Gone Fishin' : Photos tell multiple fishing stories of bass, bonito, tuna
Fishing is a matter of scale. At heart, a crappie fisherman is not particularly different from a tuna fisherman, despite the obvious difference in the equipment and size of the fish.
Every so often I like to share photographs I receive, or those I come across in other publications. This week's collection runs the gamut of species and reflects the enthusiasm that flows through every fishing story.
Last week, I talked to a baker from Connecticut who did something very few fishermen have ever really done - as opposed to saying they have done. He caught a striped bass that weighed more than 70 pounds.
I first read about Peter Vican in the Providence Journal. Normally I do not pay a lot of attention to fish caught outside of Vineyard waters, but a 75-pound, 4-ounce fish caught in waters only 40 miles from Gay Head is a notable achievement worth some ink.
Peter struck me as a pretty modest guy. According to the Providence Journal, he has won the Rhode Island Governor's Cup three times for releasing trophy striped bass. Peter did not even mention the awards or tick off his fishing achievements.
Peter and his fishing buddy Don Smith were fishing in a charity tournament to benefit the Block Island volunteer fire department. It was about 1 am Saturday morning, July 19.
Between them the two men have each won the tournament twice in the last four years. That says something about their fishing skills.
Peter told me he was drifting an eel when the bass hit. He knew it was big but did not know how big. "I knew it was over 60 pounds," he said.
Most Island fishermen who catch a bass over 40 think it is over 50, and a fish over 50 becomes one over 60. The right to add ten pounds is fishermen's preference.
In Pete's case the fish was well over 60. When they got back to the dock, the fish topped 78 pounds on an unofficial scale.
The fish might have eclipsed the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) all-tackle world record of 78 pounds, eight ounces that Albert McReynolds caught on Sept. 21, 1982, from a jetty in Atlantic City, N.J.
Had he taken the fish quickly to a certified scale, Pete might have ended up on a box of Wheaties. If not I bet he could have got his photo on a bag of beef jerky or fishing line.
The problem is that the scale he used was not state certified. And as every Derby bass fisherman knows, time is weight. By the time they were done taking photos and weighed the fish on a certified scale hours later it had lost almost five pounds.
Pete did not seem too concerned. I asked him how often he goes fishing. "As often as I can," he said.
Interestingly, for a guy who fishes a lot and catches a lot of big fish, Pete does not like to kill fish. In fact, his buddy had to convince him to keep his 70-pounder.
Pete said his change of heart occurred after competing in the Striper's Cup, a regional season long striper tournament. "I ended up killing so many 40-pounders I vowed I'd never do it again," he said. "I tend to be more catch and release."
The governor's cup is based on the length and girth of released fish. "That's the kind of award I prefer to get," he said.
So what does it take to hook and land a 70-pound bass? In Pete's case he used a St. Croix rod rated for 12- to 20-pound test line, Penn 560 reel, 50-pound Tuff line braid and a Gamkatsu circle hook.
Pete said some people who saw his photo thought the rod and reel were too light. He said it was more than enough to stand up to a big bass. The key, said Pete, was to have strong line and plenty of it.
Pete, who runs a bakery in East Providence, R.I., was unsure of how to email a photo. That gave me a chance to speak to Don Smith.
Don, a civil engineer, had just returned from working in Bolivia. I asked him about their past success. I was not surprised by his answer.
"We do okay. We've been fishing together a long time," he told me. "We put in a lot of hours out there."
So what makes a good fishing partner? Don said about Pete, "He's a guy that puts his time in and he's always thinking about the other person that is fishing with him. He works hard to find fish and over the years we have become a team."
Don makes all the fishing rigs for the boat. And when they are on the water Pete handles the wheel and keeps an eye on the fish finder while Don sets up the rods. When Pete spots fish they both drop their baits at the same time.
"Sometimes we talk out there," said Don, "and sometimes we don't."
Listening to Don talk about what makes a good fishing partner I thought about how I react, and I came to the realization that I fall well short of any reasonable standard.
Tom Robinson and I spend many hours fishing in the derby. I do little or nothing to prepare and often end up borrowing a rig or bait. Sometimes I bring an extra Milky Way candy bar.
I suppose I would be happy if Tom caught a 70-pounder. But I know I would be happier if I did.
Christina Cowick, 14, holds a bonito she caught fishing with her grandfather, Conrad Neumann. The email message was brief and simply said the fish was caught at Menemsha on Saturday.
I called Conrad Tuesday afternoon. I figured there was a better story and I was correct.
Conrad answered the phone. He had just come in from fishing. "I got two bluefish," he said.
I asked him to tell me about the bonito. "We caught it on a handline," he said.
These days hardcore bonito fishermen rely on expensive graphite rods, machined reels and lures that cost as much as a good lunch. It was refreshing to know that simple still works.
Conrad said that contrary to conventional wisdom and tactics - fast speed, small lures - he was slowly trolling a big deep diving plug from his small aluminum boat. The bonito hit the plug and ended up foul hooked behind its fin. He hauled on the line while his granddaughter tended to the spool.
"It was a wicked fight," said Conrad.
Grandpa and granddaughter landed their catch. It was suggested he report the fish to The Times.
Along with a photo of his granddaughter, Conrad sent me a photo of the fish in front of Saturday's Boston Globe. He rightly figured I might be skeptical of when the bonito was caught.
Conrad knows Island fishermen. He grew up and went to school in Chilmark where he still has a house. He once fished out of the harbor when swordfish were still abundant in local waters. Later in life he became an oceanographer and for 35 years taught geological oceanography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The 74-year-old former swordfisherman and professor, a man who has made numerous trips to the bottom of the ocean floor in Alvin, the first deep-sea submersible capable of carrying passengers, said of his handline-caught bonito, "It was a wonderful adventure, I enjoyed it very much."
Casting popping plugs to bluefish on a warm summer day is absolute fishing fun. The fish, as the above photo shows, are aggressive in pursuit of a plug.
I like to use a plug with a single hook. It makes it easier to release the fish. When the fish are thick a good tactic is to crush down the hook's barb. It is also good practice. Keep a tight line or you will lose the fish.
Charter captain Phil Cronin increasingly uses his fishing skills to take great photos. In an email received Monday he shared this photo and the following information.
"I have seldom seen as many bluefish on every shoal around the Island," said Phil. "Today we went to Hawes and then out to Horseshoe and saw thousands of marauding blues at each. Yesterday we went to Hedge Fence and also saw thousands of blues. I hope they leave some room for the bones when they arrive in targetable numbers."
Doug Curry, his son Nick, and Mark Baum pose with their first bluefin tuna caught July 11 with captain Tim Goodman on board the "Nobska" off Chatham.
The fish took almost two hours to land. In an email Tim said that Doug's preparation time in the gym paid off.
The fish was 78 inches long and 50 inches around and weighed approximately 243 pounds.
That is a lot of sushi.