There’s a sandbar on the northeast corner of the Robert Moses Bridge where fish sometimes stack up on their way in and out of New York’s Fire Island Inlet. The sands shift year to year, but when the point is long enough, wading out to its tip lets you drop long casts into the shadow line between the second and third bridge abutments, into deeper water where fish like to hold.
But fighting stripers in this spot is no joke. It’s chest-deep water, and the bass force you to shift your feet on soft sand that could crumble out from under you. One slip will fill your waders.
A few years ago, one fish almost got me. We were catching on every cast, all bass over 30 inches. The biggest of the night thrashed while in my grip, and one of the trebles on my chartreuse darter jammed deep into the meat below my thumb.
I could feel the sand shifting beneath my boots as her weight threatened to throw me off balance. With no time to reach for my pliers, I did the only thing I could: braced her head against my chest and ripped out the hook. Sometimes I wonder if the risks we take are for the fish or for the moments of clarity that come when it feels like our lives are on the line.
I retired my plug after that trip. It hangs from the mouth of a replica mount in my basement, a memory of one the best nights I’ve had in the water.