by MFCC Member Tim Donnelly
'Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.' Henry David Thoreau
What makes a great fishing memory?
Why do these stories get stuck in our head? Are the memories that we keep like the stories that we tell, or are they different, meaningful and satisfying internally?
For that matter, aren’t they often both?
Speaking for myself, I will sometimes run my favorite fishing memories through my head, remembering little details, other times forgetting important parts.
It seems I am particularly good at forgetting those parts of my best fishing trips which might help me repeat them (like the best tide, what the weather was like etc.). I know, I know, “keep a logbook” is what people often say to me.
However, aside from big fish and incredible catches, frequently the best fishing memories are recollections about family or friends fishing with us. Other memorable moments are more about the place, or the weather. Yet almost always they involve fish in one way or another.
Recently this thread was started in our forum by longtime My Fishing Cape Cod member Mike Marcus, which chronicled members' favorite fishing stories from the 2021 season.
Today I’d like to highlight a few of my favorites.
The Adrenaline Surge
Nothing brings us to our full attention like line peeling off your reel, especially when you think you've hooked a bass of a lifetime.
In our forum Mike Marcus shares a story of how he matched up with a monster chomper from the surf on light tackle. While it may not have been the fish he was hoping for, this story highlights the adrenaline surge that keeps us anglers coming back for more.
Here's the story from Mike...
"Using just a 7 foot rod with a 4000 Penn Battle II reel spooled with 20 lb. Power Pro line and a 15 lb. mono leader, I hooked into something very big, and I thought this may be that 50 lb. striped bass we all dream about catching.
The rod bent in half and the line screamed off the reel like an Albie run, but the weight was unmistakable. All the time thinking this could be the bass of a lifetime, my gear held up nicely, good line, smooth drag, a solid knot - it was all tested many times as the tug of war continued for about 10 minutes. I’ve caught giant bluefish from a boat with more stout gear, but landing this "Gator Blue" on light tackle was incredible and adds to my passion for surf fishing."
Fishing With Family
Many of us discovered fishing from family members. Many of the posts from the Most Memorable forum thread highlighted memories about great days spent with parents and their children - mothers, fathers, daughters and sons.
A child who gets interested in fishing can also reignite your own fishing passion. They may not realize it at the time, but they're also getting years of acquired knowledge passed on to them!
A lot can go into landing a big fish and having the right fishing partner on board can make all the difference in the world. For example, heres' what MFCC member Rick Landry had to say about fishing with his daughter during the 2021 season.
"2021 was filled with memorable moments and it’s hard to pin it down to one. Save for the 5 years I took off from fishing between 2013 and 2018, I can’t recall a season where I caught fewer fish, and none of that mattered.
This season was all about getting the kid on some good fish that she actually worked for herself, and to get her comfortable with the boat and how to handle it."
Speaking for myself, I always loved getting that proverbial nod of parental approval. It always felt good and it never got old, no matter what my age.
MFCC member Leslie Kalinowski shared a story of how she was able to take her father fishing for trout in mid March of 2021. Catching your first fish of the season is a great feeling, but doing it in difficult conditions in front of your Dad - now that is a memory!
"My most memorable fish story was March 14 this year. I had my dad on the Cape with me, 86 yrs young"
"I took him to Nickerson State Park. We set up in a narrow area where you can easily walk from Big Cliff to Little Cliff. We endured a small snow squall and I caught a Brook trout! My dad was so happy for me and I was so proud to catch a fish in front of him!
After all he started the fishing passion for myself and my siblings. I dont have a picture of the fish but it is a great memory! This was my first fish of 2021."
Catching a slot striper seems to have been a rare occurrence for many in 2021. When you do hook up with one, there is nothing better than having your child there with you witnessing the struggle.
Member Amos Putnam caught this fish while his son took the picture on his phone, saving the memory for both of them.
Here's what Amos had to say about the fish above and why it was so special...
"The most memorable for me would have to go to the night my son was fishing with me and saw me catch a slot striper. I fish easier access spots with him so we don’t usually catch anything sizable. This was my second slot fish of the year but having him there to see how different they fight was awesome. He was super excited and was recording a video to show his friends online. Him and I caught more fish this year than in our whole lives, and we had some awesome nights of double digit fish. This was the first time he was with me to see a bigger striper get caught. He’s even more motivated for next year and we will be back catching them in April again."
Sometimes the roles are reversed. For example, MFCC member Tim Mugherini took this picture of his son after he landed a thick 5 foot brown shark this past summer.
Here's what Tim had to say about that memorable night of sharking...
"I think for me it was my son landing his first shark (a solid 5 ft brown). I don’t think he expected to really get one but @Onsetbay and I had them locked in good by end of July and the tide was perfect. I prepped him in route and decided to just bait one rod and told him the first one was his.
About an hour in my rod went off and I handed him the rod. By the time he had it in hand I realized he had a decent size one by the way it was pulling drag and I said “all yours - you're going to be sore tomorrow”.
After a ten minute battle he got it in and @cgoguen05 has it on video somewhere. We all landed sharks but he had the best of the night."
Grinding It Out
While the focus of MFCC is by definition Cape Cod, many members travel the world to ply their skills in different environments, catching all sorts of other fish in a variety of waters.
While Anthony Besaw often shares his amazing trips to the rivers of Michigan, this one was his personal favorite from 2021.
In Anthony's story he talks of the work we have to put in sometimes to catch good fish. The payoff after a hard day or night can often be limited to just one fish - caught right before we're ready to give up.
"After the 15hr drive to Michigan, completely falling in the river filling my waders, multiple hook ups and lost fish, 5 straight days of grinding the river scene to finally hook up and land a beautiful hen steelhead. I’ve caught some pretty nice stripers this year but that trip takes it."
Member Ken Guglielmo shared his experience participating in the prestigious Martha's Vineyard Derby and how that last bit of effort can literally pay off!
Here's what Ken had to say about the bluefish pictured above...
"2021 wasn’t a great year for me, fishing-wise. I fished a lot but just didn’t have as much success as in past years. But I did have a memorable day in early October, when I was out on Chappaquidick fishing the MV Derby with a buddy who lives out there. I was targeting albies, using a 1.25 oz heavy epoxy jig. After a few hours of fruitless casting up and down the beach, I was ready to be done. I was on cast #7 of a “last 10 casts of the day” countdown when a big blue hit the jig. At 8.76 pounds, it won me the daily prize for the largest shore bluefish caught that day. In fact, it was the only shore blue weighed in that day. Just 3 casts away from calling it, and it turned out to be a great day!"
Sometimes the effort isn't about putting in the time, it's about the physical exertion.
Carol Girard-Irwin brought this fish in while working her way up and down the beach for over 10 minutes. Her son-in-law was there to see her put in all that work as well!
It never gets old thinking back on the big fish we've landed. 2021 was a good year for many, who also were often sharing those days with their friends, family and fishing buddies.
Member Kevin Touhey landed his personal best striper this year.
Here's what Kevin had to say about his season...
"What a great year! Best part was meeting some folks who are not only great fishermen, but just plain old good people. From adventures fishing new spots at night to riding heavy chop tossing docs, it was awesome. I’ll say my first year’s membership was definitely $ well spent. Top two were getting a PB striper from the flats on LT, and witnessing a GW predation and having a wounded seal swim behind me without knowing it. Thank God for a fun and safe year."
2 year MFCC member Matt Elia shows us sometimes those big fish are a lot closer to shore, often right there at our feet!
"The fish was so close it was hard to get leverage on my rod so I had to horse the rod up into my hip to get the fish to the rocks. Once I got the rod under control it didn’t take long. It was pretty crazy, I spent close to six hours bombing jigs and poppers as far as I could, then I caught a really nice bass with essentially a side arm lob cast all of 12 feet."
Rod Rudowsky shared another experience that combines big fish and grinding it out for pay dirt. This lineside was caught released after being taken on a live mackerel off Race Point.
Here's what Ron had to say about that fish pictured above...
"Well, 2021 was a remarkable year for me. I had some health issues that are now behind me and my fishing had been limited until this year. So one day, when the weather was perfect, my 85 year old fishing buddy (that fishes like a 65 year old) and I headed to PTown from Plymouth. The ride over was perfect and as we neared land our excitement grew over fishing one of my favorite spots. We started out trolling, but no luck except for one little blue. After about 3 hours we began second guessing if making the trip over was worth it? Well, if you have fished this area it’s beautiful, with lots of marine life to see, so how could I complain. Just like that when we dropped live mackerel, near the Race, the bass fishing exploded! I was grateful to be back doing what I love! We landed this big girl and released her successfully."
Back to the Family
As I close out this post I wanted to highlight a story that is hard to convey - it's not just "young kid with the big fish" - though clearly from the picture below it is ALL that too.
The real pull of the story is in the video posted that provides the background to this fantastic picture. Mike Osbourne's son has envious fishing adventures and this is one of the best.
The video captures the thrill in his voice that all of us feel, though not always vocalizing. It reminds me not only of times with my own sons, but also catches in my youth.
It challenges all of us to relive that excitement every time we hook a fish.
I can’t do full justice to the emotion and pride conveyed in many of the posts from the Most Memorable 2021 Fish Story thread - only a handful of which I have been able to highlight here. I really hope you get a chance to read all of them in detail on the forum.
Photo by MFCC Member Tim Mugherini
Reading and writing about them definitely helped me personally deal with the blues that can come from the close of a season.
The thread put my head in a better space as I start looking forward to next season. Reading the thread also helped me create my goals for 2022, and I am already anticipating the many memories to be made in the year to come!
Hope you all had a great holiday season and I look forward to seeing you more in this new year!