Thursday, August 31, 2006

North Winds and a Change of Scenery

I met Eric Poreda at the Dunkin Donuts up the street at 5:05 this morning. The doors were still closed and there was a line: all fishermen waiting for some coffee to get their gears grinding. Among those present was Dave Bitters, who had nice things to say and reported that he felt the fish would be back in Kingston Bay this morning. By 5:15 we had our coffees and such and within minutes Eric and I were the first ones out on the dark, choppy water. Still dark.

We rode out to my beloved area where the cows were hanging over previous days. We managed 3 drifts before I told Eric that if they were there then we'd know it. So, on to the rip right along Saquish. It looked perfect, but it produced nothing. There was definitely a bit of a change with this 15 knot northerly.


"Well," I said. "Let's do what the man said and try Kingston Bay. It will definitely be calm back in there." Eric agreed (he would have agreed to any proposed location) and off we were towards flatter waters.

And they were there. Small bass with perhaps a few big ones mixed in. They were numerous, but difficult to coax. We switched from our surface plugs to rubber shads and minnows and this allowed us to hook about 10 fish each over the 45 minutes we spent there. Soon Bitters was there, the schools spanning most of the bay, and by 6:45, and boating a nice bluefish, we were on our way back towards Duxbury. Another stop at the P32 area to confirm that there were no fish available there today.

We did see some schools of fish up in the beach channel, near the bridge, but I had to get to work. It turned out that our friend, Don MacCauley, was there hooking small bass. He took his daughters out and one of them caught a 21" fluke. Later that night I was asked to stop by Don's house to instruct fluke fileting styles.

Off the water until Friday or Saturday. Storm (Ernesto) on the way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Man Loses Only Keeper to Spasm and Nerves

Well, tonight I returned to P32. It was dark, rainy, and windy. I liked it.

But the fish were not as plentiful tonight. I felt it may have been the tides; they are moving forward and going neap. But nonetheless I headed straight out there on limited fuel, hoping to repeat another cow day.

First drift: nothing.

Second drift: two explosions after my Yo-Zuri plug.

Third drift: nothing.

...hmmm, what's going on here?

Fourth drift: Pop. Bang. Slurp....but my plug was yet to be consumed. Then, at the very end of the retrieve, where I simply raise the tip of the rod to keep the plug moving......BAM....BAM! And this amazing fish was on just inches from the boat. But this was a retarded situation: the fish was trying its best to dive deep, but my line was taught and high. So it couldn't dive and, in fact, half its body was above the plane of the water and that tail was going wild. ..for about 10 seconds. The bottom line is that the fish went ballistic and I got wet as a result. I almost netted the thing right there in mid-tantrum, but I wasn't thinking quickly enough.

The fish ran for some time. It was a nice one, about 34 inches and 20 lbs. It ran and ran, and I finally gained ground on him. I got him right up to the boat and pulled out the net.

First try: not close enough.

Second attempt with net: Oooh, just about in, but he slid out..some wave or something.

Third try: he's in, but as I spastically change hands with the net he slides out.

(the fish is exhausted, mind you)

Fourth attempt: fish just about in, but some fumbling and hesitation on my part gives fish opportunity for one last shake...and releases himself from the hooks.

He then swam over the net and downward towards safety.

Good for him!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Cho's Red-Headed Dick Minnow: RIP

It happened. I lost the dick-minnow. But not after hooking and landing a very nice 33" striper (which came home with me). I was back at P32 for a second day and man, was it hot. Fish after fish attacked the fabled lure. The keeper that I landed was hooked just like yesterday's: in the right corner of the jaw, by just one measily hook out of three, but solid. The action tonight was just amazing.

My last cast of my favorite lure experienced an enormous striper...had to be at least 45".. that totally exploded on top. The weight of the fish was amazing. I didn't even pull very hard, but the fish did the rest. One swift turn of its body and the line snapped just above my heavy mono leader. My line had been worn thin from all of the P32 fish and I really should have replaced it. The lure that I helped my friend Joel make in his basement last February was finally gone. This lure was simply amazing. The action was this random, splashy, side-to-side, and rarely diving action. The bass and blues went completely nuts over this thing. Several times it was this lure that produced when others didn't.

I was sad, but I knew it was inevitable. I had thought about retiring the thing after yesterday. But that seemed stupid, because it was the lure that hooked the fish, and I wanted to hook more fish. So, like several of its earlier forms, it vanished.

At last report, Joel is already forming some replacements.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

P32 Part II

Sunday PM

The rain was light but steady and when Ned called me up I was just lying down on the couch and taking in a Turner Classic Movie; something I seldom have time to do during the day. But Ned was in need and the need was to get his boat off of our mooring and to his trailer so he could get the gum out. His engine was gummed up, most likely due to the recent ethanol additive to our fuel.

After two or three mishaps I managed to get my boat underway and over to Howlands and then to the boat on the Nook mooring. We towed it over to the ramp, got it up onto the trailer, and then, awkwardly, I left. We both noticed the massive build up of birds over Kingston Bay. I told Ned, "Can you manage a half hour on those fish..and maybe back at my spot?" But he sadly replied, "Nah, I'd better get to my next job...have to do an estimate."

Ned works all the time. He teaches in Cambridge (high school history) during the school season and also doubles up throughout the year at carpentry, painting, building, ... and all that is related. He works his ass off. He is admired, however, by all who know him and makes us all look like lazyasses (particularly me!). This is a noble man living a noble life (hopefully his wife is not reading this). But the problem with all of this is that he fishes. His dad is a fishing guide and Ned is glued to the water most of the time. Well, as we all know, fishing and work do not mix very well, and in Ned's case it is pretty bad. I really wanted him to join me out there after pulling his poor boat...but I knew, very deep inside, that such an antic would not go unnoticed and that the remainder of the season would then be vulnerable to scourge. So, after about a two-second discussion on the matter, I left Ned on shore with little argument and headed south to the fish.

I didn't expect much. Lots of birds, a single boat that gave up and left, and knowing that the cows were most likely further out. But when I arrived at the relatively large school of rolling fish I soon caught on and realized that these were, for the most part, very large indeed. First cast and I had a whopper. He stripped out tons of line, then he shook the hook. "Man!" But then within about 5 casts I had one on firm. He fought well, taking line, giving in, taking line...then kapoot, just like bass are. He measured 28" on the nose and was soon released. Then another massive fish. Tails in the air, slapping the calm water, and such. He spit the hook and my hopes were dashed.

Then a blue. A hard fighter. Lost him at the boat.

I just couldn't resist heading back to P32 and when I arrived the features that I have come to recognize were just emerging. I set up a drift, well above the sweet spot, and prepared the Cho Cherry Popper (CCP). First cast and the line was screaming at high pitch. This thing raced about 40 meters of line off my reel, and then mysteriously, it was gone. I retrieved CCP and began again and found nothing. The next drift was similar: first cast screamer...near the boat, and off.

This happened about 3 times and then I decided to head home.

Several keeper-sized fish on one Sunday. It is rarely better than this.


Sunday, 9/27

Finally, a tale of good planning.

On and around Labor Day last year I began to notice something important. That one specific area of the bay held very large, aggressive striped bass under certain conditions. This area had produced several fish in the upper-30s to mid-40s range (inches) last year, and the interesting thing was that the birds didn’t give it away; they didn’t seem to notice. I keyed in this spot on my GPS unit (randomly assigned as point 32, or “P32”) and one day last month I decided to study the tide charts and attempt to predict when P32 would be most productive. It would require a certain tidal stage (elevation) and time of day. The current had to be right and cumulative daily boat traffic at a minimum. So I took out my calendar and marked the necessary mornings. Yesterday was one such date.

I had stayed out in Chatham with my family on Saturday night and, therefore, had to rise at 4:00 to get home in time to fish. This I did, and by 5:30 I was speeding out to P32 with two spinning rods that were stealthily fitted with only the best surface lures known to mankind: Joel Meunier’s red-headed dick minnow, otherwise known as the Cherry Popper. As I approached P32 I feared that both boats that had departed the harbor just ahead of me were going to land there first, that maybe I wasn’t the only guy around who thought he knew this spot. My fears seemed credible as I neared the vicinity; both boats looked like they were right there at P32! But as I gained ground it became clear that although they were close, there still was a considerable buffer to work within. It was still quite dark, but as I neared my spot I cut the lights to be less conspicuous as sometimes fishermen, particularly weekenders, will simply motor right up to where one is fishing to cash in on the action.

My drift was right on. I cut the engine. First cast: weed, and lots of it. Second cast: more weed. Crap! I was in no mood for this kind of situation. After I cleaned off the cherry popper’s sole, small treble hook, I gazed at the water for a little while to see whether there were any areas devoid of the floating weeds. I thought I saw a boundary to the stuff and cast the line quite far beyond it, knowing full well that I would encounter some weed, but at least have 20 to 30 meters of clear water. On the third crank of the reel I was jolted by an incredible explosion of water. The popper disappeared into a foamy hole that had opened up in the surface of the flat water and then a huge tail firmly slapped the flatness. And then the line began to scream.

The weight of the fish was felt in the rod and I had to double up my grip while it ran. The line stripped off the reel for an eternity and I thought I would get spooled. When the fish paused, and after I gained a few meters on him, I quickly looked around to the other boats; no one was noticing this event. Over the next couple minutes the fish and I drifted a significant distance out toward the mouth of the bay, passing lobster pot buoys at a surprising rate. The ground I gained on the fish was soon countered by the wining reel, line peeling off at incredible speed. OK, OK, you get the picture now…I’ll cut out the artsy-fartsy descriptions of the fight because you must be guessing that at some point, I got the fish to the boat. And this happened after about 10 minutes. My first glance at the thing made my eyes pop. “OK,” I thought. “Just concentrate on the fish, not the feeling of elation one gets when it is finally boated.” After 3 or 4 attempt to get him into my net I finally got him over the gunwales by grabbing the tail simultaneously as only half his length fit into the net. My hand was only barely able to grip the large tail. He was in. Holy Shit!

Soon I was back for another drift over P32, but upon returning a boat came out from Plymouth and must have sensed that I was onto something. It contained a father and son. They were a bit too close for my comfort. Nevertheless, we took turns drifting over the spot and after several lost fish and one or two mid-20s released, I finally hooked back into another large one. The explosion was even bigger. A long fight ensued and after I landed him I discovered yet another boat had descended upon the drift. This boat I recognized and was immediately discouraged by the man’s intention to drop his umbrella rig over the 8 feet or so of water. I began again towards the head of the drift, but then decided to quit. After all, I was on top and happy. There were two large bass in the boat and was turning into a beautiful morning.

On shore I dropped into Atlantic Angler to weigh and measure the fish. Bob O’Neil was impressed, as were the few others milling about the store. He took some photos and we assessed their metrics:

Fish #1: 41.5 inches; 25 lbs.
Fish #2: 39.0 inches; 23 lbs.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

August 2006: Spring tides did it.

After somewhat of a break I finally got back into the groove of fishing almost daily. The action was slow throughout the latter half of July and very early August due to, in my opinion, warm water temperatures and the natural cycle of baitfish maturation. But about eight or ten days ago I reentered life on the water and just in time. I predicted that the spring tides of last week would bring in the fish, and they did. This is because the spring tides of mid-August in Duxbury increase the flushing rate of relatively warm water out into Cape Cod Bay to be replenished by nutrient rich, cool water and schools of pelagic baitfish; the strong tides driving them far into the various crotches of the bay where they feed and thrive.

Last week was pretty great. I fished evenings mostly along Eagles Nest and Captains Flats where small bass were herded into very dense schools in only one to three feet of water. Here, at several sequential low tides, I picked up dozens of stripers ranging between eight and twenty-two inches in length. Far from satisfying in terms of weight and size, but the numbers were vast and by using single hooks, the damage was minor and no fish were significantly injured. Don Gunster, the namesake of the "hook ripped out of mouth and flying towards head" move, and I had some amazing fishing among the oyster leases within the Shipyard/Eagles Nest region. We found the elusive guzzles that one can only find once within the skinniest of water back there. Several solo trips and some with my friend Alex Mansfield (namesake to be determined) produced many small to midsized bass last week. Also, one evening outing with Mike Walsh and my neighbor, Ned Flaherty, produced both bass and blues on fly and spin.

But last weekend was the balls. Plans had been firming up for days and finally we broke all hesitation and Joel Meunier found a free weekend to fish in Duxbury. He arrived on Saturday around one. First we (Joel, Alex, and I) worked for a few hours out at our oyster lease; basic maintenence of cleaning and shaking. Afterwards, and after Alex had to scoot for the night, Joel and I fished the same Eagles Nest area, finding scores of fish. Doug Carver frantically called to proclaim his availability and interest in joining us, so we had him meet us at Shipyard Landing and soon we were back in the frenzy of thousands of small bass.

However, the fun was somewhat shortlived because, after landing a midsized bass, Joel managed to impale his right quadracept with a treble hook, one of the three hooks had sunk deep into his flesh, the barb not to be seen. This put Joel into somewhat of a state of shock. Here is a man who can cut open a deer and swim within its entrails, eat raw anything, and serve various species of roadkill to his family, but can't stand the site of his own blood. He told me this and followed with, "...and dude, I get queasy and faint when shit like this happens. I can't stand the sight of my own blood."

"But there is no blood," I returned. "All you can see is bare steel and flesh." But this description alone made Joel churn and soon he was on his back, on the floor of the boat. "Dude, I'm going....I'm going....really man, I'm going." And within a couple of seconds Joel's eyes rolled up and he was out cold. His lids never closed. About 20 seconds of odd convulsions, whereupon I exclaimed to Doug, "Maybe pull that fucking thing out of his leg right now, while he's out cold." But then Joel showed clear signs of life, regaining focus, and suddenly stating: "Ho-Lee-Shit! Holy Shit! Ho....LEEEE....Shit!!!" Back he was, shaken surely, but back. We returned to land and this is where Joel experienced his own blood: Doug used an Exacto Knife to cut the hook out of his leg and this is when Joel screamed in pain. I gripped his hand and tried to distract him throughout the operation, and I imagined the fields of Viet Nam.

We partied hard that night.

On Sunday it was discouragingly stormy and we were late rising. However, we decided to give it a go anyway. The bay was silver and rough. But the fish were in pure form. We were the only boat on the bay for some time and had schools of bass to ourselves. We caught countless on fly and spin. Most were small. But at one moment, fairly early in our excursion, Joel caught a mother. This thing pulled the boat to the extent that Joel couldn't land the beast. I had to motor up and head upwind towards the fish to give Joel a chance not to break his line. After some time we landed the fish: a 39 incher. "Ho...leee....shit!" yelled Joel. He was happy and full color finally returned to his face.

We eventually went in and feasted on the previous day's catch of blues (of which some were bycatch from the local marina's annual derby...more on that some other time). And there we ended the weekend.

Now, a few days later I have a couple more tales under my wing for the next entry. Hopefully I'll get around to writing them up.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

An Interruption

More is on the way. Enjoy the heat.