Saturday, May 31, 2008

Everyone Knows It's Windy

Week of May 25th

I am pretty busy right now. The oyster business is in full swing and preparations for this year’s seed (young oysters) require daily attention. I have found opportunities to fish, but the weather has been poor during these times.

I went out three or four times this past week – some of these being very brief searches prior to working on the shellfish grant. On two occasions I had Joel Meunier and Dave Grossman along. If you read any of these reports you’ll know Joel. Dave is new to the Saquish Journal scene but not to Duxbury’s waterfront. His spectacular photography (he’s a photographer) is ubiquitous in town and rapidly growing ( Dave came aboard to shoot some fishing action for a change as he has now taken about six billion shots of gruff oyster guys and photogenic bivalves. I was quite excited to have some documentation of some of the fishing that Joel and I do out there; more times than not we score big on the bay. We took two trips over the course of about a week.

Day 1: The weather was not good for fishing and the fish weren’t really around. But Joel’s first cast into a school along the channel produced his first striper of the season (photo above). The flyrod was used for about five minutes before the winds suddenly picked up in front of a large squall that seemed to be threatening along the northwest. A few drifts along some favorite rips produced a few fish, no real size to them, but fun. After running into Skip behind the island we poked around the bay for another half hour before retiring the boat for the evening. That squall line did skirt by us, over Marshfield perhaps. It was amazing scenery: black, mottled low clouds rapidly sliced the brilliant blue sky in half. The sun beamed against the Powderpoint Bridge and, lastly, small rainbows appeared as the line moved east. All this kept Dave busy with his cameras.

Day 2: West wind at 20 knots. Kept along the western shore for a bit, but decided to move behind the island and then brave Saquish Flats. Found a large, tight school of menhaden – one attempt to net some with Joel’s cast net. Nil. One fish landed out along Saquish (by Joel) and another one lost. The menacing wind finally dropped a bit at sunset, but our thirst for the Winsor House ruled and there we went to plan future events. Lobster pots went in.

So there you have it. It was somewhat of an uneventful week on the water for me. My friends in town have all been reporting excellent fishing offshore using live mackerel to land big, fat bass. Others who have opted to fish inside have had similar reports to mine – wind and tides not in our favor. The spring tides next week should bring change.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Patience Pays Off


Tom’s boat is much nicer and better than mine, but he still wanted to hop onto the mud barge and do some early season striper fishing with me. Along with Tom was Martin, his friend and business associate. We met at the dock just a hair later than originally planned but still early enough to hit the first bite. The weather was a mixed bag: a bit breezy out of the SW which carried periodic squalls that would soak us over five minute intervals. But this was nothing to complain about.

The tide was just more than half out so our first series of stops were some rips that were often good bets for large fish. At the first one we immediately witnessed a brief, but awesome blitz of stripers. These fish were coming clear out of the water and this warmed Martin’s cockles quite a bit. The fly rods were out as we took several drifts through the rip. But nothing materialized. The frustration was augmented by the sight of anglers on another boat who were pulling up fish on each drift with spinning gear. It was decided that a few casts on spinning gear would be necessary to break the curse. Martin obliged and soon hooked a nice one on a rubber shad. Our enthusiasm was rekindled.

But this was short-lived because the action suddenly dropped to nil and the weather began to deteriorate. We moved about the bay, drifting over several flats, seeing a fish here and there, but no luck on the flies. Tom and Martin did get lots of casting practice (which likely staved off hypothermia) and several stories were told over the course of perhaps an hour and a half. Martin, originally from Wales, shared tales of fishing trout and salmon in Wales and in other parts of the world. This was his first outing in Duxbury and I really wanted him to experience one of the typical good spring blitz days here. Telling him of how good the fishing here usually is does no good. I had to shut up and find them.

The tide eventually slacked and I knew that there would be a brief break between bites so we killed a little time by exploring some areas of the bay that Tom had not been to yet.

Then the tide began its flood and at the same moment the wind died and the sun began to break through. It felt very fishy. After a few attempts along the margin of a vast eelgrass flat and deep channel (where terns were voraciously feeding on small baits) I felt the urge to move towards the island. This we did and this was fortunate because I soon spotted a cloud of birds working hard in the distance. As we got closer is became obvious that fish were there. Smiles returned and Martin, who was aching to bend his fly rod, immediately bubbled up into a foam of excitement. We found them.

The flies were flung and on almost every cast a fish was attached to the retrieve. Tom decided to try a small white popper and was rewarded with multiple surface hits. Like the weather, the school of stripers was a mixed bag. Their sized ranged from 10 to 24 inches. Tom landed a (the) 24 incher on a small silverside fly but rather than attempt to compete for the largest fish, the men decided that the smallest measured fish would be a more appropriate prize to attain. Tom won this category at 10.5 inches among many chuckles. But overall the fish averaged in the low 20s and were good sized for fly fishing. The guys had to get in a bit early. So after about an hour of action we ran back to the harbor, stopping to cast a couple of times along notorious holds without luck.

Over the course of the morning I was a bit concerned that the trip would be a dud until that surface school was found. However, you know things are going well when one guy says to the other: “I don’t know how many fish I’ve landed – I’ve lost count!”

So there you have it. I’m expecting better things with this change in the weather over the weekend. Watch out for fast-moving Grady’s out there.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

In The Rain

Friday, May 16

On Friday afternoon I took a quick spin around the bay. It was raining - lightly at first, then it picked up. Found a few schools of surface action. I fished them with some home made plugs (Meuniers) and it was fun. The rain kept most others away. But this morning it was nice and the action, from what I heard, was incredible. Don M. sent me the photo (below) along with a glowing report of hooking numerous fish before his workday began.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Nothing Like a Nooner

Thursday, May 15

I decided to go fishing for an hour or so. Also, I felt like trying out one of my new crab traps (to collect green crabs – a different story). My urge to fish was natural, but it was accentuated by Don M.’s email this morning which informed me that he landed one mackerel. No bass, but mackerel were around. I too went out early, on my way to work, to scope out the striper scene and found zilch.

So, at noon or so I went back out on the water to see what was what. I brought some Sabiki jigs for the mackerel but also my usual arsenal of striper stuff. First I dropped of the crab trap, baited with a small flounder rack from last winter. Then off to mackerel grounds. But I couldn’t just leave the bay without at least checking the usual spots for busting fish. And upon doing this my mackerel plans abruptly changed; I found a tight, persistent school of busting fish with birds galore in a narrow rip.

I tried a series of lures. Nothing big worked. So on went the little yellow job that hooked last Friday’s fish. These bass were rolling and slurping, but also smacking their tails hard on the surface. These were indicators that they would be difficult to hook. But after about ten casts I had a strike. It was only a split second after setting the hook that the rod summarily bent hard and the reel starting screaming like a frightened little girl. Holy crap, I thought. It couldn’t be. … but alas, my reel continued to lose line (old gnarly line that I had just then realized should have been changed before today) and my nerves were up. I fought the fish for about three minutes before it came up close enough to view. A keeper, I said quietly. Then realizing how lame the line was, and how the hook was barbless, I glanced around for a net. No net of course. I grabbed a six-foot crook used for grabbing oyster bags (a G-rated gaff) and then realized how ridiculous I was being. I tired the fish out for a spell, then decided to tail him if possible. The first attempt failed – too slippery. Then on the second attempt I held firm and eased him into the boat.

But having not seen a keeper fish for some months, I decided I’d better measure him out. But no tape or markings around that would indicate legal vs. sublegal status. I did have an oyster gauge which is a 3-inch ring. I measured out 3-inch increments along my six-foot crook and finally marked off 28 inches (I estimated the final inch…being that 3 doesn’t go into 28 as a whole number). And the fish was beyond this mark and then I was even happier and then didn’t really know what to do with myself. I decided to fish some more.

The school hung tight in the rip and I made several passes. I landed another six or seven stripers. One of these was about 7.5 inches long, others up to 22 inches or so. It was good fun indeed. One fish I caught (see photo) had unmistakable bight marks along its upper gut area and also down lower. Something had chomped this guy up pretty badly yet he was still feisty and hit my artificial. The wounds were quite fresh and there were sea lice attached to them.

After a bit I decided not to hit the mackerel grounds after all. I’ll save that for Don Gunster and Joel Meunier in the next few days. I spun back to the harbor and grabbed my crab trap along the way: one green crab. It works.

At home the fish measured out to 31 inches.

Not a bad nooner.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Drag Racing

After yesterday's rushed schedule and crappy weather I felt more of an urge to make up for lost time seeking stripers. So before catching the tide at the oyster farm I decided to scout about for a half hour. The conditions were calm, a north wind just beginning to show, and I cruised out of the harbor with the draining tide. But not too far. Within a minute or two I found myself within about two acres of busting fish. I reached for my rod (a clunker that I've been keeping on the boat as a backup) and began throwing things at the fish. First a storm shad, then a Fin-S, then a popper, then a little leadhead with a yellow squiggleworm on it. Two strikes (on the shad and the little yellow job) and lots of weed. The fish seemed to be after small baits which were never visible to me. Throughout my early season spasms (tripping on anchor, tying poor knots, yelling swear words at fouled up lures) I began to notice that my old clunker line was getting tired and kinky. Hmmmn. Twice I bird nested and twice I swore that I would take five minutes to straighten out the spool. But with busting fish all around I took the short cut and paid for it with some additional knotting.

Then I ran out of time. I had to get to work on the grant.

I rushed through my tasks and was surprised to have them done prior to the full draining of the tide. If I had been a few minutes later it would have been hard to get the boat back into deeper water and I'd be stranded for an hour and a half. So back out I went. I ran out to the mid bay where I found a school up top. But after three casts they went under and never came back. Then over to Clark's Island where there were fish lined up along one of its coasts. Still lots of weed. Casting away with all kinds of lures I began to notice something else (besides the line knotting up....and the curse words, etc.). My reel, a Shimano baitrunner, starting this annoying clicking noise. You know, the noise a reel makes before it totally shits the bed. Hmmmn. Maybe it will fix itself - my little voice said to ease my nerves. But within a couple of casts (that did not yield anything) the clicking evolved into crunching and the reel began to reject my efforts to retrieve the line. Then I could sense little bits of parts banging around inside the casing. Crap.

I called it quits and decided to head in. A NE storm was on the way, sprinkles had begun, and I needed to get the boat out of the water or moored somewhere safe for a day or two.

But then, as I ran back toward the harbor, I glanced back into Captain's Flats and saw the shit show that the bass were throwing there. Birds were balled up and diving aggressively. I reckoned I had a few casts left in the baitrunner so I turned the boat into the shallow flats and made my way to the fish. When I arrived the fish were broken into three or four schools and the terns took turns moving among all of them. I put the little yellow squiggle job on the line - a tradeoff because although I felt it would attract a hit, it was light and would only cast about 25 feet. But on my second or third cast from my rapidly deteriorating reel, a hard strike and a fish on. Yay. It fought well, but especially well because the drag on the reel had completely died. So I palmed the spool and eventually got the fish in. I felt ridiculous.

I raised the fish up, kissed its forehead, attempted to take a picture or two with my cell phone camera, and tossed it back. It was small, maybe 20 inches, but the best looking fish I've seen all year.

Back out when the wind sets down. I'll be certain to bring an array of better rigs, including some fly tackle. As far as the reel goes - interment will be private, but there will be a memorial service on Tuesday, May 13. I request that cash be sent to my house in lieu of flowers.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Something's there

Today the water was absolutely magnificent. The terns and gulls were working among the cormorants and it just felt fishy. I headed out to the mid bay to scope things out. But it was just high tide and I had small hopes for finding much. Indeed I didn't. However, cruising around the familiar spots was fun. The water is about to come alive any minute now. I know that the baitfish are around because the birds are working them.

So, we wait another day or two. The winds are supposed to suck for the next 24.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Alright already...


Well, it is time to begin this thing again. I would have started to write earlier in the season, but I was just too busy and nothing really interesting was going on in terms of fishing. Except for the amazing flounder I hooked about a month ago in 20 seconds…then the beautiful cod I pulled up in front of Don and Joel’s faces a few weeks back. Ah, but why waste space on these occasions when the best is yet to come.

A few days ago (Sunday, 5/4) I felt fish in the air and hit a few of the rips to see if anything would surprise me. But I was only surprised by the lack of activity. It was foggy, misty, and calm, and I thought for sure that there would be some stripers around. But nothing. The terns were fairly abundant, but also not into anything.

Today was a beauty. Warm and calm. After harvesting a load of oysters I sped out to the mid bay to check on striper progress. A few terns balancing on debris and barking away, but no fish. Spotted plenty of baitfish popping out here and there. A good sign.

Last year it was 5/9 when I first hooked into surface schools (midday!)…so I predict any second the fish will show up. Temps in the bay are hitting the low 60s on good days over the past week. It has to happen soon.

Stay tuned…and iLa Mawana.