Friday, June 30, 2006

Of Stripers And Clams

I took Friday off from work because I needed to. And I followed my plan. Fished the early morning and clammed the mid-morning. The fishing was great -- same place as last few days, some large fish, but none to take home. Great to be out alone with no immediate plans or expectations. After the fishing died down I motored to an area of the coast where I knew the steamers would be plentiful. And they were: 32 lbs in just under 2 hours. And I was loafing it for the most part. I ended up seeing several baymen on the water on the way in; a chance to see and experience a typical day of working on the water. I was able to sell my clams in short order ($2/lb, not bad), make it to my chiropractor appointment, then to my son's last day of basketball camp where I got to see the end of the final game.

A beauty of a day: Sunny, warm (mid-80s), and stiff SW breeze.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dude, It's Moving The Boat

Yesterday’s afternoon email:

Are we still on for tomorrow AM ... Or is the weather not going to cooperate?I'm flying in from Atlanta. Shoot me an email and I'll get it when I land


Despite my inability to recollect such plans (they must have been made at the Beach Party last weekend), I was game to head out again this morning if the weather agreed. It did, so we went out.

We were on the water at 4:30 and this morning was much darker than yesterday due to the heavy cloud cover and appreciable fog that hung over the area. As I waited for Don to arrive at the boat a man in a white t-shirt emerged from behind a rock jetty and approached me. It was a guy named John Bunar who is a local fishing guide. He needed a ride out to his boat as the marina pram was missing. So, we all made our introductions, swatted some big league mosquitoes, and were soon underway on the bay. John said he’d drop us some pogies if we happen to run into one another out on the bay – but this never happened.

It was misty and dark and I thought for sure it would rain. Don was worried about this and exclaimed that he should have brought a rain coat. Yes. But it held off and conditions were just about perfect for fishing this morning. I had decided that the same line of attack as yesterday would be the most prudent and logical thing to do. Our first drift over the rip and Don was onto a small striper almost immediately. Then a few more – all shorts. I worried that the big fish from yesterday were long gone but I needed to confirm this by heading up to Spot #2 which was not too far away. We drifted right through this area and did not hook one fish. Hmmmn. So, we ran back to the original area where our luck incrementally and steadily increased. The fish were getting larger every cast.

Soon I was wondering how Spot #2 would be now that larger fish were showing up. We found out: they were there big time. Just about every time we drifted through the sweet spot we were hooking big stripers. I finally landed a keeper (29”) and soon after Don’s popper was engulfed by white water and whatever it was just about spooled his reel. He fought the fish for about 2 or 3 minutes, then it let go. He was pissed. It must have been a fish in the range of 35 to 40 inches long. Nothing like seeing happiness turn to dismay.

We continued for some time and eventually the ebbing plume of Back River water ran over the banks, bringing with it loads of eelgrass and murkiness. This rapidly put the fish down and so, with one final cast, we agreed to head in.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Early Morning Pays Off On Solo Outing – Big Fish Are Back

Last night I made a solemn promise that I would hoist my arse out of bed at 4:30. The past few mornings have been difficult to rise early, and my expectations were only 50/50, even though I made that solemn promise. But I did it and was actually on the water by 4:35.

The morning was absolutely beautiful: calm, glassy surface, awesome sunrise, and mild. The tide was ebbing with about 3 hours to go to a minus low, which means that the currents would be decent. No coffee, empty stomach, still half asleep – I ventured out with low expectations.

I noticed Dave Bitters out ahead of me by 3 minutes (Doh!). He rushed out to the same spot I was hoping to check out first (Doh!). But luckily, my 6th sense honed in on some birds along the way and I was soon alone with a mess of stripers and blues all to myself. The Saquish Rip is either on fire or completely empty, in my experience. It is also somewhat difficult on spring tides due to the high density of weed that funnels through the area. It is relatively shallow, with thick eelgrass (Zostera marina) that reaches up from the benthos which can foul deep swimming lures quite easily. This morning it was pretty much on fire. My first cast was a 26” bass with a full belly. What fun. I ran a few drifts over the rip, not far from Bug Light, and continued to hook bass after bass on both white surface poppers and a blue Yo-Zuri swimmer. What fun.

Soon D. Bitters made his way over to Saquish and I noticed several hookups by his clients. I continued running and drifting, hooking at least one bass each time. I also landed a small bluefish, which made me quite happy, and I kept him, thinking of him as breakfast (with eggs) if time permitted. Then I broke out the fly rod, a new acquisition that had only seen a few days of action this season. First cast – ZURP! - nice one on the end. What fun.

After a little bit I decided to run up-current to a spot where I had hooked huge bass last year (see Labor Day weekend report from 2005…when I post it). Again, all to myself and over the infamous rip that gave me a 45”er and a bunch of same size classed beauties on the fly last summer, and, until now, had not produced one fish this year. First cast --- CRUINK! About 5 large fish attacked my custom made Meunier surface plug; they were going totally ballistic (out of water). The first one landed measured 27.5”. The second, 27.5”. The third, fourth, and fifth – all 27.5”. There were larger ones in there – I could see them and I also lost a few of them – but I couldn’t manage to land any (Note-to-self: change hooks tonight). What fun. Oh shit, my cell phone is dead and therefore, I have no idea what time it is….hmmn, a few more drifts, a few more fish….hmmmn….crap, I wonder what time it is… the action has made me completely oblivious to time…I’d better get in.

Got home just in time to avoid conflict.

A series of storms are now moving in on the SW horizon as I write this up. The wind has picked up significantly. I hope tomorrow is as good.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Sea Bass

This guy was in one of my lobster pots yesterday. A black sea bass. I tossed him back in the water.

The End.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Misty Calm

At last, a few hours of free time on Sunday afternoon. The weather was calm, mild, and damp. Rain and mist. The water, silver. Not many boats out on the water so I decided to attempt to hook some shad and attempt to live line in the channels. The shad, however, were not biting and only came across some menhaden. Rather than rigging up the bunker snagger (something that is less and less appealing to me over the years) I figured that topwater fishing the shoals and eelgrass meadows would be the most fun.

But first I thought to check and bait my lobster pots, and I am glad I did. The first pot was empty except for a couple of spider crabs. I baited with frozen mackerel and moved on to the next one. Finally, two legal sized lobsters! (The most expensive lobsters in the bay!!). The other two pots were empty. But I was quite happy and moved on to fishing.

The Cow Yard produced a few fish along a well-defined tidal rip. An absolutely beautiful scene of water rushing over subtidal sand dunes. These fish were small but energetic. Next I drifed along the Nummet area and only had one follow. One boat was anchored in the rip which made it difficult to stay and investigate further. So I headed south a quarter mile to the Plymouth Harbor entrance where tidal energy was readily visible and the water gin-clear. A few drifts over the patchy eelgrass/sandy bottom produced about 8 fish, no size to speak of. But much fun. My last stop was near Cordage where I noticed a dozen terns diving in very skinny water. I nudged into the line between sand and grass...about 6 to 10 inches of water, and man, hooked one striper on a surface plug that went ballistic: straight up about 3 feet. Again, the scenery was absolutely amazing.

The dampness began to attack my cell phone (it was rendering odd R2D2 noises) which reminded me of the time in this timeless day. I headed in.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Ellis The Rim Man

Today I wore my "Ellis The Rim Man" T-shirt. I wore it to work, and to a semi-business meeting down on the Cape. I like the shirt because it is comfortable. But mainly I like it because it is one of a kind. Ellis The Rim Man was an automotive store on the Allston-Boston line, on Commonwealth Avenue until recently (I have no idea when the place folded....2002?). I lived, for a year, about three blocks from Ellis and walked, biked, or T'ed my way by the store daily. And through subsequent years I would note the huge red sign, with white block lettering, stating the exact position of Ellis The Rim Man. The ginormous sign up ontop of the building was also noteworthy...ELLIS THE RIM MAN!!!

So I wore my ETRM shirt today (an old birthday present from a former brother-in-law) and found distinct pleasure in seeing various faces light up throughout the day in response to it. First it was Corey, who I work with, who gave me that warm face that said: "Ah yes, Ellis the Rim Man....the good ol' days in Allston." Then there was Bill at my meeting on the Cape...he thoroughly enjoyed the shirt and we both went on about our youthful days in Boston and the BU neighborhoods. Then later my fiend Jason who gazed warmly at the shirt. All gazers stated that Ellis was out of business and that the shirt is certainly a collector's item. But I doubt anyone would want my shirt now.

Anyway, so what's this got to do with fishing, you ask. Well, nothing really, except that the shirt experienced my evening on the water, that's all:

Tonight was a mixed bag of weather: threatening black clouds and drops of rain. I ran into Don Gunster behind the Battelle laboratory and we both decided it would be better thinking and talking out on my boat rather than among the mosquitoes and gnats on shore. So we went out and first checked our lobster pots (to find only spider crabs, again, and one lonely little black seabass..which I almost kept for dinner). But, alas, Don received the telephone call that would dictate his immediate future. He had 20 minutes to get home (really, quite understandably) and so our trip was somewhat truncated.

But I was relatively free tonight and dropped off Don on the dock and continued my evening on the water. Seth and his friend (?) were fishing off the dock - Seth is the son of Ted, who works at Battelle. The two boys are out there every night fishing and the scene that they create make me remember my childhood in Westport, CT. I was usually out on the rocks and mud and sand trying to catch blues and stripers, or whatever was around, most days after school and throughout the summer. These two kids on the dock were displays of my past.

My plan was to attempt to hook some hickory shad (see last night's post) and do some liveling out at the dogleg for big stripers. I set up some drifts along the shore. It was mid tide, an incoming tide, and the wind also shifted to the south, so that my drift was fairly consistent along the western shore of the bay. I put a small, white fly on my new flyrod and soon I was hooking things. My first fish was a small blue, only 14 inches long, if that. But I kept it in my live well because I thought about livelining him. Then a striper, about 15 inches long, then another striper about 8 inches long....nothing too interesting, I know. But then the elusive hickory shad, I actually saw it take the fly right next to the boat. While I struggled to taylor my fly line it loosened its hold and was free. "Fuckin'....Ugh..." I said out loud. The shad would have been the cherry on the cake. I like the idea of hooking shad in saltwater. They are amazing fish, and apparently amazing bait fish for big stripers. So, after one more striper I docked the boat, spoke to the kids for a bit (they were too focused on their fishing to pay much attention to my fishing stories), and packed up.

The thing is, is that tonight was simply fooling around along the banks of the bay, catching small fish. The blue, which I kept, was my trophy of the night. I fileted him right on the kitchen cutting board (no one else was home) and fried the filets in olive oil, butter, and red onions (along with mushrooms and brocolli). Man, was that tasty - probably the best bluefish I've had in 30 years. But the point, again, is that just tooling around the marsh, among the mosquitoes and gnats, I found a real identifiable connection to a long lost youthful period in my life. I was mucking around and hooking little fish - not concerned with "keepers" or "corkers" or whatever the fuck people call them. Just plain fun.

Now, how Ellis The Rim Man fits into this story, I don't really know. But Ellis was on my mind all day and I just had to get it out.

The Best Time Getting Skunked

I was late getting out last evening and only had about an hour's time to spend on the bay. My thoughts were that the blues would be around and so I decided upon a few spots where I've found them in the past and set out for the boat. But at the dock was Dave Sullivan and his son, Ben. They were just returning with a nice bass. They'd been chunking not far off and said the action was so hot that they ran out of bait. Dave was running up to get more frozen mackerel and implored me to join up with them in a little bit. So, I decided to check my lobster pots, look for a few blues, and then see if Dave would be in his spot.

No lobsters, no blues -- nothing. The SW wind was firm enough to stir the bottom a bit on this incoming tide. Conditions were not good for the head of the bay. I joined up with Dave and Ben. He was smiling: Seth (a boy back at the dock) had given them a live hickory shad which he had jigged up off the marshes. Ben put the shad on a hook and dropped it over. And as Dave and I fumbled mackerel over from his boat to mine, the shad performed and really, within one minute, the Sullivan chunk stick was screaming. Reeeeeeeereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnggg!

A thirty-six incher with half the shad hanging out of its mouth. They were quite happy as they had entered into a local evening tournament and sure to win now. The shad was still alive and went back out on the hook. But after a few minutes, the Sullivans stated that they had to head in and asked if I wanted the shad (my mackerel chunks were just attracting crabs on the bottom). "Sure," I said.

I put the shad on my hook, and......nothing happened. The sun set and I pulled up anchor and motored in. The headline we were hoping for was:

Two Boats, One Shad, and Two Keeper Bass

But it was not to be.

Ben Sullivan holding his 36" Striper (photo by D. Bitters)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

June 20, 2006

My proposal "red team" meeting lapsed through until 5:37. I was pissed off at this - particularly since I felt it was only marginally productive. The room was also hot and smelly and the conferenced call was annoyingly fuzzed.

So, when it was over I sternly marched up to my office, turned off the computer, and glided to my truck which was waiting ambitiously in the parking lot. A quick return home to get my gear, and then back to the dock at my workplace to meet Don MacCauley for some stormy fishing.

That's right - stormy...but not really. A thunder storm had just passed through, but another line of dark clouds decended upon us. But the water was glassy and dark silver, and we weren't all that worried. Also, our wives had really sent us out to harvest a large striper or two for a communal gathering tomorrow night.

First we checked my lobster pots...four of them. Nothing but spider crabs. But Don was into this -- pulling up to the bouys and yanking up the iron-meshed traps. We also spotted some large baitfish near the pots. These were most likely moss bunker (menhaden), or more locally known as "pogies". I call them bunker as we did back in Connecticut (on Long Island Sound). My dad called them Moss Bunker. Interesting. Anyway, we were unable to snag any of these bunker as they were quite spooky. My idea was to collect a couple, keep them in a bucket of seawater, and then liveline them out at the Nummet for the two big bass that would feed us at tomorrow's party. But no dice.

So, we decided to check out the bay for fish. We came upon one school of small bass immediately. A few drifts along this channel's edge produced about 4 for me and 1 for Don. (I rubbed this fact into him - must keep things amusing). Then we headed over to another spot between Clarke's Island and the Bug Light, and this produced a few more fish...I think Don caught up to me here...maybe 7 to 5 or something like that.

Then the tide slacked (high) and I knew the place to go to. Once there we had some nice action. About 4 or 5 fish, catching back up to Don for a final tally of 10 to 10 -- a tie. Finally, the wind picked up on the Plymouth side and white caps were forming. We cracked a beer and slowly cruised back to the Nummet for a few casts (nothing). Then, after refueling, we sped along the Miles Standish shoreline to the harbor. The sky was mixed with haze, clouds and a pink sunset. Beautiful.

Back at the dock we sported after some micro bass which were busting under some silversides. I finally caught one on a fly (attached to my spin gear). We would have remained there for hours, like kids, but the mosquitoes were horrendous and I knew it was best to head home.

All for today.


Monday, June 19, 2006

June 18, 2006

Checked the pots: spider crabs.

Checked for fish: one short along the beach channel/High Pines.

Hot and decent SW wind. Amazing day.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

June 15, 2006

Wind and Pelting Rain Make for Tight Lines and Broken Knots

Matt and I made the pact to meet at 4:30, and we followed through. However, when I awoke at 4:00 I wasn't sure whether it was due to the alarm clock or the wind in the trees above. The rain doesn't bother me much, but hearing wind in the sixty-five foot oak trees in my neighborhood means one of two things: if its coming from the south then we're in for some chop at the landing, but if it is from the north or east, and I can hear it, then it's more like a storm and the bay would be rolling bad. I didn't know which direction (dark out there) until I checked the NOAA internet site which told me: north. And heavy rain on the way.


But it was too late to cry and wine. I dutifully donned my clothing and jumped into the truck (pre-packed last night) and headed for the boat. Fog billowed from the sky and ominously cloaked Hall's Corner and immediately I realized that I would be very wet, very soon.

Getting underway was fairly smooth, as we were protected from much of the wind. But when we rounded Goose Point we took a pounding. Wind was blowing 15 to 20 kts from the NNE and the waves were crashing over the bow every ten seconds. I assured Matt that the ride would be short, that the place I had in mind was just ahead. And it was.

The Nummet was a tossed up scene and the tidal rip which characterizes this spot was not to be noticed due to the heavy seas. We tested a short drift or two to determine where we should begin each drift (you see, one must be cunning in this sport, after all) and within five minutes we had fish on. Each of us lost our first hookup within one minute of another. Then a couple casts later, we each had one on again -- perfect symmetry.

We continued the drifts, which were quick due to the wind and current. The rain really took off and soon we were completely (and I mean completely with a capital C) drenched. My old Gore-Tex gave up the ghost and let the water right in. But the fishing was excellent. These fish were going after Matt's white popper like those young women you see at wedding gown sales at Filene's Basement. They were ballistic, most of them, and this brought a big smile to Matt. Even though wet, cold, and the skin on our hands resembling wet cardboard, the energy and fight in these fish was amazing. The take of the day was Matt's 34" bass, and after landing that sucker, Matt managed to ignite a cigarette (in pelting rain and 25 mph wind). But this fish would have been lost had Matt not previously snapped his line off at a knot, which he then repaired. Prized white popper was free in surf - and we managed to find it!

We were joined by a green boat out of Plymouth with three guys fishing. The skipper was presumabely a guide as he did more at the helm than on the rod. They decided to keep their craft at idle speed on top of the rip, which annoyed me slightly, but they're entitled to do so.

At 6:30 we called it quits and motored in. The rain stung my face and this made me contort it into unnatural forms. I am glad Matt didn't notice.

June 13, 2006

Flat calm. Everything was perfect today and I faced the dawn's first light alone on the bay. By 4:45 I was heading out of Howland's and off to the Nummet area. Ebb tide, moving fast. Fish were surfacing all around - not tons, but enough to let me know that they were there. First cast = first fish, a relatively small, but vigorous striper.

I had about 45 minutes of fishing time out there all to myself. And in this time period I must have landed fifteen stripers, all between 20 and 27". I had several large fish on the line at times, but lost every one due to poor sets. These fish, however, were going ballistic - coming fully out of the water, arching smoothly, and reentering like olympic divers. Sometimes they would take the plug on the way down!

After my stint of solitude I was joined by Dave Bitters and another boat run by one of his colleaques (Mark, I think). We all took turns drifting down the Nummet, over the rip, and hooking up. I continued on longer drifts; beginning way back (upstream) where I was hooking many fish, but the other guys focused only on the immediate area of the rip which resulted in more drive time and less fishing time.

I called it quits when the red Lund showed up and drove over the prime fishing area -- over and over. But overall, one of the finest mornings on the water this year. 25 fish in all.

Friday, June 02, 2006

June 11, 2006

Crazy day. Max, my son, celebrated his 9th birthday with friends at an indoor field house: flag football, pizza, and all that jazz. But today was the first real nice day in over a week as we had white puffy clouds and dry summer air blowing from the west. It was good to see the sun again.

So, I had to go fishing.

Alex Mansfield and I hit the water around 4:00 on a dropping tide (low at 5:54). The Nummet rip was quite energetic so we stopped there, a few drifts, then on anchor, and hooked a healthy number of 25" bass. Then to the lobster pots which surprisingly yeilded nothing except for spider crabs and one, small black seabass.

Anyway, putting kids to bed now and wishing weekends were longer.


June 8

Tonight I have decided to write about today only (even though I have lots of days to catch up on here, which will happen soon I hope). There are no photos to share, unfortunately, but perhaps my descriptions will suffice for now.

To begin, I was a bit hung over from the start. And this surprised me. I had attended two town committee meetings last night, then joined some of my fellow members at "the Library" where a couple too many MGDCs and guitar playing on an empty stomach may have gone a slight bit too far. I had hit the sack last night believing that I'd be up at 4:30 to meet Don Gunster along the shore to take my boat out for some early morning fishing. I was determined. But when I awoke, obviously late, at 6:00, I nearly jumped out of my skin and drowned in guilt. But soon I surrendered to the reality that I had unfortunately Borgarted poor Don's morning...and turned over to sleep another hour.

The day at work pretty much sucked. I was bent out of shape and it rained most of the day. My head hurt a little...only enough to annoy me the slightest bit. And I've come to realize that I don't enjoy my job nor much of my surroundings there. Depressed yet energetic to do something more, I felt that the afternoon would be a good time to cut out and hit the water. Don agreed, via telephone to the next building, and soon a plan was concieved.

By 3:00 I was on the road to the house to gather my gear and to fill the jerry can at the gas-n-sip at Hall's Corner. Off to the boat, and it felt so good to be free of everything. I had been clever enough to grab a sack of frozen mackerel from my garage freezer (specifically purchased to house fish and related products) for the lobster pots that I had not checked in almost a week.

The water was silver. Everything was silver and gray. Dark, ominous clouds skirted up from the southeast. The wind, initially east, was going all over the place. From a stiff breeze to calm, I felt odd and aprehensive as I navigated the boat eastward to the middle of the bay. Some good sized swells slowed me down as I approached an area called the Nummet...and I worrried more...or was it the edge of my hangover?

Don phoned me several times as I neared Two Rock anchorage where our lobster pots sat. He was attempting to get a business proposal out the door, late on Friday afternoon, and promised to be available for pickup soon. So I checked my pots: no fucking lobsters (again), but lots of rock crabs, and good sized ones too. I decided to keep the larger ones which amounted to about a dozen or so. I baited the pots and moved them to deeper waters among the mooring field. Then the phone rang and Don was ready for pickup at Matakeesett, the town landing.

The rain was coming down by the time I arrived and the wind too, was picking up and messing things up. Don added that some guy on shore was warning him that a major storm was brewing, that we'd be idiots for heading out on the bay. But we felt that we knew the waters and the conditions and moved on; plus, the worry wart was of questionable intelligence.

After removing only crabs from Don's pots we headed out to the mid bay area where fishing would presumably be better. A few drifts between Clarke's Island and the Bug Light yielded 3 for me and 2 for Don, although he "Gunstered" both fish which means, in essense, that he overreacted at the first sign of a bite and yanked the fucking lure out of the fish's mouth, hopefully not removing the entire jaw area. But then, on my fourth fish, I sent the Yo-zuri sailing back toward the craft (airborn), narrowly missing Don's face, and causing a severe, incapacitating laughing fit -- a good one.

So, we continued through the silver scene to a couple more spots. We picked up several small stripers along a nice ledge near Plymouth Harbor and drank a couple of beers as we drifted and told stories. We complained about work, which I am admittedly embarassed to write about, but it is true: I don't like my job right now. So, it was fun to complain, actually, and we narrowed our targets to deserving victims, and it felt good to vent and laugh. In the end, however, we sighed, unhooked a few fish, and realized how fucking lucky we were to be out on this bay, on a silver day, with no one else around. Really though, we are lucky, I am lucky, and I appreciate the time I can spend doing this.

We were wet, sipping down some Bass Ales, and headed into shore. The horrific wind had died and we landed peacefully along the shore and loaded up my truck with our gear, and a pail full of crabs. When I arrived home I pryed open a few oysters that my friend Skip had given me, steamed the crabs, and fried up a nice striper filet (in olive oil, butter, herbs, and paprika) from a couple days back (also some greens and mushrooms). I turned up some radio jazz and sipped some red wine. A nice night in all. Better than work, but I will need to face the job on Monday.

And that's my job for now.