In God We Trust, Everyone Else, Change Your Line!


There is a wise old proverb in fishing (or, at least, on fishing t-shirts) that says: In God we trust. Everyone else, sharpen your hooks. A truer statement I’ve never heard. Or at least, until recently. Today chemical treatments and laser sharpening make many hooks far sharper out of the box than you could ever get them with a file. Circle hooks and conical, knifed and beaked points are effectively impossible to sharpen. So another proverb goes out the window.

Line may be a different story.

As I was looking at the picture of the giant trevally Jim Williams sent me last week, which shows the surf rod and Van Staal reel that Jimmy used to tussle with that bruiser, it occurred to me that such a fish would certainly test a reel’s drag and line far more than any fish we catch around here does.

It struck me that if I were to just take one of my surf reels to Hawaii or Costa Rica and hooked into something like that, the fight would probably not last much longer than it would take for the fish to get the 300 feet or so of Power Pro braid off the reel and start pulling on the monofilament beneath it.

As something of a tackle obsessed fisherman I’m ashamed to admit it but I haven’t changed the mono backing on any of my surf reels in years. Calling it monofilament “line” in such a case is a bit disingenuous since I’m sure it’s probably more like a solid block of hard plastic now. I chuckle when I picture what would happen if something other than a striped bass got a hold of a plug at the end of that line and went on a burner of a run. Zip. Zip. Zip. Ping!

Back in the mono days I used to completely re-spool every reel I fished with at least three or four times a year. Now I might only do it every three or four years and then only replacing the braid, not the mono that follows.

We’re sort of spoiled with striped bass and the other fish we catch in the Northeast since even real cows don’t take runs of more than a hundred feet or so and the test of a drag is for it simply not to seize under a heavy load. Unless you happened to catch a little bluefin from the surf, in fact, there really aren’t any fish around here that can test the drag of a big surf outfit.

Braid can be frustrating because it is expensive compared to mono and difficult to tell when it is wearing out. It doesn’t discolor or visibly fray like mono does so keeping track of its condition takes a bit more vigilaince. I’m constantly poring over the first hundred feet of line or so in search of some sign it may be weakening. Either it’s working or the stuff really is as indestructible as it claims to be because in the last 10 years I think I’ve only actually popped off one fish while using braid—an early morning cow at Jones Reef that I was putting the brakes on far too aggressively—so maybe the stuff actually is as indestructible as it claims to be.

Maybe it’s being overly optimistic but I’m cutting all the melted mono off my surf reels this weekend and putting new stuff on and will do so every year from now on. You never know when global warming will bring a new kind of critter into our range.

Codfishing dropped off a lot this week. Doesn’t sound like the body of fish the Montauk boats have been wailing on for the last few weeks has moved out,, but they aren’t feeding the way they were.

Flounder fishing starts April 1. Flounder have to be 12 inches to keep and the bag limit is 10 per man. Good luck.

I hear some bunker have started to show up in the draggers’ nets. That means the real fish can’t be too far behind. There’s some micro-bass in the creeks and salty ponds. Weaks and keeper bass will be in the surf in the next couple of weeks. Change your line now.

Catch ’em up, flounder hunters. See you out there.

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