Following some reliable intel, I headed out for striped bass with My buddy Rick. We were told that fish had been holding in deep current areas of the Piscataqua River and heavy pink and white soft plastics were seeing great results. We planned to begin our foray at dawn on a weekday to avoid some of the typical weekend boat traffic and fishing pressure.
Upon arrival at our first area we began our drift using heavily-weighted neutral colored soft plastic stick-baits. The first couple of drifts produced nothing so we decided to adjust our drift and try another area of the channel we were in. On our first drift in the new area Rick hooked up with what felt like a respectable fish, but he was unable to get the fish to the boat. I had a couple of bumps with similar results.
We reset and began drift number two. Rick again hooked up with a big fish and he was quickly parted-off. No one likes being parted off, but that was a sign that the big fish we were after were in the area.With high hopes we again reset the same drift in hopes of landing a lunker. About half-way through our drift I felt a good bump, but there was nothing there when I set the hook. Experience with striped bass has taught me to continue on course, or even slow my retrieve when a good fish bumps because they are often trying to see how your presentation reacts. If a bass thinks it has stunned it's prey it will almost always return to inhale it. Well, thats exactly what happened. Seconds later I got another good bump and when I set the hook the fish was on. I quickly realized that this was no lunker, but a respectable fish with a lot of fight. The fight was vertical and not what I am used to from striped bass, even in heavy current. Stripers almost always run away from the boat, but this fish wanted to stay on the bottom. I had targeted black sea bass just a few days prior with no results which left me thinking it was still too early for them, so I never imagined this fish to be one. Then the fish swam by the boat and to my surprise I saw a big hump-backed and beautifully blue-colored black sea bass on the other end of my line. Moments later the fish was in the boat and being photographed.
The hump back and blue color appears on male black sea bass during their spawning period. Being mid-summer I knew that the spawn was over, so I decided to keep the fish for dinner that evening. My wife pan-seared the fillets in butter with salt and pepper and we ate them with fiddleheads pick this spring, and fresh romaine lettuce harvested from Rick's garden that morning.