Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: Year of the ALBIE

There were lots of highlights from this year's saltwater fishing, a good year overall.  Striper fishing was great at times, though inconsistent at other times.  Blues were on the rampage on some fall days yet disappeared on other days.  But, in my experience the biggest thrills of the year were provided by false albacore, better known as albies.  From early September right into late October, albie fever gripped most RI fishermen.  Many daytime fishermen became hooked, or should I say obsessed, with chasing and catching these hard fighting, prized gamesters. These fish, hard to find and catch in normal years, were around in astounding numbers at times.  And, they were all over the place whether you fished from a boat or from shore. For sure, many many fishermen caught their first albies.   Fishermen were chasing them along the shores of Jamestown and Newport, the Gansett shoreline ran hot, they were along the south county beaches and breachways and they were tearing up the bait along the far south shoreline in Westerly. At times, they seemed to be everywhere.  In the over fifty years I have been fishing the ocean I have never seen albie fishing this good, not even close. In my best outing from the boat while fishing with my brother Steve and my son Ben, we landed over 50 albies.  From shore my best outing happened while fishing with my friend Dennis and Ben.  That day we had over 60 albies. In other years a good day would have been a couple of fish!  So, 2012 will go down in fishing history here in RI as the best year we have ever seen for false albacore.  Hmm, can history repeat itself in 2013?  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

No Shortage of Stripers in 2012

Before the season began I would have guessed that we were heading for a lean season as far as striper fishing was concerned here in RI.  After all, the young of the year indexes from the Chesapeake Bay, those seining surveys that count juvenile stripers had been poor for the last five years (with the exception of 2011).  That predictor of future abundance would lead one to believe that schoolies would be in short supply.  They weren't!
In fact I would have to say that 2012 was my best year in at least 5 or 6 years.  There were good numbers of schoolies around, and these include all sizes from tiny ones of 12 inches up to hefty ones of 24+ inches.  In addition, there were very good numbers of keepers around, especially those keepers in the 28-38 inch range. It was a year in which a newcomer could go out, start casting and come away with a big fish as his first keeper (see photo at right). There were so many fish around that this fall alone I landed more stripers than I caught the whole year in 2011. Let me emphasize, once again, that most fishermen quit too early.
This abundance came as we basically lost the summer fishing in 2012 due to excessively warm water.  You can cross out the months of July and August, miserable fishing months along the inshore shorelines.  However, winter, spring and fall proved to be real good and more than made up for a bad summer of fishing.
So, why such abundance here in RI?  It sort of reminds me of the days when the moratoriums were in effect in the 1980's.  Back then, we also had good numbers of stripers around, especially schoolies.  We know that many of our stripers come from the Chesapeake Bay where the numbers are monitored closely.  We also know we get a lot of fish from the Hudson River where we know little about their numbers and their abundance.  I suspect more of our fish than we know are coming from the Hudson.
So,  for whatever reason, 2012 goes down as a very good year for stripers here in RI.  Let's hope it continues in 2013.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Most Fishermen Quit Too Early

The lesson to be learned from this fall is that most fishermen quit way too early.  Fish are still being caught in good numbers all over the place here in RI in both the Bay and along the oceanfront.  Yet, there are few fishermen out trying.  I think it's a traditional and psychological thing....the calendar hits Thanksgiving and everyone packs it in.  But, our weather patterns are changing and our warmer weather has greatly affected the striper migrations.  The spring starts far earlier and the fall extends far later than in past years.  As I write this it is 50 degrees outside and it is well after dark, and water temperatures around the state are in the mid to upper 40's, still warm enough to keep the fish active.
I have been out fishing every day since Thanksgiving.  While I can tell you that the vast majority of late season fish that I've been catching are schoolies, some surprise keepers are around.  In the last couple of weeks, I did land a few keepers in the 28-33 inch range and I know of other people catching them.  It's that time of the year where one cast will yield a 20 inch schoolie and the next cast will get you a keeper. You just never know what's going to happen at this time of year.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review of Shimano Spheros 4000 FB reel

I needed a new “light tackle” reel to fish in the Bay this fall. So, I began to research spinning reels to find the best one out there for the money. If you read a lot of reel reviews, you will discover that the Shimano Spheros gets superlative reviews from just about every fisherman who’s ever bought one. In fact, many of the guides down south are using this reel because of its durability and reliability. So, based on those reviews, I bought one from Cabelas. The model I bought is a 4000FB that weighs about 12 oz. It sells for a little over $100 which makes it a moderately priced reel. I have been using this reel for the last three months and have caught hundreds of fish with it including many keeper bass. Here is what I think of it.

It is one of the smoothest reels I have ever owned and feels like silk on the retrieve. The drag is also one of the best out there that I have ever used. In fact, the drag is far smoother than my Van Staal 150 which sells for six times as much! I also like the fact that there is no anti reverse lever like you find on some of the old Penn reels. This has a built in anti reverse bearing so the reel only turns one way. The line lays on real well on the spool on the retrieve, something Shimano calls a propulsion line management system. Whatever it is called it works, and line twist seems to be non-existent. On slightly negative note, I find I have to spray the moving parts where the bail connects to the reel with WD 40 after a few outings as the bail will tend to lazily flip if it is not lubricated often. I guess that is part of normal maintenance. Note that I am usually fishing dry areas with this reel and it has gotten little splash so I have no idea how it would hold up to that abuse. I will tell you that my pricey Van Staal can really take a beating of salt spray and still performs well. So, if you are looking to buy a good reel at a moderate price this winter or you are looking for a Christmas gift, the Spheros is a winner. On a star rating, I would give it a 4.5 out of 5. Highly recommended.