A few weekends ago, we were looking at a bad marine forecast. Sure, the onshore weather was going to be fine, but some offshore storm moving up the east coast was going to leave us with choppy seas, and significant winds.We knew better than to try to get to our favorite boating/fishing spots... but that still left us with plenty of alternatives. We headed out on Saturday to an area that was somewhat protected.... but after getting tossed around, decided to head closer to our home port. Conditions weren't unsafe, they were just unpleasant.
We let out the trolling rigs, and went up and down the shore a few times, catching small fish - below the legal limit. All of those get tossed back into the water, with the admonition "Grow!" After all, there's always next year. :-)
But then --
We caught a 'keeper'. Minimum size of 28"... and this one was 34", well over the legal limit. What a magnificent fish! We cleaned it up, took it home, and turned it into 5 dinner-sized packages. 4 went into the freezer, and the fifth we enjoyed that night.
Sunday, conditions on the water were no better - perhaps a bit worse. But that was ok. Although the weather was choppy and it was a bit breezy, the day was warm, and it was pleasant being on the water. We returned to the location we'd ended up the day before. Once again, we caught some undersized fish, and returned all of those to the water. Once, we even had two fish on the trolling rig at the same time! But as we always told Dad -- No! You cannot add up the totals. The minimum size applies to each individual fish!
Our day was nearing an end... and we considered it a success. No fish in the fishbox, but we'd had plenty on the hook, and we'd had an enjoyable day.
And then we caught one more.
Now, these are striped bass that we're fishing for. They're a very powerful, muscular fish. So even the 'schoolies', the undersized fish, are fun to catch. But this last fish was far from a schoolie. Even before we saw it, we knew this was a big one.
This last fish measured 36 inches. That's right, 3 feet of fish!
We looked at each other, we looked at the fish, and we threw this outstanding specimen of a fish back into the water. We couldn't say "Grow"... the fish was plenty big enough. So as we threw the fish into the water, we called out "Be Free!"
We went home, feeling very good about ourselves. And what do I do when I feel good? Why, I have a cup of tea, of course.