Selfies With Schoolies

Cat with Captain Austin

Cat with Captain Austin

Recently, you may have noticed pictures of me floating around the internet taking selfies with fish. Do you want to take a guess at how many times I have gone fishing in the past decade? Come on… GUESS!

The correct answer is only a couple of times. Each of those adventures has been within the past month or so. Funny that I grew up here I spent most of my life rinsing salt and sand out of my hair. I LOVE to cook fresh fish. And somehow, I never really went fishing.

My first adventure was during the “Reel Heroes” fishing tournament with the Wounded Warrior Project. (See my June 8th blog “Just Fishing”). It was an amazing day, and I brought home a big zip-lock bag filled with fresh fish fillets.

My next excursion was just this past week. The Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance arranged an afternoon trip with “Captain Austin” on his charter boat “Gracie J”. There would be just a few of us on the boat, including Rachael and Captain Ray from the Fisherman’s Alliance, Matt Pitta (CapeCod.com News), Captain Austin Proudfoot, and myself.

There was a little verbal sparring between Matt and myself as we headed out of Round Cove in Chatham and headed to Monomoy. You see, I had completely out-fished Matt at the “Reel Heroes” fishing tournament, and he saw this as a chance to reclaim his “Portuguese Fishing Pride” (as he called it … over… and over… and OVER…).

All I had in my head was fresh grilled striped bass or bluefish for dinner.

Captain Austin

Captain Austin

I think sometimes we are all guilty of taking our surroundings for granted here on the Cape. More than half of my life was spent swimming, sailing and working on the water on this little sand spit, and even I will go days without thinking about the ocean and what is means to us both recreationally and economically. The Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance was founded in the very early 90’s to address concerns for those who make their livelihood on the ocean as well as the creatures that live in it. Don’t let the word “commercial” crinkle your nose… these are small boat fisherman. For example, the 5 of us were comically bumping into each other as we worked our way around the Gracie J fishing that day. These men and women are not running ocean-liners and giant barges. These are small working boats, some of which have been handed down from one generation to the next, along with the wisdom and skills to fish the tricky waters along the Cape Cod coastline.

Black Sea Bass, Striped Bass, Blue Fish, Monkfish, Dog Fish, Skate, Bay Scallops, Lobsters and Tuna. You probably recognize most of them. Maybe even pick them up at the store to cook up for dinner. I have often said, if it comes out of the ocean, I can make dinner out of it… And DINNER was all I had in mind as I listened to Captain Ray tell fishing stories that ran from Canada to the Florida Keys.

Captain Austin positioned us under a flock of squawking turns. “They have to be eating sand eels,” he said, “The bigger fish drive the eels up to the surface. Start casting!”
We did.

It was incredibly calm water that afternoon. No waves, just enough clouds to break up the hot sun and almost no wind. Captain Austin told us about a great white shark he saw skim the surface earlier in the day… “Like a scene from JAWS”… it appeared and was gone. –Now I wanted to see a shark! We debated over the best way to cook fresh fish and debated how to handle fresh bluefish (which I love… Some on the boat didn’t).

Schoolie SelfieAfter some time and a few re-positions of the boat, finally we had a couple nibbles. After several mulligan casts (where you forget to flip the reel correctly and smack your lure off the side of the boat –or the person behind you), I got a BITE! I must have squealed like a preschooler! There you go, Matt! I got the FIRST one! With the help of Captain Austin, we pulled the fish on board. He removed the hook for me and handed me the striped bass for pictures. As it turned out, it was a few inches too small and we slipped it back into the water. Fishing regulations are 28 inches for striped bass. There was a little more trash-talk back and forth. Then Captain Ray revealed a trick to sabotage a hook on someone’s lure. Really? He was trying to help Matt!

“It’s good to see the schoolies”. Both Ray and Austin said it more than once. It means the fish populations are replenishing. That’s a good sign. With catch limits shrinking and regulations coming just short of strangling fisherman out of jobs, seeing juvenile fish means there will be populations for next year.

Another fish was hooked! This time Rachael fought and pulled it on board (again, with the help of our experienced Captains). Matt was getting frustrated: “My people taught the rest of the world how to fish!” As it turned out, Racheal’s fish was also too small to keep, and it was released.

We only had a few short hours on the boat, and our chatter aside, it had been a quiet trip. We talked about the changes in regulations, the water studies Captain Ray assists with and Captain Austin told us about the tuna he caught with his father the week before… and how he was still waiting for payment from overseas (where much of our tuna ships to). “This isn’t ‘Wicked Tuna’” he said. There it was, the step off between television-reality and fisherman’s reality: Trying to make a living.

Matt Pitta Schoolie

Matt Pitta Schoolie

We were getting closer to the “last cast” warning, as we were running out of time. Then it happened… Matt stood up and announced he had one on the line. “I told you! I was just waiting for the right time!” He reeled the striped bass in and Captain Austin pulled it out of the water, removed the hook and pulled out the ruler. It was 25-ish inches. It was just a fraction larger than mine, and still not enough to keep. The day was winding down and it was time to head back in. “It’s a good sign. It’s good to see the schoolies”.

I will admit I was a little disappointed that night as I grilled up a couple pork chops instead of fish for dinner. Next time…

Because of the work and research of the Fisherman’s Alliance, there will be a next time, and a next season, and a season after that.

For more information about local fishing and local fisherman, please visit: http://www.capecodfishermen.org/

About Cat Wilson

Cat Wilson is "That Girl" on Cape Country 104 – a Cape Cod native and longtime Cape radio personality. She is a passionate supporter of Military and Veteran causes on the Cape and also hosts local music spotlight program, “The Cheap Seats” on Ocean 104.7.

Comments

  1. Richard Setzer Sr. says:

    Love reading your blog. My son and I were two of those chosen to attend the Reel Heros fishing trip. We were also blessed having Captain Austin as our guide with his 1st Mate Chris Nashville on that day. I love the Cape and this was my first time back since the 70’s. It is a special place with special people. My son and I bounded on the Reel Heros trip more than we have since my return from the battlefield of Iraq. It surly was a time of healing.
    Thank you !!

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