2 Jun 2009
I apologize (again) for the lateness of this report but the $^%%@!$ computer I use to write these reports on decided to go on vacation the past couple days! The fishing this past weekend was the best of the year as both trips limited out and the fillet knife got a great workout both days. This was the last weekend we will be fishing on Stellwagen Bank proper as the commercial season opened at midnight on June 1st .As I write this report, draggers and gillnetters are fishing the top of the bank and will do so until the fish are gone or the dogs get to thick. This coming weekend I will be shifting east to grounds that are closed to commercial fishing and access is permitted to charter boats that possess Letters of Authorization, which I hold. Both days the cod fishing was fantastic so I will give you a brief synopsis of each and let some pictures help tell the story.
Saturday, May 30th dawned gloomy and rainy as I welcomed Doug Singleton, his son Dan and good friend Tim aboard the Lady Diane. A strong thunderstorm had passed through the area around 0300 but as we proceeded out of Gloucester Harbor at 0500 only a gentle rain was falling. As we rounded Eastern Point we found calm seas but is a short while we ran into thick fog so it was back to instrument piloting (radar, chart plotter) all the way to the grounds.
We hit our numbers and dropped jigs and immediately started taking nice market cod. One jig, two jig fish on and that’s the way in went all morning long. Dan showed his father he is a chip off the old block and caught numerous clean white bellied cod for the box
Around 0800 I could hear thunder in the distance so I cranked up the radar and saw a cell was going to pass just to the north of us. It was never a real threat and we contiunued to fish on. Many new customers ask, “Isn’t it more dangerous to be on the water in a metal boat during a thunderstorm than a fibreglass boat?” The simple answer is No..Jay Perrota, the designer and builder of Pacific Boats, reponds in his Blog in this way…
”if you are in one of our boats with either a Hardtop, T-top or Walkaround cabin you are even safer. Lightning consultants encourage you to create a halo of metal or wires around the people on a boat as when the strike hits the current will follow the metal halo away from the operator and crew (You!) and towards the boats perimeter where it will continue along the hull and to ground. All of our superstructures are welded to the boat and thus provide excellent conductivity to ground.” If you would like to read Jay’s entire answer to this question go HERE
After this storm passed the weather started to clear and in a short time a brilliant sun shone in an azure blue sky…great day to be on the water. After two hours of fishing we decided to move to another spot to see if you could find some bigger fish to fill out the limit. After a short 20 minute ride we setup on some ground in 200’ and again starting nailing nice codfish. Doug, who is one of the finest fisherman I know, managed to drop down and take the season’s record smallest cod with jig hook in mouth for which he took a good deal of ribbing from Tim and Dan
Dan meanwhile decided to give the light Trevala rods a try and had a ball battling cod on this light tackle,
and showed he could catch them using these small sticks just as well.
As the day progressed we continued to now catch and release upwards of a hundred keeper cod as we were hoping for a steaker to finish the job and thats when Doug came through. Doug is a BIG guy and when he stuck the fish I could tell it was a good one. Being the expert fisherman that he is he set the hook and carefully started cranking the cod to the surface. Too many guys try to haul fish like they were on a black marlin and simply tear the jig from the fish. Doug simply pointed the tip to the water and used his strength to carefully bring the fish up. I saw color and in a few moments sank the gaff into our first steaker of the season. The 25lber is dwarfed by Doug but the fish scale does not lie…what a great fish to end the day.
We stowed the gear and I set up the fillet table. The Lady Diane responded to the autopilot’s commands and we headed for the harbor. After a hard day of fishing Doug found the perfect place to catch a few winks and work on that tan...notice how rough the seas are!
We arrived at the docks at 15:30 and the guys loaded their coolers with 150lbs of cod and 10 lbs of haddock fillet. The folks at home in Vermont would enjoy fish for many days to come. So ended the day. I hope to see this crew again later this season when Charlie is here as they have the skill and strength to do battle with these great fish.
On Sunday, May 31st, I welcomed a new customer to the boat, Glenn Curtis (aka Banjo) who was joined by his wife Sandy and friends Chris and Nick. These folks come from the Berkshires in western Massachusetts and hadn’t been cod fishing in a few years. They were hoping for a chance at taking home a pile of fillets and I knew just where to go do that. We rounded eastern point at 0510 and with flat seas I put the Lady Diane on a 25 knot cruise to the grounds.
Accidently, I by-passed my intended waypoint and ended up where I started the day before. As soon as the sounder showed me the depth I knew what I had done and after a half dozen or so markets I had everyone reel up and headed back to my spot 2 miles to the north. This is where the previous day’s charter had taken the larger fish and even though the bite was a tad slower the keeper to short ratio was much better and the fish were larger. It didn’t take long before the crew started hauling beautiful 8-15 lb markets aboard.
Everyone caught fish as fast as they could drop a line. Banjo is holding one of the many cod he took during the day.
Chris was on fire as well and put many of these fine fish in the box.
Not to be out done Sandy pushed the guys hard all day long with her angling skill and caught what I believed to be the biggest of the day (although the guys on the crew had some reservations about that claim) but as can be seen in the photo everyone was having a great time.
Around 1100 the bite slowed at this spot so I decided to head a little south to fill out our cod limit and then head to the deep water to try for haddock. I setup south of the fleet as the radio chatter indicated they were on a slow pick and fortunately landed on a hungry school which in a matter of minutes enabled us to head east for the haddock. We setup on the grounds and in the next half hour we put six nice size bugeyes in the box but then it happened…I caught the dreaded FEVER! As I looked farther east I could see birds working and was curious to see what was going on. Everyone reeled up and I steered for the action and when I got within a half mile I could see millions of birds, shearwaters, gulls, gannets, diving to the surface over a tremendous feed. Two huge finback whales suddenly broke the water's surface and in with them were busting 200+lb TUNA…Game ON!!
I had been talking about how we fish for tuna all day with the crew and I asked if they would like to give it a try and they were all for it. Everyone held on tight and I put the hammer down, reached 35knts and circled the feed trying to get upwind of the fish. Once we arrived, I put the Lady D into neutral and waited on the approaching fish. As the birds came to us and Banjo and Sandy grabbed the Trevala rods, which I had rigged with tuna jigs and started working them up from the depths. Immediately Glenn gets nailed but it’s not a tuna but a large striper. Since we were in Federal waters we are not allowed to keep stripers so after a short battle we released a nice 10 lb bass. Meanwhile Sandy tied into a much larger fish, which I assumed was a bass, but after a short battle Sandy experienced an “early release”.
Although we didn’t hook Charlie, which is just as well as these fish were so big I doubt the gear we had with us would have handled them, the Captain and crew got our first shot of the season…TUNA FEVER has officially struck all on board. We let the massive feed go south and fished the haddock for a short while longer. We had come nearly 30 miles from the harbor so around 1245 we decided to call it a day. With the fish box and totes full of our limits we set course for Gloucester Harbor. The SW wind had increased notably but it was on our port quarter so as the crew relaxed in the bow I manned the fillet table and started to cut, and cut, and cut…
As I approached the harbor around 0300 the skies began to darken and the winds strengthen further so I was glad we were close to port. We tied up in our slip with the help of another friendly dive boat captain (thanks Capt. Fran) and his mate who grabbed our lines as winds whipped through the marina. I really appreciate now being in a harbor around professionals like Capt. Fran and the other great Captains at Cape Ann Marina who are always willing to help out a fellow Captain.
The crew brought their coolers to the deck and found they barely had enough room to load the 180lbs of cod and 10 lbs of haddock fillet into them.
What a fantastic way to end the Stellwagen spring cod season, great crew, great fishing and tuna fever all in one day. About a half hour after the folks departed a severe thunderstorm struck the area. The winds went from SW to NW in the blink of an eye and gusted to over 30 knots. I was glad we were home safe eventhough exhausted from a great day of catching again.
We definitely saved the Best for last!! Tight lines,