Words by Victor Lucia. Photos by Maggie Shannon
My favorite time of day to be out in my waders, chest deep in water, throwing lures for striped bass, is at sunset. The sunsets at Fort Tilden are a sign that everything is going to be ok, for us, and the rest of the world. Sometimes they will distract you and just when you least expect it a striped bass will take the lure. You try to keep your footing as the fish pulls you off balance. You’re pulled out two steps too far and the ocean creeps over the back of your waders. The cold seawater seeps down your back all the way to your socks. You need to catch this fish.
The line is ripping off your reel and you set the drag, loosening the pressure, letting the fish run and tire itself out. You give it line. Once you have made it to shallower water you begin to battle. Reeling, gaining line back, only to lose it again as the fish makes another run. You’re hoping the knot you tied to the hook is strong. It is. After what seems like two hours but is only twenty minutes you have the fish close to shore. This is the most crucial moment of the fight. It is in this moment that most fish are lost. But not this fish. Finally a wave helps beach the creature. You reach down and get a hand under the gill, raise it up to feel its weight and see its length. It’s a good fish, over thirty inches at least. The sun has fallen in the midst of the battle and the sky is a deep red. After releasing the fish you call it a night.
Back at your car, as you change out of your waders, the reality of your soggy body sets in. There is no change of clothes. It’s forty minutes back to Brooklyn from here. It is cold and hell is wet. Maybe this will teach you not to walk that far out to cast next time.
Victor Lucia is the founder of the Brooklyn Fishing Club, an association connecting urban anglers in New York.