As myself and the JIG MAKER from the BAY pulled into Rose Marina just before 8 in the morning, both of us were pretty surprised at the mild temperature and light breeze as we walked onto the YANKEE CAPTS. It was the right way to start the opening season 3 DAY CAPTAINS SPECIAL trip that Captain Greg had planned for the 2011 Memorial Day weekend. As we walked around the boat, already there were a number of fishermen on board scurrying about, either checking in or rigging up the cod sticks they brought along for this trip.
I was somewhat anxious to get off the dock this morning and while talking to Captain Greg he was to, with every customer being told that we would be leaving ASAP when everyone who signed up for the trip was on board. Big Bobby and myself went about our business loading on the ice packed 165 quart cooler along with all the tackle that we bring along on these offshore codfish trips.
Immediately both of us went to work pulling out a wide selection of jigs and teasers, and though we were loaded up with OE TACKLE diamond jigs and sand eel tubes, little did we know we could of greatly lessened the load and left all that metal and tubing home, and just brought along a handful of stainless jacketed Viking jigs and plastic curly tails.
Both Big Bobby and myself setup our four outfits for the trip, and I brought along a selection of Pro Gear and Diawa Saltist reels, combined on different action rods ranging from a Crowder Calstar beef stick, Donart GBU sticks, and a rod that became my favorite on this trip, a Captain Richie Calstar 800XH which one fishermen wanted to buy during the trip!
Finally around 1030 am, Captain Greg folded up his laptop and went upstairs and turned on the big Cat engines. Even though it was mentioned that we would be leaving between 11-12 on this trip, everyone was accounted for and it was time to cast off lines. The Yankee Capts was backed out of its dock and passed what seems to be what little is left of the famed 'day-boat' Gloucester ground fish fleet.
Most of the fishermen were out on deck as we traveled east bound from the comfy confines of the harbor and were much of the fishing fleet ties up. We went past this aluminum vessel, the old Applejack, formerly the Captain Starn VI looking as sharp as the day she rolled out of the shipyard at Gulf Craft in the mid seventies.
The five hour ride out to the grounds was uneventful as far as the weather NOAA originally predicted when the forecast was posted last week. We were met by calm seas and a easterly wind in our face, a big difference from the 4-6 seas and small craft winds many thought we would see on this trip. There was heavy fog, something that seemed to only abate just for a few hours every day, but the weather and sedate seas were definitely welcomed for almost the whole trip.
During this time, I made my way around the YANKEE CAPTS, scouting out the various tackle that was rigged to the customers rods along the rail. By far most common of the diamond jigs I saw, were traditional Solvroken Rustfri and similar stainless steel jacketed jigs. I was somewhat surprised since other then myself, I don't think I saw one LAV or Angerman Norwegian cod jig. Here are just a few that were being used this trip.
14oz Rustfri with a pink gummy tail shrimp teaser.
I did see a few ''Deco' Rustfri Norwegian cod jigs with a pattern stamped into the stainless. Whether they caught fish as well as the standard ss jacketed jigs, is another question.
A number of fishermen along with Big Bobby had these knockoff ss Norwegian jigs from Crazy Gear. They seemed to be one of the best catching jigs on this trip.
An old standby which I saw two customers use, and did not catch as well as the shiny ss jacketed jigs.
There was one custom made codfish bucket of note on this trip, and I was told that the tops to hang your codfish jigs are sold by a ebay seller. This black cover is reasonably priced and does the job its intended to in keeping all the jigs separated from each other. I liked it and would use it.
Finally just before 4 pm, Captain Greg pulled back the throttles and started to scan along one of the early season outcroppings in the Gulf of Maine. Everyone made a beeline to the rail and had rods in hand ready to cast a jig. All of a sudden someone yelled out whales, and both myself and Big Bobby had a smile on our face. Those whales meant there was a good amount of bait in the area, and as soon as we dropped down to the bottom after Captain Greg shut down the engines, we were quickly rewarded with nice market sized cod.
It seemed a good bunch of fishermen gathered up in the bow of the YANKEE CAPTS, with Big Bobby, long time regular Brian Kennedy, Gil who drives down from Toronto and who had one of the halibut caught last season, myself, Ron from FISHING UNITED.COM and Pugsly, one of the mates who works on the YANKEE CAPTS in Key West were all into fish.
A number of market cod and nice haddock came up on our first two drops of the trips. We only had roughly four and a half hours fishing and Captain Greg had gotten us off on the right track as both the coolers and burlap bags were filling up. But, there was one thing Big Bobby and a number of us noted that many of the fish being caught were snagged along various parts of the cod, haddock, pollock and cusks body.
Both Big Bobby and myself took an accounting of what we had in the big 165 quart after the fish two drifts. One decent sized pollock mixed in between some good sized haddock and codfish. We knew we had some work to do to get this filled up as Bobby kept repeating to me.
As the whales moved on Captain Greg who is never one to sit and dream, again made a move to get on another pile of fish. We did make a few more drops before the sun went down, but the fishing was not as fast and furious as the first two drops. Much of this was due to what was spit up on the deck and inside the coolers, partially digested herring. Most of the fish were engorged on herring. When you see this, go to your Norwegian style jigs over the standard style diamond jigs (these you use when the fish are on sand eels).
There were a few nice fish caught on the first day, with Ron and Brain Kennedy catching these fish up in the bow area.
Brian holding one of a number of market and steaker cod he caught this trip.
What was interesting was the jig which Brian was using, and for this trip it was one of the best catching cod jigs I saw being used up in the bow area. He passed along that there is a 'basement' jig maker in New England who makes them in three different sizes (10-16 ozs), and it is a bent stainless surface finish-lead filled pipe tube with two end caps and screw in eyes. It impressed me on this trip. It worked!
The big fish of note and pool winner the first day was caught by one of the regulars on a Viking jig, Ivan Fuller of Fuller Fabrication.
As the sun was going down, Captain Greg will move off to a clear open bottom area and sets up for the night. Most of the burlap bags are cleared off from the deck and lined up in the stern to be cut, and then packed in ice in the big fish holds on the Yankee Capts. Other gear and tackle boxes are cleared and tucked away, and the deck is washed down for the night. It was 'blue-bird' like seas as we were coming up to our resting area for this first day.
Joe the fabulous new galley man, was cooking up some tasty meals during the trip ranging from a Chesapeake fish soup, big sausages, tasty chicken dishes and a Italian macaroni meal that would have been given two thumbs here in Bensonhurst Brooklyn. I cannot rave enough about Joe, who is just one of the special people who go out of their way with much patience to cook up almost anything you want, even when its mid afternoon and someone asks for breakfast! Joe made some great meals and picks up where Renata left off with the care and concern for the fishermen with the way the galley is run on the Yankee Capts. On Saturday night without saying a word, he made some cinnamon bun rolls which everyone gobbled up when he put them out. You can rest assured that Joe goes far beyond and above typical party boat galley cuisine.
Day 2 started around 4:30 am as the lights went on in the three bunk areas. This was marathon fishing day as we would fish from a little after 5 in the morning to past 6 at night. This was the part of the trip where you must make most of the fish weight for this trip.
Big Bobby was up bright and early and readjusting his tackle. As is his rule, you play with your tackle before you stop and when the boat is moving to the next spot. It is strictly fishing time when the boat is on a drift or setup on anchor. Here Big Bobby broke out the Crazy Gear jig....go figure from the man who has made so many different custom jigs over the years.
Big Bobby who was by far the hi-hook on this trip, worked between three different rod and Newell reel combinations, using an OE TACKLE 300 gram Viking or 400 gram Crazy Gear Norwegian jig, a 12 oz nickel plated hammer diamond jig which he casts as soon as the boat gets to the next drop, and his double hook curly tail bait rigs. He uses this rotation of tackle depending on how good or finicky the bite is on either the jig or bait rig.
The day started off well with a good pick of cod and a much better pick of haddock. A number of dink 5 - 10 lb pollock made their way into the catch, but the pollock were never a nuisance on this trip. For a while it did seem that Scotchline Tackle 4-3/4 inch in pink, red and light blue/pink/silver color combo squid skirts were hooking codfish right in the jaw. As the day progressed though, by far we saw that curly tails in various shades of green and flo pink were working much better then the skirts. This codfish was caught on a OE 5/0 Baitholder hook with the swivel attached to the eye of the hook.
As the day wore on, most fishermen were experiencing most of the fish they caught snagged in some part of their body. It made small fish feel much bigger especially when the treble is sunk into the aft part of the fishes body. This led a number of us to switch to much larger treble hooks on our jigs, while also picking up the rate of sweeping the jig up and down on the bottom. Normally, and what I prefer is a slow steady lift and following the jig back down instead of letting it quickly descend down to pound the bottom. Big Bobby was whipping his rod back and forth and had reasonably good success with this method.
Many of the fish had a treble in some part of its body, instead of their mouth or around their jawline.
We also started to notice numerous 'scrat' sized codfish under 15 inches being snagged on the jigs. I believe I saw three dozen or so codfish this size brought up in the bow area. Here Brian Kennedy hooks one of the smallest cod I have seen on his stainless pipe jig.
Here is one of the small scrat sized cod that were impaled on a 300 gram (10 oz) OE TACKLE stainless Viking jig with a cut surgical tube squid like squirt. Only a few inches in size separates this codfish with the jig he tried to inhale.
It was midday when there was some yelling amidships on the Yankee Capts. Keith Bergeron hooked and landed one of the largest monkfish I have seen in years, and he was pretty proud of this catch. It also was the pool winning fish on the second day. Here is a few shots to give you a slight idea on how big this monkfish is.
A couple of fishermen commented on how good tasting that monkfish tail looked! It was impressive to say the least.
For those who are wondering what this monkfish ate, here is the rig that Keith was using. The bottom had a pink fly on a treble, while the curly tail teaser was a very light pink color. This line of teeth, actually took the treble hook in its jaws.
After we settled down from the monkfish, Captain Greg and the mates were again racing around and working deck. A few tangles here and there are always to be expected and Matt and Ryan never missed a beat between untangling and gaffing fish. Here is Captain Greg taking a moment to hold up one of the codfish a customer brought up.
As the day progressed into the late afternoon, Captain Greg kept moving along in 10 or more minute spurts between drops, working a depth range and bottom type which he found to be most productive on this trip. Depths ranged from 40 fathoms to 55 fathoms, and for those using from 10 - 16 oz jigs, or bait fishing with 16 to 20 oz sinkers, you never have a problem holding bottom this trip.
Finally we came to the last official drop before we were going to wrap it up for the steaming chicken dinner Joe had made. Even Captain Greg was able to make a few cast to get in on the action.
After picking a few more fish on this drop, most everyone went inside the cabin to relax and dine on Joe dinner. Captain Greg moved to a open bottom area and dropped anchor. Big Bobby barely ate a bite literally running to the stern and grabbing some more bait and proceeding to fish while others ate. Many followed him after dinner to fish, as a number of cod and haddock were caught on this random spot. The guys from Long Island, Brian and Keith landed a number of codfish within the hour fishing next to both Big Bobby and myself.
The current then picked up as the sun was going down and Big Bobby finally stuffed into the cooler a number of keeper sized haddock he caught on this drop before turning in for bed.
During the evening most everyone was in bed while mates Matty and Ryan were cutting fish from 6 pm till after 1 am in the morning when I came up to use the head. To think they would have to be up by 5 am to get ready for the next round of setting and pulling the anchor along with working deck. It is grind that few would ever want to put up with, but both long time mate Matt and new comer for the 2011 season Ryan do it with a smile and a number of jokes all day long.
The Day 3 game plan that Captain Greg had setup meant that we would fish from after 5 am till around 10 am before making our way home and pulling into Rose Marina by 3 pm. That was not to be as Captain Greg gave us a little more fishing time, which was nice bonus as the seas had greatly settled down from the 25-30 mph gusts that blew through the Gulf of Maine the prior night.
Both Big Bobby and myself were all set with what we were going to use in tackle this day. Stainless jacketed and nickel plated Norwegian jigs were put on all the rods that were armed with either 454 or 3500 Pro Gear reels. For years these reels have been one of the standards in fishing reels you will find on these offshore trip, as they are lightweight, reliable and with enough drag and cranking power to handle almost anything you may encounter in the Gulf of Maine or Georges Bank. I did get to use for the first time the new Diawa Saltist 40 which did a fine job. Other then some noise from skimmer grit rubbing between the spool and reel frame most of the trip, these reels are a recommended choice for this type of fishing.
I should also make note, that as much as many fishermen use Power Pro Braid like I do, I have one reel with Cortland spectra and I prefer it over the 'wire-like' finish on the Power Pro. I will in the future use more of the Cortland spectra as I phase out the Power Pro line. The knots tie up better, while the line is much easier to work with.
The fishing remained the same, with a blast of fish then a prolonged pick all around the boat. Captain Greg moved off to another spot near the end of the trip which definitely was rockier then the other drops we fished. A number of calls for the gaff on both sides of the boat were heard as between 6-8 nice wolfish came up around midships. After a few pics were taken, NMFS being cursed, these wolfish were being returned back to where they came from. Here Captain Greg is keeping this fanged critter at bay from Ron.
Keith from Long Island also landed one of the biggest wolfish I have seen on these trips in a while. He thought it was pretty neat on till it was tossed back overboard.
It was well after 1030 when Captain Greg gave the end of the trip signal. Instructions were given to bring all fish to the stern to be cut, then placed into two heavy weight commercial plastic bags and finally neatly packed in ice inside your cooler. Captain Greg came down to the deck as the boat made its way back into Gloucester and is watching over Matt and Ryan as they are wrapping up 3 days of fish cutting and packing.
On the way in, most fishermen were in the cabin as Captain Greg has installed a big flat screen tv for this season. I can pass along to all of you, that everyone enjoyed watching tv on the moves between spots and when we laid up during the evening, with myself and a couple of other of the guys on Saturday night sitting back and enjoying watching the UFC for a few hours.
We made our watch into Gloucester at around 4 pm, and hour later then we planned. The weather was warm on the dock and everyone got off the Yankee Capts pretty quickly since many thought the traffic for the ride home would be impossible. Well with Big Bobby driving, we made it home in record time with little if ANY traffic to speak of on Monday afternoon this Memorial Day weekend, and after leaving Rose Marina at around 4:30, I was dropped off at my house at 8:30 pm. Absolutely incredible we kept saying!
Looking back at the opening season 3 day extended Captains Specials trip, there were a few teachable moments that I would like to recap and pass along....
1- One of the most important facets for filling the cooler, is to stay at the rail and fish. Many fishermen get discouraged after the first blast of fish come through and then sit down and take a break. The only break time should be when the boat is moving. On trips where the fishing was a pick on every spot, picking 2,3 or more extra fish on each drop makes a BIG difference in what you end up in your fillet bag by the end of the trip. Captain Greg must of made 20 drops or more over 3 days, so you can do the math and see how many more fish you will catch by fishing then sitting inside the cabin. Big Bobby and myself ended up with 97 cod and haddock that we kept, with only 3-4 cusk and 5 pollock.. We must of tossed back 40 or more fish. There are more then enough fish to be caught on these trips if you stay at the rail and fish.
2- Observation is the next big key to filling the cooler. I was pretty stubborn sticking with an Angerman 10 and 12 oz for the first and second day, picking away at fish while Big Bobby went right to the traditional stainless jacketed Norwegian jig. On this trip shiny metal jigs ruled with the VI-KE 16 oz, Rustfri and Crazy Gear 400 gram (14 oz) and OE TACKLE stainless 300 gram (10 oz) jigs doing the majority of the fish catching when using jigs. Go figure when I was told by another fishermen who fished in the Gulf of Maine that day that these same unplated Angermans beat the pants off the fish on another fishing vessel. 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do' is what I can pass along here.
3- Captain Richie of Atlantic Rods 800XH Calstar......I ended up using this rod for the majority of the trip. This is definitely one blank you should take a close look at if you intend to do this type of GOM ground fishing. The blank does not beat you up, and has a more progressive action then the 900M Calstar. It does remind me a little of the slightly heavier in weight Seeker 909 which Ralph Rodwinder built a few years back. For both jig and bait fishing, It should be something you add into rod arsenal.
4- As far as teasers, as much as I prefer the vinyl 4-3/4 inch squid skirts, curly tails ruled by a wide margin especially when using bait. It truly was interesting to keep track of what fishermen were catching fish with and the curly tail was number one over both the squid skirt and cod fly.
5- Mono line. With the way the cod and haddock bit this trip, where a good majority of the fish were snagged in some part of their anatomy, both Big Bobby and myself noticed a number of dropped fish when using braid. I switched over to long top shots (200 feet), and it lessened the amount of dropped fish. With this type of fishing along banks, ledges and rocky pinnacles and the size of the fish being caught, 40 lb test is good enough and will ensure more bites especially on your bait rigs.
6- Bow, midship or stern? Depending on the talent on board usually does make a big different in what ends up in the fisherman's cooler or burlap by the end of the day on where you fish on the boat. On this trip, a good number of fish came up amidships on both sides of the boat. Yes there were less tangles in the bow due to the fishermen working with each other in that area, but don't disregard midship as being in 'nomans' land for fishing. Depending on the way the current is running on either the anchor or drift, should also be a deciding factor to where you move around on the boat (if space allows you to roller skate like what we experienced on this trip).
Finally if any FISHING UNITED.COM members would like to put together small groups of fishermen to fish on the YANKEE CAPTS as space permits on the various trips during the season, please let me know. Depending on people schedules during the summer, sometimes it may be easier to get a few fishermen together and then book a trip. This is a good option to remember if you want to dig into fishing during the summer months on board the Yankee Capts.
He has come up with something that is unique and should work out and is similar to what was done in the past on a long range trip, as this trip will be planned to be a combination deep wreck trip off of Georges and the Gulf of Maine, with the added shallower water fishing for some haddock on the banks and ledges. Cost for the trip will be 435 dollars and payment has to be in by mid to end of the July, for this trip. From this point, it will allow a little over six weeks plus time to get your money in. This trip will be leaving Thursday night Sept 1, and will be back on Labor Day by 3:00 PM giving us 3 and 1/2 days of fishing time. This trip is limited to 28 anglers.
Let us know since I have been asked about the price and details of this type of trip. Captain Greg will be fishing some remote areas, and some trophy fish should be brought up during this trip. Also everyone can plan to maybe bring one thing along to share, but other then that Captain Greg will have Joe running a full galley with 3 days plus of meals being prepared by him.
Again please let us know and I will start a list, since payment has to be sent into the Yankee Capts office as the month of June and July progress.
I hope that everyone will get a few ideas from the opening day trip for the YANKEE CAPTS 2011 season. Big Bobby and myself are still passing out fillets to all our buddies from this cooler-plus filling trip. Knowing what to bring and do along the rail greatly helps with what you have in the cooler at the end of these trips with Captain Greg on the YANKEE CAPTS.