I was on vacation doing the usual bright and early workout routine. I never walk, jog, bike or do yoga with the masses while I am at the beach — I prefer to wade in the ocean and make a few casts instead. I love to fish and I am on a mission this week in lovely Sea Isle City, NJ to catch an elusive Atlantic Bluefish with this artificial saltwater swim bait.
I've probably made 10,000 casts the past few days and my patience is running thin. But I am still very optimistic for a strike with every single retrieve. EXCUSE ME SIR. YOU CAN'T FISH HERE DURING 'NORMAL BEACH HOURS.' CONSIDER THIS YOUR LAST WARNING. WE TALKED ABOUT THIS YESTERDAY. Some Baywatch wannabe.
I've noticed many other fishermen who haven't had much success either. We say our casual morning hellos in passing, but never really chat. It's against all protocols to ask the locals for tips. Besides — they are all using these fancy saltwater rods rigged with this slimy and gooey squid. Something that is strictly forbidden with the professional anglers of the Lycoming Creek Chronicles. We never use live bait and if word would reach our few sponsors — they would pull their plugs immediately. #fishingpun.
At approximately 7:45 a.m., I witnessed some commotion just a few klicks to the north. I didn't pay much attention at first and continued casting from shore. But after a good 20 minutes, a small crowd had gathered around a fellow fisherman. He was either snagged on a rock or the lucky SOB just hooked up with a prehistoric sea creature.
I too was extremely intrigued and arrived on the scene at 8:15 a.m. I wasn't the only — one as there were ten others standing by hoping to catch a glimpse of this massive critter. What could it be? Shark? Giant tuna? We almost needed Jeremy Wade of “River Monsters” to help us determine what was on the other end of this guy's line. Speculation and excitement were circling the beach on 43rd Street. Something downright scary was just a hundred yards off of the shore.
"IT'S GOTTA BE A RAY," a local named Tom with a strong Jersey accent exclaimed. "A BIG ONE TOO. I'VE BEEN FIGHTING HER FOR A GOOD THIRTY MINUTES AND SHE AIN'T DONE." Lift. Pull. Crank. Crank. Lift. Pull. Crank.
By 8:45 a.m. my new fishing chum was ghastly tired. His forearms and back were screaming in pain. He had just battled this mysterious monster for an hour — but to no avail. The South Jersey native used all of his might and had nothing to show. Whenever he'd lift her from the bottom or get a few cranks in — the fish would go absolutely crazy and strip another 200 yards of line. She was winning.
Tom looked to his friends in the gallery for some much needed help. A few of us jumped in so he could catch his breath. Tom even asked if I wanted a try — meaning I got to man his 10-foot, extra stiff rod for a grueling five minutes. I can't put into words how powerful this fish was. This wasn't a twenty-inch brown on Lycoming or a five-pound smallie on the Susquehanna. This fish was gigantic and it wouldn't budge.
I tried every trick in my arsenal and only managed to get back a few yards of Tom's 30lb. braid. But just when I was making actually some progress, the beast made a sudden turn and went off on another impressive run. She selfishly took back all the line I gained and then some. I was deflated.
It was now 9:30 a.m. and the epic battle was approaching two hours. Tom saddled up for one more valiant effort. His good friend Rich tightened the drag and began to crank extra hard while Tom applied more pressure by lifting the rod. They were both hoping this colossal fish had finally met its match and was ready to make an appearance. Yes. It was a major gamble to tighten the drag because if this monstrous sea creature made one more run it would certainly break the line. But this was the right call. They were both spent and they had to go all in.
But unfortunately, and just minutes later, Tom and Rich heard a loud snap and their fight was sadly done. The braided line was no match for this monstrous fish without a drag. They both looked defeated as these two men put up one heck of a fight. The small crowd cheered and thanked them for the morning dramatics on the beach. It was an epic battle that almost lasted two hours.
"I WAS ONLY HOPING TO GET HER TO SHORE," Tom explained. "I'M ALMOST POSITIVE THAT WAS GIANT RAY. I COULD FEEL HER DIGGING IN THE SAND AND WHEN I'D GIVE HER A TUG. SHE WANTED NO PART OF IT."
"YOU WIN SOME AND YOU LOSE SOME," he continued. "BUT THAT WAS JUST INSANE. I'VE BEEN FISHING FOR OVER 50 YEARS AND I NEVER FELT ANYTHING QUITE LIKE THAT. WHAT A STORY. DO YOU KNOW ANY WRITERS?" #cheers.