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Flyfishing in Saltwaters: Sept/Oct 2002

 

BLITZ ETIQUETTE 101

A few simple courtesies will allow both flyfishermen and conventional anglers to fish a blitz of gamefish

By Capt. John McMurray

 

It’s been a slow day as I reluctantly light off the motor after several utterances of the commonly used phrase: “Okay… Just one more cast”.  A few fish in the morning, but not much after that.  Still a great day to be on the water, I think to myself as I glide across saltwater glass at 30 knots.  I might even be home on time today!  But out of the corner of my eye I spot a few dots far in the distance.  While straining to see, I can make out what looks like a cloud of dots.  I pull the throttle back from full-bell to stop and hear an “umph” from my fishing partner as he comes off the leaning post and gets pushed into the console.  “How bout telling me you’re going to do that” he says. But I’m not listening, I’m focused on that cloud and wondering if my eyes are just playing tricks on me.  “Are those birds? I ask.”  My partner squints, and before he can give me an answer, I turn the wheel hard right and pin the throttle.  “Woooo!” he says as he bounces back into the leaning post.   As we get closer the cloud becomes thicker and thicker.  “Blitzing fish!!!!” I hit David on the arm and let out a “wohoo hoo!”  We high five, and in less then a minute we’re surrounded by foaming water and ravenous blues, bass and false albacore sending bay-anchovies spraying in all directions.  Complete mayhem and not another boat in sight.  In my excitement, I fire off a horrible cast of about 30 feet and hook up with an 8-pound blue right away.  David is hooked up already also, and as we switch from bow to stern going over and under each other, high-fiveing some more along the way, we both realize that once again we’ll be home late.

 

You’ve got to love it when predators corral baitfish and launch rapacious attacks in broad daylight.  Screeching gulls, flying baitfish and crazed fisherman.  It’s one of the most awesome displays nature has to offer.  And nothing, I mean nothing can get your blood pumping like being right in the middle of one of these orgies.  Sometimes it can be quite overwhelming, and sometimes we even loose control.   Let’s face it.  Things can get ugly out there when 6 to 12 boats find the same blitz, and people just stop being civil all together.  I’ve got to admit, I’ve been guilty on a number of occasions.  Inadvertently, or purposely, people get cut off, guys zoom into the school, scarring everything off, lines get crossed, and yelling and finger pointing commences.  What starts out as a great and welcome occurrence, can quickly become an ugly display of raw greed and anger.  Over the years, I’ve realized that if we all just follow a few simple rules, several boats, and surfcasters alike, can take advantage of a single, all out blitz while avoiding the line tangles and the unkind words.  They are as follows: 

 

DON’T TROLL THROUGH A BLITZ!!!!!! 

 

I’ve got nothing against trolling.  It’s a great way to fish when you’ve got the family on board or just prefer a leisurely approach to the sport.  In fact, it served as a great introduction to the saltwater game for me way back when.  It’s a particularly good method of finding fish when they’re not showing and things are slow.   But I’ve got to tell you, there is nothing quite as rude and inconsiderate as a big or even small boat trolling wire through a school of breaking fish when everybody else is drifting into them and casting without their motor running, while trying hard to be as stealthy as possible.  More times then not, it puts the fish down right away.  Think about it.  Would you stick around and eat if two props were moving through your dinner table, threatening to cut you in half?  Didn’t think so.  Not to mention, it takes a lot less work, and it’s a lot more fun to cast into these fish with light tackle and feel the hit as you’re reeling.   So, if you’re out for a day of trolling, just bring along a few extra casting rods.  Forget about being courteous for a minute, and just think about how you won’t have to crank in 200 feet of wire every time you hook up. 

 

DON’T RUN YOUR BOAT RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A BLITZ!!!!!!

 

It’s really not cool to zoom up right in the middle of fish for the same reason as the one mentioned above.  Most of the time, it’s going to put the fish down for everyone.  This is a hard concept for a lot of novice boaters to understand, and even I’ve been guilty of it once or twice when the albies are around.  But with a little boat handling, and tide and wind drift recognition, you can increase your odds of pulling more fish out of the pod, and at the same time, not anger the rest of the crowd fishing the pod.  Try and set yourself up with the wind and tide so that you will drift effortlessly over the pod of fish.  This takes a bit of “on the water” knowledge, but with a little experience and practice it can be mastered quite quickly.  More often then not, if you can employ this method correctly, you’ll find yourself smack in the middle of a blitz.  It’s pretty darn cool to be that close when schools of ravenous fish are feeding.  Catching them is just icing on the cake. 

 

TURN THE MOTOR OFF!!!!!

 

When employing this method of letting the wind and tide push you quietly into the school, it’s important for your own success, as well as those around you, to turn your motor off.  Yes, sometimes the fish are so lit-up that they will continue feeding when you leave the motor on, but often times it will put them right down.  The urge to leave it running is brought on by that “run and gun” immediacy of being able to zip over to where the school pops up next.  Well… if you leave the motor off, you won’t have to pick up and run all the time.  Got it????  So leave it off!!!!

 

DON’T RESTRICT YOURSELF TO JUST THE BLITZ

 

Just because the mayhem has settled down doesn’t mean you have to pick up and run over to the next school.  Odds are pretty good that there are still fish where that pod of breaking fish once was.  If you can calm down enough to take a look at your fish finder, you’ll see that this is true.  If fact, I’ve generally caught my bigger fish in the blitzing scenario, fishing in the lull of the blitz.    The big lazy fish, stripped bass especially, will hang out and suck up all the dead or stunned baitfish.  So when the mayhem has died down, hang out for 5 or 10 minutes and fish a jig, or sinking line if you’re a flyfisherman.  You’ll be surprised at how well you do.

 

STAY AWAY FROM THE SURFCASTERS!!!!!

 

The last, and probably the most important rule of basic blitz etiquette, is don’t get anywhere near the guys on the beach or jetty.  At times it’s almost irresistible to motor up into shallow water and toss in a few casts to ravenous busting fish, but be very conscious of those working the beach.  You have the whole ocean to fish.  These guys only have the beach or the jetty to fish.  Don’t be a jerk!  Give them their space, and when a blitz comes close to the beach let them take advantage of it.  If you decide not to, you might find yourself showered with 3-ounce diamond jigs.  Not fun!!!  But, quite honestly, you’d deserve it. In addition, if you get out of control, and just can’t help going into that surf line, you could very likely find yourself on the face of a rather large wave and then subsequently underwater, as your boat gets tossed on the rocks.  Again.… Not fun!

 

So there you have it…  Blitzes are what every fisherman dreams of during those long winter nights.  I love them, and while catching fish is great, just watching the mayhem is sometimes enough for me.  Being there when nature’s predator and prey relationship shows itself in such a lucid and violent display is just cool.  If you follow these few simple rules, we can all take advantage of this incredible occurrence nature has to offer.