Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Greyhounding Pogy

Saturday, May 26, 2007

This was a beautiful morning, but I was worried about the wind. It was forecast to blow a bit from the west later in the day, but it seemed to be getting a head start by the time I rounded Standish Shores to pick up my party. My journey to the town pier was uneventful; I didn’t see much action, but it was still early and fairly dark still. This morning’s charter was a hire for another guide in town and I was unclear about the plan. I found Ian and his father, Bruce, waiting at the town dock, eager to get out on the water. We waited for a few minutes for their friend, Dave, to show up. And he did. Three guys, and I only anticipated one. But this was hardly a problem.

We greeted one another and soon I could sense that these guys were experienced fishermen. On our way out we stopped briefly at a rip along the channel as birds were working the water. But this immediately dissipated and I felt it would be better to head out toward the light. Upon arrival we found lots of fish. They were breaking the surface and the schools stretched, as they had in previous days, from the Saquish rip toward Goose Point channel in Plymouth. The guys applied storm shads for the most part and after several landings Bruce hooked into a keeper, and this was somewhat lucky as it was hooked in the gills and might not have survived the event anyway. Spirits heightened and after some time the interest changed to exploring other areas of the bay.

I took them to Clark’s Island, and behind, to seek the odd holding spots. They produced a few fish. Then up north toward the beach and by this time the wind was picking up significantly. A few drifts produced a few fish, and feeling the need to get them into some calm conditions, I proposed a trip to the Jones River area. They heartily accepted. The trip was against the wind and chop and as such, no one muttered a word the whole way over. A busted seam in the boat’s forward deck platform made an uncomforting sound as the bow nailed each wave….a sound that probably only annoyed me.

The lee was only slightly calmer. And the fish of choice were not striped bass. We noticed a series of surface movements and my mind read hickory shad. The wind was gusty in this cove and after a little while I managed to improve our position to fall upon these busting fish. Ian was keen on the idea of hooking a shad, as was Dave. Bruce decided to take a rest.

We rigged two rods with small wiggly lures and within seconds Dave had a fish on. He rose it to his hands and alas, it was no hickory shad but a fine menhaden, or “pogy” as we say here. We marveled at this poor fish before Dave plopped it back into the drink. But Ian was still keen on landing one. And he did.

But this wasn’t going to be a good spot to hang around. A bunch of women and a pack of dogs were making a ruckus on the near shore of Bay Farm and we were only feet away. I thought about following the leeward shoreline and we did this for a few minutes, but I saw nothing in terms of schooling fish. So I recommended a high probability spot for the dropping tide. We arrived through building seas and the guys landed several nice sized stripers. But the chop was bouncing us around and soon I felt the need to move onward, particularly as time was now limiting.

Another go at High Pines and a few more fish were hooked. Then Ian looked up at me and signaled that we might as well head in. By this time Dave was telling some good stories that made us all laugh a bit. The ride in was a bit bouncy, the stories suddenly ceased, and in a flash the party was over. Not a bad morning – lots of fish early, then we had to hunt around and work. A keeper and some greyhounding menhaden….not bad.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My first charter. Charles and Tim met me at 5:45 at the landing and within minutes we were off into the early dawn light. We hit it off immediately. Tim lives in Duxbury and it turns out we both have several common friends and acquaintances. But this is a fishing story. We found a very large school of breaking bass along the margin of the channel leading from Bug Light towards Clarks Island. Charles manned his flyrod, a nice Orvis 9 wt. that he bought in Europe. Tim was on his own light gear. The fishing was great: these two guys were landing fish on almost every cast for a good two hours. We used storm shads and Fin-S rubber baits, along with the Charles’ blueback herring fly. Soon Tim had a keeper on board and, with our spirits quite high, continued on many drifts through the busting fish until Charles looked at me and said, “John, I am sated.” Whereupon he simply sat down and smiled.

We all decided that even though there were plenty of fish around this spot, the remainder of the morning would be best spent exploring. I took them to some spots along Saquish and Clarks Island and neither of these produced anything. Then when we reached a hot area of the beach channel the fishing picked up again and each short drift resulted in numerous hookups. The stories continued and became more colorful. We were having fun.

After an hour or so we moved on towards the middle of Duxbury Bay where a line of birds and fish extended about a half mile. Again, almost every cast was met with at least a chase or hit. The guys landed numerous fish, mostly mid-sized (15 to 25 inches). Charles insisted I demo his fly gear and so I did and this was fun. I hooked a few and Charles took the helm to guide us to new drifts through the large school. We thought we spotted hickory shad, and they may have indeed been in the mix, but we didn’t hook any.

Again, sated and feeling full, the guys indicated that they’d had their fill, Charles and Tim stated that we should begin toward shore and maybe stop if they appear along the way. I toured them through Captain’s Flats, explained what the bathymetry was like there and how one can sight fish for stripers throughout the summer months there. Then, as we passed one of my favorite rips, I said, “Guys, do you want to stop here for a few minutes and give it a whirl – conditions are just right for some good sized bass right here.” Sure, that would be fine. I tossed out a Fin-S to demonstrate what I believed was the best way to fish the rip, and after three cranks of the reel I had a 31” striper on the line. This activity rejuvenated their interest and we ended up going through the rip 5 or 6 times, hooking many large bass (almost keepers) and seeing several follows that made our eyes bug out.

Then the time came to leave and get back to shore. We had a fantastic morning – couldn’t have asked for a better first charter.

Gunster's Winter Fantasies

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The call came late as I was delivering a shipment of clams to Wareham – Don Gunster was in Mackerel mode and he needed a partner. I was under some time pressure to do some work on the skiff and prepare for Thursday morning’s charter. But the draw was too strong, and after a decent morning of digging and feeling that I had accomplished something significant for the day, I felt a reward was in order. The plan was to jig up a few macs and then liveline them at a spot we both knew would produce.

There was some wind, a stiff SW breeze. When we arrived outside along the mackerel drifts we positioned the boat along a line formed by at least 15 others. Within a few minutes we hit into them. The hookups were impressive – many times we had 4 or 5 fish on at once. The thing about jigging for macs is that it is so simple, but dangerous at the same time. These little Sabiki jigs have little sharp hooks that always seem to find fingers, pants, and boat furnishings. This time we were lucky – no blood. But the image is silly: two grown men, nervously smiling as they dance to avoid hooks while collecting spasmodic fish off the deck to deliver to the livewell. We did this for a half hour and then sped into bay.

We anchored and dropped a mac and then threw some plugs and swimmers around. We hooked several small bass on lures. Then Don’s liveline began to scream and, of course, he was on. The first fish was about 29”, Don’s first keeper of the season. We then put out two macs – mine kept dying on the vine, which is why the next two keepers came off of Don’s rig. These both measured 30 and 31” and weighed in around 8 to 10 lbs.

We quit before the sunset and motored in. The fridge is full of fish.

That's Bad

Monday, May 21, 2007

Out early with A. and the C-man. A great day, but some chop on the water. The fish were up on the surface and we hooked several. But nothing of any great size. Time was limiting our total enjoyment I think. A. and I had to get in early to work – he at the office and me along the intertidal zone. But we had some good action along a well known rip on the dropping tide. It produced some heavy mid-sized specimens and made the C-man happy; particularly when I told him his rig was “bad” and within two seconds, he hooked into a big bass. This situation comedy amused the man for a good 15 minutes, and that is good.

Jane's Day

Sunday, May 20, 2007

After taking Jane to lunch I decided to risk the question: So, do you want to go fishing with your dad? Her answer: Yeah!

We grabbed our little dog, drove down to the ramp, and set off on an early afternoon fishing trip. The weather was iffy. Small mini-squalls that sprinkled us every 10 minutes were alternating with short-lived sunshine. The wind was from the west at about 10 knots which provided some chop. But this did not deter Jane from smiling ear to ear when I cranked up the throttle and we sped off to the mid-bay region. Immediately we found some fish on the surface and we were the only boat on them. First cast with Joel’s Cherry Popper produced a short fish. Then I place several casts into the school and helped Jane reel in. She didn’t hook up, but had lots of follows and strikes. She then said, “Dad, I want to watch *you* fish.” So I did. A couple casts later and I had a 31” striper on the line. The fish flopped around on the deck for a while and this seemed to keep Jane and the dog alert.

We cut inside of Clarks Island, pulled one of our lobster pots, collected 3 sand crabs (pinkey toe crabs) which Jane loves to eat, and then went in. The rain became more steady and we laughed in pain as it hit our faces at full speed. The dog seemed unamused.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cherry Popper Returneth

Monday, May 14

The call last night to Joel was not intended to be about getting together to fish. But within minutes our plan materialized and he was committed to meeting me at the boat at 5:00 a.m. This was good because Joel and I had not fished together yet this year (except for a January night in Fairhaven which was unsuccessful).

So this morning: an amazing crescent waxing moon was brilliantly cast across the eastern sky as I drove up the road towards the landing. No time for coffee…the DD showed no signs of life anyway. I was glad, actually. I promised myself not to return to that DD again after one of its regular workers proceeded to wipe the largest oozing booger out of her nose as she prepared my coffee – I fell ill a day later. As promised, Joel was waiting at the ramp and within a few minutes we were underway. He offered me coffee, but I declined. The tide was low but had turned an hour or so prior. We ran out to the mid-bay region and cut the engine to assess what was going on. We exchanged a couple of funny stories but our usual gut-busting laughing fits were not to be today – I don’t know why. The air was cold but the bay was flat calm and so, I felt, the conditions were perfect. And they were. In 30 seconds I spotted the fish out where the channels all meet in front of Bug Light. We were the first boat to arrive and within seconds Joel had his first bass of 2007 on. Then immediately I hooked up, and so this continued for about 15 minutes until more boats arrived, including a large lobster boat that uncharacteristically stopped to cast for bass.

The sun eventually rose up and more boats arrived, but the schools of fish were spread out along a half-mile stretch of water and there was ample room to pick and choose productive areas. I hooked a keeper on a surface plug (one of Joel’s homemade jumping minnows – the infamous “cherry popper” – produced in his basement in early 2006). This time the net was on board and Joel dutifully helped me land the fish. Within minutes he was onto his first keeper of the year and we reversed roles and I netted the thing.

It was nonstop action and fun. We each landed at least 25 fish, many good sized and good fighters. By 7:15 I said that I’d better return home to help get the kids off to school, which was something I was looking forward to. So, in we went, the wind was then just picking up from the north. Bright sunshine, warm.

I went in, but Joel had brought along his kayak and returned to the bay to fish the rest of the morning. He produced several, but they were scarce and spread out. He met me for lunch (striped bass sandwiches – with red onion and some hot sauce) and after hammering out some of my aquaculture nursery racks, we returned to the water. He went fishing off his yak while I flipped mud for steamers – not a bad day.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The thing about Mother’s Day is that it doesn’t often mix well with fishing for most of us. My mother-in-law is in town too, so this would not be the best day to head out on the water. But it also happens to be my birthday, so I figured I was on equal ground and managed to get out for a little while. I slept late and almost abandoned the idea of fishing. But when, lying in bed, hearing no wind and seeing overcast skies, I figured it still wasn’t too late for catching the morning bite. I grabbed our new little dog, Oliver, and out we went.

Basically the mid-bay was full of fish and it was FAC, like a silver mirror. About four or five loose schools were up and down and as many boats were following them around. I chose one school without boats and began. These guys were not biting, similar to the way Friday began. I tried everything, including the fly, but nothing. I reckoned that it was almost slack high and we just needed the tide to turn for the fish to turn on. And I reckon that this was the case because thirty minutes later the fish got hungry. The other boats began to converge in my little area so I took off to find a new school. I found them closer to Cordage channel and began to hook them on rubber shads and on the flyrod. The fish were smallish with a few big ones mixed in. I could see the big ones finning and swirling, and on one occasion I managed to cast right to one which measured 27”. But for the most part these guys averaged 18 to 20” in length. I am not complaining.

The dog, after taking his morning constitutional right in the middle of the boat, began to take interest in the fish and the birds. He peered over the deck and patiently watched the action. When I landed fish, he calmly watched me unhook and release. He seemed to be having fun, but what do I know about these things?

Everything was great until some jackass in a Lund arrived and decided to follow my each and every drift. This is the same guy who last year had aggravated me by following me right into skinny water and spooked away the fish I was onto. The entire bay was full of fish and here he has to park right next to me. I stared at him with an expression of “WTF?” and after a minute or so he seemed to understand my position on the matter.

But this was far from tainting my morning on the water. I found another school on the way in and had some fun for another fifteen minutes then quit for the day. The sun was coming out and Ollie and I were getting hungry. The tide changed and the wind was picking up from the north – they’d probably start getting more aggressive, but I was done. Time for Mother’s Day.

First Keeper

Friday, May 11

The alarm went off at 4:45 and I jumped right out of bed to get out to the fish. By 5:00 I was moving rapidly out toward the Bug Light which was shrouded in dense fog; only its tip showing. The fog was interesting. There were two layers: from the sea surface to about 30’, then a gap and a layer a couple hundred feet up. Only the midsection of the Cordage stack was visible and that was weird.

I zigged around a bit and cut the engine at my regular recon position to listen. A few large bait fish (or squid?) surfaced near the boat and I took a couple casts, but nothing. The fog was moving around me and I decided to inch toward shore a bit to keep the coast in my view. A few more casts where I thought I saw some swirls, but nothing. Then back out, then back in, then…I heard the terns through the fog, lots of crazy birds, and splashes. I followed my ears to the source of this noise until I was right up on about an acre of action.

The fish were difficult to hook at first. They were finicky and choosy. Slurping and rolling. And this is not always a good sign. When they do this they are either sipping on very small bait, such as polychaetes (worms), or amphipods, or they are just being lazy and playful. In either case, it is hard to hook a fish under these conditions and it is frustrating because you’ll see them all around the boat, smiling and gloating. Would the net be sportsmanlike?

But they eventually began to bite and within ten minutes their aggressiveness had increased to a pleasurable level. For a little while most of the fish I hooked were in the mid-20s in length and there were a few small guys in the mix. I experimented with several lures (the flyrod, left sitting in the garage, would have been best on this morning) and ultimately found the silver/white storm shad to work best. On one retrieve, the shad was quite visible and nearing the hull, when a large striper suddenly appeared, sucked the shad in, and turned on its run. “Wow!” or something similar came forth from my mouth while the line screamed down and out from the boat. The fight lasted a few minutes until I could see him – definitely a keeper. Oh yeah, no net – it was left next to the flyrod. Hmmn. Well, for a second or two I was envisioning filets on the grill on Saturday night – then realizing I had forgotten the net, I convinced myself not to think that way until he was in the boat. I tired him for a while, leaned down, drew my fingers around the line to guide the fish closer (and this is where most unlucky experiences occur) and tailed him (grabbed his tail) to get him in. He got in and I was happy about that. I was certain he was a keeper, but the tape….oh yeah, left that on my tool bench in the garage with fellow flyrod and net….no tape so I used best professional judgment.

I stayed another half hour and landed my last seven or eight on a surface plug – kind of a modified jumping minnow (white). This was cool because the bass went after this thing like they were pissed off that it existed. Often, the fish would simply hit the thing and send it flying with no clear intention of actually biting it. That sound is what its all about, kind of a pop and slurp mixed together: a “purp”. “Hey Bob, did you hear that fish purp?” Yeah man, wicked purpage.

I headed in around 6:45 to get the kids ready for school. They, of course, found it amusing to touch its eyes as I prepared to filet it. I measured him first – 31”. Anyway, the gut analysis was somewhat dissatisfying. It revealed mostly empty but a few small polychaetes. This guy was hungry.

So, two good filets for the grill and a rack for the lobster pots which will get more attention in about a month.

First Ones

Wednesday, May 9

Bright, sunny, and warm. I spent a couple hours working on my friend’s oyster farm – hand picking oysters for the market. The southwest breeze and clear skies made the flats look tropical due to the contrasting colors of the sand and water. When the flats finally submerged under the flood tide we all parted from the sand bar and I motored back around Captain’s Flats. And this is where I found the fish. Birds were working the water and fish were boiling. A team of four stripers playfully chased a squid next to the boat as I tossed my first cast which produced a striper in the low 20s. A couple casts later, another, but larger. The action only lasted 10 minutes. The schools relaxed and either stopped feeding or moved on.

Later that day I returned with friends A. and C. By this time (5:00), the southwest wind had increased significantly and this resulted in large seas in the middle section of the bay. We decided to hug the leeward coast, beginning at the mouth of the Jones River. Two follows and a couple strikes there, but the water was brown and murky and the fishing was somewhat uneventful. We traveled east along Kingston Shores and found a couple of small schools on the surface. Follows but no hookups. They disappeared quickly. Then I noticed a cloud of birds out near the Nummet and as soon as we arrived A. was into a large fish. It measured 26” or so, and after some spring testing of C.’s Bogo-grip pneumatic gismo gear, the fish was safely released to J. and A.’s relief.

We cashed it in there and slowly motored back to the landing under rose hued skies.