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That’s better. But where did my big fish mojo go?

After ten days or so of not getting on the water, Steve Durkee and I hit the Housy on the morning of the 18th.

The last time I had been out prior to that, close to 100 of the 200 and some-odd fish Jimfish and I caught, had come on unweighted soft plastics, fished either right on top, or within a few inches of the top. A week and a half later and 10 degrees lower in water temp, I didn’t really expect to find a repeat performance. But in the first half hour or so Steve and I were on the water that day, we saw so many of the fish we caught actually hit our jig and plastic offerings a foot or two beneath the surface, that I had to try going unweighted.

Four or five casts into my experiment, a fish smashed the bait right on top. A few casts later, another made an attempt, but missed the hook. I tried it often during the course of the morning, but caught only two more on it (both close enough to see the hit, but not purely on the surface) and generated four or five rolls and turnaways. Still, to me, it’s exciting to catch a few fishing the top this late in the year.

Alas, despite the strong activity, it turned out to be a no keeper day.

We hit the river again the next day (Tuesday the 19th).

40" -12/19/17

40″ -12/19/17

I tried some topwater on and off, but it was nothing doing — especially after the wind came up. Still, it was a good day for numbers of schoolies on jig and plastic combos. And mid-afternoon, Steve broke our keeper drought in a big way, with a 40 inch fish that he got fishing a Superfluke on a 3/16 oz jighead with his light fresh water spinning rod and 12# test.

We didn’t make it back out again until Christmas Eve.

We’d been hoping for some dirty water run-off from the inch-plus of rain that had originally been forecast for Saturday, but the predicted total kept shrinking as the weekend approach, and if we got 4/10 of an inch, it was a lot. So we didn’t get the fast and dirty river to turn on the big fish that we’d been hoping for, but other than that, it was a great day.

Daybreak on a calm river.

Daybreak on a calm river.

Alex was just ahead of us when we pulled out from the ramp a few minutes past 7. We found fish quickly and started hooking up as soon as Steve dropped the electric in the water, and noted that Alex was working the opposite side of the river. We were catching – rats. Alex was catching – good fish.  He’d caught a number of decent fish, including a pair of 31 inch keepers when we got within talking range of him.

As the sun got higher and the clouds dissipated, the likelihood of catching anything big diminished, but the fish never stopped biting. We and Alex stayed within shouting range of each other for the entire time we were out. For the most part, we each sat in one spot with our Minnkotas on Spot Lock and caught fish. Mostly 15 to 20 inch schoolies, but with enough 20 to 24 inchers mixed in to keep us hoping.

34 inches - 12/24/17

34 inches – 12/24/17

And hope turned into reality for Steve after the clouds rolled in pretty solid again around 10AM, when he hooked and landed a 34 inch keeper.

Other than that keeper, our biggest fish of the morning were in the 24 to 26 in range. But if either of us (or Alex, for that matter) made more than 20 or 25 casts all morning that didn’t result in a fish brought to the boat, it was a lot. Steve and I fished from about 7:10 to 11:30, and ended the morning with 302 fish between us.

I just wonder where my big fish mojo has gone. Early in October, with my previous yearly keeper total of 227 long since passed, I set a new target of  300 keeper stripers for the year. But then November came, and we started to get some long periods of little or no fishing due to weather, and the schoolies moved into the river en masse, which makes it tougher to contact the less numerous big fish when you do get out. So here I am stuck at 287 keeper size stripers for the year, and the weather forecast for the rest of the year is waving its middle finger at me, with daytime highs in the teens and twenties through at least the first few days of 2018.

2017 has still been my best year ever for legal sized stripers, but I just hate missing a target that seemed doable when I set it a few months back.

 

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