Thursday, September 17, 2009:
We gotta quit meeting like this. Seems all we’re ever in here doing anymore is talking about storms, honking winds or fierce surf. Ditto, again. Yesterday saw an early-day calmness hit the skids – as winds kicked out of the NE to 20 mph by midday and an unpredicted wallop of rain moved in, dropping an inch in an hour.
On that weather note, I keep pretty close tabs on the sky and if you hearken back to last fall, junk weather began with regularity in October, carried on all winter, soaked the s*** out of our spring, took a couple short rests this summer but resumed in late August and seems totally entrenched. While this is not the worst thing for surf fishermen, it’s a bitch for boaters and boat rental businesses that rely on fall business to finally put them in the black. Since there’s squat that came be done about the weather – the sky decides – let’s just hope some Indian summer sneaks in now and again.
The fishing is pretty iffy. And fishing pressure isn’t sky high so it’s hard to get read on any trends. I do know that fluke remain rampant. They are still almost unavoidable. Along those same lines, I find it a tad odd that I’m seeing many folks gearing up with squid and minnows. Maybe there is catch-and-release angle to fluking. Nah.
Bluefishing is pretty good. Loads of cocktails and snappers. Despite using the term “snapper’ for years, I’m never sure what that distinction means. I say that because the first thing that jumps to mind are kiddy snappers. Those are the tiny 6 to 8-inch blues that frequent the backbay. However, I threw net yesterday and came up with hundreds of read-though thin 2- to 3-inch, uh, snappers. Then, there are the blues that Stu and Stan often catch in Holgate that might be a foot long but aren’t quite cocktails. Those, too, are snappers.
I think the main determinant of a “snapper” distinction has to do with shoulders. A bluefish actually undergoes a significant shape change as it grows. As a young-of-year specimen, it is wafer thin, nothing like the round fish it will become. It holds that flatness right through the snapper phase. It’s right when it starts to take on what anglers call “shoulders” that I assume it goes into the “cocktail” phase. I know that’s very vague but I can envision it so I’ll stick with that yardstick distinction, knowing full well it’s not until a blue hits 5 pounds and above that it gains that full round fish status.
HOLGATE HAPPENINGS: I hit Holgate yesterday and can now offer this seasonal update to the many folks who want to know how the beach is hangin’ down there.
Well, it’s hangin by the skin of its teeth.
The “Osprey Nest” in now officially on the beach -- that would be the large telephone pole which the nest once sat atop. As recently at the early 1990s it was so far back in the refuge’s vegetated uplands that it was barely seeable when beach driving. By fall’s end, it will be a hazard for vehicles driving the beach at night.
Holgate is disappearing faster than ever. Anyone wanting to buggy there this fall is faced with what might be called absolute deadlines. The zone at about the ¾ mark to the end is erosion ravaged to the point that it takes a significant drop from high tide for buggies to scoot by and reach the Rip. Looking at it another way, it takes very little rise from low tide to pinch that stretch off from retreating.
The window of access and egress opportunity is now very small. As noted, the ride out can be hairy until well into dropping tide and the departure chance is one-and-done.
The slightly upside this is the wideness of the beach down around the Rip, meaning getting struck out there – as in having to stay there through the tide -- isn’t a water hazard, unless the weather is feeling ornery – where have I heard this before. I saw where a washover from a recent larger storm swept the entire sand zone, including where you and your buggy would have to hide during a heighten high tide near the Rip. . By the by, if you think you could zip onto the refuge uplands in a worst-case scenario, you can glance back there to see where veritable rivers of ocean water have washed through there recently. You might be able to hide back there during a storm tide but it would be a crapshoot – and, of course, you’d be breaking federal law.
The Holgate tale here is pretty plain: To gauge your coming and going at Holgate, watch the skies, tide charts, erosion and other buggies.
On that “other buggies” point, it really helps to stay talkative and cell-connected with other Holgate mobile anglers. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been around back (the mudflats) and gotten calls that the rising front beach tides were already up to the dunes. By the same token, I’ve been the one making those warning calls as I head out and see aggressive water moving in way ahead of time.