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Fly Fishing Film Series Happening this Thursday

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I got an email from Alexander over at Urban Angler asking me to help spread the word on the Fly Fishing Film Tour happening this Thursday, March 26 at 7pm. The night is hosted by Urban Angler and the American Museum of Fly Fishing, and Catskill Brewery is sponsoring the event so there’s going to be free beer, beverages, and meatballs. Pick up tickets here!

1 @ 28″: New Striped Bass Regs for 2015!

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Today was a good day if you’re on the side of striped bass conservation. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation voted on new regulations for striped bass possession for recreational anglers: in previous years the limit was 1 fish over 28″, and 1 fish over 40″ for most recs, and 2 fish over 28″ for the for-hire crowd, meaning party boats and charters (fishing above the GW Bridge in the Hudson has slightly different regulations). For 2015, the new regulation is one fish at 28″ for all recreational fishing, including the for-hires—which conservationists hail as a big step in the right direction for the shrinking population of striped bass. New York joins Connecticut and Massachusetts with 1 fish @ 28″, while Rhode Island’s Marine Fisheries Council voted last week to a split regulation of 1 fish @ 28″ for most recreational fishing, while the for-hires get 2 @ 32″. This was lobbied vociferously by the Rhode Island Party and Charter Boat association as well as its president Captain Rick Bellevance, according to Charlie Witek, an attorney and conservationist who writes the One Angler’s Voyage blog. Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management has the final say regarding limits. New Jersey, long seen as an adversary of striped bass conservation due to its unique position regarding commercial reallocation of its fishery (NJ doesn’t have a commercial fishery, but has measures to make those fish not killed in a commercial quota available to be kept by recs and for-hires, such as their bonus tag system that anglers can buy to keep more than the usual limit) has yet to finalize their decision. It’s universally expected they will go for a slot limit (from what I’ve read they’re looking at 1 fish at 28″ and a trophy slot 1 fish at 44″+) and include bonus fish tags.

All of this is still not set in stone after the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council’s decree of a 25 percent reduction in striped bass harvest last year. While states have to conform to the ASFMC reduction, each state is allowed to determine how exactly to achieve it, hence the voting and the varying limits from state to state, in a process called “conservation equivalency.” It’s expected the states will want to adopt the same measures, so while the 1 fish at 28″ was hard fought for by the environmentally-minded, and fought against by, among others, lobbies with financial interests in harvesting striped bass, it’s still one step in the direction of conservation. The fear among conservationists is that states like Rhode Island and New Jersey opening up their for-hire industry to 2 fish at 32″ (or whatever NJ decides) will force other states to adopt the same limits for fear of keeping that money in state—the theory is people seeking for-hire boats will go to out of state so they can keep more fish. It’s a questionable theory, in my opinion, but may hold some weight. I’ll have more on this and striped bass conservation in the next couple weeks. In the meantime, Dave Cole sent me a link for this. I like the comment about Wile E. Coyote.

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greenpoint + williamsburg waterfront circa 1992

this is super cool. check out the huxley envelope factory building near the Huron Street pier, which is already in pieces in the river. The Green Street pier still looks pretty nice, though! Not any more…

2014 Derby Over!

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It was a cold night for alligators and the hunters of fish but somehow we prevailed through the sixth Brooklyn Fishing Derby. The fishing was tough, the wind unforgiving, the bunker plentiful, and the spirits high, and in the end newcomer Alex Reh caught what might have been the only bass of the derby, a 26″ schoolie up in Greenpoint. A short, but a healthy looking fish, nonetheless. The news for the rest of the weekend went quiet, with only crabs tearing up my fresh bunker and stories of dedicated souls coming up empty. As people started to trickle in to Dream, the mood slowly began to shift while the grills started smoking and beer started flowing. A HUGE thanks to Barbara, Robert, and the rest of the crew at Dream for making this happen, by the way. I’m always impressed at how they hold it down while I’m getting drunk and forgetting to do things. Once we managed to clear Dream of all the smoke blowing in from the backyard, I started getting really hungry watching Jacques from Palo Santo pull out his bag of magic tricks.

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Shawn Hu brought his wife and daughter and a big sack of sugar cane to chew on while we waited for the masters of the grills to do their thing. A couple guys from Greenpoint Fish & Lobster brought more fresh fish and mussels. Robin and Altay sent us pictures of the tog stock cooking on their stove they’d soon be bringing to Dream. Not to be outdone, Ben started it off with spicy lobster and fish sausages, salmon filets, salmon burgers, whole shrimp skewers, and Chilean sea bass—all of which I believe was donated by The Lobster Place. I could feel people start to get stoked as the smells coming off the grills got us salivating. I, like most everyone else here, spent most of the weekend wet and freezing and stressing out with little to show for it, but now it was becoming clear again what was the true reward. We swapped fishing stories, advice, fishing spots, beers, laughs… It was all coming together.

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These guys came from Germany to fish and ended up one snagged line short of possibly winning the derby. We had a nice mix of new faces and familiar ones, but we were missing out on some KEY members, to which I will call out Dave “It’s noon o’clock somewhere” Cole—who was not only too drunk to keep fishing Saturday, but too hungover to come to the party Sunday, Jane “I’m married now” Borock, Thomas “I got a kid now” Genoski, Maria “I haven’t fished in years” H., and James “I got an adult life now” Potter. I’m bummed you guys missed it, and you now have to listen to me give you shit for it for another year. No matter, we soldiered on through the beers and the evening. A guy named Kyle graced us with some incredible, homemade duck jerky, which reminds me that two-time champion Jan Gorz caught a Canadian goose on n5th an hour before the derby close. Jacques prepped awesome bluefish tacos, and Robin and Altay arrived with their Carribean fish “tea.” That Chilean sea bass made a quick appearance and quicker disappearance, and despite my ethical qualms with eating this fish, I swear if you could glaze a stick of butter with brown sugar and honey, that would have been this fish. The award ceremony was short and sweet, with John Ruffino handing over the cup to Alex Reh, who stood in triumph over us lesser fishermen.

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Oh, and here’s his fish. Congrats the Alex for pulling this guy out on a tough weekend of fishing.
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Somehow I managed to not get blackout drunk at this year’s closing party, although no one will let me forget the time I thought I got roofied at The Woods. The 2014 Derby was over, and I think we have a lot of work to do for next year, but somehow the closing party always gets people together and makes all the work, disorganization and scrambling worth it ten times over. A big Ilya Bryzgalov humongous Thank You goes to everyone who came out for this year’s derby, our sponsors—ACME Smoked Fish, Greenpoint Fish and Lobster, The Lobster Place, Brooklyn Kitchen, Jacques at Palo Santo, and, of course, everyone at Dream. We couldn’t have done it without all of you.

But the fishing’s not over yet; I’m hoping to squeeze in a few more trips before the weather goes full on winter, to Breezy, to Montauk, to wherever I can go. Robin, by the way, is gauging interest in a blackfish trip on the Ocean Eagle out of Sheepshead Bay before the season is done. Contact me if you’re interested and we can set a day for a trip.

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—mkl

[most pictures taken by Geralyn Shukwit]

2014 Derby UNDERWAY!

Many thanks to everyone who braved the cold rain to meet us at Dream Tackle tonight in Greenpoint. One of my favorite things about the Derby is meeting new people and reconnecting with friends. We had a bunch of food thanks to ACME Smoked Fish, beer thanks to Pabst Blue Ribbon, and hospitality thanks to Robert and Basia at Dream. One side note before I get too far, Dream has A LOT of fresh bunker right now. I reached in there and tested those fish out. GET SOME NOW while the getting is good. I jokingly asked if Robert threw a casting net into Newtown Creek this morning.

Back to the opening, it was great meeting some new folks like Justin and Alex, and meeting up with friends like Jacques, Alex Marquez, Robin (who pleaded for me to open a blackfish category since she is currently crushing them at her secret locations), Geralyn, Ruffino and his crew, Dave Cole, and others who we are always happy to see. Jon Capo showed up late and didn’t get his shirt. Don’t worry, Jon. We have them in Ben’s truck. Just show up Sunday if you didn’t get yours, and if you asked me (via email) to hold one for you, I have yours.

Despite the near-freezing rain, a small, but dedicated crew decided to head out Thursday night. The weather sucked; nobody needs to elaborate on that, really. I ran home, grabbed my gear and my flask of whiskey to ward off the chill, and met up with Ben—of Derby and lobster roll fame; Jacques—of last year’s grill and Fort Reno fame; Dennis—of fishing and gyotaku print (he did the fish logo for our derby this year) fame; and Geralyn—of photography fame. Me, I’m perhaps famous for swiping all the way through to the end of Tinder. Alex Marquez decided to set up on a nearby Greenpoint Pier. There’s been a lot of whispers about the pod of bunker hanging out in Newtown Creek lately. It sounds crazy to me too that they would be schooling up around that particular waterway, but here is the photographic proof from our own hands:

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Ben got the first one. He swore up and down that his was bigger, and that was the reason he pulled a muscle, I won’t say which, hauling it in. We both snagged up on weighted trebles, which you can also find in good supply at Dream. We both decided to live line them, though I was skeptical we’d find any bass of the size that could swallow these adult bunker, and I do stress that these were adult size bunker, but then again, the East River surprises me every year and having a few thousand bunker schooling in Newtown Creek is surprising enough. If a 300# sea lion came and snatched my bunker and rod away, I couldn’t be that surprised after this. Regardless, our lines lay untouched. Ben hooked his bunker through the tail and it promptly drowned itself to death. I hooked mine through the dorsal and somehow it became so lively as to unhook itself. Ben tossed his dead bunker over the side. I surreptitiously snagged it back to put it on ice, where it lies with the other fresh bunker I bought at Dream, to wait for tomorrow night.

Not to be completely outdone, Alex Marquez submitted this photo:

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of what is the first striped bass of the 2014 derby. He is now the leader, despite the fact that this guy is smaller than the bunker Ben and I caught. Way to go, Alex! Get out there and get some!

—mkl

2014 Derby Starts THURSDAY!

It’s time for the 2014 Derby, and despite the cold weather blowing in, I know there’s some dedicated fishing folk out there who’ve heard about the mass of bunker hanging out in Newtown Creek underneath the Pulaski Bridge. If one were industrious, you could get a nice head start on some bait for the derby!

Thursday night the derby starts at 1900 (7PM) and will run through 1500 (3PM) Sunday, November 16. The biggest fish gets the trophy and all the requisite trash talking and bragging that come with it. Come to Dream (673 Manhattan Ave.) to register, pick up your shirts, and gear up for the weekend. This is the East River, so you know you need plenty of hooks, lead, and terminal tackle. We’ll also have a bunch of delicious food donated by Rich over at ACME Smoked Fish, so come get some snacks. I’ll also pick up some beer for you adults out there.

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Here’s a brief run down of the rules:

*Registration is FREE, but you must be registered BEFORE you enter a fish in the derby

*Target species are striped bass and bluefish

*Derby boundaries run from the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge north to the Gantry Pier in Long Island City. Any waterfront between these two piers is fair game, legal to fish or not, but I didn’t tell you to trespass.

*All fish can be submitted via photograph to our Flickr + Twitter account by texting the photo, with a measurement clearly marked, to BKDerby.catch@pikchur.com

The closing party will also be at DREAM on Sunday, starting around 1530 (330PM). All legal sized fish are welcome to donation to our team of cooks who will be grilling out back just like last year. And like last year, the derby is about friendly competition, good friends and food, meeting new people, and the growing fishing community in Brooklyn. Kids, jetty guys, surf guys, fly fishermen—everyone is welcome. Can’t wait to see everyone Thursday night! Dress warm! Any questions, please contact me at bkuaa.info(at)gmail.com.

—mkl

2014 derby announcements

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Rough weekend this time around with a lot of wind, a few near disasters, some dubious law enforcement, and zero fish to show for it all. Hopefully in two weeks it’s a different story because The Derby starts November 13 (Thursday) at 7pm and runs through Sunday, November 16 (3pm) with a closing party at Dream. Same rules as last year—all legal fish have to be weighed in at Dream. Stripers and bluefish are all game this season and the river should be running with them right now. We’ve got a lot of incredible food lined up for the opening and closing events from our generous sponsors: ACME Smoked Fish, Brooklyn Kitchen, Greenpoint Fish and Lobster, and The Lobster Place in Chelsea. If you were there last year, you might remember we had an awesome cookout with some of the derby fish in the backyard of Dream last year—chowders, tacos, whole grilled East River striped bass. This is going to happen again, but hopefully with even more fish.

Registration is free again this year. Sign up at Dream or email us at bkuaa.info(at)gmail.com.

believe in the bucktail

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It’s been an awesome lazy summer of fishing from the great Sea Oak that Thomas and I bought in June, drifting and drinking for summer fluke and black sea bass, but now that fall is full upon us, it’s time to start getting serious. I met up with Ben today at the new Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. at Eckford and Nassau to talk about this year’s derby. Ben’s been a busy guy for most of the year, but we’ve nailed down our date for this year’s derby and it’s going to happen Friday 17 October through Sunday. Like last year we’re planning to have a great cookout of derby fish this year with lots of beers and good times in Dream’s backyard. Look for more details later this week.

Yesterday (Saturday), I managed to sneak out of town and work for a brief trip to Montauk to check out the fall run. I didn’t know there was a tournament this weekend, but when I pulled into the lower lot it was pretty obvious that something was going on—more than just the usual fall crowd, and judging by Zeno’s comments over at Surfcaster’s Journal, there wasn’t much to be expected this weekend anyway. I was supposed to meet up with my friend Tyler who was out in a buddy’s boat targeting albies, but he ended up having a field day with bass, blues, and, yup, albies into the night so I was solo in the crowd of surfcasters, many of whom were grilling food and lounging around the lower lot with gear drying out, draped over their trucks and campers. I spent the earlier part of the day retreading my boots with Grip Studs since the last time I was out here I lost one of my Korkers while wading back to shore and was annoyed at how they just seem to untie themselves and wander off without so much as a middle finger on the way out. I’d done some reading up on the #1800 model on this site and figured what the hell since Korkers and Grip Studs are pretty comparable, price wise. These studs have a pretty wide auger and you drill them directly into the felt sole of your boots. I geared up pretty lazily myself while trying to enjoy the setting sun and pink sky and no one around me seemed to be in much of a hurry either.

I walked down the path to the lighthouse and didn’t see many people at first, but offshore there were a lot of boats working off the point. A couple guys were throwing bucktails off the lighthouse point but it seemed pretty quiet, until I turned the corner. From Brown’s up to where I was standing at the top of Turtle Cove there were no less than 25 surfcasters, maybe more since I counted a half dozen I could see at the point of Brown’s in the distance. I walked toward the beach thinking This Was A Huge Mistake, but found a rock in relative solitude while all around me I saw guys eyeing each other up and seeing what the other was throwing. That kind of scrutiny is annoying, but I guess it comes with the territory. It was about mid-high tide with no wind and the surf was mellow. Most guys were throwing pencils in the fading light and nobody was catching. I started with a pencil too and got nothing. I switched to a 2oz bucktail and got some weeds. I switched to a 1.5oz bucktail and got some weeds. The light was changing from blue to black and all around me headlamps dotted the dusk and swept the water in wide arcs. That was annoying too: people surfcasting with their headlamps on full lumens. I could hear some arguments in the distance and the smell of grilled hot dogs wafted over Camp Hero. A guy far to my right was throwing a glow-in-the-dark popper that looked like a falling star every time it caught my peripheral vision. I swapped to a 1oz bucktail that somehow got caught up in my clip and wouldn’t sit right. I don’t even know how that happened as it was stuck somehow in the middle of the clip and I had to turn on my light and use pliers and a lot of cursing to free it. I turned off the light and cast out. This bucktail seemed to swim better in the current and not get hung up on the rocks ahead of me. I was doing the surfcasting thing where you hold the butt end of the rod between your legs for leverage—actually this was the first time I used this Lamiglas 1321 I bought off some guy last winter because I tried to use it when I went out with Bill Wetzel back in June but the previous owner put these wire guides on it and half of them had broken welds or chips in them. (I got the guides replaced at Bernies.) Anyway, I was probably day dreaming or something or trying to imagine the bucktail bouncing above the rocks when a truck slammed my line and, with the aforementioned rod-between-the-legs posture I’d assumed, damn near catapulted me off my rock. I set my drag tight to pull free of some of the weed beds, which may have had a part in almost falling face first into the next rock. For the first minute I pumped and cranked and fought this fish sitting down before I felt I had enough control over it to stand back up, but by then it lodged itself between a couple boulders about 20 yards to my left. With all the people around me I didn’t want to alert them to the fish on my line and I didn’t want to give up either since the only other fish I caught in this supposed Striper Mecca was this little rat in June that wasn’t even worth mentioning other than it was the first kinda bass I caught in Montauk. I turned on my lamp and hopped down and started wading to the boulders.

Luckily for me I was tucked into this little corner where nobody on either side could see what I was doing. I got pounded by waves here but got close enough to grab the leader and pull the fish out. It just sort of acquiesced with what I wanted to do, exhausted from fighting in the surf and rocks, the bucktail stuck neatly in its upper left lip. I didn’t get measurements, but this was easily my biggest bass of my surfcasting life thus far, and by a lot. It wasn’t a monster bass by any means, but no surfcaster would be bummed about landing this fish. I estimated it to be about 20-ish pounds, and will probably be 35-pounds the next time I tell this story. It took me a good bit to revive the fish but it finally gave a kick and swam off, in my observance, somewhat sheepishly. In the distance that same guy threw his glow-in-the-dark popper and lights went on and off in the night. Nobody saw me climb back up to my rock smiling.

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This is Peter Laurelli, who makes those great fishing videos that get me through the long cold winter. This is pretty much how I felt in triumph over man and nature.

I had one more fish, considerably smaller, but lost it before the moron parade started with guys shining their headlamps at full blast in every direction looking to see what you were doing, shining directly into the water around you and everyone else. I thought about moving further west but figured with the amount of lights going off that it probably wasn’t worth it at this time of the tide. Walking back to the lot I tried to be courteous and shield my light from the guys fishing while trying not to trip in the dark, but nobody gave a shit. They gave even less than that, really. Just the fact that you were there was an annoyance to them. Nobody ever said surfcasters in Montauk were nice guys.

—mkl

p.s. So far all Grip Studs are in place and I’m pretty satisfied with them. Screwing directly into the boot allows the studs more flexibility with the sole of the shoe which makes for better grip, as far as I can tell. There’s a lot of guys who are sold on these over Korkers. Maybe I will be one of them.

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