Because traditions have been absolutely bulldozed this year, our annual Fish Wrap recap is getting a redo. For sure 2020 had some really low moments. You couldn’t buy a tent, kayak, trampoline or tiki torch. Even seeds for backyard gardens sold out. 2020 challenged our norms, took people we love and denied us access to areas we may have taken for granted but not all of the year needs to be erased. For 2021, we offer some 2020 highlights which brought us joy, contemplation, a few minutes chasing fast fish and a chance to reevaluate a few simple pleasures.
We caught squeteague. Cynoscion regalis, spotted sea trout, black drum, weakfish. Call them whichever, they were prolific back in the day when few carried cameras or apps to alert us to their location. We pretty much wiped them off the New England map decades ago but they returned this year in fair numbers, feeding heartily through first light East Greenwich Bay fog banks and along the mouth of the Thames River. Many were caught by surprised anglers who posted pictures of these “new” fishes. We certainly hope they return for another visit.
We welcomed a slot limit. Hoisting a trophy sized striped bass now lasts only as long as a few pictures before those big, beautiful breeding females are returned. Bass from 28” to 35” can be kept, if necessary. The rest must go back. It will require a few years to calculate any benefits to a slot limit so here’s to another year of getting tail splashed as those big fish go back, fins up, sustaining their population and our passions.
We chased false albacore. For a few warm and rainy days, points east and west of Point Judith hosted an epic blitz of albies and stripers, gorging on a banquet of silversides, sand eels and peanut bunker. Captain Rene Letourneau, newly crowned 2020 Orvis Endorsed Saltwater Fly Fishing Guide of the Year, had a steady run of them around the Brenton Reef boulder field to mix in with his regular menu of striped bass and bluefish. South facing beaches were jammed with speeding albies feeding right through foul weather, changing tides and charter boats. A lack of storms kept waters clear and largely calm which was perfect for fish and fishermen. For albie fanatics, it was an epic season.
We met David Latham. It’s interesting to meet people slowly, through a few seasons, in different places. David is a man who loves salt water and her fishes, drifting through skinny water for lurking striped bass and not giving in to people who want to encroach on any of that. We’ve had the pleasure of speaking and fishing with him. It’s his conversation that binds us. David has pushed hard to save Potter Pond from an expanding business application which would take away even more of the communities resource. He’s a behind the scenes guy who can stand in front of a reporter and speak truth with passion and actual facts. Many will never have the pleasure of casting or chatting with David, let alone sitting for an hour past sunset in a kayak off his dock to talk about saving a salt pond. I am richer for having met a strong man with fight in his heart, wit on his tongue and fish on his line.
We gained some perspective. There was so much lousy news and lockouts of our favorite places, public and private, but man, fishing was really good. Stripers came to the beach, black sea bass were everywhere, stealing hooked baits and frustrating lobstermen. Squid came, left and came back again in solid numbers. Tautog were big and plentiful. Greg Vespe and Eddy Stahowiak put some in their freezers without needing green crabs, just a few jigs and spoons. Bluefish showed up late and stayed late. Half a dozen passed through my brine and smoker, adding to those many sweet smells of summer. 2020 was a reminder that we’re survivors surrounded by many wonderful positive forces. Plenty of people ventured out when they could, finding those singular moments outdoors were more special, maybe more memorable because they offered us perspective of our last many good years.
We ate blackberries. Drought was an issue for trout seeking cold water but daily kisses of morning dew kept bees busy pollinating so by late summer, there were big juicy blackberries camouflaged under heavy green Concord grape leaves. Some really fine mornings began with a flashlight, searching for big berries, sweet cherry tomatoes or a handful of early sugar snap peas before heading out to find fish. We’ll fill center consoles with friends and families soon. Life is short, order the lobster, reach deep, take the scratch for the biggest berry ever and if stars align, till your soil with the fruits of water and land. Happy, happy 2021 to you all.
Todd Corayer is a lifelong fisherman and occasional hunter whose writing relies on poor penmanship, sarcasm and other people’s honest fish stories while seeing words as puzzle pieces that occasionally all fit together perfectly.