The Milestone

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If fish followed calendars than I’d be about a week early, but since the moons have a lot more bearing on their everyday lives than dates printed on paper—this Friday marks the three year anniversary of my own personal surfcasting milestone. There was actually a lot of preparation that went into finding and catching that fish—but there was a lot more luck involved than normal; I’m not too proud to admit that.

It all began back in April when my fishing partner, Dave Daluz, and I signed up for the Red Top Spring Striper Derby, a tournament that Red Top used to run from Thursday night to Monday morning every year over Memorial Day weekend. When you enter a tournament you automatically grab a tide chart and start roughing out scenarios that would lead you to fish one place or another. I consider the weeks between the last moon in May and the first moon in July to be THE BEST weeks to catch a giant from the surf; yes this can be disputed and debated at length, but you won’t change my mind. I have caught fish over 40 pounds in every month of the season except November where I’ve fallen short at 38—but the bulk of my big fish have come in this magic period and I look forward to it every year.

We narrowed it down to three spots, and since May is a migration month, we concentrated on what I refer to as “migrational obstacles”, points of land or funnels that migrating fish must pass by. In the days leading up to the tourney, we pre-fished the three areas. One of them was very slow but, it was also my highest confidence spot, so I was still leaning in that direction. The next was loaded with fish, with some in the high-20’s, not tournament winning fish, but a good sign. The last spot was a place of great memories for both of us, a few years prior we found ourselves in the middle of a topwater bite that would rival anything we’d seen before or since—and that includes all of the Canal blitzes we’d experienced. We arrived there mid-morning on a cloudy day and, before we could even make it to what we consider to be the best location on that stretch of beach, we already had fish to 30 pounds on pencils and spooks—the bite was not fever pitch, but these were the biggest fish we’d found all week. And since fish in the low-30’s usually placed for the shore division, this was the frontrunner for night one of the tournament.

I’d like to say that I felt super confident about going to that spot, but I didn’t. I was more interested in either of the other two—I just had more historical confidence in the others after dark. It was my fishing partner that was focused like a laser on spot #3. Even while we were driving there together I was questioning the choice, but he made a good case and I dropped mine. We arrived at high slack and made our way out among the rocks. As I wrote earlier, we had found the fish in an unlikely spot earlier in the week so we started there.

The water was deep, even up close to shore so fishing was tough and since we were in an unfamiliar location, finding suitable rocks to stand on was hard. Yeah, we forgot to do part of our homework. I found a little “toaster oven” rock that lifted me up high enough to cast and I tossed an eel out into the darkness. I was totally preoccupied with finding a “good” rock so I was scanning the landscape as each small swell passed. After about two casts I saw a very slight break in one of the waves and I knew that there was a tall rock there—I thought to myself, “it’s probably shaped like a pyramid, but I’ve gotta go look!”

In a break from Murphy’s Law, the rock was about the size of a picnic table and almost as flat! I rolled myself up there like a discarded water heater and stood up in 10-inches of water, perfect! I fired my first real cast of the night and within a few cranks I felt a bump and then two hard jerks, I set the hook and my drag sang out under strain! My partner yelled over, “You on? Sounds like a good one!”

The fish came in with relative ease and when I turned on my light I had a nice fish that weighed 28 on the Boga. “You gonna weigh that in?” Dave asked. “No,” I said, “I have a feeling that I’m going to get something bigger.”

A few casts later I felt a bluefish hitting my eel, almost a grinding feeling—needless to say I wanted to get my eel away from those teeth! I reeled up quickly and just as I was about to come tight, the grinding stopped. I could feel weight on the end of the line but no movement. I cautiously reeled a couple more feet of line and I felt the weight again and, again, no movement. In a flash I determined that this must be a bass, I hauled back mightily, but I completely whiffed! I figured I had missed the fish and decided to just crank in and make a new cast.

About halfway in, my rod was being pulled to the right, almost like it was wrapped around something—it just felt odd—and then, I was tight to a fish! The fish had evidentially grabbed the eel and swam right at me, so I whiffed on the hook set, carelessly cranked in my eel and somehow, I still hooked this fish. She ran with serious power right back to where she first found the eel and I turned her. I could feel some serious weight out there but she came in easily for a few seconds. It was unlike any other fish I had hooked. The most memorable thing was the weight. I turned to Dave and said, “I don’t know, but I think I might have a really big fish on right now.”

I hate saying those words because then you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a foul hooked sand shark on your line, the words felt thin and awkward leaving my mouth but, I said them! Then she turned and ran again, this run featured the same power and speed as the first only this time she went to the right, and after about 50 yards she stopped and I was able to turn her again and, after that, I pretty much just reeled her in. When she saw my light things got a little dicier. She was circling my rock a lasso, and was clearly in control of the situation as I spun like a lighthouse beacon. I finally got her in really close and I grabbed the leader. Her mouth opened and I grabbed her jaw, she ripped her lips free of my grasp and started beating the water with her tail. I knew she was big but, I thought she was high 30’s maybe. I pulled her head back to me and made another attempt on her lip, and again, she twisted out of my grip! Now she was pissed, and she was thrashing around while I pinched the leader for dear life. I suddenly had the realization that there was a real chance of losing this fish! In that same moment, she rolled onto her side and I saw the full size of the fish. It all became real in an instant. I was done trying to lip this fish! Before she could roll back upright, I jumped into the water and simultaneously planted my palm on her gill plate, pulling her in toward my body. I wrestled her head against my chest and wrapped my other arm over her back. She thrashed for a second or two and then gave up. I slid my right hand into her gills and the fight was over.

Oddly enough, I still wasn’t sure how big the fish was. Maybe because it was May and I hadn’t seen that many big fish yet, maybe I was afraid to guess her weight? I don’t know. As Dave walked over toward me he asked how big I thought she was. I said, “I don’t know, she’s a nice fish. What do you think?” I held her head up out of the armpit-deep water. “Hmm, looks close to 40 anyway,” he said. He exited the water ahead of me and turned around as I was slogging through the knee-deep surf. I’ll never forget what he said as I held her up, “Dude! That is a HUGE fish, well over 40 pounds!”

He put his Boga on her lip and hefted her high and dry, I saw his eyes widen. “I’ll let you read it,” he said, “but that fish is over 50!” As I looked at that graduated metal tube, I could see the bottom of the 52. Dave asked, “What now? Do you want to shoot some photos?” I said, “NO, I want you to get out on that rock and fish while I re-rig—there could be another one out there!” I pulled the hook out; it was barely in there, just past the barb in that leathery skin on the roof of her mouth. I was astonished by the whole ordeal. I knew I would probably win the tournament with that fish, but I felt a slight twinge of remorse as I laid her in the rocks; I felt a little better when she didn’t even move.

My line was all tied in knots from the wrestling match; I had to completely redo everything. This was a case where every single thing went wrong but I still came out smelling like a rose. I guess you could say that I was meant to catch that fish. I’m sure a few people reading this are saying that they would NEVER let things transpire the way they did, but I am not an inexperienced surfcaster and that fish was mean when I had her close! I am also not a liar, I could have told you that I dragged her to shore with my teeth while flexing my muscles like Hulk Hogan, but the truth is what it is. And things rarely go the way you picture them in your mind.

After re-rigging, I took my position on that rock and we proceeded to catch dozens of nice fish between us; mostly in the 20’s with a couple over 30. We shot some photos at some point during the night and then the camera died!When the sun started to illuminate the cloudy sky the weight of the night began to hang off my eyelids. The tide was well down now and I sat down against a large boulder and fell asleep while Dave fished into daylight—the fish were still there, but I was beat. When it was over Dave woke me up and I re-weighed the fish, not much had changed, I hauled her out of there and wrapped her in a wet towel for the 40 minute ride to Red Top.

There were a few people weighing fish from the Canal when we arrived and there was a woman there weighing in a 20-pounder. She was ecstatic about her catch and her chances for winning the Women’s Division. I didn’t want to rain on her parade, so I kept the fish in the car, but she wasn’t leaving and I wanted to go home and sleep! Finally, I carried the fish over quietly and laid it on the pavement. She was still talking on and on and she turned around and almost tripped over my fish. “OH MY GAWD!” she squawked, “they get that big!?”

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I handed the fish over to weighmaster and watched the digital numbers climb… 47, 48, 49, 50, 49.8, 50.25 and it stopped: 50.25 was the official weight—that was close! That fish was a true old school striper, 50.5 inches 50.25 pounds. I will never forget that night. And if you’ve ever had any question about when to leave the rivers and start fishing the surf—to me all bets are off after May 15th in New England. I’ll be out scouting this week, looking for another one. The only change I’d make if I catch another, this time I’d let her go. Hopefully, I’ll get that chance.

Big Water GRS Pike giveaway

Today’s giveaway  does not need no special introduction. Gary’s creation under GRS Lures label are one of the most sought after lures,  craved by those who hunt for  big striped bass and collectors alike
To order some for yourself please visit his website at http://www.bigwaterlures.com/
A giant GRS white crackle pike that only Gary Soldati can make. People wait on line for hours in the freezing winter snow to get a chance you buy one, we’ll give you a chance to win one from the comfort of your home.
And in case you missed the When Big Blues Attack video we had on the blog yesterday, here it is againYouTube Preview Image

When Big Bluefish Attack….New Video

As some of probably noticed I have not been around much which is a good thing. After years and years of writing and wearing ten hats at SJ I am trying to get back to what I used to do. Fish. I think  I fished more in last twenty days than I did in the whole year combined last year. I have all the confidence in the world that Dave will do a great job with a  blog like he does with a magazine and I can (hopefully) try to find whatever i seem to lost last few years.

Todays new video is something you probably never seen before, at least not in this context. Its 2015, the days of watching boring videos of striped bass swimming in front of the camera are over and done. So after we brought you this  YouTube Preview Image

Now we are bringing you a first ever look at feeding bluefish from the horses mouth (aka back-ass of the plug). I have ton of footage to weed trough including probably over a dozen shots of gator blues completely swallowing the camera before spitting it out and camera shooting though its gills in its mouth. Some small bass to but that is to come at the later day. The most frustrating part of making a video like this is the time. Two minute video , to get it  how I want it to be (and of course you are never 100% happy) takes me something silly like hours and hours of looking at it. But its worth it if you enjoy

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So I hope you enjoy it and share it away on fb, twitter or whatever you guys do

See you on the beach

Z

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Twenty-Eleven

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When I was a kid we used to vacation every year in Eastham on Cape Cod. I have been a fishing fanatic for as long as I can remember and when my uncle told me that we were going to fish for striped bass, AT NIGHT, I was beyond excited. The fishery was in a state of rebound, I’m guessing that the year was 1991 or 1992, so I was either 11 or 12. Keeper size was 36 inches and the photos on the wall at Blackbeard’s Bait and Tackle told the story as well as any person could; there were precious few photos of fish in the 36- to 40-inch class and then there were multiple photos of the same few guys with very large fish, my memory is good but not so good that I remember exact weights; but I’d guess some of the fish on that wall were pushing 50.

I was at that age where I still had enough pure kid in me that common sense would not bleed in and ruin my enthusiasm. I was a very good largemouth bass fisherman, especially for a young kid, and I expected to be able to handle this fishery without much effort—I thought for sure we’d be on that wall the next day. Talking to the man behind the counter told a slightly different story; keepers were hard to come by, but a few of the hardcore guys were catching some big fish. I heard the names of places that I would soon know by heart from history; Nauset, The Race, Lecounts, The Mission Bell… I loved being in on this conversation, even though I had no idea where even one of those locations was. We picked up some fresh sand eels and some hooks, probably a few other things and headed back to the cottage on Depot Rd.

There was a threat of severe thunderstorms that night and I was crestfallen, I felt certain that we’d get weathered out. But we had several guests staying with us for a few nights, including both of my uncles—Jon, the one that was taking me fishing and Seth, the one that recognized that my excitement for the night was being slowly crushed by the repeated weather reports blaring on the radio. Seth, letting his inner child take over, suggested that we do a “sun dance” to try and ward off the storms. He grabbed a Wiffle Ball Bat and lead Jon, both of my younger brothers and me in a line dance while we sang the words “rat-tat-tellio-tu sun, rat-tat-tellio-tu shine!” over and over. The storms came and went quickly, there were even reports of waterspouts on Buzzards Bay, but by 11, when we were scheduled to leave, the sky was clear, black and full of stars. The dance worked!

We drove to Marconi Station Beach where Jon had done well many years prior. We walked down the beach watching for the dark waves to reveal a deep pocket—we found it. Then we set up two sand spikes, baited up with fresh sand eels and sat down on a towel with a low lantern burning so we could see the rods. After about 30 minutes, Jon walked over to one of the rods and said, “When we get a hit, it’s going to look like this,” he grabbed the line and gave a sharp yank. He turned away for a half a second and then bam! We got our hit!

Jon sprang into action and set the hook, I watched as the 11-foot rod doubled over! Jon seemed to think it was a big fish and ultimately decided not to risk handing the rod to me. I still thought we were going to crush them, so I was fine with observing this first one. Jon fought the fish carefully, I remember a big wave came up over the lip of the beach and soaked all of our stuff, tipped the lantern and cracked the mantle! I had to gather all of the stuff up while Jon tap-danced through the foam and around our floating gear! Jon, a longtime smoker, asked me to get his cigarettes out of his breast pocket, put one between his lips and light it! Which I did. After what felt like 25 minutes but was probably four or five in reality, the fish was close and Jon washed it up on a wave. I could see the white silhouette laying there in the dim light, the fish looked huge compared to the largemouth bass I was used to catching; that tackle shop Polaroid was looking like a real possibility! I felt like dancing, I scurried around Jon like lap dog on a leash. He put the tape on it, 34 inches! Not a keeper! He measured it about 12 different ways but 36 was just not happening. So we threw it back and fished the rest of the night without another touch!

We returned home and decided to crash in the living room so I wouldn’t wake my brothers. I will never forget lying down on that couch in our rented cottage to sleep, looking up through the screens to see the first light of day, a chorus of birds chattering away. No fish. But I was already feeling the sting of being hooked on this sport. How often do you get to stay up all night when you’re 11? This was definitely something I could get into! We went back to Blackbeard’s later in the week and were told that we had done better than most of the guys fishing the beaches that week. Trips in subsequent years got better and better for mostly schoolies, but looking back, it was really amazing watching the fish come back and then being able to fully immerse myself in the boom years of 1998 to 2008. When you look back it’s remarkable what fisheries managers were able to accomplish—striped bass almost slipped through our fingers!

All of this came from the moratorium that was enacted to protect the 1982 year class; which was a marginally successful spawning year, but the protection of those fish gave us all of the great fishing we have enjoyed from the late-1990’s through the late 2000s, and even the dwindling—yet still good—fishing we’re seeing today. Starting in 2003, spawning recruitment has been following a steep downward trend and the fishing—surprise, surprise—has been going downhill now as well. Since 2006, every year has seen below average returns and some downright dismal spawns—these all follow the lowering of the “keeper size” to 28 inches and the increase of the bag limit to two fish; along with more kill tourneys and higher commercial quotas.

The shining star among all of this is the anomalous 2011 year class, the Young of the Year Index that year registered a 34 a huge spike among more than a decade of downward trending and returns averaging around 10; 34 is the fourth highest ever recorded. Those fish are migrating for the first time this year and many of you may have already been introduced. My mind races, immediately to 1982 and it’s meager rating of 8—protecting that one decent spawn saved these fish from obliteration. Just imagine what kind of an effect it would have if most of us could discipline ourselves to respect this year class for the next five or more years so they can spawn?!

Respect, in my mind, means not fishing for them. When I’m sticking 14-inch micros one after another, I walk away because I feel like I’m doing damage. But I know that this is not easy for everyone and I definitely understand the fun that comes with catching fish of any size. So I’m begging you to respect them; that means all of the clichés, don’t use trebles when you’re catching schoolies, crush your barbs, etc. But even more so, release them gently, don’t roll them in the sand, don’t kick them back into the water, no schoolie selfies for your Facebook friends. They need to be handled with care, they need to be revived because we NEED them to survive. If that kind of respect had always been paid to these fish, I might not have had to go home wondering what a striper fought like on my first striper trip ever. These fish have made my life a joy to live and now that I’m a proud daddy, I want to be able to pass on the passion and ideals of this sport to my daughter who turned 1 on May second. Take that extra minute to ensure that the schoolies you’ve caught can swim away safely—this is important stuff and we owe it to the next generation (and to ourselves for sanity’s sake), without the reasonable expectation to catch a striper, the surf is a sad and lonely place. It’s all about respect, let’s do our part.

 

My Plug Bag For A Pillow

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It was one of those nights where you just get that feeling.

I’m sure most of you know it, there’s something about that one cool night in July or a certain wind—maybe it’s an ingrained instinct? Who knows? But you get a feeling and you know you have to go. How often “the feeling” pans out is a very different thing but, we all want to believe that we’re as in tune with nature as our long lost ancestors who hunted and fished to survive—either that or we want to believe that we’re “sensitive” like the Long Island Medium. In either case, I think my “feelings” pan out more often than not—but maybe I have selective memory.

Ok…

So it was one of those nights. It was mid-July, the moon was near full but there was a low bank of constant cloud cover that replaced the piercing white moon with a low gray glow, the wind was blowing hard out of the southwest and I knew just where I wanted to go. My fishing partner called at the last minute to say he couldn’t make it, I felt a slight twinge of indecision set in, but I pushed myself to go solo.

I packed up about 10 eels and a bag of plugs tailored to fish through a stiff wind if the eels were getting blown back in my face. Truth be told, I could count the number of fish I’d taken on plugs in this spot on one hand, it was and is and eel spot. It’s also a long and deep wade through water that features a pretty good sweep—which is why I felt hesitant without a partner, but I’d done it before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. I stepped into my wetsuit and left the top half folded down, pulled on some fishing shirt that definitely should have been torn up for rags a decade earlier, toed into my flip-flops and hopped in the car.

Driving south toward the water that bank of low clouds was quickly lowering toward the road and by the time I arrived at the shore everything around me was obscured by the blinding quiet white of nighttime fog. And I thought I was hesitant before! Fog notwithstanding, I was still feeling the “feeling” and since I had already made the drive I figured that I should at least walk down there to check things out. I don’t know what I thought was going to be different, but I do remember thinking that fog on a windy night is usually short lived—so I made the walk.

I felt a little better when I saw two lanterns trying to beat through the fog; they looked like two distant galaxies through a cheap telescope. I walked past them and then walked until I was at the edge of my long wade. I looked up at the sky and, wouldn’t you know it, I could see the stars! The wind was doing its job and blowing the fog inland. Slowly the fog dissipated and the impossible haze was replaced by an almost clear view of destination.

This wade is over 200 yards and the water depth is armpit-to-neck-deep most of the way. I slowly made my way out onto the bar, stumbling over a few rocks before feeling gravel below my feet. I was about halfway there when a new bank of fog began to roll in on the stiff wind—within seconds I was just a head floating between the fog and the reflection of that fog. I felt a heavy lump grow in my throat but I knew that I had to stay on course, any deviation would erase my bearings and could send me off the edge of the bar where I’d be set adrift in the sweeping current! I had made this wade hundreds of times and I knew I was on course. I finished the wade and climbed up onto the large boulder. I looked back hoping to see the light from the lanterns, but it was just a persistent gray and featureless wall.

Two things were in my favor for a long stint on a rock in the middle of nowhere, it was almost the top of the tide, so there was no chance of the tide flooding me out and the surf, despite the strong winds, had not yet built up, so there was little chance of a wave cleaning me off the rock and leaving me helpless in the foggy ocean. So I did what any red-blooded surfcaster would do, I stuck an eel on my hook and hoped for some fish to catch while I waited for the fog to lift.

Within two casts of my arrival, I felt that telltale thump-thump of a fish taking my eel. I lowered the rod and set back, firmly. The fish fought hard for about three seconds and then I knew it was a small bass. I landed the peppy 25-incher and tossed him back. A few minutes later I caught an even smaller one and then the water in front of me seemed to be inundated with shorts for about 20 minutes. After that, there was nothing. So much for being connected to my ancestors!

I fished for another hour and a half, using every weapon and trick I had with me. Nada.

I looked back toward the beach. Nada.

I wasn’t the least bit scared, I just wished that I hadn’t been so damned pig-headed. There are two types of stubbornness in surf fishing; the kind that makes you go because you don’t want to have to say you didn’t, and the kind the makes you stay because the bite is slow—both are usually bad. And I was cursing myself up and down for the former.

There wasn’t much I could do out there and the time was passing at a glacial pace. I began to think about the probability of falling asleep out there! I surveyed my small piece of rocky real estate and found what seemed to be the most accommodating ‘bed’. I took off my belt and threw my plug bag down to rest my head on and I laid down among the black slime and seagull shit and closed my eyes.

There was a certain measure of relaxation out there, the waves and the wind blended out to white noise. I was at peace with my poor choices and laid there with a half-smile on my face knowing that, if nothing else, I would never forget this night. I started to feel very relaxed and all of the thoughts whizzing around in my skull drifted into my subconscious and I actually fell asleep; on that rock 600 and some odd feet from shore. And believe it or not, I slept quite well.

I woke up, I’m guessing, two hours later. I had that split second of confusion you have when you wake up in a strange place and then I remembered. I looked back toward the shore, the fog was still hanging heavy in the air, but I could see a light on the beach! I didn’t waste another second, I jumped in the water and waded straight for that light, the water was only waist-deep now and I made it back without a hitch. I got into bed just as the birds began to chirp and I didn’t even wake up my wife! Perfect!

In the morning she asked, “How’d you do last night?”

“Funny you should ask…”

“You SLEPT OUT THERE!?!?!”

What seems perfectly normal to a surfcaster is a story that probably shouldn’t be shared with the general public. And this is just ONE of my many.

 

The winner is PENN MONSTER combo and a new video review

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The winner is PENN MONSTER Combo 9500 PENN Spinfisher SSV and 12” PENN Battalion rod is …..

Jerry Kelly

sudsy1@optonline.net

Jerry congratulations and thank you all for entering. And thank you PENN Fishing for making this possible. Jerry contact us at info@surfcastersjournal.com with your shipping address so we can forward it to PENN

On a more personal note, there have been a lot of great people helping us get SJ off the ground since we started but no one on a national level has ever helped us more than a team from PENN. For that I will be personal forever greatful.

From a business standpoint, PENN came a  long way in the surf market from years ago but I dare you to find a company who has came to with more new blockbuster products than PENN and its associated bands under Pure Fishing umbrella. Think about it for a second, PENN Torque, PENN Spinfisher, PENN Battle, PENN 706, Spiderwire Braid and yes, the insane and catch-all Berkley GULP. Lets not forget Sebile Lures!…..I wish them all a continued success and I hope they never stop reinventing the wheel.

Here is another company that keeps hitting the ball out of the park, StormR. I know most of you carry smartphones these days and I know that they cost more than not only your first PC but in some cases, your first car. Keeping it in waders is silly and recipe for a disaster. Fumbling with locking mechanism with many waterproof pouches is insanely complicated for no reason. But the new phone pouch from StormR is probably the most simplistic design of all time

take a look in this video

and stay tuned for more giveaways

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MONSTER PENN Fishing Giveaway, SPINNFISHER 9500 SSV & 12′ PENN Battalion rod

A very special giveaway for those of you who are looking to tangle with a MONSTER fish.

The combo is a courtesy of our friends at PENN Fishing. If you have followed the progression of PENN products in last few years you know that they are once again a serious consideration for your next reel or rod purchase.

Today’s giveaway is very special  as we never had something this BIG featured on our blog

Winner will be chosen at  random next Tuesday and the winner’s name will be posted here and on our FB page.

One winner, one awesome prize. No entry fee, everyone is welcome to enter

PENN SPINNFISHER 9500 SSV Reel & PENN BATTALION 12’ rod

Shipped to your house by folks at PENN Fishing

Good luck to all, you got to be in it, to win it

ERDVRE

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SJTV Episode # 2

Episode # 2 of SJTV is up for your viewing pleasure. If I decide to make another one, hopefully when the season kicks in gear, I can film some stuff for you in the water. Its not going to be easy thats for sure. This sport does not lends itself to being filmed in “action” when 99% of the good stuff happens in the dark. And just think how receptive you would be if you were into fish, and I walked up to you and said, hey, can I mic you up? lol

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Looks like some of you might not see the NEW submenus we created when you click on SJTV (these is a Current Episode submenu that will take you to new episode)

If that is the case,and you not seeing additional menues,  try clearing out your cache (or internet browsing memory) in your browser as its showing you an old version of SJ page without sub menus