Monday, July 23, 2007

Playing Tag

Monday, July 23, 2007

The first thing I heard at 4:15 this morning was the wind. Soothing, yes, but once I reached a 51% level of consciousness the sudden shock hit me hard. I had been gambling on the weather over the weekend in attempts to schedule a trip with Scot L. He was out on Saquish Head for several days with family members and we finally put the trip off until today. The forecast was a mixed bag of NE breezes, some 50% chance of rain, and probably worsening throughout the day. Saturday and Sunday were perfect weather wise. But other priorities prevailed and we were eventually stuck with today, Monday.

I met Scot and his father, Rich, down at the town dock at 6. On the way I stopped to for 5 minutes at one of my usual locations. I found birds going berserk and lots of stripers. I quickly sampled the school for size, etc., and landed two in the mid/upper 20s (inches). Hmmn, good sign. I was worried that the ENE wind would be putting them down. So far, no rain.

I told Scot and Rich about the fish I had found and we all agreed it would be a good idea to return to where we knew the fish were. We acquainted ourselves along the way and upon arriving we did indeed find the fish, still up on the surface and not another boat seemed to be fishing the bay. Perfect.

Rich took a rod that had a double-hooked white 9” Sluggo that my friend Joel Meunier rigged for me a couple weeks ago. This Sluggo had already hooked about 10 fish, including a 36” striper last week. Before casting, both Rich and Scot marveled at the rubber bait and firmly decided that these were to be their lure of choice. I needed to rig another one for Scot, so he started off with a Yo-Zuri popper (also, a keeper veteran, but in much better shape).

Rich’s first cast into the school of busting fish: KABLAM! (obligatory caps and exclamation point….I’ll ease off on these from here on). Line peeled from the reel, we all watched in anticipation, and yes, a fish that measured 28 inches. Nice one. But upon further inspection we noticed a USFW tag in its belly. I had never come across one of these, nor had the guys. I took my pliers and gave the bubblegum-colored plastic tubing a pull but only managed to break it off at the scales. We set it aside for later.

Soon both Scot and Rich were landing fish, and this continued for some time. I was happy about having a keeper on board on the first cast of the day. For a while there were big follows, mid-sized landings, and then Rich hooked into a larger striper that, again, peeled away. This one was about 32 inches and the happiness continued.

Then we moved to another area not too far away. I told the tales of how I’d hooked many large bass in this spot and if they were in then they’d be appreciable in size. Within one minute of the first drift we had a major double hookup (see photo). Scot’s fish I saw. It was a biggie and took lots of line off his reel. But Rich seemed to be huffing and puffing too, and his reached the boat first. A quick dip of the net and it was in. However, this story has a sad ending: while unhooking Rich’s fish the same happened to Scot’s and his fish unhooked at the boat. I didn’t get to see it up close (Scot did, of course) and we all sulked a bit when this happened. I, like a dolt, left my tape at home (next to my broken GPS) so we couldn’t get an exact measurement of Rich’s new friend, but I estimated about 36”. He was fat too. We all agreed that Scot’s was larger, but we’ll never know.

The action continued for some time. Scot kept pulling in 27 inchers while Rich, taking full advantage of his lucky (and skillful) streak, pulled in one more keeper back along the original rips we fished. We sampled three or four more spots. The weather was tough to take and we decided that the 50% chance of rain the NOAA site predicted really meant that 50% of the time we were getting soaked. The small NE squalls hit with a consistent period, about every 15 minutes we would get some wind and a good soaking, then 15 minutes of mild air and brighter skies (but no sun).

While the guys fished I decided to poke around into the tagged fish and finally found the tag. “Reward” was the first word I recognized. It had an 800 number to call and a “fish number.” I dialed up the USFW and a woman promptly answered. I answered questions, then she asked to speak to Rich. He answered questions too…more personal questions. He responded to the announcement of the reward with glee and I immediately imagined some cash coming his way. But alas, no cash, but rather a USFW baseball cap. It was either that or a lapel pin, and I commend Rich for choosing the former. Hmmmn. Well, they’d also be sending some info on the fish as well.

We finally quit and I got both wet men back to the dock in time for lunch. Their tally came out to approximately (judging from the condition of my left thumb) 15 to 20 fat stripers each, including four nice keepers. We parted with smiles.

But the day wasn’t over for me. I checked my lobster pots (nada) then decided to fish for a little while myself. The fog thickened appreciably and I had to rely on my internal magnetic sensing system, which actually worked quite well today. I returned to Keeper Hole. First cast and (sorry), KABLAM!! I massive striper was now on my new Joel Meunier cherry popper (newly fitted with a larger VMC hook). But something was wrong. This hookup seemed totally odd. And yes, it was. The fish was not foul hooked but had hit with such vigor that it managed to wedge the thing sideways and upside-down in its mouth. When I got it close up to the boat (with net in hand), I was rendered aghast by the sight of the hook which was hanging freely out of the fish’s mouth. The horrified creature had the plug, as mentioned earlier, wedged in the most unnatural position. Ooh, I thought. Then I slid the net into place, but of course…yes, of course, removing the tension from the fish’s mouth for even the microsecond that I allowed it to do resulted in the gentle release of the dowel dam and the fish, ever so nonchalantly, swam over the net and out of reach into the dark water.

Good for him!

I called it quits for the day and somehow found home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Twelve hours, no injuries.

Tuesday/Wednesday, July 17/18, 2007

One of the last times Dave Y. departed from Duxbury it was with a deep 3” gash across one of his knees. This wound was the result of a freak accident; he stumbled and sank beneath the boat as he generously attempted to shove us off to a fishing trip of high expectations. An oyster shell, perhaps, shuttled a piece of Dave’s knee material to the crabs, but he didn’t complain, and in fact, he went through the next 27 hours before seeing a doctor. The doctor cussed him out, of course, and it was after that I learned how serious his little scrape was. But he survived.

So this year’s challenge was to keep Dave Y. blood-free and happy on the water.

It was Tuesday evening, about 4:00, and we were off from Howland’s Landing. Dave quickly revisited the accident scene and displayed the scar on his knee, but soon we were off onto the calm bay. My expectations didn’t match my hopes. The past few days on the bay were good, but not tremendously good. I had fished the past few mornings and had several nice fish as a result, but nothing to brag about. Evening fishing was something I hadn’t done in several weeks, mainly due to my early mornings and being dead-tired by 6 PM. But my friend was in town and I needed to see him succeed.

First, a sure thing: bluefish near the Powder Point Bridge. These were small ones, but fun to catch and good eating (I’ll eat any bluefish, anytime). The bridge area produced several (dozens) small blues. We kept five – the perfect number for dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast. This was a good warm up because Dave got the skunk off immediately and got to test out some of his freshwater tackle on these guys. He seemed confused when I doubled over in a laughing fit when these aggressive blues attacked, with vigor, his little Tiny Torpedo (a Heddon product) which was about an inch long – it chattered like a nervous Nelly, and had a little propeller stuck in its rear. I marveled at the way the small blues busted at this little thing. I could hear the “brrrrbbbbrrrr” of the little prop and then the unforgiving strike of the bluefish, turning this little thing into a piece of rubble.

So we had fun, and after about 10 drifts through our spot we decided to switch gears and head for some stripers.

Again, my expectations were modest. I scanned the usual spots and, to my surprise, my first choice was boat-free. Dave and I gabbed on about frustrations at work places and the unimaginable level of inefficiency associated with legal and administrative processes (*yawn*) while I set us up on our first drift. Within a few seconds we had ballistic stripers after our sorry lures. I explained all my thoughts about how to hook fish in this particular place to Dave. He seemed half interested because the trip through the rip only lasted about a minute or two, and he didn’t want to miss anything. And he didn’t. Within a seconds I was onto a bunch of stripers – wildly attacking my plug. But only a few fish in the low 20s were hooked. Then I switched to a Fin-S, and Dave to a swimming Yo-Zuri, and immediately we were doubling up on good fish. I landed a 28-incher and things got going. But Dave struggled to find hookups. I decided to try to find another rip to fish. So I did.

We moved on. Within seconds Dave had a large fish on. This fish would turn out to be his largest striped bass to date: a 29-inch keeper. Man, was he happy. A few pictures and laughs and in seconds I had another keeper on the line. This guy was hooked on the first cast of one of Joel Meunier’s third-edition cherry poppers: the fish took to the home made plug within 2 seconds – amazing. We ended up taking home three stripers and five small blues. We were happy. Another stint in the morning was agreed upon over beers and broiled bluefish at the house. I was worried, however, as I felt completely bushed out and lethargic. I started to think: what would influence me more, fishing or sex? But I promptly fell asleep.


4:10 – here is what I hear: “Dalalalaladada, Dalalalalaladada – boom-ding-dong…boom-ding-ding….(pause)…[repeat]”. My cell phone alarm is reminding me that Dave Y. has already risen from the loft and is preparing for his morning trip on the bay. I hear water running, I feel like shit. Basically, I am tired…too tired, but within a couple minutes I rally up and decide it is no use to fight. Plus, I want to hook a fish or two.

The mornings are getting later. A couple weeks ago I would have seen some light on the horizon, but this morning it was pitch-black. We stumbled with some aquaculture materials that were necessary for our mid-morning project, then finally got our act together and got on the water.

The morning was spectacular: awesome colors and FAC (which is an acronym for “flat ass calm”). First stop and – boom – fish! Good fish. They were nestled into a small area, but very consistent. Jon Nash showed up with his friend Sam and we all took turns over the rip and did well. Dave quickly landed a keeper and released it. He was excited about the action, as was I. But after several drifts the action diminished and my mind drifted elsewhere. The sun broke through the morning clouds over Clark’s Island and this created an amazing scene. Some photos were taken and soon we decided to move on.
Closer to Saquish, the rips were roaring and within seconds the cold air arrived, followed by the fog, and then socked in. But within a drift or two we were on. I switched from a surface plug to a 9” white Sluggo that Joel Meunier had fitted with a nifty hook assemblage and after two cranks of the reel – SCHLURPT! – a good hookup. Lots of line peeled off – drifting through lobster pots – maneuvering the best we could, and finally the landing: 36” and fat. Next drift: Dave did the same on his Yo-Zuri swimmer and landed a fat 36 incher. Eyes bulging, Dave stated clearly that now, this, was his largest striper.

The fog wisped around us then finally socked us. “Dave, what do you think about heading in a bit early, putting these guys on ice, then getting our shit together for our oyster work?” [we had oyster work ahead]. “Sure,” said Dave, blinking excitedly, still recovering from his fine fish.

In sum: fishing was excellent. Lots of bait in the bay, large fish in the right spots, and fun catching them.

Dave left intact. No stitches or whatever.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mr. Barnacles

Friday, July 13, 2007

Another early solo trip, but this time with Dog. It took a little longer to find the fish, but they were there again. Not as many large fish – mainly in the mid-20s. One near-keeper was fat and strong and peeled dozens of yards off my reel. Hopes up, ending in dampened expectations.

One odd thing did happen this morning. While drifting through the rip where yesterday I had snapped off my beloved Cherry Popper, I reflected on this event and even marveled at the idea of being surprised by finding it still floating around. Within seconds I spotted some line, weed, and…and…a popper. The mess drifted right past me in the exact location I lost yesterday’s lure…at exactly the same time. I snatched it up. It was not Cherry (that would have sent me to the bell tower). But it was a nice, old, barnacle-covered popper – Mr. Barnacles. I cleaned him up a little, leaving the barnacles intact, and stowed it away, where Cherry would have been resting. His test will come up soon.

In all, about a dozen nice stripers this morning – one just a quarter inch from dinner. The dog’s ass, black from sitting in the boat muck, shivered on the way in.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

July 12

Out alone this morning. Low tide, coming in. Big fish in the rips - going completely ballistic after my lures. So wild that they would often send the plugs several feet up (vertical) and hookups were difficult. A large Sluggo? Devoured and destroyed in short order.

Lost my cherished Cherry Popper this morning to a (typical) Penn reel malfunction. SNAP - @#$%!

AM fishing continues to be great. PM has been less so.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

...And Then The Rod Broke.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The dog came along this morning. Pea soup, like totally thick. GPS worked out well. Found the fish in short order and soon was into a group of feisty stripers that ranged from 25 to 35 inches. Landed one on a surface jumping minnow (Cherry Popper), then switched to a massive white sluggo that Joel Meunier assembled with a double hook gig. First cast and the water erupted around the sluggo and a 26” was on. Nice. Second cast, more eruptions but no hookups. Third cast - *SNAP*! The lightweight Temple Fork busted off at the first ferrule. WTF?! The dog stared worriedly at me as I retrieved the entrails of the rod back into the boat and swore at it a couple of times. But the morning was not over. I switched over to my flyrod. I continued to work this area for a little while before deciding to move to a different spot. One nice strike out there that looked like a blue, but the weed was bad and another boat decided to troll in circles around me. I returned to the original spot and immediately hooked into a couple of near-keepers on the fly. Fun indeed, but what with the busted rod? Most likely it went because the ferrule connection had loosened up and I was enthusiastically heaving a heavy sluggo - woops. I’ve heard that these rods, which are quite nice, need some candle wax in the ferrules to ensure complete connections. I’ve learned my lesson.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"That's What She Said."

Wednesday (7/4)

I almost rolled the car over Joel. Returning late from a game at Fenway Park, my son and I discovered a lump in my front yard, and it was, in fact, Joel Meunier wrapped up in his sleeping bag, titsup, and dead to the world. He had participated in the Marshfield fireworks chaos earlier in the evening and at some point we decided over the phone that an early trip out on the bay was warranted. I had also called John Daly (who was still in town) and the plan was firm – 4:30 at the boat.

This we did. The day looked amazing: calm winds, clear skies, and an ebb tide about halfway out. The first couple of spots we tried only produced one fish for Joel and this worried me. No luck in these areas meant we might have to really work hard to find whatever was in the bay. But I was confident and after about 45 minutes we found them along a very nice, picturesque plateau of smooth water that was quickly rushing over a bar. The fish were limited within a very narrow zone, but there were large numbers of them and between drifts we would see them surface after whatever baitfish flowed over the rip.

Immediately we were into them. Joel and I reserved ourselves the stern of the boat to throw jumping minnows, swimmers, and Fin-S baits on light spinning gear while John worked his flies from the bow. Each drift produced some feisty stripers – most measuring out in the mid to upper 20s. Joel’s first fish attacked his popper, “Ah, nice…now that's a big one!” Joel exclaimed in a stern tone. The joking ensued (see Subject Header, above).

The action continued until we simply ran out of time. We were all short on time; John was scheduled for a holiday road race and Joel had to drive north to NH. So, we ended the morning by quickly checking my lobster pots and poking around a few more rips. No lobsters or additional action. But the morning was a success.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

To the Flatlands

Monday (7/2) - A decent westerly breeze, turned northwest over the hours this morning. Best action found early along rips in the central areas of the bay. Very small blues were biting along the Bug Light whirlpools.

Today my guest was John Daly from Burlington, Vermont. An avid flyfisherman, John was totally and completely psyched to have a morning out on the bay. In all we did pretty well, but would have liked it just a little better. A few fish in the low 20s, and a few small blues. But John lost a couple of was certainly a keeper. We watched the fish follow the fly over the dense eelgrass meadows, open wide, and clamp down on his sorry fly. But alas, the hook didn't set right and the fish soon turned and ran. This event produced immediate spasms of frustration and jumping fits, but with big grins. Oh well.

The new tide brought crystal clear water into the bay and the flats looked amazing as usual. But today the fishing required some hard work as the bass were tight in specific rips under a bright sun.

John’s philosophy was simple and admirable: he was fishing not just for the fish, but for the opportunity to fish. Just knowing that they were there and he was there too made him the happiest man in town.