Heartbreak at Sunset.....The 26 inch Super Schoolie
In 11yrs of chasing stripers by boat and shore, my biggest by boat (57 inches, 54 lbs.), is 31 inches longer and 54 pounds minus whatever a 26 inch fish weighs heavier.
I love pictures of fish big or small. Nothing's worse than when your showing your own pic you think is big and is in all reality small. I was that guy getting atta boy and walk's as good as a hit when showing off my catch. If you fish the stretch from Shinnecock west to Moriches you love them and hate them. There's a lot of smaller fish around when they should be. There's a few big ones if you know what you're doing or like me. Ready, willing, and able and hopeful for that big fish on any cast.
The super schoolie is probably the most important size and predominant size in my time on the beach the past decade and change. I rarely miss a day if it's fishable weather, even if it's 45 minutes with dire sanctions if I'm not in the car pulling out of the driveway in more than 46 minutes to head to a family event.
It took three fall runs of frustration before I was at the right place at the right time and my tsumani sand eel game was tight. Put me in the game coach. I caught about 20 in two hours. All the same size, all the same thrill. I ran into them a few more times that fall. Honestly had that voice in my head politely saying yeah, but they're 26 inch schoolies. If you're going to have fish in a barrel fishing, may as well try all the stuff from youtube, facebook, chatting with salty guys at the shows, or in the only books I've read cover to cover in years.
They're here all season and are the catch you need in the summer doldrums until their cousins are in town for a visit. They're willing to get faked out like they know they'll be swimming at the end of a fair fight. In the summer they're willing to be top water acrobats, in the fall in big surf it's like they're scaring off a bear by trying to look and feel BIG. All the same size, and all the same thrill.
Been getting the hang of a bucktail better and better each year and pretty confident in it. It's about the closest a surfcaster gets to having a fishfinder that would cover the wash out to the outer bar. The super schoolies never disappoint if you get it right on what's making waves and water move how they do.
So I've scratched the surface on the gateway lures and how they wiggle and waggle. I'm starting to see where they might be and sometimes are. Hands down the true lightning in a bottle of surfcasting is other, better surfcasters. The facebook and instagram dm's are great but nothing beats a chat on the beach, in the lot or in the local shop. You don't teach advanced physics to first graders. You teach what you teach first graders, or throw some second grade stuff at them. The guys that have helped me out, well I haven't been left back a grade yet.
With super schoolie school back in session, I wondered if this was the year I'd skip a grade. Earlier this week I plucked two dozen of them one at at time from a large gathering where there was no social distancing right behind the dimple 10 yards past the break. Bigger than usual fish were getting caught that were the biggest guys fishing for years or just months ever caught.
I told at least ten of them I love them but I need the bigger ones. If it's just one then it's just one but I'm ready. Got a 33 inch fish last Saturday night. The kid was there. A buddy was there. The fish swam away, it's going to be a great memory. As Captain Obvious would say... one more would be great.
Tonight probably averaged out to a super schoolie every 7.8 casts. Switched to a chunky bucktail and jig strip from an A27, the most disrespected lure that crushes fish. Six of us fishing and catching magic number 26's in a heavy wash, coldest it's been this season, moonrise to the left orange clouds on the right... there she is. Hard sweep right all during sunset had the guy to the left's catch swimming and splashing by your legs, but this one just kept going with the sweep. It was happening. I wanted to touch the drag like a kid putting a battery on his tongue but didn't. Two guys walked the 50 yards or so I worked the fish. I was already thinking I don't have to fumble around with getting my phone out for a pic and can just smile then get her back swimming.
The best and worst prank every played on me as a surfcaster. A foul hooked 26 inch super schoolie stuck its tongue out at me when I gave an angry look right in her eyes. I couldn't get mad though.