Monday, August 25, 2008

Next Up: Joel Gets His Tuna (so do I)

I haven't had the time yet to gather my thoughts to write the next report. So keep checking in. I'll have the topwater tuna stories up in the next day or so. It was the nutz, in case you're wondering.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Media

Here are some additional low quality pictures and video from Saturday's trip (see report below).

Ah yes, back at the ramp for all to see.

This swivel-less snap gave up the ghost the second that Joel landed the corker in the boat. He had opened the fish's mouth and an assemblage of metal junk, including the hook, just fell out. Lucky.

A case of moral relativism:

Happy - Joel
Unhappy - Fish

All that fishing made us a little hungry. Joel took a bite of this poor, unhappy bunker then tossed it in the water for yet another keeper.


Some vid clips:

Monday, August 18, 2008

All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I don’t even know how to start this one. But here it goes, right to the point: Joel joined me on the water and landed his largest striper (or fish, for that matter) ever. Here’s how the story goes…

It had been a so-so summer for me and Joel in terms of fishing together. In previous years we would already have several days of wild fishing stories under our belts by mid-August. But this year was different. Partly due to our schedules and partly due to the marginal luck we had had so far. Early season outings were dampened by poor weather or mediocre tide conditions. Then there was that streak of bad luck due to having Dave Grossman on board to photograph us. Dave was worried that he’d become the banana in the boat, but that changed when finally I took him out to witness an orgy of keeper bass on the surface. Maybe Joel was the banana.

But anyway, a day finally surfaced free for both our schedules and I was happy about that. Joel and I have a blast fishing together. We tend to go all out and we often tend to do well. But most of all, it is fun to fish with Joel. I was telling him a few days ago that I was really looking forward to having a day on the water where we’d relive some of the best fishing times in the history of mankind. Seriously.

Five AM was the start at Mattakeesett and soon we were in the harbor, among a few other early risers, to snag a few pogies. I assumed Joel would be into getting right into some livelining – a fishing technique we rarely, if ever, attempted together. Usually we’re throwing specific topwater or swimming lures (many are custom designed by Joel) or we’re flyfishing. Baitfishing was something we both had ample experience doing, but not together. (We did do some awesome livelining in the Bahamas for barracuda, but that’s a story for the future archives, if I can write that). And really, we’re not purists in the sense of one fishing technique over the other. Basically, whatever is challenging and fun is the rule.

So in the harbor, in the low dingy light, we snagged about a dozen pogies (menhaden, aka bunker or “moss bunker”) and kept them alive in my baitwell (a black fish tote fed intermittently by 5-gal bucket). Then we cruised out to an area that I had only fished a few times with live pogies. The tide was dead low and the idea was to drift along the incoming in this area where large bass were known to hang out. On our way to set the drift we witnessed a guy hook into a large fish and our hopes shot up. I felt like we were definitely going to score some large fish this morning. And only ten minutes into our first drift we did get some action on the live pogies, but no hookups. After moving around a bit and getting nothing we decided to move on. I had other spots in my mental map and the tide conditions were now perfect.

I can’t use the name here, but we arrived at a named spot somewhere in the bay where I have had years of good fortune with big, and I mean big, bass. It was a regular spot for many people, at least the area around it attracted boats. Typically I would refrain from fishing there if others were around. So we did a few drifts there, along with another boat who seemed happy to be hooking up. My manners got in the way, however. I wouldn’t get into the honey hole while the other guy was there. This would be fine, usually, but this time I got a little pissed off because the other boat (a Grady cabin) decided to motor itself steady into the rip which posed a dilemma to those of us who don’t want to fuck things up for the other guy. Akin to anchoring, this guy kept his motor steady through the rip and most likely scared off lots of fish, and kept me away.

So off to another site we went, keeping the pogies alive with constant replenishments of water with the 5-gal. The next site was poor…full of mung and looking bare. Ugh. I really wanted this trip to be productive and Joel did too. We discussed the possibilities – just an hour into the flood, which is a tricky moment on the bay because the fish are in (or out) of new and interesting areas. So we just kept our focus on the rips. I decided on a specific place to set up for a while and it wasn’t too far off. An amazing sunrise with the prospect of some low clouds, mist, and rain which would be good to keep the fish up and the idiots away. We did see some idiots, by the way. Upon setting up on some nice drifts we were fairly frequently accosted by folks who figured that if they simply find a boat fishing then that is where the fucking fish are and just simply plop right up next to us, after a few hesitant 360s (because they don’t know what they’re doing) , and watch, and fish with the wrong tackle. But I won’t get started on all that.

Basically Joel and I ran this rip alone for quite some time and this is how it went:

Joel, with live pogie, got his bait hassled by big fish, then…caplumpt! Line went out and we were in business. It was a pretty long fight, I had no net, just Joel’s homemade bamboo short gaff. Joel brought the big fish up to the boat and so I gaffed the thing (nice and clean like) and it came up on board. Woah…wow…a nice one. We both literally couldn’t speak, talk, or really communicate because the laughing, rather – wheezing – was too thick to cut through. It taped out to 40 ½ inches and was just beautiful. “Wow, holy fucknuts daddio,” said Joel. “This is the first fish I’ve taken on live pogies!” Indeed, a beauty and it was, as Joel has exclaimed in previous situations, the fucknuts.

Joel’s next fish was a screamer. Took lots of line out and after some good fighting, the line parted and that was that. Joel figured it was a knot he left in the braided line that cut through itself (later we figured otherwise). And he was pretty pissed. He was almost as pissed as I was, having not had a good hookup yet. But I didn’t mind. This morning was one of those one-sided situations where one guy gets all the luck. That’s the way it goes.

So, to continue describing his amazing streak of fortune, Joel’s next fish was landed (due to my agile gaffing techniques) within 10 minutes of the previous breakoff. This one was also nice – 37”. He was on a roll.

So we ran up to the next drift and set up ourselves. Joel asked me about the dead pogies, whether to save them for the lobster pots or whatever. I said, “We should probably throw a chunk out there as we liveline and cast. “Sure thing, dadio.”

But what Joel ended up doing was totally intuitive and I understood exactly what he was up to. He began to filet a pogie. That’s right, filet a pogie. He only did one side, then removed as much of the bones as possible from the remaining one-sided frame. This rendered the poor thing as a floppy, bleeding lure which Joel tossed over into the deep eelgrass. And then in about 3 minutes the line was screaming and I reached for the bamboo gaff, as if I were a conditioned chimp.

This thing took so much line off of Joel’s reel that I actually asked if things were OK up there on the bow. “Daddio, I think you might want to motor up on this one a little bit.” Hmmn. So I did, then again, then again…we didn’t cover much ground, but allowed Joel to at least get 20 m of line in. Still lots to go. So in the end, the fish finally succumbed and showed itself to us. It was of an amazing size and I readied the gaff and after a few clumsy attempts, hooked the gill and brought him aboard.

Holy Fucknuts. This fish was absolutely huge. Upon its landing Joel and I just dropped everything and wheezed for a good five minutes…seriously, we couldn’t hold it in and had to simply laugh to exhaustion. This was to turn out to be Joel’s largest landing: a striper that measured out to 48.5 inches and weighed 41 lbs. Yar, indeed.

We went in and ate an early lunch with our morning coffee. Everything was out of synch, so after some tackle work we ended up out on the water again. This time on the dropping tide, Joel managed another 31 incher, as did I but on a sluggo. Then we moved to some active rips and went crazy with somersaulting stripers that averaged the mid-20s in length and this was really fun. We stayed out until a squall started throwing bolts our way and then made our way in.

Back in the driveway Alex M. and Jon N. showed up to share beer and fish and stories, and this made a great end of the day. Rain, lightning, and thunder accompanied our short happy hour. The day ended and I was onto the next world of dinner parties and family activities, leaving the moments of Joel’s amazing day in my memory.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Time for Dinner

Tuesday, August 5

With the weight of yesterday’s so-so afternoon of fishing with Ben and Kelly on my shoulders, and a major appetite for some fish for dinner, I departed with keen instincts matched to catch and not to release (legally of course). I meant business this time.

The afternoon started with a bang. I found a couple of schools of menhaden and easily snagged enough for the trip and kept them going in my makeshift livewell. Then off to my favorite big fish rip. The plan was simple: liveline a menhaden off of one end of the boat and strategically cast surface lures off the other. It worked. Within a few minutes I had a striper on the liveline, but also one on the other line. A dilemma. The livelined bass seemed to be okay as I quickly unhooked a 25” striper off my Sluggo and didn’t appear to be going anywhere fast. But then when I finally got around to applying pressure on that line he woke up and screamed the line off the reel through the strong currents. It was a beautiful scene with eelgrass below and broken sunlight nearing sunset. The fish fought for some time and I had to be careful not to cause a commotion as the drift brought me closer to the other boats that had unintentionally, and mistakenly, lined up to fish on the wrong side. He was brought in, and although I didn’t need to measure him I did and he was 32” and quite healthy. The last third of the menhaden was hanging out of his mouth for a few moments which brought on a short-lived feeling of guilt for the situations of both of these fine fish. But they’re fish, not humans. And after all, I was just as hungry as that bass.

The second keeper came on the next drift on one of Joel’s double-rigged white Sluggos. This one was smaller but respectable (29”). I bled them both under the stern using a length of black nylon line with a leash clip on one end that Jon Nash gave me last month. And then they were in the boat and I was off to my next couple of spots as the area was getting crowded and I didn’t want to give the right spot(s) away.

The evening continued on the upside. Another dozen or so fish in the mid/upper 20s. They were very active and engaged both Sluggo and homemade poppers. Then the phone rang to remind me of my promise to be home at a certain time and that was it.

The photos here are pretty awful in terms of quality and I apologize for that. They were taken with my all-weather/condition cell phone which has been in the saltwater and mud for a few months now. I’ll replace my old camera soon....It costs about as much as a guided trip out to the rips with me.

Welcome Back

Monday, August 4 This story is going to be unfairly short because I am short on time tonight. Ben and Kelly are my old friends from several years ago. They just returned from 2 ½ years in the Peace Corps in Honduras and they were swinging by for a couple days. Ben and I worked together in Boston and Cambridge in our former lives as environmental science consultants. Kelly also worked for the company out in Chicago. And somehow they met and got married and joined the Peace Corps. I was already married at the time but rather than do something as noble as moving to Honduras to build public drinking water systems, I continued on with consulting until I grew corns on my ass and ears and had to bail.

Today we started out planting hard clam seed on my farm and showed Ben and Kelly the whole oyster routine. After lunch (which was really breakfast) we decided to fish. Ben and I fished many times in the past while working in Boston. We used to head up to Emerson Rocks on Plum Island, the Cape, and even the Bahamas (all these trips usually included Joel M.). Ben hadn’t fished in 2 ½ years so we had to do something about that.

We started out down the bay and when I noticed some menhaden schooled up in front of us I decided to snag a few in case we’d live line. It was midday, sunny, and high tide; poor conditions for fishing. Live lining might be the best bet for Ben to hook into a larger bass. But he was first happy to hook into a live pogie which, at first, he thought was a clump of weeds. Yay, a pogie! First fish in ages. No teeth with gaping wound in its side. I’m kidding around, naturally.

We set up the pogie at a couple of rips and Ben was into this. He had several hits but the fish weren’t big enough to swallow the thing. Kelly and I casted out Sluggos and soon we had some explosions but no hookups. Ben also threw out Sluggos and had several follows and hits, but they all missed the hooks. Eventually I landed one at about 22” and that got the skunk off of the boat. The live lining continued to get our hopes up, but nothing too big was around this afternoon.

Then a squall came in and it rained. We were getting a little damp and cold when suddenly Kelly said, “Oh no, I am snagged on something.” I thought it was the lobster pot right next to the boat and I got ready to start the engine to get over to the buoy. She pulled and swatted the rod around like anyone would to release a tangle. But then we saw the flash: she had a fish on, momentarily, and she managed to untangle her Sluggo from the fish’s mouth! This was funny and we all bent over to laugh it out.

But a couple more drifts didn’t amount to much and the area started to get crowded with idiots. So we went in. Ben and Kelly had dinner plans in Boston and had to get moving. More will be written, perhaps not on this specific trip (there’s not much more to tell). But of other stories.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Bank

I ventured out with my friend Brian on his zippin' boat last Saturday. We were heading out for some bluefin. I was tired. I mean really tired and out of it. I met Brian, as planned, at 4:30 down on the dock. We geared up and off we went to catch some live bait, then across Cape Cod Bay to the banks.

But I was out of it.

We did manage to get some menhaden into the livewell with only a couple of jarring moments (one confrontation with a sore fellow fisherman). The bay, however, was calm and balmy. It was going to be a great day, I thought to myself.

We managed to get across to our destination in record time, maybe a half hour. Brian's boat is pretty slick. It moves and it slices and it is truly an amazing boat to fish from. I should get one like his.

On the bank we encountered at least 30 other boats with the same idea that we had. We were both hoping for surface action and had our eyes peeled well. This didn't occur at all, nor did the trolling of live bait do much except for a very nice offshore striper which had to be returned alive (due to federal rules). So no tuna today.

But ah, the whales were just amazing. There were so many humpbacks out there and they were putting on the show. Sand eels were everywhere and the whales were feeding verociously. In between feedings they waved to us and hung out on the surface presumably to socialize with one another. Real cool stuff.

So, when you head out for the footballs and skunk you really don't skunk. This is because almost every trip out to the bank produces a meaningful, fulfilling experience. I was tired and out of it, but inside I was alive and into it.