Fishy reading for the cold days ahead

Mon, 01/18/2016 - 8:45am

Okay, folks, it's winter time and there’s no better time to catch up on your reading… and of course I mean about fishing. Here are three nonfiction books I recommend for anyone who fishes for striped bass. Each have a message, all of which are important, all of which any true sportsman should consider.

"Striper Wars: An American Fish Story" by Dick Russell

This book is an historical narrative documenting when commercial overfishing sent striped bass populations plummeting in the 1980s. Author and fisherman Dick Russell emerged as a key spokesman, leading a long-shot Atlantic Coast conservation campaign that resulted in one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of fisheries. "Striper Wars" is a vibrant and inspiring account, complete with heroes and villains, of the events and people responsible for the preservation of the East Coasts most valuable fish. Russell provides a detailed blow-by-blow narrative pitting crusty fisherman, corrupt politicians and deep-pocketed lobbyist against a humble tackle maker (Bob Pond of Atom lures), a postman (legendary Capt. Jim White of Rhode Island), a team of marine biologists, and grass-roots supporters in what is considered today as one of the biggest victories in fishery conservation. This state-by-state fight from Virginia to Maine had the final chapter written in Rhode Island and resulted in the moratorium on striped bass fishing for commercial and recreational fishing and the subsequent rebound of the species. This should be required reading for any striper fisherman and a poignant story considering we are once again on the verge of another collapse. You will ask yourself: “Will we ever learn.”

"The Big One: An Island Obsession, and the Furious Pursuit of a Great Fish" by David Kinney

Martha’s Vineyard has the reputation as one of the most exclusive destinations in America. But in the fall, as the tourists leave, begins a legendary and historic contest that pits blue collar workers against hedge fund managers, native islander’s versus newcomers, and rookies versus veterans, in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. Established in 1946, the “Derby” has become the striper fisherman’s own horse race. Thousands enter this 35 day grind of a fishing tournament, all competing for Island immortality and a place in Derby lore. Kinney is angler No. 402 and his story chronicles his journey during his quest to catch fish and the cast of characters he meets along the way.  He introduces you to men and women who live to fish and whose motivations are as varied as the Island’s salty history. 

"Caught: One Man’s Maniacal Pursuit of a Sixty Pound Striped Bass and His Experiences with the Black Market Fishing Industry" by Jeff Nichols

This book is not a literary masterpiece but it does give you an honest inside look at addiction of a different sort. Jeff Nichols is the obsessive striped bass fisherman out of Montauk, fishing the waters from Long Island to Block Island chasing the elusive 60-pound striped bass. Begging and borrowing his way into the Montauk charter boat business, he makes friends, and more enemies, then descends into the striped bass black market to support his ever-growing expensive fishing habit — always after the next fix. While selling his catch to restaurants from Montauk to Manhattan, he gets caught by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, motivation that turns his addiction to concern and preservation for the fish he selfishly exploited. Nichols memoir is unapologetic, self-deprecating, and full of acknowledged hypocrisy. It’s a cringe-worthy read for conservationists as it details the realities of what really goes on during the striper season — even here on Block Island — and the frightening fact that enforcement is outnumbered. The book is an enlightening human story worth the time with a very well written afterword by Zach Harvey focusing on conservation.

Catch 'em up!