As I sit here writing this article, I wish that those who read this fishing adventure could have been on board the YANKEE CAPTS for just 'one day' to just experience what for me has been one of the most enjoyable fishing trips in my lifetime. It was a long time coming as Captain Greg Mercurio and myself first outlined the plans for such a trip back in the fall of 2010, with the intention to give the fishermen who joined us, the longest amount of fishing time on a trip departing out of Gloucester. The primary intention was to fish the most productive areas in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Banks, and as a bonus, give a special prize for the biggest groundfish caught on the trip.
Now four days from our return to ROSE MARINA, I believe Captain Greg gave everyone on board more then just a cod, haddock and pollock trip. From the start of the fishing day on Friday, on every stop on till the final 'lines up we going home' on Monday morning. there was constant excitement and tension as all of us did not expect to see and experience what occurred during this four day, Labor Day weekend trip.
It was in December 2010 that the Yankee Capts office gave FISHING UNITED.COM a four day block of days during the Labor Day weekend that just happened to be on a lighter tidal period off the moon. The amount of time for this trip would give Captain Greg the flexibility to steam to, and fish further then on the regularly scheduled trips done during the summer season. On this trip, fishermen would have roughly 40 plus hours of daylight fishing time over four days. Little did we know when we finalized the details on this trip that this would be the longest trip from Gloucester Massachusetts in the more than three decade history of the YANKEE CAPTS.
As we came into mid summer period of 2011, I was having my doubts that the trip would get off the dock as we hovered around a dozen or so fishermen. I was pretty concerned and I said so to Captain Greg who told me to relax and that we would pickup a couple more fishermen along the way who typically watch the weather. I remember the conversation, explaining to Captain Greg, ''but we barely got 12 fishermen.''
Captain Greg without hesitation said, ''12 fishermen.....if its only 12 fishermen, I am taking them fishing.'' After this conversation it seemed that with the help of Alana in the Yankee Capts office, we continued to pick up a few fishermen each week on till we came two short of filling our maximum 28 man rail limit. It was also during this time that BOB K stepped up as he always does with the private charters, as he took the lead and helped coordinate the food list which took the pressure off of me in trying to come up, and keep track of the goodies normally brought along and shared, especially for the end of the fishing trip bar-b-que.
As the trip approached it was time for me to get my gear together. What was supposed to be a few days of preparing, turned into a mad rush due to all the calls and emails I handle and I finally decided to bring everything 'plus the kitchen sink' for the trip. That earned me a 'good talking to' from Bobby, aka the Jig Maker from the Bay, who goes up with me on these trips. Honestly I told him, I brought what I thought I needed for a 4 day groundfish trip....for everyone!
Getting out of Brooklyn at 11 am Thurday morning is usually uneventful and a quick ride along the BQE as the rush hour has passed. It turned out that the traffic was giving Bobby palpitations, leading him to reach for his digitalis meds along with pointing out every slow moving 'mo-mo' on the roadways. Thankfully the rest of the ride was smooth sailing for us, but as we came to see later on, many who left just 2 hours later were met with very prolonged traffic jams along the way that caused a few fishermen to contact us that they were not going to make the new departure time of 8 pm.
During this time, everyone who was on board seemed to be either putting their sleeping gear down in the bunk room or working on their tackle. Various custom rods made by a number of noted rod builders started to be placed in the rod holders. Lid tops were flipped off custom made 5 gallon pails, and fishermen started to place their favorite jigs and teasers on their rods.
One thing I made a priority for this trip was that we would help any fishermen rig up correctly and even supply some of the tackle, starting with setting up fishing reels up with a good extended length top shot of EXSUM monofilament line, making up bait rigs, or rigging up the various stainless steel jigs properly. Bobby held court at one of the forward dinette tables, helping out his friend Timmy with the jigs we would use on this trip.
Finally, the last fishermen on our list scrambled down the ramp with his gear in tow. Captain Greg had the YANKEE CAPTS ready to go as both he and the crew had stayed tied to the dock for the last few days, either working on the boat, driving a few hours each way to get fresh bait, and then finally loading up all the fish boxes with a few tons of ice. Jeff 'Fishaholic' broke out a very tasty spread for everyone coming on board, and that started the smorgasbord of food that we consumed over the next four days. When I saw what he brought, I thought he was a full time caterer.
It was now twenty minutes to nine as the YANKEE CAPTS pulled away from the dock and headed past the breakwater that separates Gloucester Harbor from the sea. The crew consisted of Captain Harry O'Brien as the second captain, long time mate Matty, along with old time mate Eugene 'GINO' DaSilva, and Joe Donnelly our chef in the galley. Our special guest was also on board, a man well known for decades of wreck hunting and researching wrecks in New England waters, Tim Coleman. Tim was the long time editor of the New England edition of the 'FISHERMEN' magazine and also author of a number of definitive books on wrecks and wreck fishing. For a number of years he has also been a freelance writer on in depth wreck fishing articles, most notably as a regular contributor to publications such as 'SOUNDINGS', and 'BOATING WORLD.'
I had met TIm earlier in the afternoon when he yelled out my name and then said 'catch', as he tossed me down a big bag full of the best cod flys I have ever had the privilege to use, tied by top New England fishermen Jim Feeney. JIm had taken the time from his busy day, to drive to the boat so I could use these particular cod flys on this trip. Thanks there Jim, since his pink cod fly helped me catch the biggest pollock on the trip!
Captain Greg had passed along to me before we left on this trip that in talking to Tim they had a spot from a local draggerman that we would possibly fish at night for white hake, before then making a very long steam offshore. Even though the course to this bad hang would take us slightly out of the way, he was assured the numbers were solid and that it would be a nice way to start the trip just a few hours from leaving Gloucester.
Sure enough just a few hours later, Captain Greg pulled back the sticks and started to search for the new spot. It wasn't long either, that he again pulled back even more on the sticks and was slowly scanning something. The numbers were good, but instead of this being a busted up shipwreck, it turned out to be a bigger then normal pile of rocks in this area that a number of draggers hung up and hit over the years. Captain Greg made a good call in not taking anymore time looking over and the fishing this spot since we still had a good long ride offshore to our first daylight fisihng spots. We would have a shot during the upcoming nights to fish for white hake on some of the wrecks in the areas we would be fishing.
By this time, most of the fishermen in the cabin were like myself, already snuggled up in our bunks and making sure we were fully rested up for the long fishing days ahead of us. Everyone had their rods rigged up and ready to go, and it was only a matter of time before the lights came on in the bunk room around 5:30 in the morning to signal the half hour 'get ready time' that Captain Greg gives before he starts fishing.
It seemed that most everyone on board was outside the cabin and most like myself were moving around like the energizer bunny as the anchors were being set. With the sun now up over the horizon, we saw what was slick flat, blue-bird like conditions. I along with the others were very happy to see this as we were getting ready to fish.
I took a good look at where all my outfits were stored, right in the rod holders on the forward icebox and was deciding on which one I would use first. Would it be the standard stainless steel 400 gram (14 oz) Viking, or the 10 oz Angerman jig or a heavier 16 oz OE TACKLE nickel plated copy LAV jig. So many choices, but I decided the 14 oz stainless Viking was the way to go and decided on using that rig and jig.
Finally Captain Greg shut the big Cat engines down and gave us the depth on our first drop of this trip. I figured to myself that it was not as deep as I thought he would first try, but Bobby let out 'thats a good way down to the bottom.' Fish started to come up after a few minutes and it seemed we had a consistent pick of cod and pollock with a few haddock coming up on either flys or on bait along with some of the 'salamis', the cusk, starting to make there presence known. Calls for the gaff were coming from all around the boat giving everyone a good indication that there were fish still coming up, even though a few of us were not catching any in the bow area.
When the fishing slowed down, I made my rounds around the boar to see who had caught any notable fish to speak of. It was nice to see burlap bags, and coolers having a few fish inside of them and Todd pulled out one of the nicer sized cod caught on that drop.
Our next drops during the day started to become more how shall we say, 'exciting', as we were now being greeted by one of the apex predators in the Gulf of Maine at this time of the season, 'Prionace glauca', well known to fishermen as blue sharks.
Blue sharks are extremely common in the northeast region, and are a well known nuisance when cod, pollock or tuna fishing in the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank and the Nantucket wrecks area from the late summer right through the early fall period on till the water temperatures cool enough to have them move along during late October. For the rest of this fishing trip, we would experience these visitors on almost every drop, and it seemed that a game plan would have to be developed to get our groundfish up to the top, as well as lessen the loss of groundfish tackle that occurs when the blue sharks are around.
Captain Greg alerted us to this issue and then added '" haven't seen them this ferocious during this time of the year", as they would follow the YANKEE CAPTS from one drop to the next, with the vibration of the boat and then the fish coming up 'the chum' in helping them zero in on us and then very quickly, resume eating any fish which they could grab.
As the day wore on, we hit a very productive cod drop which brought tears to some anglers eyes as a number of larger market and steaker cod were being chewed up as they came up. Rob Togilator fishing up in the pulpit had now hooked a very large fish on an Ralph Rodwinder Ultra Custom SUPER SEEKER DDCT rod. Calls for the gaff were being made and Gino ran up to the bow as now Rob was trying to get his cod past a big shark that came by. All of a sudden screaming went out from everyone in the pulpit area, and Robs big codfish was now in this big blue sharks mouth.
The battle now was in trying to wrestle both the big codfish and his jig from the teeth of a hungry blue shark. When many thought all was lost, Rob applying as much pressure on the rod as he could, literally tore the now mangled codfish from this sharks mouth, and in a few cranks to the top had it quickly gaffed by Gino. Everyone looked at what was left of a fish that would of been in contention for the overall pool we had on this trip.
Big Bobby said it was war as he also lost a big codfish and his jig to a blue shark, as it now seemed we had the blue sharks in a feeding frenzy around the boat. Hooting and hollering now became part of the noisy activity on the boat as fishermen were being told to reel up as fast as they could the last 100 feet or so, to hopefully ensure that got both their rig and the fish got on the boat, not in the sharks mouth. The loss rate of fish was now estimated to be pretty close to one third of all groundfish being brought up from the bottom, but a few notable fish came up.
The blue sharks never abated and everyone continued to experience a good number of losses of quality fish. At times, the blue shark bite was so intense that they even started to chomp on the small spiny dogfish that were being brought up by fishermen using bait. Normally blue sharks will hit the 'dogs' as a last resort, but when this picture was taken, cod, haddock, pollock and cusk were still coming up.
We also saw a few wolfish on this trip, with Gino finally restraining this one in a 'mata leão' like hold for a picture before releasing it back overboard.
Towards the end of the first day, Captain Greg took us over to a redfish drop in the area where we had been fishing most of the day, and no one was dissapointed with the number of these very tasty fish that would come up. It was so good in fact that we only just this one redfish for every fisherman to have his fill of these fish.
Captain Greg again told everyone to get their lines up as he wanted to get on another cod spot. I took an assessment of what Bob and myself had in our cooler, and no doubt we had more then enough redfish to take home, along with just the head of Bob's cod sitting right on top. Still we had a little ways to go to fill up the cooler for this day
The fishing on this next spot started off well and we had some quality fish again come up with Timmy catching this bull sized haddock on the drop.
It was during this drop that I again had another blue shark hit my line, but I was already prepared since I now had broke out my 'big gun' outfit for the trip, a fast taper Calstar 900H Crowder built rod, with a Lee Pro KC, filled with 65 lb spectra with a 60 lb test topshot of smoke blue jinkai, with a 54 inch length of 50 lb test OE TACKLE leader material, and the fight was on.
Keeping pressure on a blue shark with heavy codfish tackle, is no simple matter and possibly luck would have it that it turned out to be one of the smaller blue sharks that were circling the YANKEE CAPTS. Bobby who was watching me saw I had a good shot at getting this fish to the boat, and came over to help out. Working as a team, he started to hand line in the shark, with me now relegated to standing behind him with the rod now high over his back. When the fish made a strong run, he let go of the line and I then put the pressure on with the rod and reel. As soon as the run stopped, he grabbed the line and the process continued of handlining the fish to the boat.
Using this method of fighting a fish which is done by Bobby and Tony 'Fish' on tuna trips, we were able to get this shark to the boat in roughly ten minutes time. Then the fun really began as we now had to make a release of this shark in the water and also get my valuable jig back. In a blur, I passed my rod to whoever was standing next to me, and ran inside to get my camera and started taking pictures.
Gino who was running all around the boat gaffing fish, ran over to us when he saw we had the blue shark this close to the hull of the boat and then masterfully stuck the gaff hook not just once, but twice into the 170 lb stainless Rosco split ring above the jig hook, and proceeded to commence a vigorous shaking of the sharks head to pull the 11/0 heavy duty treble hooks out of its jaws.
Here you can clearly see the hook of the gaff, now through the split ring.
It finally worked, as the shaking up and down of the sharks snout dislodged the treble hook, and we had our first official release of a blue shark of this trip. If anyone has any doubts about the strength of a Mustad 11/0 treble hook when compared to other hook companies treble hooks, here is the outcome, some slightly bent trebles along with the vinyl Peace Token Tackle orange 4 3/4 inch squid skirt with glow in the dark eyes, none the worse from the battle.
Captain Greg had a shot from his big fish finder of what the sharks were doing in this area. In the image below he points out how a blue shark is sitting above the pile of groundfish we were over.
During the time I was playing with the blue sharks, the biggest codfish of this day and ultimately the winning fish for the Ralph Rodwinder Ultra Custom PIN HOOK CLASSIC rod was caught by Ron King. No doubt this is one trophy cod!
The blue shark fishing that was done in between the groundfishing, seemed to light a fire with a few of the fishermen wanting to fish for them at night as Captain Greg finally made the announcement that Joe in the galley had dinner ready to go, while also giving instructions for everyone to bring their fish, whether in burlaps or coolers to be lined up in the stern of the boat to be cut, packaged, tagged and icedup in the big fish boxes for the rest of the trip
I was shot by this time, having fought a number of blue sharks along with the constant action reeling up cod, pollock, haddock and cusk from the deep. It seemed a few fishermen scoffed their dinners down and were already back at the rail fishing, as Matty and Gino were cutting fish.
As it got dark, I made my way down to the bunk room with Bobby yelling at me, 'you snooze - you lose' as he was going to stay at the rail and fish for blue sharks for a few hours into the night. I could not care at this point as my belly was full and I wanted to get a good nights sleep. As I was trying to sleep, I kept hearing a giggling or laughing sound coming from somewhere on the boat. I thought it was one of the other fishermen in the main bunk room listening to a comedy show on his iPod and making those sounds. Little did I know that it was a bunch of fishermen led by Brian Bbassin and Frankie Fillet and others who were laughing hysterically as Bobby had hooked another blue shark and was bringing it to the boat for a release.
The line 'KING KONG AIN'T GOT NOTHIN' ON ME' came to my mind, when hearing the story the next morning about Bobby screaming at the fish he was fighting.
Captain Greg had put the boat on a long drift throughout the evening, but early in the morning, the engines were cranked up and we proceeded to a new area just a few short hours away. As we woke up and went on deck, it looked to be another lovely day with settled seas and light wind. It turned out that this did not hold out long, as the wind machine was turned on as the sun continued to rise in the eastern sky and by mid afternoon we were dealing with gusts of over 30 mph and reported seas of ten feet.
It was not pretty and it was a big difference from early in the morning as I witnessed the bow of the big YANKEE CAPTS being buried four times, once by a double, back to back green water riding across the forward area of the boat. The YANKEE CAPTS though sits like a duck, with her 3/4 inch aluminum hull plating, and no one that I know of was put down from mal de mer due to the cranky seas.....consumption of too much food maybe, but seas no.
As we settled up on our first spot, we had a pretty decent pollock bite. Double headers were the norm, and it was at this time that I scored the largest pollock of the trip on of all things a custom tied pink Jim Feeney cod fly. I knew it was bigger then what I have seen other fishermen caught on this drop, and I just had a gut feeling that I had a pretty good shot at the pool on this day. Nonetheless, I have caught more then my share of big and much bigger pollock, and tossed it into the big cooler and got back to fishing.
It was also nice to see that the fishermen up in the bow area had a good casting rotation going, as everyone from Brian Bbassin, Frankie, Rich, Rob, Chris and myself, took our turn to cast our jigs off one side of the boat and then walk it down the pulpit and work the jig away from the casting area. Communication here is essential and all of these fishermen have made enough trips to realize that this would give the greatest chance of hooking a fish, and lessen the headaches caused by nasty braid line tangles.
After a while the blue dogs made their return, eager for a pollock breakfast at this time. I busted off again after fighting a blue shark for a few minutes and then proceeded to not grab another rod in the rack but make my way into the cabin to retie the same exact rig I just lost. When I came inside the cabin, I saw Captain Greg clinching his fist back and forth. What many did not know that his hands were pretty chewed up from working on the boat the last few days and were pretty swollen. When I first saw his hands on Thursday they looked like off beat red boxers gloves that were cut and ripped up, leaving me to make the comment to Captain Greg, "what happened....were you playing with pit bulls and rottweilers down in the engine room?'"
Needless to say, Captain Greg taught us the wonders of cloth tape to protect our own already deeply cut fingers, which helped both Bobby and myself for the rest of the trip. The tape did not help later on this day as Bobby while bringing in a double header of fish, had a haddock fall off one of the hooks as Captain Greg was reaching for the line about the same time, placing a OE TACKLE bait holder hook into his hand.....yes ouuch and then a quick hook removal!
This day we were fishing on harder, craggy like bottom, and though we saw a good amount of pollock, some nice cod came up and an endless bountiful abundance of salami-roll cuck continued to make their way into the catch. But then a big surprise as we heard yells for a gaff...quickly! It brought a good amount of discussion on the most noted flatfish in New England waters.
Hartley had a undersized halibut in his hands for a minute or so, and we took a few pics before it was released over board. Everyone then resumed with what they were doing and some picture worthy fish then came up between the sharks, howling winds and building seas.
As the seas built up in the deep, Captain Greg decided to make a move to a special area. Originally the game plan was to shoot off to a big wreck in 106 fathoms or so of water for some bigger cod, pollock and of course 'sow-sized' white hake, but with a stronger then normal current forcing many to use heavier jigs or a 20 oz sinker if you were bait fishing, along with the run to that wreck being in the vicinity of one hour to and then from it in now 'frothy-like' seas, a move was instead made into noticeably calmer and shallower waters. As soon as we stopped, some interesting looking fish came up with one being a 'choggie', (a bergall to us flat landers) along with a number of redish 'kelp' cod.
Finally it was a wrap as we were approaching the set upon dinner hour. Captain Greg turned over the engines and started steaming to wreck in the area for some night white hake fishing. Bobby and myself assessed our days catch. I believe we had a few fish for the day.
It turned out that the early dusk fishing was pretty decent as the sun sunk below the horizon and with hopes high for a few big white hake, a few tried. But for some strange reason, none were landed on this night. A few cod, pollock, cusk and even a haddock or two did come up while they were targeting the elusive white hake. Then it seemed most got tired of bottom fishing and were again looking to tangle with the blue sharks.
The lights came on a little before 6 am this Sunday morning. We were met by grayish skies and a coolness in the air, but the seas had noticeably settled down from the previous day. For a few hours it was relatively calm, with a period of light fog giving way to the sun breaking through the clouds which then brought the winds along and built up the seas once again. But no rain, and that was a nice relief on this trip since Sunday was predicted to be a rainy day on the Gulf of Maine waters.
Joe in the galley was all smiles as he cooked away. I brought him a number of tubes of the vanilla frosted cinnamon buns which I asked him to give out during breakfast. Joe as always was multi-tasking, with the baking between making pancakes, egg and beacon plates, and the best french toast with turkey beacon on the side. I cannot say enough good things about Joe who at one time was in the media industry, then owned a restaurant and cooked for years and now works the galley on the YANKEE CAPTS. HIs day starts before everyone gets up as he got the 'help yourself to a cup of coffee' going, then working in the galley on till about 8 at night cleaning up. I don't know many who cook as well, with such great variety and portions as Joe. It was always a pleasure talking with Joe about what and where he was in the past years....and he always did it with a smile.
This fishing day was being devoted to fishing in the clay, which meant there usually would be less pollock and cusk, and a good number more of the prized sweet tasting haddock. The early stops were a pick of fish, and most fishermen in the forward area of the YANKEE CAPTS had picked up on what we were doing when we first came to a drop, first with the casting of jigs as soon as the boat settled up, then switching over to the 'primo' clam belly bait that Captain Greg had on board.
I even made a comment to Bobby that I was noticing that the clam belly bait on the boat was pretty much out fishing the fresh Long Island skimmers that we brought along, and possibly there was a reason why this happens. The first being that a larger number of fishermen are soaking this bait when compared to the handful who bring their own fresh skimmer clams. The second is that the clam belly baits are softer then the fresh skimmers, yet stay on the hook well since they are salted down and also lead to quicker hook sets. Bobby argued the point with me, and I agreed that you could bring fresh skimmer bait along if you can obtain them before the trip. One thing you can rest assured is that this clam belly bait caught some of the biggest cod on the YANKEE CAPTS during the trip.
If you notice in the above image is the standard bait rig we tie to fish for cod and haddock. It consists of a 54 inch of 40 or 50 lb OE TACKLE leader material when fishing water 300 feet or deeper. We use roughly a 2/0 size barrel swivel, and tie on OE TACKLE bait holder hooks or octopus style hooks from 4/0 through 6/0, depending on the size of the fish that are being caught. The 4/0 size works fine for even the biggest fish, and is just the right size for haddock.
Snell the hooks to both ends of the leader material like you are making a big snafu rig. Then make two dropper loops a few inches away from the hooks, one for the swivel and one for another dropper loop where you are now going to add a second length of lighter mono of roughly 12 inches. This is the both the breakaway, which is very important when you get hung up with a fish on your line, and this length of mono now getting the bottom hook slightly off the bottom. Connect the breakaway dropper loop using a loop to loop connection. This rig is simple but very effective, with the hooks standing off and the lighter mono releasing the sinker if hung up on a wreck or snag.
There was also something new that I brought along for this trip.... a Ralph Rodwinder Ultra Custom built Super Seeker DDCT (Deep Drop Cod & Tile) rod. Both myself and Rog Togilator were fortunate enough to fish these sticks, and I can say right here that my favorite GBU (Gut Busters) are now retired in the rod rack.
The Super Seeker DDCT is very deceptive when first picked up. They seem like the old glass sticks from a few decades back, but have an elusive quality that Ralph has been chasing for years.....the action of the beloved Fenwick 1206, and what a number of fishermen from this area felt was and made the ultimate cod bait and jig stick. It is surprisingly light in the hand for the thickness of the glass and has a progressive taper when loaded up, a noticeable contrast to the faster taper 800 and 900 series Calstar blanks. I could make slingshot casts with heavy jigs with this rod, yet have the sensitivity to easily feel redfish trying to steal my clam bait. I know there are a number of choices out there now for these trips, but I pretty much now have a nucleus with my goto stick being the Super Seeker DDCT, then the Seeker 909 for lighter jig and bait work, the Calstar 800XH 'Haddock Express' and Calstar 900H for playing with the blue sharks when fishing in the Gulf of Maine.
The seas again built up but the fishing continued to be a solid pick. Some drops were more productive then others, but Captain Greg allowed us to fish on till the fishing slowed down or the blue sharks became to much of a nuisance. The shame was that some nice cod were coming up on each drop, and I believe that Rich NHCodman lived up to his rep. as I believe he had the most market and steaker cod in the bow area along with Chris 'Light Tackleman' and Brian Bbassin.
On one drop, a good number of haddock came up, and Hartley who was just fishing down the rail to the left of me, brought up this double header. It was good to see more haddock coming up now.
We also had our raffle of a number of CM cod jigs and various groundfish skirts donated by PETER K. The winner was Frank 'Fillet' who seemed very enthused to try these jigs out. A number of fishermen did use Peters jigs and they were one of the most popular jigs used on this trip....and they work too!
As we saw in the previous days, the blue sharks became more aggressive as the day wore on. Everyone knew the drill and what to do by this time and it was one in which you had to reel like a demon the last 100 feet to the boat. Then with the sharks circling around, at times big fish had to be lifted and swung into the boat, as anything left waiting for a few seconds on top of the water was very vulnerable to being eaten. Screaming, yelling and cussing did not help as the loss rate of quality fish remained high for anything being brought up from the bottom.
Another quality fish had been lost, and many of us were pretty disgusted by seeing market and 'steaker' size cod, and quality sized haddock and pollock being destroyed again and again. All of a sudden the hollering of a fishermen and a blue shark playing tug of war with a fish was the norm the longer you stayed on a drop. This time Rich NHCodman was again being victimized, but he put the pressure on and was able somehow to pull this nice haddock from the jaws of one of the sharks.
A reasonable number of scrod and market sized cod were coming up now, but then all of a sudden Tim Coleman fishing on the port side right under the wheelhouse over hang, hooked into something that was pulling line. What was it we thought, but looking at the outfit that Tim brings along with a Penn JIgmaster Jr,, a light cod stick and a blue maybe 8 oz P-LINE diamond jig and 6 inch worm, it looked like he would be in a losing battle but he landed one of the nicest cod of this trip. Gino who gaffed this fish looked as happy holding up this codfish.
This is a close look at the jig he caught this fish on and the technique he used was squidding the jig off the bottom.
A few more quality cod were caught with Chris 'Light Tackelman' bringing up this codfish to close out the daylight fishing.
With this being the last night, Captain Greg again motored off to another spot to fish for white hake, I knew Bobby, Jeff 'Fishaholic' and a few others would be fishing at night for shark. Bobby in fact was preparing his heaviest outfit he brought along, with this unbending stick, brand new Penn Baja Special, 80 lb braid and a length of cable attached to a big hook. He was definitely ready to go by the looks of it.
Captain Greg finally motored to and anchored up on our last evening white hake drop of this trip. I was even fishing, and goodness it was one sticky drop. A good number of fish did come up before the sun set and it was a nice way to end the evening and bunk down for the last night. Bobby of course kept telling me 'you snooze - you loose' and continued to fish into the night for blue sharks.
Both Matty and Gino continued to cut fish through the night. Their daily schedule is for them to work deck from 6 am to 6 pm, have a very quick bite, then cut and bag up fish on till midnight or later, with the added time then in washing down the whole boat before finally turning in for a handful of hours of sleep. It is pretty grueling work as their are no breaks during their 18 hour plus, very physical and mentally demanding workday on deck.
During the night, Bobby had hooked into something that he couldn't stop. It seems he had a quick pick up and this fish, whatever it was, had other plans and just took off, dumping the spool on the Baja reel and wearing the finger prints off both his thumbs as this fish ran on till he finally broke it off as the line on the spool were getting low. As he said to me later, the Baja Special was making funny noises inside the right side plate after the short, one way battle with the one that got away....but he really liked how the reel performed on this trip.
Also during the night, I went up to use the head and hear a sinker hit the deck. I poked my head out the stern cabin door and saw Jeff 'Fishaholic' doing what he promised me he would do...fish throughout the night to catch a white hake.
I asked him how he was doing, and with a satisfied grin he said "I got one." "Really" I stated back, and I asked him to show me while I quickly got my camera. Sure enough he had what he wanted for this trip, and he did add that he had lost a few fish to sharks as he was reeling up, but was able to get this one off the bottom and into his burlap bag.
The game plan for the last day of the trip was discussed by Captain Greg and myself as a few decisions had to be made prior to everyone getting up. One was in what we wanted time to fish on till which would effect what time that we would eventually get back to Rose Marina in Gloucester. We also went over the time for having the last big event on the boat which would be Captain Greg working the grill on the big bar-b-que.
After a cup of coffee, Captain Greg motored over to the last area we would fish on the trip. We had at a minimum, a six hour plus ride back if we wanted to arrive in the vicinity between three to four in the afternoon, which at this time in the morning would give us roughly three hours of fishing time. It was agreed on that this would work for those on board, and that everyone would have some fishing time, cleanup time, the bar-b-que and then the time to rest up before their long ride home.
This morning, most who got up grabbed a good breakfast from Joe since there would be just a few hours of fishing. Joe was ready to go, and had the grill fired up and the cinnamon rolls ready to go.
The fishing this day turned out to be one where you had to stay at the rail and pick away. A blast of pollock would come through, and a few more cod then haddock came up in the catch around the boat. Bait rigs ruled by this time of the trip and I was fishing bait and having some good success. The blue sharks though were right under the boat, some how knowing that this would be their last meal from us. Sure enough they became as brazen as they were the prior days, and one took on Frankie 'Fillet' for a few minutes.
After a few minute battle, this blue shark decided it had enough of its head being lifted out of the water and at the first chance, took off like a rocket and breaking Frank off.
Captain Greg made quick moves as he wanted to try to top of the catch of fish for everyone on this trip, but no one was crying with the amount of fish landed and the coolers that would be filled up with bags of fillets when they would finally be passed out. A few did lament about the quality fish lost to the blue sharks, but it is more in the loosing of these fish then in bringing even more fish home. To point this out, this was our catch from one of the days and again our cooler was filled with fish. Can anyone ask for more, and both Bobby and myself gave many of the pollock and cusk we caught away to other anglers.
It was approaching 9 am and Captain Greg gave the signal that we would have to pack it in if we wanted to be at the dock between three and four o'clcok. With the end of the fishing, we still had a good deal of work ahead of us as it was no time for sitting back....it was time to pack away our tackle, clean ourselves up, get some rest, and have a bar-b-que where the pool prizes and ultimate biggest fish of the trip winner would be announced.
I noticed as I put my gear away that my sinker pail was extra light. I had come with a dozen 16 oz sinkers and 13, 20 oz sinkers making a total of 25 sinkers. Jeff, had given me a dozen or so 26 oz sinkers which I kept on the side. I ended up going home with four 16 oz sinkers and ONE 20 oz sinker and 11, 26 oz sinkers...and the one 20 ounce sinker turned out to be the one that I was fishing with!
My jig pail was also extra light, and Bobby even borrowed one of his custom jigs he had cast, off of me. This trip was a tackle eater, pretty reminiscent of those old Nantucket wreck trips where you would leave 6-8 big jigs and a few sinkers on the wrecks in that area. It was something to keep in mind for future trips during this time of the year, and I heard the same story from other fishermen who lost a good quantity of tackle and were using whatever that could scrounge up in their tackle boxes. Keep this in mind when you make these trips and the blue sharks are around.
Around midday we started to get ready for our bar-b-que. We had a pretty tasty menu of food with Rich making some of the tastiest burgers many have tasted, Peter K with a big pack of Sabaret hot dogs which everyone said reminds them of a New York hort dog cart dog, Bob bringing his famous cole slaw and pulled pork and I brought big Italian deli sausages. There was so much food we could of had two bar-b-ques on this trip.
As I went to the top deck I now had to navigate through a number of coolers that would be needed to pack away all the bags of filleted fish that were sitting in the big fish boxes on board. It is highly recommended that a big cooler is taken on these trips to store the fillets for the ride home. During the trip, Captain Greg has the mates going around and putting ice in the burlap bags on the deck or in the coolers. Fishermen can also always run their fish up to the coolers upstairs during the fishing day and then bring them down and place them in a burlap bag to be filleted and then placed into two heavy duty plastic bags.
An excitement started to spread among a few of us as RIch NHCodman and a few others were working on getting the food ready. Captain Greg now went from the wheel to the grill, and the bar-b-que had begun.
Originally I thought we would not have enough food. I know some of us waddled off the top deck after what we ate....and it was delicious. Rich and Bob K got raves throughout the bar-b-que for their food.
During this period, Matty and Gino were now handing out over 100 plus, double plastic bags of filled fish. This takes some time as names are called out, bags passed out and then Matty and Gino helped pack everyone's coolers with ice. With that done, everyone was came upstairs to chow down with both Matty and Gino finally getting a few moments to relax on the way in. Even Joe came to the top deck after warming up some of the best tasting Italian bread I have tasted that Tom G brought.
It was time to settle up the four dally pools and announce some thank you and point a few things out. The pool winners were as follows:
Friday pool winner: RON KING - CODFISH - close to 30 lb
Saturday pool winner: EC NEWELL MAN - POLLOCK - over 20 lbs - biggest of the trip
Sunday pool winner: JIG MAKER from the BAY - POLLOCK - around 20 lbs
Monday pool winner: IVAN FULLER - CODFISH - steaker sized
Winner of the BIGGEST GROUNDFISH on the LABOR DAY TRIP of the Ralph Rodwinder Ultra Custom PIN HOOKER CLASSIC: RON KING
Biggest fish seen and destoryed by blue sharks: CODFISH - ROB Togilator
Most MARKET & STEAKER COD: Seemed like RICH NHCodman, Rob Togilator, Chris Light Tackleman, Brian Bbassin had a good number each throughout the trip
Biggest Haddock: Intense Timmy
Most blue shark releases at the boat: JIG MAKER from the BAY
After the bar-b-que we started getting our first glimpses of getting close to home. LIttle specs started to show up on the horizon and grew larger as we approached. Signs of the day boat were in sight giving us an indication that we had reached the various inshore ledges in the area. We all knew we were less then two hours away from hitting the dock.
It was time to asses the trip and as I was speaking with Tim Coleman and Captain Greg in the wheelhouse it was pointed out that there was a noticeable lack of baitfish such as herring whose body remnants would normally be seen spit up on the deck. Yet we were able to put together a catch of various groundfish that would be very tough to do any other area along the east coast.
Further breaking down what was landed on this trip, the bigger market and steaker codfish that were caught, looked pretty healthy which was a good sign to see, bellies full with other small fish. A good number of pollock up into the 20 lb class were seen, but no smoker sized fish. All the redfish you wanted on just one drop which I personally enjoy catching and the family eating. One chicken sized halibut and a few wolfish, all released, rounded out the catch on this trip.
The losses of cod, pollock and haddock on this trip were estimated to be 1/3rd or more, with some large fish never making it to the gaff. One big fish did in the stern and I was told a shark literally ripped it off the gaff hook. Captain Greg said at this time of the year losses of groundfish to blue sharks can run very high, and get higher during mid September through the middle of October. It is all part of the game at this time of the year Captain Greg added, and you have to be prepared to reel hard when you are getting up towards the top (don't stop reeling and let the fish hang at the upper depths), fish a certain way to lessen the lose of costly jigs, and for him, to even move off a productive cod and haddock spot when the blue sharks are so unrelenting that losses go as high as 50 percent of fish being brought up. Captain Greg did add that we did not break the record on blue shark hookups, which I believe we had six or so on at one time. For those keeping track, the record was 13, six on one side of the boat, seven on the other!
As I made my way around the boat, talking with everyone about this trip, the sentiments of the fishermen on board this charter on the YANKEE CAPTS was so overwhelmingly positive and up beat, with a number of fishermen on the third day asking about securing a spot and getting on next year's YANKEE CAPTS. I passed this along to Captain Greg who always wants to hear customer input and he took it all in and said:
"Steve, what do you think we are doing differently here then from other trips I run out of here? This is the way this fishing operation has been running since the Hills owned the YANKEE CAPTAINS a few decades back when it was part of the YANKEE FLEET. This vessel has been run to, and has fished all the rod and reel areas in the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank and Nantucket and has prided itself on memorable catches of cod, pollock, haddock and halibut. I personally have run this boat with one thing in mind......every trip I give 100 percent effort, and there is no slacking off on this. I don't know how to take people fishing any other way...and if you think this was long hours of fishing, our Florida fishing is truly around the clock 24 hour fishing. I like doing this and will continue to do this. This has been the YANKEE CAPTS way of fishing."
I stated previously that this trip is one that I wish I could repeat again and again, especially with the fishermen who came out on this Labor Day trip. I continue to see the faces of fishermen like Brett K, Jeff 'Fishaholic' and a few others who were so upbeat and charged up by the fishing we had on this trip.
It was a learning experience for all of us, and both Bobby and myself were surprised to see how many fishermen on the boat wanted to fish for sharks....of course not when reeling a good sized cod, haddock or pollock up. I like to hear from any of you out there if you would make this trip next season and want to do some directed blue shark fishing with the right tackle at night. Really do, since we saw how many fishermen got a kick over a chance to constantly fight fish over 200 lbs and more from a party boat. As Bobby said, you could pull blue sharks to your hearts content, then catch a cooler full of bottom fish to bring home.
I just like to close up here by giving a finally thanks to Bob 'Codkilla' Nixon and Jim Feeney for teaching some of the tricks with using a properly tied cod fly. I wasn't the biggest advocate of cod flys before and preferred squid skirts, curly tails and tubes for teasers. Also Alana in the YANKEE CAPTS office who is as good as they come with the help she gave from the YANKEE CAPTS office. The mates Matty and Gino, and in fact Gino has sent me a few emails asking me to let him know when this group is coming out again because he would love to work these trips. All the best here Gino and we will, along with Matt who is as professional a mate as you would find. Some of you know how I feel about Joe in the galley....the salt of the earth...boy he really is special. There is also Tim Coleman, the 'wreck hunter' himself, who is one of the handful of people I point to for getting me started in looking for and writing about fishing wrecks and wreck fishing. Tim is a gentlemen beyond description who you can just sit down and listen to talking about the history of wrecks and wreck fishing in New England waters. Finally Captain Greg....well he gave me the latitude to layout what I wanted to do on this trip and the fishing. I am humbled by this and extremely fortunate that I finally had my own 'dream trip' fishing in the Gulf of Maine, thanks to Captain Greg.
I do hope to see all of those who were on this last trip back next season and for many of you out there, to not only join us on this, but other scheduled trips out of Gloucester during the summer season.
EC NEWELL MAN
NOTE: Eventually in the MEMBERS ONLY forum, I will get into some further details about the tackle needed and techniques used for these trips.
Just added on Saturday morning...
Here is a few moments of video to give you a idea of when the wind FIRST came up. The seas were just building at this time, and later in the afternoon the seas became very frothy and that is when we buried the pulpit on the YANKEE CAPTS. Bobby even said to me how well the boat sat as the seas rolled up and under the boat.