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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Episode 4

Bait & Switch (Not!)
By Robert Yarnall

Read the rest of the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series:
Episode 1 – Getting Ready To Fish

Episode 2 – Watchaug Bites
Episode 3 – Avoiding Car Sickness
Episode 4 – Bait & Switch (Not!)
Episode 5 – Still Baiting, Still Switching…
Episode 6 – Mother Gooser & Friends
Episode 7 – Under the Radar with L-T
Episode 8 – Steering Committee Syndrome Unleashed, The Prelude
Episode 9 – Steering Committee Syndrome Unleashed, The Kiss
Episode 10 – Snagged on the Epilog Epic-Log

Salt water fishing enthusiasts are only too happy to divulge the GPS coordinates of angling hot spots and the kinds of bait needed to bring home some heart-healthy, omega-3 infused bacon of the sea. For those of us lucky enough to live in and around Charlestown, the staff at Breachway Bait & Tackle will set you up and ship you out, optimally equipped to bring Jaws home to dinner.

The fish stories change considerably within traditionally secretive freshwater fishing fraternities.  Bassing pros brag about outboard engine turbo-boost. Fly-fishing Zen masters flash merit-badge sashes full of hand-tied trout flies. But when the fish are biting, good luck with the who, what, where, when, and why of bass, trout, and related gill-equipped species. The freshwater brotherhood – and the sisterhood, too – clams up tighter than a Quonnie quahog.

"Right here to the fish"
Every now and then, when the Signs of the Zodiac line up just right, usually after a few beers, a designated carnival barker may pop off, spreading deceit and deception, intended to send schools of unwashed amateur anglers on a wild goose chase as far from the fertile fishing ground as possible. This figurative “bait-and-switch” amuses some people who stand to gain the most from a timely practical joke.

Which brings us to Whalerock, not a joke of any kind, and every bit a literal bait-and-switch, a timeless scheme whose trademark $$ honorable $$ intentions $$ can take the sheen off legitimate going-green initiatives. (Think tomato hornworms in suits feasting on “free” grant money.)

The marketing term “bait-and-switch”, a descriptor applied to fraudulent transactions of any type, is a fundamental concept taught in Consumer Science curricula. It is typically introduced at the middle school level. Middle school used to mean grades five through eight, for those of us who have been tracking carbon footprints all over the planet for more than four decades.

Most Charlestown residents are indeed smarter than fifth graders, although roving bands of self-anointed intelligentsia would have us believe otherwise, inferring that working class Charlietowners are incapable of managing their own affairs without the guidance of (1) a self-aggrandizing former Beltway bureaucrat, (2) a perseverating, narcissistic political wannabee, and/or (3) a guy who can’t decide if he is the Pope or Nelson Mandela. But I digress. Again. So it goes.

During these dog days of summer, in freshwater fisheries across the state, it’s an all-species bivouac to cooler environs. Watchaug Pond bass head for deepwater holes, and if said oasis happens to be under a tree canopy or in partnership with a big bed of weeds, all the better. Wood River trout hunker down similarly, sans the weeds, or in small crevices behind large rocks, where gurgling pools of oxygenated water keep them living easy.

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Unlike the active feeding and breeding frenzies of spring and fall, summer freshwater fisheries have a distinctive laid-back ambiance. The thinking is that the fishies don’t need as much food due to decreased activity levels, so they stay lazy and lay low. Minus microbrew, they are lot like their landlubber adversaries, at least the males of the genre.

Fishing strategies change in midsummer, but there are still as many bright ideas as there are genius fisherfolk. My personal tried-and-true favorite is to think like a fish, i.e., if I’m hanging out dozing away, not particularly hungry, not a bit harried, just chilling with nary a care, what would get my attention?

Well, once when my kids were little and I was vegetating in my Father’s Day Hammock, ice-pack pillow covering my face, the daughters thought they’d be cute.

“Hey Dad, want some ice cream?”

Then they chucked said ice cream, still contained within a chrome-plated scoop, at my head. A predictable - and in those days, appropriate - response followed.

So here’s my midsummer fishing tip for readers, avid or otherwise: to provoke a lazy bass to the point of attack, snap on a 3/8 ounce or heavier, bright silver Kastmaster lure onto your line, and cast it into suspicious fish snoozing hangouts.  

If you are patient and persistent, as all good anglers must be, you will eventually drop your lure smack on top of a fish noggin, and Mr. / Ms. Bass will tear into it like a (…readers insert your own choice of politically correct, PETA-approved analogy here, I can’t think of any…)

Bonus Tip from the Big Fish Pros: Be relentless. Pretend you are conducting your own investigation, a covert joint operation based on real-life adventures of local Department of Justice and Federal Fish & Wildlife action figures. Be the star of your own reality TV show. Utilize your full fifteen minutes of fame permitted under Ordinance 349. Go for it. It’s later than you think.

The 465’ Twin Turbine Tax Credit Proposal that the Whalerock Fishing Club dropped on the collective head of the greater Sachem Passage neighborhood was Bassmaster Larry LeBlanc’s version of a heavy Kastmaster lure.

Larry got the attention of the little fish, a couple of hundred of them. But he couldn’t quite get them to take the bait. Instead, the little fish did the switching. They morphed into little piranha, awakened from their collective slumber, and mad-hungry. Hungry enough to eat a whale, rock or otherwise.

Finally today, an official TSA Advisory for Charlestown, Rhode Island:

Beware Piranha Mode. Researchers have found that adopting piranha traits, even for short periods of time, even for ethical and moral reasons, can have unintended long-term consequences for an established ecosystem. Reports of Piranha Mode Syndrome have been documented in specific sections of the formerly euphoric Sachem Passage neighborhood, resulting in the dismemberment and/or disfigurement of public employees’ workplace reputations and/or careers.

If you observe anyone in your local ecosystem exhibiting any symptom associated with PMS, cease any home improvement project immediately, grab your fishing gear, and head for the Charlestown Breachway, preferably on an outgoing tide.

Jump right in. The water’s mighty fine this time of year and the sharks patrolling Rogue Island’s offshore waters aren’t nearly as vicious as rogue piranha on a mission to save the planet from the likes of you and me.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over.