July 5. Nighttime is the right time.

July 5. Nighttime is the right time.

A couple years ago I made a documentary film about fishing on Plum Island. Along the way I met and spent a few nights fishing with a guy named Joe Brotz. Online folks know him better as “Roccus.” Joe is a very, very good fisherman. He fishes primarily at night. He fishes live eels. He also hand-makes plugs, ice-fishes, fly fishes. Pretty much every type of luring a finned thing you can do, Joe does.
The first night we went out was hard weather, and after 4 or 5 hours we only came up with one fish. It was cold and windy, and we fished the river. Well, actually, he fished and I filmed. About a year later, still working my film, we went out again and he nailed 4 or 5 big fish. In fact, they were the biggest stripers I’d ever seen in person. You can take a peek at his segment in the film below.

Joe Brotz, Eel slinger for Striped Bass from James Waldron Design on Vimeo.

Anyway, he taught me enough about fishing eels, that when the tides were right I started to go out in the dark. At the beginning few of my pals wanted to go, preferring the early mornings where you can actually see what’s going on. But i began going more and more nights and found, as Joe described, the fish I’d catch were routinely bigger than anything in the day.
Mostly I fished around the Merrimack, in Joppa Flats, or up the river. I felt pretty safe there and was amazed at how bright it is out there in the dead of night. Last year I began, tentatively, to explore the Plum Island ocean side at night. I’ll be the first to tell you the mouth of the river is a scary place at night. You just never know what kind of conditions you’ll find, or what size boat is coming in and out when you are. For instance, last night I was greeted with a 150 foot barge coming back from a fireworks display at Salisbury about 11 pm. That craft kind of took up the water between the jetties, and I felt like I was just squeaking by. The night before there was a trawler going out when I was coming back on a fast-moving outgoing tide. The trawler lights completely blinded me just as I passed the tip of the South Jetty. Scared the crap out of me being unable to see anything but my trusty GPS. And while I waited for the big boat to pass, a cranking 20mph wind fired up from the North, spinning the water up into a wicked froth and making my trip to my mooring in the Basin a real adventure.
But the rewards of fishing the nighttime oceanfront in my boat have been great. I’ve been able to get away from the crowd in the river. The beach is long and quiet at night. And I’ve caught some very large fish. In fact I got my biggest yet earlier this week, a 45″ long, 25″ girth striper on light gear. Like Joe, I release most all of my fish. In fact, I prefer to eat freshly caught Bluefish over the taste of Striped Bass.
It’s absurd to spend thousands of dollars and weeks of time each year working hard to catch a fish – and then immediately return it to the water. Totally illogical to my brain. But I now get the biggest high at two ends of the process. I am fully addicted to the feeling of the Hit. Reeling and fighting the fish is ok, but the hit is fantastic.
And now I get my second-best sensation as the fish is slowly revived and swims off. Fighting a big bass to the boat usually leaves both me and the fish exhausted and panting. I try to release smaller ones without even removing them from the water. But when I have a big fish, and feel the need to get a picture, I grab hold tightly and get the fish into the boat by holding on by hand.
When it’s time to return the fish to the water I hold tightly to the base of the tail, put the fish horizontal in the water and slowly move it foreword and back, moving the water over it’s gills to give it a nice breath. Slowly you can feel the fish come back to life. The gills start to move, the side fins begin to fluctuate and the body starts to push back against my hold. There’s something unique about that moment, just when the fish begins to take off. It’s usually a quick tail flick and it’s off to the bottom. I regularly get a face full of water at that instant. But I love seeing the fish tool away under the brightness of my headlamp. Awesome.
So, it is with that story in mind, that I share with you some of the instigator of my nighttime jaunts fish from the last week. Mr. Brotz sent me these pics with the following note, “Hope you’re enjoying some time on the water… fishing along the ocean front and in the river has been the best it’s been in years for all sizes of fish .. big and small..… a friend alerted me to the KTP report this week asking me if I had put in a report to Surfland..… as I was reading it… I realized it was a year old (the KTP report)… So… here’s a few fresh pictures from this week… catch and release… no size, or weights… just BIG fish… Swimming free after their gift of battle for others to someday enjoy….”



Stickman is the resident web design guy at Surfland. We pay him in eels.

    Posted at 15:47h, 05 July


  • james jewkes
    Posted at 18:56h, 05 July

    awesome video and nice story cant wait to get back fishing

  • Pingback:Who needs to go to the gym ? - Striper Talk Striped Bass Fishing, Surfcasting, Boating
    Posted at 03:38h, 06 July

    […] Who needs to go to the gym ? Love that line ,, Great video Joe .. Surfland Fishing Report Archives July 5. Nighttime is the right time. […]

  • Strawbite
    Posted at 10:07h, 06 July

    Great video, great writing, great stories, great sharing. Thank you.

  • JEFF
    Posted at 15:38h, 06 July

    Awsome write up!! Great vid and pics!!! And most definately a huge rush to catch but even bigger rush to revive and watchm swim away for another day!!!!! SAVE THE COWS!!! 🙂 Thanks Stick & Joe!!

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