The first fish of the season is a welcome sight

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I am not surprised in late April to see the vehicles of well-known Island fishermen with fishing rods on top or in the back of a truck bed. Even a whiff of fish sends them to the beach.

I heard that a fisherman caught striped bass a week ago along South Beach. The location provided was not specific. But year after year the pattern is the same.

Wasque Point is always a certain place to catch fish early in the season. The bluefish will soon follow.

I have yet to find a way to predict what the fishing season will bring. But I know that most fishermen are optimists and every fishing season is a reward.

I never seem to be ready for the arrival of fish. In early April, my light eight-foot St. Croix spinning rod with a small Yozuri minnow rigged in anticipation of bonito I never caught last fall stood in a corner of my basement. My eight-weight Orvis fly rod sat in a travel case. A white squid fly tied in anticipation of a big fall striper looked untouched.

Bait rods and surf rods that did not merit the basement still sat in my shed. Hooks dangled perilously from rod tips.

My fishing gear was stowed last fall with all the best intentions. But the transition from fishing season to deer and duck hunting season happened overnight. The best of intentions to take care of my equipment faded. And then came the spring and rumors, soon confirmed, of fish.

One of the pleasures of living on an Island with a fishing culture is the uncomplicated nature of going fishing. I know there are some people who fret over every detail, but I am not one of them. Planning is always last minute.

“Honey, I’m going to go fishing tonight,” I will say to my wife, Norma. “Oh, you are, are you?” she will reply. She would never object to having the house to herself. Our rituals are well established.

A fisherman looking to catch the first striper of his season would do well to probe the water along the south shore. The big and little bridges are also good early season spots.

I always expect bluefish to arrive shortly after Mother’s Day. The fierce fish usually strike Wasque first, then move along East Beach on the falling tide. By late May and early June, blues can be found in Cape Poge and off State Beach.

It is always best to check with local charter captains and tackle shops for updates on the fishing action.

One change this season is the requirement that with some exceptions, fishermen must register with the federal National Saltwater Angler Registry.

The federal registration requirement is a prelude to a state license that will go into effect in 2011 when Massachusetts will move to fully implement the provisions of a new law that created a Massachusetts saltwater fishing license.

In Dec. 2008 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service (NOAA) announced plans for a national registry of saltwater anglers. NOAA said that better national surveys of the more than 15 million saltwater anglers will provide important economic and fisheries data.

NOAA mandated that all anglers and spearfishers who fish recreationally in federal waters be included in the national saltwater angler registry by Jan. 1, 2010. Initially, registration is free. But the Feds intend to begin charging a fee still to be determined beginning in 2012.

Fishermen need to provide their name, date of birth, address, and telephone number. They will receive a registration number that will allow them to fish immediately. After about 30 days they will receive a registration card in the mail, according to NOAA.

Non-resident fishermen who hold a valid recreational saltwater fishing permit from another state, fishermen under 16 or over 60 years of age; disabled fishermen; and fishermen on licensed charter boats are not be required to hold a license.