2008-02-08 / Sports

Rockaway Outdoors/Tales From The Wheel House

By Captain Vinnie Calabro

Tony the ''Hawk'' is pictured with a bass from last spring. Tony the ''Hawk'' is pictured with a bass from last spring. "Waters are cold Cap."

Yeah, I gotcha. Those words were repeated often enough last week by fishermen throughout our area. Enough so that many realize ''the fat lady's singing''. Thirty-nine degrees for sea temps says it all.

It's not by any stretch of the imagination a fish friendly temperature. Still those anglers trying to beat the odds did so with limited, but respectable success. Prowling water depths of up to 150' and distances offshore more than usual fish were caught.

Blackfish, cod and ling this winter's trio were landed, their bodies as cold as cadavers when removing the hook. Most of the fisherman I spoke to were thinking about giving it a break and heading to the shipyard to begin maintenance. The popular consensus was I had enough...

But to everyone's surprise Sunday was just one of those days. Aday when the weather and sea beckoned the call to go fishing. Boats fishing to the east had good catches and further to the west, the New York Giants had an even better catch.

And, even though the air temperatures for the most part have been moderate as winters go, one realizes that phonological calendars aren't solely dictated by weather alone. Phenological Calendars? Let me explain, nature doesn't always continue on queue with dates and times, no, not at all.

Deadlines, close of business, board meetings; the sprouting crocus know nothing of this, nor do the flowering dogwoods, or the stirrings of striped bass laden with roe deep into the Hudson. No, no time clock for the bluefish as they depart the Outer Banks, steaming toward Jersey, by early May they'll be off the Rockaways. They answer to a different call, more variables than I could account for factor into the equation.

Temperature, day and night periods, precipitation, endless cogs in the wheel. Nature as designed by our Creator interacts with links to every aspect of our environment, and as one can see a kinship evolves within. Relationships grow, forsythia in bloom usually means bunker are in the Back Bay. Dogwoods flowering the striper fishing is starting. Sure enough these events occur when the appropriate rhythms of nature coincide.

They become etched in our minds. Fishermen, naturalists, outdoorsmen, are all sticklers for details. Discovering is probably why the outdoors is so appealing. You call the shot. Which dune to spy over when looking for plovers, which wave to cast a lure behind, it's the little rewards that are the most gratifying.

Silent victories are moments to savor. Looking and seeing are two different things. Look long enough and you'll begin to see.

He didn't look like much of a fisherman. The flamboyant attire of today's surfcasters: blue and orange polypropylene tops, Grunden ''skins'', Guy Cotten boots; instead a green city parks workers-issued uniform and black no name work shoes were his garb.

Traditional G-Loomis surf rod with the accompanying Van Stahl reel was missing too. His stick was a 7 and ½ foot lamiglass with a wooden butt and Penn 704 reel. He was mid way out on the 36 Street Jetty as I passed him with a swashbuckling attitude making my way toward the tip. I looked beautiful a runway model of a surf caster, plug back on my hip 1166 lamiglas with the then much heralded Crack 300 as a crank, topped off with my Helly Hansen skins.

I chose a stellar of a lure; the Stan Gibbs 2 3/4 ounce white pencil popper. I began to work the tip, casting my lure and retrieving it with the precision of a metronome. First 12 o'clock, then 1, 2 and so on.

No fish rising for my lures today. Hmm, not much here, however looking over my shoulder the old man who I passed on my way out was into a fish. A pretty good one at that by the bend in his rod and singing of his drag. Hey, every dog has his day, and I meandered over to check it out. Maybe I'll ''stick'' the fish for him.

After all I had a jetty gaff, it was the least I could do for this old guy. In between swells I gaffed the striper right behind the head up from the dorsal. It was a nice teenager (striper in the upper teens). A white one ounce upperman bucktail and pork rind hanging from his jaw. "Thanks kid," he said in a frail voice. It was a ways back maybe 72 feet or maybe 73 feet so I can't recall my exact reply.

Anyway, I being out fished wasn't all that cordial. I went back to the tip with the anticipation that some fish had moved in and I'd get a lick in. That wasn't the case but as I looked over my shoulder Yoda was beaching another fish. I looked back a little perplexed, after all this was "my jetty''

After he landed his fish, he bent over, picked up a few more from between the rocks, walked up to the boardwalk and got into his rig; a green or what was left of a green Plymouth duster.

The following afternoon as I arrived at my spot the now familiar car was already parked .He was already into a fish. "How you doing Pops", I said giving him his props He mumbled some gibberish. ''Ahhya how's it going junior." Hmm, Junior, 6-foot, 245 pound linebacker, and this walking hemorrhoids calling me junior. I'll show his ass a trick or two today.

Ahh nothing like a new bucktail on ones rod to get one's juices flowing. I may be an idiot but I'm far from dumb. So it came down to this mano e mano. Like a pronghorn I was all over that jetty, only to come to a screeching halt as I looked down between the rocks and spied his fish. Oh a half dozen or so big bass. He didn't say a helluva a lot as he unhooked the 7 inch blue back rebel from its lips, his look said it all has he glanced at my shiny new bucktail.

And so begins the story of my surf mentor, Eddie Merts on his way to making me a Jedi Knight, although I didn't know it at the time.

Eddie deserves a few more lines and his story will unfurl as we continue in weeks to come.

Florida update, as per the Hawk, fishing was terrible this past week. No appreciable amount of kingfish caught, or at least not by him. Spanish mackerel for the moment had become as scarce as hens teeth due to the recent invasion of dolphin into the area.

Dolphin voracious feeders, will come onto the grounds and feed on the Spanish and other fish in their path. He said he was going to the west coast for an overnight bottom fishing safari. Knowing the Hawk as I do, he must have gotten a good tip for him to be crossing the state. This guy sure gets around a lot.

Until the next tide; tight lines.

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