Thursday, July 2, 2015

Stripers are Running

Nice Atlantic Striped Bass
Tuesday afternoon was our planned 1/2 day fishing charter out of Newburyport, Massachusetts at the mouth of the Merrimack River where it meets the ocean.  Our host for the afternoon was Captain Chris Valaskatgis, owner of Manolin Charters.  Chris runs a 23 foot center console boat with a 150 hp Yamaha 4 stroke and is perfectly set up for the fishing we were about to do.  My good friend and business associate Karl Cry set up the trip because last year when I visited him we were talking and I mentioned striper fishing off the east coast was on  my bucket list.  Planning on coming out to Boston to call on customers this week, Karl surprised me with a half day trip just north of Boston.  Along with our Captain was Karl Cyr, his sales guy Jim Sheedy, my guy Scott Cameron, and a customer of Karl's named Dennis.  Arriving at 1:30, we stopped at the harbor bar and grill before jumping in the boat that was docked below.  Right away I could tell Captain Chris was going to show us a great day by his demeanor.  Very cordial and open, we went through the standard safety lecture and it was off to the jetty about a mile down the Merrimack River it and the Atlantic Ocean meet. One thing everyone said was this outlet is the 2nd most dangerous on the east coast from Florida to Maine.  The tides, river volume, and other factors cause the swells to become quite large and there is a sweet spot where the river meets the ocean that have turned over many a boat.  Our strategy was pretty simple, a heavy 6"6" saltwater casting rod with a open trolling reel loaded with what looked like 20 pound test.  A 1 1/2 ounce egg sinker, swivel, and a 3 foot leader with a plain circle hook tied at the end was all we need.  The preferred bait for this time of year were called "tinkers" which were whole mackerel anywhere from 8" to 13 " long, simply hooked through the lips. These are very pretty fish, quite oily and it really didn't matter if they were dead or alive, the stripers love them.  Because low tide was at 5:15 in the afternoon, we had perfect conditions to fish with the outgoing current.  Our first run was pretty wild and Capt. Chris put our sea legs to test by picking a pretty rough drift through the swells which gave us a great insight into the issues of dealing with the water situation.  Our second drift was somewhat easier on the body as we picked a calmer route.  Fishing was pretty simple and methodical, when a fish hits let it run for about 3 - 4 seconds then engage the spool on the reel and start reeling. Because he used circle hooks the fish basically hook themselves in the corner of their mouths and the battle was on.  The limit on Stripers is 1 per day and it must be longer than 28 inches and with a lot of fish caught the circle hooks make catch and release much easier on the fish.

Karl with a beautiful fish
Action was steady most of the afternoon with 1 or 2 fish per drift with the largest coming in over 36 inches. Our group caught at least 20 fish and kept 4 that were big enough to legally harvest.  I found it amazing how veracious these fish are as we caught a number of them in the 24 inch range and they swallowed a bait half their size.  I ended up with 3 stripers in the boat and lost 2 very large fish, one due to my swivel coming untied and the biggest one was a result of crossed lines and before we could untwist them, 2 lines at 90 degrees is not a formula for success.  Oh well, keepers or not, I finally caught a ocean run Striped Bass and battled a couple of really nice ones, enough to want to come back.  At the dock we washed up the fish and took some pictures before the Captain was going to start cleaning fish.  Having one fish left to clean I asked him if I could fillet, go ahead with somewhat of a skeptical answer, I jumped in and using his knife got to work.  I think he was satisfied that I did a great job on the first side as he acknowledge it looked pretty good however the other side is much more difficult, which it is. When I finished with a a skimpy looking carcass, I think he was impressed that I wasn't just blowing smoke.   We ended up with about 10 pounds of fillets so we split them up and  Karl volunteered to ship me about 5 pounds overnight via UPS Red.  Well they arrived in perfect condition today and I plan on having some tonight.  One observation, it was interesting when the tide changed and the wind started picking up from the Southeast, the big swells started coming in and for a short period of time some of them got really large and start rolling over.  A big 28 footer came in right at the wrong time and got sideways in front of the face of the swell, I swore that boat was going to roll as it was almost 90 degrees on it's side, I'm not sure what saved him but he was awfully lucky. I love saltwater fishing and this was pretty cool.  One of the interesting things were the amount of Lund 17 1/2 foot boats with 40 - 60 hp motors fishing the area.  I suppose if you are used to it but to me, it would be a stretch for me to hop in one of those on that water.  I am trying something new here.  I'd love to post more pictures however it get difficult at best for an old man like me!  Therefore with the help of my friend Lory Brasel, he set me up with a Dropbox where I can put all the pictures on the "cloud" and simply provide you with a link to look at them.  So with that in mind please click HERE to see all the pictures that I currently have from my trip.

The Motley Crew, Dennis, Scott, Jim, Dave, and Karl
On Friday I decided to head up to Frankie's at noon to pick up a new 3 bladed 21" Rebel prop to try on my boat.  This is what most of the newer boat combinations like mine had been coming with and they have been working pretty well.  I'm still convinced that the 20P 4 bladed prop will be perfect but I agreed to try it.  On Saturday afternoon I made it up to Mark's place on Mille Lacs as he agreed to come out with me to try the new prop.  Launching at the resort where his shack is we headed out to 7 Mile Flat where he had some good luck a few hours earlier.  Arriving at the small inside corner of the edge of the flat, we trolled a few crawlers over the area with not much to show for it.  I did get to show off my navigational system with the depth finder and trolling motor however the fish were not cooperating.  Deciding to move we headed for sliver flat before going to 9 Mile but still nothing but a nice perch.  We tried bobber fishing near the July Bar where I did have two bites that took the bobber down but I went zero for two.  A final stop at the Banana Reef before heading to calm water to see how the prop worked.  We opened up the boat and as predicted got the RPM's up to where we need but I felt the 3 bladed prop was not as stable as the 4 bladed prop and the rough water handling was a lot better with 4 blades.  The speed didn't change much, still around 58 mph, hole shot wasn't any more impressive, and it didn't like to be trimmed out as much as the 4 blade prop.  Hopefully they will have it by the time I head to South Dakota in 2 weeks.  It really rained on the way home and I damn near went into the ditch near Izaty"s Resort when out of nowhere driving square into a solid wall of rain.  It was quite the experience, one I don't care to repeat again.  I was going to take my wife out on Sunday however the rain put a damper on those plans but it did give an opening to mount the RAM rod holder mounts to the inside of the boat.  It's difficult to start drilling into a new boat but after the first one it actually went very well and they are solid and look good.

This weekend is the Fourth of July already and the plan is to head to Eau Claire on Saturday to watch the Airshow from Lyn's cousin's house, right next to the airport.  The Blue Angels are supposed to put on a great demonstration and it would also give us a chance to check up on my mother who just had eye surgery.  It does leave Friday and Sunday open and with summer flying as fast as it has, it will not go to waste.  My friend Bruce made it back from Lac Seul with his boat that they put a new lower unit on at the landing and as stated there's plenty to do before we leave for Lake Oahe on the 15th.

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