same way. Since I bought the Gemma Rose after my daughter was born, and continuing with the Gemma Rose II, the first official day of my summer vacation has been spent out on the water in pursuit of tranquility and a few stripers. Regardless of the weather or what ever else is ongoing, that first day following my final teacher work day of the school year you will find me doing the same thing. It's my own, quiet way of celebrating another year in the books, far removed from any kids and officially launching two months off that are sure to make my wife jealous. Let's face it, any teacher that claims this isn't one of the best perks of the job is lying, particularly if they love to fish. The day begins well before the sun rises, and every year has produced at least a keeper striper, a streak of which I'm quite proud.
My streak was put in jeopardy this year by a deer that decided to leap a guard rail early in the a.m. as I drove in for one of my last days of school. Any streak that deer had ended then and there, and my truck is still in the collision repair center, leaving me with a boat far from water. Fortunately, by buddy Rich, whom I have fished with on many occasions on the Gemma Rose II, invited me out to fish with him.
The weather forecasts called for winds and torrential rain by mid-morning, and the fishing has been very hit or miss to say the least. I could have cared less, because I was still fishing! I met up with Rich at and we drove down to the launch and put our game plan into action. That plan was to run about 20 minutes from our launch, looking for bait and hitting a few spots along the way. If we couldn't locate any bunker, we'd work back to the launch, pull the boat and head to location B. It didn't take long before we were marking fish and bringing in small schoolies both on the 7.5" Plum Island Pearl White River Eels I was throwing, and the 5.5" Lunker City Fin-S (both proudly made locally) that Rich was throwing in Sexy Shiner. As our plan wasn't to catch schoolies, we continued to move in search of bunker.
Looking back a few seasons in my logs, this should have been an easy task, but this season has started out a little different. Despite quite a bit of looking, and with the aid of side imaging, we didn't mark any bunker, so we stuck with the plan to work back, focusing on several spots we knew would hold fish. I'm OK with this, as throwing top water is my preferred method hands down. Nothing beats the thrill of watching a big striper explode on an artificial, gripping the rod and waiting to come tight and set the hook.
We continued to mark and catch fish, but none breaking 28", and many not much bigger than adult bunker. That said, they were pretty ambitious, repeatedly hammering baits half their size. Sick of short strikes, I was looking to downsize when Rich's rod doubled over and his fish started pulling line. After a good fight, he boated a beautiful 40" fish sporting a few sea lice as evidence of having arrived after a long migratory journey. Forget the little stuff, I threw on my 9" Doc lure and started the slow, walk the dog retrieve. I had a big blow up but no hook set, and a few casts later, boated a nice fish just over keeper size. We continued to work the area, but the results were more smaller fish.
One Golden Rule of fishing is never switch from a lure that's producing (I did), and another is don't leave fish to find fish. We were going to break both of these today. Despite the 40" fish, we decided to pack up and make the move to location B. We'd had good early am intel on bunker, and were hoping some big fish would be hot on them. By the time we dropped the boat back in, the sky was turning increasingly grey, and the rain was beginning to fall. We quickly found the bunker, but generally in water too deep for our cast net, so we set to snagging, leaving some fish to struggle on the snag and dropping others down on a three way rig. It wasn't too long before I hooked a fish that measured just a bit over 31" and the drizzle turned into a steady, heavy rain.
Despite our best efforts, we weren't getting any more takers, and the tide was going completely slack. The rain was relentless, and we made a move to a new location where I'd caught some of my largest fish last season, including a 46", 40+lber. We threw the bunker back out and just allowed them to free swim, resulting in a few boils but no takers. I hooked my Doc back on and gave it a heave. A few slow side to side glides, and a large striper knocked it into the air and then latched on. I buried the hook, felt several violent shakes, and then the plug popped free. I'm sure there were a few expletives as I continued the retrieve, but then I saw the fish coming back and hitting again, following and hitting yet again. Still, I didn't hook up. I shook my head as I told Rich I wasn't sure how I missed that one, until I looked down at my plug again. The 4/0 VMC treble hook and triple split ring were nowhere to be found. I just had the single siwash bucktail in the rear left. The power of these fish never ceases to amaze me.
By this time I was soaked through and felt like a drowned rat. Did I mention that my dry bag with my light weight Gage raingear was in my truck at the collision repair center? I'd thought it was too warm for Gore-Tex or heavy Grundens, opting instead for Frogg Toggs. Frogg Toggs are great for that unexpected shower, not so much for 3 hours of steady, heavy rain. We decided to call it a day and headed back to the ramp. While I'm still in search of my first monster of the season, thanks to Rich, I can celebrate another perfect start to my summer vacation!