How to Know When the Fat Lady Has Sung on Your Fishing Season

The indicators to look for when that fall fishing season is finally over.

striped bass
When the weather gets really cold, big striped bass like this one will be south of New York. Capt. John McMurray

Certainly, in most of the world anyway, every fishing season ends at some point. But wherever you fish, sometimes it’s hard to know when the show is over. Plus, there’s likely a bit of variance each year.  

In my neck of the woods of the New York Bight, the season generally runs from April through November.  And after that? It’s a long, painful wait until things crank back up again in the new year. That’s the reason many of us never rule out December in the Northeast. Still, the safe way to play it is to recognize every fishing day we get after Thanksgiving is a gift.  Not only do the stripers begin to thin out, but the weather windows quickly become scarce.  

That said, we can and often do get blessed with a December run of bluefin tuna on their way down from Nova Scotia, and they are often unusually close to shore. I call these fish “ghosts.” Some years they stick around, some years they don’t. Some years we get good windows to chase them, some years we don’t. It’s all worth mentioning here even if it’s not reliable year to year.  

December is a crazy time for us. And I don’t mean crazy in the holiday sense, or crazy in the prep your boat for winter sense. I mean that December drives us crazy mentally, hoping for one last shot before it’s all over until April.  

bluefin tuna
One last shot to intercept a big bluefin tuna as they head south for the winter. Capt. John McMurray

But like I said, it’s all gotta end each season at some point. Below is a list of when most of us psychos start to get the hint. The Fat Lady has sung, and it’s time to pack it in.

  1. You start scratching your head because you don’t understand why no one else is stupid enough to want to fish in subfreezing weather and marginal conditions. 
  2. There’s maybe one day in the 10-day forecast that looks remotely fishable, and even that day looks less favorable the closer you get to it.
  3. You head out even though you know you probably shouldn’t, and immediately regret it.   
  4. You walk down an icy gangway, and like one of those cartoons, you run backward in place for a few seconds before falling on your butt.  
  5. You embark on the winter-long process of questioning why you live here. Also, you might question all of you life choices because you have the time. 
  6. You leave your heat gun down on the dock to unfreeze boat hatches.
  7. The stripers are still abundant, but each catch is smaller and smaller the colder it gets. The dogfish bite though is awesome though!
  8. You hang on every third-hand tuna report, and you can often be heard muttering to yourself “they’re still here” and “it’s not over yet.”
  9. You constantly figure out new and unique excuses not to pull your boats out of the water.  
  10. You begin to treat those smarter people, who have winterized their boats already, with utter distain.  
  11. Your alcohol intake increases incrementally, then exponentially. But at least it keeps you warm.
  12. Your disposition begins to degenerate, and you slowly become even more “temperamental” than usual.
  13. You buy every gallon of antifreeze the hardware store has in stock.  
  14. You become a master at replacing sections of cracked water pipe.  
  15. You finally capitulate and pull your boat(s), but wait until they fill up with a foot of snow before shrink-wrapping. Because it’s entirely possible they might go back in the water (even though they never do).
  16. As soon as you winterize everything, you get a text about a totally legit report of bluefin busting right outside of the inlet.  

In the end though, acceptance of the inevitable eventually sets in and you begin to feel a little less insane. You set your sights on April, and start to develop lists of things that need to get done over the winter. Because the truth is, it was a pretty good season, no matter how you cut it.    

But we’d like to hear from you! When do you know the fat lady has sung on your fishing season?

More How To