Thursday, June 19, 2008

Solo Day

Today I was able to hit the SE gusts alone on my skiff. The tides were right.

I had an amazing time with the fish. Unfortunately they were all this fall's keeper class (26/27), but then again, shouldn't eat striper every day. The great thing was that they were ballistic bass and actually challenging to hook. Many strikes, but the wind and waves made it more difficult for them to grab the hook. This was fine because I enjoy seeing them getting charged up and striking, perhaps even more than landing them.

Again, an amazing afternoon out there along the rips. Enjoyed seeing Papa Neal and his crew doing well too.

No pics -- time to replace my camera or kidnap Dave Grossman every time I leave the harbor.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Good Shoot

Monday, June 16, 2008

“Dave, this is John. ..yeah, hi, do you want to head out this afternoon and hit the tide with me? I think there will be some fish out there today.”

“Sure, see you down there.”

This is how our third attempt to photograph good striper fishing began on Monday. I wasn’t really sure that they’d be there, but I was pretty sure. The wind was up though, and it made things bumpy and wet. I don’t mind bumpy and wet.

So off we went and I made sure to have plenty of fishing gear ready because with every trip, Dave wanted to fish more than shoot. And this he did – for a little while.

Our first stop – nothing. Second stop – nothing again. Third stop – zilch. “Um, John, I am not sure this system is working – me heading out with you to catch fish. Uh, either you can’t catch fish or I am bad luck,” explained Dave. “Maybe both,” I answered. But no, this couldn’t be true. We were just having bad luck – well, continuous bad luck, like the Red Sox had for a while.

Then today things changed. The fourth spot I had been saving, kind of like saving Ortiz for cleanup. We arrived to find another boat circling through the drift. I was sure that these guys would be spooking the fish because they were coming up through the rip, on motor, and casting along the way. I had fished this specific spot hundreds of days and knew that running the boat up through the rip rather than quietly heading around the outside to the top was a fatal error. It just doesn’t work out; the fish see and/or hear the outboard and spook. They’ll go down for ten minutes.

So Dave and I did two drifts through this spot and ended up with nothing at all. Nothing means nothing – no follows, nothing. And this surprised me because it was the perfect tide and it was overcast. I suspected the other boat was simply running over the rip too much.

But I had an ace in my pocket. There is another spot not far off that I can really call my own…except on weekends. This is a little line of fast water that holds massive fish for only one hour per tide. Within that interval the fish are numerous and hungry. But it turns off quickly. We were in that interval and had a chance. So I looked over to Dave, who looked worried and diminished, and said (for the hundredth time) “I have another spot…they’re sure to be there.”

Two minutes later I had a fish in the cooler. Well, no cooler, but rather the horrendous muddy slop on the floor of my skiff. Dave shot as I continually hooked and landed some nice stripers. Then he put the cameras away and threw out his line a few times. The action continued for several drifts through the rips and we began to get excited for the first time out on the water together.

We stayed for a while and did well…two keepers and several fat undersized bass released. Then I noticed that the previous spot (the one with the other guys motoring through) was clear and open. Soon I spotted fish busting all through the rip. We promptly moved back there and the first cast produced a 31 who gave me a washing. Nice. Then every cast through that drift resulted in amazing blitzes and acrobatics. One fish pulled so hard to explode my line down at the reel. Dave hooked a couple there between shoots and seemed happy. “That’s more like it,” he said.

We played out the rips until they faded to the slacking tide. It was also getting late and we all had work to do. I had to clean some fish and Dave had to get back to his office. He stopped over to the house to pick up a couple of filets and then I drove some fish over to my cousin’s house, and to the neighbors. We also ate one that night with mango-lime salsa (see Chris Schlessinger’s Thrill of the Grill and other cookbooks).

That’s more like it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

F Nuts

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tides are so important. When Joel and I decided it would be a good idea for him to come down to Duxbury on Sunday afternoon we didn’t realize how the schedule would throw us off from good fishing. At least that is how I see things in hindsight. He and his son, Trevor, arrived around 3:00 and we spent a couple hours working in the driveway on tackle, taking some garbage to our town’s illustrious dump, listening to outrageous music, and tending to the kids (other half was busy until later). But finally we departed for the rips on the bay.

It was one of those silvery days where the water looked like the clouds and little bits of rain would come down here and there. The calm water was quite welcoming and we felt that the fish would be everywhere. However, as we motored out I the thing I worried about was the tide; I felt that we might have just missed the best part of it and we’d be waiting some time to see much. But why complain and worry, out on the boat with Joel was one of life’s pleasures and we had stories and jokes going at a good clip.

First we had to snag a few pogies. This turned out to be easy and we soon filled the live well with a half dozen big menhaden (moss bunker). This alone was a good start and got Joel humming with enthusiasm. His grin almost touched the margins of his curious, salty red hair which bushed out from beneath his tidy Grady White hat (I’ll need to ask him about that hat – wouldn’t see me dead under that thing, but I shouldn’t tempt fate I suppose) and stretched his bristling soul-patch to its physical limits. So, enough of snagging bunker – soon we were off to let them go, with treble hooks caringly shoved nicely through their eye-sockets and up through their heads, into the various rips that I felt would be full of hungry stripers. As these poor pogies swam for their lives, wondering what the fuck was going on, Joel and I tossed his specially rigged sluggos into the glassy gray rips. As soon as the live bait were, as Joel said, “being hassled,” the sluggos began to elicit nice white water and soon after, nice bass which screamed the reels and put Joel into defcon 5.

“Holy fucknuts dudicus! Did you see that?!?” screamed Joel. A striper was on his sluggo about ten feet from the boat and it was nuts, perhaps even fucknuts. The tail, half out into the air, was furiously pushing whitewater vertically and horizontally (at all angles) and this had Joel screaming “Daddio.” At the same time I was getting the same kind of response to my sluggo, but I am the writer of the story so I’ll focus the attention on my friend instead. But even more importantly, at the same time the pogies, being hassled, both started to jump and peel some line away. Each had several bass nipping, slurping, and bumping, but not able to actually swallow the baitfish. And this, I think, can be metaphorically compared to either drunk sex or true animal cruelty. I am on the fence with this one. But rather than worry too much about an overgrown baitfish, let’s think about the fishing experience.

Joel and I were able to land several nice stripers – heavy, but short. One, which Joel had half into the cooler ended up taping to 27 and he reluctantly tossed her back. Most others were close, but the larger fish just weren’t around. We move once and found some nice action on the incoming tide with several additional washing machine experiences (the fish’s head is down, tail up…back and forth with spray). Then it began to darken and we had kids at home to entertain and get to bed. Actually, Joel had to drive an hour back home and we also needed to fit in a post-fishing refreshment.

But first, my lobster pots and they provided a couple of nice ones. We baited them with our leftover pogies and also grabbed some sand crabs for Joel to take with him along with the lobsters.

At home we were welcomed by my sister-in-law and niece who had just arrived from California. We had some wine, told some stories, Joel and Trev left, and it was time for bed.

If we had begun fishing two hours earlier, when the tide was right, we would have been grilling bass and serving it with mango lime salsa. I am sure of it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Every Cast

Friday, June 6, 2008

I just couldn’t resist the tides this week. I left the mooring at 2:30 and cruised out to spot #1. As I approached I noticed another boat there (was that guy anchored in the rip?). Typically I would avoid doubling up on someone and would go elsewhere. But today I had this destination in mind and I didn’t really care if someone else was there first. I arrived and lined myself up for the drift. The other guy, who was in an old boat (with windshield), wasn’t too happy with me. His cigarette hung loosely from his long face. I waved over to him, he waved back, and then I thought I saw some sign of lightening up on his end.

My first cast provided a 31 inch bass. I knew it was going to be a good afternoon. I continued on with a couple more drifts, hooking a few more fish between 27 and 32 inches on some of Joel’s double-rigged Sluggos. The other guy seemed to be doing well too and we got into a good drifting pattern, staying out of each other’s way. This was until the jackass in the oversized, decal-covered sports boat decided to troll umbrella rigs right up through the middle of the rip. This screwed everything up. The faces of the passengers all aimed at me and Mr. Longface, attempted to catch signals of fishing success at this spot. I decided to move on to avoid attracting them to the area. Mr. Longface did the same and we were both gone within a minute. He went west and I went south.

My next spot was also on fire. Every cast produced amazing action. The drift was quick and this allowed for only one hookup before having to move the boat out and around to an upstream location. One or two casts was about all there would be time for. I landed dozens of fish here. Since I already had a fish on the boat I decided to release all the additional big ones, which were plentiful. I cycled through all patterns of Sluggo: white, black, pink, and “squid-colored”. They all worked, but the white ones did best. After some time the rip began to fade and the big fish moved on. I returned to spot #1 and found Mr. Longface there too. We waved again, lined up in an efficient drift pattern, and began landing fish. A waft of his cigarette smoke briefly brought memories of fishing with my dad way back when. Then he left and soon after I packed it in and returned to shore. On the way in I figured that the afternoon was about a 95% hookup rate. I wish I had brought along my fly rod. Next time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Change in the Weather

Mon/Tues, June 3rd and 4th

Note: I am in a rush. Abbreviated version:

It is Monday, June 3rd. My 23 year-old nephew is due to arrive in town in the early afternoon. I am delayed getting out on the water but that’s OK because there are a few places I know that might hold a fish or two and having one for dinner would make Pete (my nephew) happy.

The weather is quite fair and calm. I decide to move quickly and get outside the bay for some mackerel. I am thinking that if I can land even a few of these, get back into the bay on the outgoing, I’d hit some big fish for sure. But it doesn’t pan out this way. Lots of guys out there jigging for macs but none to be found. It is calm after the NE wind dies. Then the SE wind takes over and I decide to bolt after 1.5 hours of wrist exercises.

Inside the bay it is still somewhat calm. A few boats line the Saquish rips and a few birds are popping down into the water. But I don’t produce anything there. I decide to head elsewhere.

The next rip is just forming as the tide brings the water down to the point were standing waves begin to form. First drift through: a 23 inch striper. This is hooked on a Yo-Zuri swimming mackerel (front hook removed). Next drift: total explosion – a 29 incher gobbles down a double hooked Meunier Sluggo. Excellent fighting fish that I draw into the net which is now handy on board. Next drift – big explosion on the surface Sluggo and a 34 incher is kept. I need a bigger net.

Subsequent drifts: three additional keeper stripers and a couple of mid 20s are landed.

The phone rings. It is my nephew Pete. He’s driving down Harrison St. Time to speed in. We meet at the dock and quickly head back out to harvest a few oysters, work on cleaning some bay scallop boxes, then retrieve some additional bagged oysters. Alex M. meets us at the ramp. We unload, hook the boat, wipe our hands, then ease on over to the Winsor House for some refreshments. After some time Pete and I head back to our house to grill some striper (with modified pear lime salsa), discuss life, then we head to Plymouth to see what that is all about; and discuss life further. We watch and listen to odd cover duos play 90s mullet rock at one venue and breath in Marlboro smoke from the young women who stare at their men’s tattoos. Throughout these distractions we attempt to catch up after years of not really seeing each other much. He’s an adult now – and I work on learning to adjust to this, to treat him with the even level of respect he deserves. I wish he’d been an hour earlier to town – he’d have seen a good shit show of big fish.


Time moves forward to June 4th. Pete leaves for CT. I work on some science experiment stuff with colleagues in the AM, then out to the water. Too deep to drag up oysters very effectively so I head in for some water (dehydrated from my night out) and head back out to some of my favorite rips to fish.

First cast – a huge one. Biggest of the season so far. It peels out meters of line, I then make some progress on it, but then it loses the hook and swims freely away. This one was in the upper 30s for sure. Several more drifts and a few follows and swipes, but nothing worth mentioning.

To the next rip. First drift – nothing. Feeling frustrated I run the boat back around for another drift. First cast of the Meunier Special Sluggo along the margin of the rip results in a massive explosion and a hard fight. The fish is landed and my excitement is way up. On the next drift I am about to cast but first notice a quick eruption of fish in the rip, with one very large fish speeding through the breaking water at an extreme speed. I cast there and find seven or eight big stripers chasing my Meunier Special through the waves. Finally a big one lurches forth, its mouth wide open, and “Gschlurp” – fish on. This one goes deep and stays there for about five minutes. Finally landed in my net (need a bigger net).

Then about three more 30 inchers and a few smaller fish are taken (and released) at this rip and the former one.

Then I am back to work on oyster for a couple hours and then finally home. Frank T. notices me cleaning the fish in my yard, walks over and seems interested. I bring him a fillet and he offers me a glass of wine which I willingly drink. He and his friend Tad share fishing stories as he dresses the fish for the grill. I eventually leave and head home.

A nice couple of days.

Gut contents:

Monday's - 7 inch squid. Lots of them.
Tuesday's - A whole herring or pogie (see gruesome photo) and some green crabs.