The greatest night of striper fishing...ever?
It all started 17 years ago on the fabled white sand of Lobsterville Beach....
I was a weird, wiry 7 year-old obsessed with fishing on his first trip to a bastion for salt-obsessed anglers - Martha's Vineyard, MA.
From what everyone had told me - mainly my mom - fish would practically be jumping up to great to me whenever I wet a line.
But being a 7 year-old, I was restricted to fishing my grandfather's dock in Vineyard Haven under parental supervision....during day light hours...when my parents would let me....so this illusion of grandeur turned out to be a cruel tease of a young, fragile mind preoccupied with big pheesh. Add into the equation that I was trying to fit into a family that could, in all good conscience, be deemed "allergic" to the sport - and you've got one sad camper.
In the following years, I've accepted their condition and with each grip-n-grin - they've accepted mine. Tomato, potato as they say, right? But I digress....
Then one day, my mom tells me that a man was coming to take me fishing for the evening. A few months earlier, my grandparents had rendered his services in a benefit auction - and with a grandson in need of a pick-me-up from his tormenting older siblings - they called in the big guns. That was when the man, the myth, the legend - Nelson Sigelman - entered my life for the first time.
Pulling up in the drive way in his SUV, rods firmly entrenched in the roof rack and a hearty, full mustache atop his smile - it was easy to see that Nelson was a good man and a fish whisperer of sorts. Maybe it was his calm, peaceful demeanor or his quiet confidence....or the bucket of live eels in the back of the truck - but I hung onto Nelson's every word that night...to this day, I still do.
When we arrived at Lobsterville Beach, birds were all over the place. Having never experienced this brand of excitement in the farm ponds of the Shenandoah Valley - I was absolutely captivated by my surroundings.
When Nelson lobbed an eel out on his first cast and handed me a doubled over rod - I was over the freakin' moon. By the end of the night, three big bluefish were deposited in my grandmother's sink and a little kid had made a friend for life.
It's amazing how time flies. From that first trip until now - Nelson and I have had adventures all over the island, him taking the time to teach me the nuances of striped bass fishing and making the effort to introduce me, an awkward non-islander, to folks who share a similar affliction. From clamming in Tashmoo to fluking off the Brickyard and yes, chasing trophy striped bass into the heart of the night all over the island - we've seen a lot in our 17 years fishing together. The lessons learned have been incalculable to my maturation and evolution into the man and angler I am today.
Per Nelson's story:
"Now there are people who like to fish and there are fishermen. Any 25-year-old guy who would leave lots of food, pretty women, beer and friends to go bass fishing is a fisherman."
I've never received higher praise in my life. All I can say is thank you for instilling the right principles in a little kid.
Sadly in that same time, we may have ALL witnessed the rise and collapse of the striped bass fishery that many thought to be SO RECOVERED FROM ITS LAST COLLAPSE THAT IT COULD NEVER COLLAPSE AGAIN.
Seriously? That's just fucking dumb logic.
If action isn't taken soon - the stock may never recover. Ever.
Think about that.
Then think about who can change it.
Let's pray the politicians do something good for once. Formerly working in that industry has raised serious, serious doubts. Especially when considering the vast majority of them care more about the stocks of golf balls at the surrounding country clubs and their short game rather than the livelihood of threatened, wild fish...and most natural resources for that matter. Makes me sick.
But if this really is the end...and stripers are a thing of the past...and the world is going to hell in a hand basket....I can safely say Nelson and I went out with one hell of a bang.
It was the greatest night of striper fishing in my entire life - the fish, seemingly manifesting themselves from nowhere out of the midst of the Atlantic. A 35 and 34 inch fish both came to hand that night. A few larger fish still toy with my imagination. There were several in between 24"-27" range. More than a dozen or so brought to hand in a few hours on the water and many others missed.
But as is the tradition with this blog, the fish (albeit arguably the most important aspect) are only part of the equation. It makes no sense to me to go into detail describing blistering runs, thunderous strikes, and grip-n-grin shots. It makes all the sense in the world to me to go into detail describing the scene.
Black water for as far you could see dimpled with the predatory legacy of rising bass. Stars glistening like tiny diamonds on a gentle shoreline. The peace of mind that comes from having no phone, no to-do list, and no commitments other than casting into darkness and eventually finding sleep. The thunderous boom of a big bass on the surface cuts through the heart of darkness, breaking the silence. A reel screams. A rod bends. Excited words are uttered and a few moments later - a smile stretches from ear to ear. A special serenity reserved for those who pursue it. A special moment for those who can cherish it.
"He slid the fish up the beach. The bass measured 34 inches, a fine catch on any night, but a particularly fine fish for a young man happy to be back fishing under the stars on Lobsterville Beach on Martha’s Vineyard and another good story for me to tell when I become a codger."
A special thanks to Nelson Sigelman and all those who have taken a kid fishing. It truly makes all the difference.
Pray that there may one day be a collapse in Titleist stocks so that John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, and Barry O can get their shit together.
To read the full story check out Nelson's piece from the Martha's Vineyard Times:
Fly dudes doing fly things in fly places with flies. Got that?