Aug 13th - 15th 'Skippers Choice'
When I met Mike Tuna and Local 3 Vice President Joe at 1030 in the morning in Queens, it looked to be smooth sailing as we assembled our group and proceeded to make our way to Rose Marina in Gloucester. Little did we know the traffic that afternoon was brutal, with I-95 in the Bronx its usual slow self, I-95 in Connecticut bumper to bumper right up to New Haven, a nice car meets truck and loses to truck accident on I-91, slow traffic along I-84 till we were far east of Hartford, slow traffic along the Mass. Pike, and then the wonders of I-95 around the Boston area, which is the equal of our lovely Cross-Bronx Expressway anytime of the day as we worked on our tans in Mikes nice Tahoe. A 4 hour ride turned into a 6 hour crushing drive as we finally made it to Main St. and the Rose Marina where the Yankee Capts is docked during the summer months.
A quick meal was in order as the group was assembling and we went down the road to the TOPSIDE RESTAURANT where we hit it off as we were all excited about this fishing adventure. All I can say is that I had the most expensive dish of haddock I have ever eaten in my life. (HInt: if you are going to order one dish there, by far go for the shrimp scampi).
Finally the Yankee Capts had pulled in from the previous overnight trip. Everyone was scrambling as coolers, food, ice, fishing tackle and bags were going on board, while the crew of Captain Greg, Matt, Johnny Boy and TJ were hustling cleaning up and prepping it for the turn around that was leaving at 10 pm.
We loaded all the ice, food and drinks first, before a mad scramble was made down to the bunk room. I was one of the last to get down below with our special guest Captain Richie Kessinger, former owner/operator of the Freeport Long Island based 'STARSTREAM', and Captain Bill Dotts, who worked for a number of years with one of the most noted southern New Jersey wreck fishing captains Andy Applegate, along with other very well known captains from the Atlantic City NJ area. I ended up getting that top bunk right next to the ladder at the very front of the forward bunk area. Not bad as it was very comfortable with loads of space to store my gear.
I like to mention for those not familiar with the 3 bunk areas below the main deck of the Yankee Capts, the first as you go down the stairs is truly an ice box, and many of the guys who slept there loved it. The middle bunk area is slightly cooler, while the forward is just reasonably cool. The new bunks are top notch, the best I have ever had the pleasure to sleep upon on any fishing vessel. They really did a great job in making the bunk area so comfortable for all the fishermen who do the extended and over night trips.
Once everything was loaded on board, Captain Greg introduced himself and started to go through the mandatory safety checklist. After that he then added that the fishing has been very good and that the most consistent fishing lure was any pink rubber curly tail and or shrimp tail, Sure enough, he was right on the money on what he recommended to use. We had our first raffle, as I donated a bunch of OE and Rustfri diamond jigs along with a dozen and a half OE sand eel tubes and a pack of 100 OE Beak hooks. The winner.....................Mike Tuna!
Now settled in, Captain Greg then backed out the Yankee Capts, and proceeded out of the harbor. Conditions were very mild with little wind unlike what I was told about the weather off Long Island and New Jersey where 20 to 25 mile were clocked during the day. We saw none of those gusts on any of the days we were on the boat. It led to an uneventful ride out for the next 8 or so hours. I believe everyone was down below catching a few needed winks during the ride out.
It was past 6 in the morning....many of the guys were up since the smell of bacon was now wafting into the bunk room. TJ was grilling up breakfast, and everyone was now wolfing down their food as Captain Greg was pulling back the sticks. Conditions look very calm, as Captain Greg was scanning the bottom on till he came upon his first drop where he put down the anchor.
Immediately everyone was surprised by a screaming current running through the area where those using bait watched their 16 ounce sinker disappear towards the stern. Those like myself who were armed with either a LAV, ANGERMANN or RUSTFRI jig had to switch to a much heavier jig to hit the bottom. I don't remember the depth on the first drop, and Captain Greg throughout the trip was going over the hailer before everyone dropped down about the depth of the spot. I was able to effectively work a 14 oz Angermann jig, but it took a great deal of patience and concentration to tend to it. Many fishermen were adjusting to the roaring current as they choose either heavier jigs or sinkers.
A good mix of fish started to come up despite the hard running current and Mike Tuna seemed to have the hot hand as he adjusted his sinker weight to 30 ounces which was necessary to hold the bottom. He caught a number of codfish while everyone else was steadily picking away at cusk, smaller pollock and a few haddock.
Captain Greg came down from the wheelhouse to help Johnny and Matt work through the tangles, gaff fish, tie rigs and help out everyone as best they could to get their fish into the boat. It was pretty trying since countless times throughout the trip, fish were coming over the rail from all around the boat and they were running up and down the rail gaffing fish.
One thing about Captain Greg is that you will never see him just sit or drift and dream on a spot. When the fishing slows down he was back up in the wheelhouse getting the Yankee Capts to the next spot. All you would then see was Greg turning his head to the right to view his big commercial bottom machine and look for the right readings. He gave me a call to get up to the wheelhouse and show me some of the readings he was over. Boy, I wish I saw those readings down here in the NY Bight!
It was a process he continued throughout the day, looking and then fishing different depths from 240 to what seemed to be over 400 feet in depth at times, trying to work with the screaming current on till it finally slacked off in the early afternoon. We started making drifts and those who worked their jigs did well.
We then made a move to one killa' pollock spot. the 'PE', where double headers were coming up all around the boat. It was total mayhem and everyone loved the action as many of these fishermen had from 15 to 30 plus pounds of crazed pollock fighting there way up from the depths. Everything you dropped down to the bottom was bit with both clams and jigs being chewed up for the next half of a hour.
Then Captain Greg took us to his redfish honey hole where Mike Tuna had a few triple headers, and we got a great blast of one of the finest eating fish the Gulf of Maine has to offer. Cusks were also consistently seen throughout the trip, with some of these 'big salamis' sneaking their way into the catch on every drop.
I really enjoyed that drop and the size of the redfish were top notch and I know we being Mike Tuna, VP Joe and myself put a number of those delicious fish in our coolers. Many of the fishermen on board had a big kick out of that drop for the smallest fish we would target throughout this trip.
Throughout the day we were either fishing, waiting to fish or eating. It was an incredible smorgasbord of delicacies as everyone brought a mix of Christines tasty pies which were gobbled up any time they came out, to dinners where we had home made lasagna and other finely prepared dishes. All I can remember is the tasty spare ribs, Bob Ks 'pulled pork', a outstanding cole slaw salad and more throughout the trip.
(Christine making sure everyone got a piece of her incredible baked pies as TJ watches on the second day)
We also saw some fine fish come up with Captain Bill bagging what would of been the biggest codfish on this trip. He did not enter the pool, but was happy for one of the Local 3 union members who also brought up a nice steaker codfish in during the first day.
We did have some unexpected excitement as blue sharks started coming around the boat and trying to eat any fish that was being brought up.
Steve, another Local 3 electrician, hooked on a 300 series Newell a nice blue dog. It was a pretty valiant fight for 10 minutes, on till the shark finally had enough and took off, both the Newell and Steve held up surprising well. The shark finally busted off taking off a load of line, and Captain Greg said to me 'touch this', which was the lock nut which holds the handle onto the bridge sleeve. It was as hot as hell to say the least!
It seemed one or two blue sharks would come up around the boat, and the gulls would play a game of just getting out of the way as the shark would literally be a few feet away and make a lunge, just missing the gull. Everyone who saw this display wondered why any bird would let a shark get that close to them. It seemed that no matter where we went, the sharks if given the chance would quickly make turns to the gull and make an attempt to eat a gull that did not get out of the way in time.
Anyone who has fished on board the Yankee Capts, has spent a few moments looking at this tackle display of various sized stainless steel jigs, cod flies and rubber curly tails that are used. It was all very simple years back as all a fishermen needed to pack was some pink curly tails and a few Solvroken Rustfri jacketed jigs from 14 ounces to 21 ounces along with two or three standard chromed diamond jigs. How far have we gone as we now see various LAV, ANGERMANN, Nickel platted 99s and a few other diamond jigs in every cod fishermens pail.
As I said earlier, how far have we gotten here in codfishing in the Gulf of Maine, that you still see the same jigs and rubber teasers that we used 25 years ago? Below is all you need to bring along, and thanks to Mike Tuna who constructed his own little tackle pail, you see one consistent theme as far as the color of rubber 8 inch curly tails in hot pink that are used:
As Captain Greg stated before we left the dock, pink/flo red curly tail/shrimp combination out fished every other lure by a far distance. Below you see a red rubber shrimp tail rigged with a OE 4x beak hook with 2 slices in the shank. This hook is used since those slices in the shank of the hook help keep the shrimp from being pulled down when a fish bites on it.
What seemed to also have very good success was the smaller glo B2 style squids, and the cheaper 4 or so inch pink and orange cut 'shrimp like' surgical tubing . Both worked equally well for catching cod, pollock, and anything else whether bait fishing or jigging. But if you want to have ONE teaser in the tackle box, by far bring along those 6-8 inch flo pink and red curly tails.
As for rigging up especially when you are fishing in the clay for haddock, a simple high lo rig made off a 3-4 inch dropper loop rigged one foot off the bottom on the lo, and 2-3 feet off the bottom for the higher hook.Typically you can add one of the above mentioned teasers, and even cut surgical tubing teasers in the mentioned colors also worked.
Also what some fishermen tend to neglect but which you should toss in your pail:
- 16 and 20 ounce sinkers (just a handful)
- Coil spools of 50, 60 & 80 lb test to make your top shots (Berkley Big Game/Jinkai/Momoi)
- Heavy duty split rings, and swivels of 225 lb test or larger
- Split ring and fishermens pliers along with scissors
Keeping it simple as far as tackle a 4/0 sized geared reel such as Pro Gear, Penn Baja Special, or 4/0H Senator are the workhorses that I highly recommend. But other reels such as a Torium 30 and Saltist 40 are perfect in size, pulling power and light weight to use for either jig and bait fishing. Add either 50 lb (fine for haddock bait fishing or tossing a jig without a dropper loop teaser) or the preferred 65 lb braid of your choice, and then add at a minimum a 60 foot mono topshot.
For rods, you need a stick that is from 7 and a half to eight feet in length, and it must be stiff enough to be able to work the heavy jigs or sinkers used. You are making more work for yourself if you bring along a rod more fit for cod fishing off of Long Island then for what is required in the GOM.
I happened to luck out and pick up a Florida built Crowder LB 80H which is made off the Calstar graphite blank. Captain Greg on the second day, from up on the second deck asked me if I was using a Crowder rod, and I told him I was. He said that in a short amount of time they have become very popular in Florida and he is seeing them being used more often for this type of fishing. Thanks to Jim for turning me on to this rod. It was my main stick that I used during this trip as it was a beast for pulling up double header pollock and swinging single 10 pound pollock over the rail. Combined with the pulling power of my narrow 4/0 LEE PRO KC, this combination wore the fish out, not myself.
One last thing I should point out was that the cod flies did not catch any fish from what I saw. I used them for a half a day on one of my jigs, then on the next day I used Harvey Peanut Bunkers special cod fly. Sorry to say, no luck Harvey, but I tried. Here I placed it on my 10 oz Angermann jig on my Pro Gear 3500 outfit.
Mike Tuna brought along a MIYA EPOCH electric reel, strung with 200lb test. He used it a number of times and had some pretty good success with it. He is thinking about purchasing one of the newer Diawa electric reels with the portable battle pack.
One thing you will see on the Yankee Capts is both mates Matt and Johnny running around pouring water on the burlap bags and later in the day as the boat is making a long move, cutting fish. They do this for hours, and after working deck all day, imagine cutting this amount of fish for the next few hours:
Then think about cutting more fish on the second day, before you have to wash the boat down. They do an incredible job, working in almost a trance like state, armed with a rubber glove on their non- cutting hand holding the fish in place, and repeating this for a few hundred fish. It makes you realize that these guys truly earn their tips.
Captain Greg took the wheel after dinner and ran the boat to the next new area we would be fishing on the second day. As he said, 'we are going to be fishing the clay for haddock'. 2 hours and 10 minutes later the anchor was set as we settled up, and everyone made their way to their bunks to catch a well need rest. I doubt that anyone fished during the night.
The second day started with breakfast at 0530 in the morning as the anchor was picked and Captain Greg made his move to the first spot that we would fish. During this trip we brought our own fresh skimmers, 2 bushels for 3 fishermen, which I picked up at Stella Maris here in the Bay and was wondering if we had enough since we burnt through a good amount of our bait on the first day. I would recommend to always bring along one opened (shucked) bag of fresh, lightly salted skimmers because it does make a difference when fishing for haddock (yes I know I will hear something about this from some GOM fishermen!)
We again started to pick away and the fishing was consistent, with a few lulls then wild burst of fish coming up around the boat. Captain Greg made numerous drops around this area, and I lucked out and caught a haddock close to 8 lbs on this day, definitely one of my biggest haddock that I can remember catching. Noticeably larger haddock were being caught by most, and it seemed that everyone finally became comfortable with the tackle they were using. Here is Andrew with a nice haddock he caught early in the day:
Everyone was enjoying the trip as the weather was as good as you can ask for fishing 80-100 miles from the dock. Bob K said to me that over the 25 or so years he has fished with the Yankee Capts, that this was some of the finest weather he has seen. I doubt you could ask for anything as calm as we saw on the first day, with the second day a 2 foot or so chop came on as the wind picked up to a refreshing 10-15 mph. No one minded, as everyone I talked to had a smile on their face.
Bob K and his wife Christine were catching fish on the starboard quarter along with Joe who drove all the way from North Carolina to make this trip with us.
All was not too quiet as Captain Greg decided to move to a special wreck where all mayhem broke out. The fishing at this time became heated as screams for the gaff, were heard between double header pollock, along with some cod and haddock were doing their death beat on the deck.
It seemed that on this spot, that if you missed a bite or dropped a fish on the way up, you just went back down and tied into another fish or two. Captain Greg was literally 'running' around the boat as the gaff was flying as both Matt and Johnny were helping customers with their fish or lines. Here he was helping Tim who just landed a double header of haddock.
Both Tom and his son were having a blast, and I knew that the biggest yelps out of them came from the single and double header pollock that they were bringing up between haddock, cusk and some smaller cod.
Captain Richie Kessinger who at 75 years young was a true fishing machine. He was always at the rail and most of the two days was tied into a fish. Watching one of the legends of cod fishing catch fish like he did is something I won't forget, even though I have fished alongside of him on a number of private trips over the years. Anyone who thinks you need expensive tackle to successfully catch fish should look at the tackle that Captain Richie 'K' is using. "It's not the tackle Stevie Boy" he once said to me when I was just staring at a rod that I thought was made in the sixties!
It seemed like the action never stopped towards the end of the second day as a gaff always seemed to be in the water as multiple fish were always coming up. Here Mike Tuna has a fish on the top while I was pulling in a codfish on my old Fenwick stick.
Finally at 1:30, Captain Greg said it was time to go home. I did not hear a whimper from anyone as bags of fish were scattered all around the boat, and many of the coolers, especially ours was filled to the top.
The next raffle went off as Peter K donated a bunch of his diamond jigs and Bog K won that package. Also there was some glowing faces for the biggest codfish and other largest edible pool fish.
Fish cleaning started in the stern as everyone was wrapping up their gear and proceeding down to the bunk room for a few hours sleep before the long ride to our homes. It was a nice period to relax, catch a warm shower in peace and just sit back and wait for dinner as Captain Greg would be working the grill as Rob Togilator and his buddy Tim brought some top quality hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage which Greg cooked for everyone on the boat. I know Captain Greg said something to me about being banned if I took this shot of him at the grill:
It was during this time I was talking to Lester who came up from the Atlantic City area of New Jersey who was on one of the previous Fisharc Yankee Capts trips. He really enjoys driving up to fish with everyone from both fishing sites, and that they are so enjoyable when done in this buffet style manner.
By this time everyone was getting prepared for the trip home. Both Matt and Johnny were cleaning deck and prepping the boat to be tied up at the dock. Captain Greg was back in the wheelhouse bringing the Yankee Captains into Gloucester Harbor.
I cannot tell you how many of the fishermen on the boat came over to thank me for putting this trip together, and I said it was Captain Greg and his crew along with everyone on board who made this a very memorable trip. Both coolers and stomachs were filled and from what I was told Mike Tuna who helped put this Yankee Capts Skippers Choice trip together had talked to Local 3 VP Joe, that they are booking the whole boat for a extended trip next season in June.
Finally at a little after 8 pm, the Yankee Capts eased into their dock. The crew was running around prepping the boat to do their 3rd turn around overnight trip at 10 pm. I could not believe the energy they had after cleaning fish and washing the boat down for the last 7 hours!
Making our way to the dock, we passed Captains Bill Dotts old boat that he ran for years for Captain Andy Applegate out of Atlantic City NJ, a Gulf Craft that had a unique look to it. He said it brought back some good memories when he was running boats a few decades ago.
At the dock we were greeted by Captain Richies old mates, our moderator Marc P -CtWhiteChin, and Chris Yates. Richie was staying for this trip too, and I said to him that I don't know how he does it, especially with the wind now honking at the dock.
As Mike Tuna, Joe and myself pulled out of the lot just after 9, we knew we had a big car ride home, but we were pretty stoked from the last few days of fishing. Captain Greg and the rest of the Yankee Capts crew gave us some trip to remember. For fishermen like us, the Yankee Capts over night trips are a must 'to do' during the fishing season.
EC Newell Man