6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

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6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

Postby jjdbike » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:58 am

My fishing buddy and I just returned from an excellent trip aboard the Voyager out of Point Pleasant NJ. The following is a detailed report.

The trip boarded at 4 pm and departed at 5 pm on Thursday and returned to dock approximately at 8 am on Sunday.

As folks arrived at the dock on Thursday afternoon, the crew loaded up people’s coolers with ice, put their coolers aboard along with putting their “spare rods” on the top deck. I’m always amazed on how many thousands of dollars of gear are brought on these trips. Experienced folks seem to be in one of two categories; that is, ready for anything (e.g. tuna, shark, macs, mahi, etc.) or basic bare minimum (i.e. fluke and groundfish). My bud & I fall somewhere in between.

Before we boarded, Captain Jeff gave a brief overview of what to expect, how fishing has been, what the size and possession limits are and the rules of the boat. He explained that we would start out tomorrow morning fluking. He said that fluking has been good and that depending on the depth, current and wind, we might need anywhere from 4 to 24 ounces to tend bottom. He said that after that, we would move to the jigging grounds to see what we can find. He warned that fish have been elusive on the jigging grounds. He mentioned that we might try a wreck or two before we leave on Saturday. After Jeff’s talk, we boarded in order of when we booked. Each person as they were called put one rod at the rail spot they wanted to fish and their sleeping bag on the bunk they want to sleep on. Then everyone loaded their clothing and fishing gear.

As we shoved off people made last minute preparations, tied rigs, set up their outfits etc. As we settled in for the long steam from Point Pleasant NJ to Nantucket Shoals (which is south of Cape Cod and east of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island) old fishing friends got reacquainted, new fishing friends were made, and people compared stories and results from previous fishing trips. Much of the conversation was about the elusive halibut. Apparently, many of these Voyager Nantucket trips wind up with someone hooking into a halibut, many times, but not always, they get off. It became obvious, halibut were on many people’s mind. The other thing that was discussed as people settled into their bunks was the big uncontrollable variable, the weather. I wasn’t concerned as I have sailed with Jeff enough times to know that he is a master at finding weather windows and avoiding bad weather. He exercises an abundance of caution. While his 100’ super cruiser can handle seriously nautical conditions, he will not intentionally take people out for a beating. He is also quick to cut a trip short and refund the appropriate amount of the fare if the weather changes for the worse.

Friday, we woke to foggy and drizzly conditions on the shoals. The first drift was a slow pick and Jeff quickly moved to another location. That was okay, but still slow. Then he moved to THE spot! We enjoyed long drifts and fast fluking action. Many of the fluke that came over the rails would be trophies for most of our inshore grounds. Many people enjoyed their personal best in both size and quantity. I know I certainly did. I released many NJ keepers, caught a good hand full of 5 – 7 lbers and topped out at a close to 9 lbs. This was amazing. The hottest fluke action I’ve ever seen or heard of in terms of numbers and size. I believe the fluke pool winner weighed in around 11.5 lbs, a true doormat!

While fluking I noticed many different combinations of terminal tackle being deployed. See pics below. My terminal tackle consisted of a high low rig tied with 30 lb floro and a Thundermist three-way swivel. On the bottom I used a 4 – 6 oz “John Skinner swing hook bucktail” in pink / glow & chartreuse over white in 4 – 6 oz, and a Palmer’s Tackle 6 – 8 oz swing hook ball head jig w/ a glow & pink silicone skirt from Peace token. This was baited with a 6” Gulp grub in pink shine and tipped with a strip of mackerel. Up top was a Palmers Tackle 3/8 oz jig with a silicone glow skirt. That was baited with a 5” pink shine Gulp grub and tipped with a spearing. When the current ran harder, I used a Palmer Tackle 10 oz tandem rig fluke bomb with a whole squid. My buddy started and stuck with a “Nantucket deep water fluke rig with jig heads” from The Reel Seat in Brielle NJ. It is a high low rig tined with three-way swivels and two chartreuse jigs with silicone skirts. When everyone had their limit of fluke, we moved to the jigging grounds.

First drop on the jigging grounds got everyone nervous, especially the crew. On their last trip there were no haddock to be found and only sub keeper cod. We moved to another couple spots and found a pick of haddock and cod on each spot. People caught on both jigs and bait, though bait probably caught a few more. Eventually, we moved to a spot and anchored for the evening. Most ate and relaxed, resting up for another day tomorrow. Most conversations were about how amazing that fluke bite was and anticipation of tomorrow. Also, a few people brought up hopes for the elusive halibut.

We woke the next day to a beautiful calm and sunny day. As people got some food and coffee, we discovered that some had fished throughout the night and caught a few haddock. Jeff moved us to a new area. It started with a pick of haddock and cod. We moved around until we found a hot bite. It was game on. We were fishing in the stern and we heard a shout from the bow, halibut! Someone had hooked and landed a legal halibut. For many of us, it was the first time we had seen one. The most common comment was, what an impressive looking fish. At somewhere in the high 30’s, it was likely a lock for the pool groundfish pool. We spent the morning and early afternoon jigging up haddock with the occasional cod and sculpin. Some doubleheaders were mixed in. Top producers for my bud & I were pink and blue cod flys and blue tubes along w/ silver Norwegian style jigs (Solvkroken and LAV jigs) in the 10 – 20 oz range (adjusting as the current picked up and slowed). See pics below. Throughout the afternoon Jeff moved around and adjusted the drifts to keep us on the bite. It didn’t take long for the two of us to fill our first 150 qt cooler and start on our second. By midafternoon we had pretty much filled both of our 150 qt coolers. We had caught a lot of fish.

By late afternoon, Jeff said he would try a wreck or two looking for cod and pollock. We re-rigged, rested and refueled. As we moved towards the wrecks, the weather changed drastically. The wind picked up, the temp dropped, white caps developed, and dark skies and lighting could be seen in the distance. By the time we reached the wreck, the wind was blowing hard and seas were churned up. They had trouble setting the anchors. Jeff finally announced that there were squalls developing around us and anchoring and fishing would be difficult, so we decided to head home. I’m pretty sure no one was disappointed. Coolers were full, people were satisfied, fatigued and hungry. As we headed south, the skies cleared, the sea settled, and we were treated to a beautiful sunset over the ocean. As we settled in for our long ride home, we talked about how great of a trip we had and made plans for upcoming trips. As for my fishing bud & I, we’ll be on the very next Voyager Nantucket trip departing on Sunday 7/07.

My fishing buds & I have fished on the Voyager many times and have never been disappointed. The boat is roomy, well equipped, fast and stable. The crew is professional, friendly and skilled. Jeff works hard to put people on biting fish. I cannot say enough about the Voyager and their captain and crew.

Best Regards!
JD
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Re: 6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

Postby EC NEWELLMAN » Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:53 am

Jim....a professionally written and impressive report on what happened during the trip and of course you added in the bonus of what you used for the south of Nantucket Island doormat flatfish.

I hope everyone takes a good read through of this report from Jim as he was spot on in what Captain Jeff told me yesterday about the fishing and the conditions. If I can sum up quickly:

1- All too many fishermen believe it is an automatic to fish in the area south of Massachusetts and you can load up with Double-D fluke. NOT TRUE! This is specialized bottom fishing and few have any idea on the expanse of water to fish in this area. The top party boat captains like Jeff, Steven and Joe have decades of experience in the fisherie, and it takes some prospecting (and cooperation of the fish to bite) to zero-in for fishermen to make their limit. It is always highly recommended to keep an eye on what fishermen are bringing up, and if you see larger fish coming up, set a minimum size limit or upper size limit for your total trip possession limit. A 6 lb fluke has literally a slab of meat on it that can feed a family of four for more than a dinner or two.

2- Many are always searching out the so-called finest south of Massachusetts terminal tackle for these trips. Each fishermen has their own personal bucktail, teasers and other ornaments which they hang off their line. Folks, a ribbon strip with a cut piece of squid on your Hi-Lo rigged hooks to catch doormat (6 lb and up) fluke. It seems that many like to use plastic skirts, scented curly tails and scented strips, but if you only had the ribbon and squid strip to work with, you still will catch your share of fluke on these trips.

3- The ground fishing along the Shoals and out to the GSC has been lagging as far as the time they show up, much in part due to the unpredictable and extremely variable spring weather. The three main groundfish species targeted, haddock, cod and pollock have not migrated as they normally do with the traditional time periods they set up in the Lightship area, or on the Shoals and most of all along the Great South Channel. This phenomena has now shown to be a pattern over the last few years and it takes a good amount of time in prospecting and working through what are known as the most productive areas which has been gained through decades of knowledge of the noted party boat captains. Have patience, stay at the rail, and at times work back and forth with both your jig and bait outfits.

4- Halibut....more are being seen and at times it is a combination of luck to hook then get them up to the boat. All too many fishermen are using lighter tackle and lever drag reels the size of a Penn Squidder, especially when compared to the 1980s and 1990s when the regulars carried along a light outfit which was either a Newell 300 series or Daiwa Sealine 50H/300H with 50 or 60 lb mono. Again I mention about the fortunate part of hooking into a halibut, but here the luck plays out in not being busted off/line cut/knot pulling out during the battle. If you hook what you think is a 'butt' make sure you have your drag set properly (no locking up your drag) and be guided by the instructions of the crew as the fish is coming up.

5- Jim gave a documented "what to use" in this report. For those who have not done this fishing or are trying to reconfigure their tackle, be guided here in your choice of tackle, rigs and setups. Folks, don't make this scientific and more importantly, get out on these trips to help improve your skill set!
'
Thank you Jim!!




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Re: 6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

Postby EC NEWELLMAN » Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:55 am

This thread has now been made a STICKY to help those who are looking for the info about and on what to use/expect on these VOYAGER Nantucket trips....
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Re: 6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

Postby MisterX » Tue Jun 25, 2019 1:19 am

Great report Jim!

Your attention to detail is impressive.......Thanks for sharing!
"When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others" - Chinese Proverb
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Re: 6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

Postby jjdbike » Tue Jun 25, 2019 7:03 am

MisterX wrote:Great report Jim!

Your attention to detail is impressive.......Thanks for sharing!



You're welcome and thank you!
It was a trip of a lifetime, one of many I've enjoyed on the Voyager fishing w/ Jeff.

Also, thank you for so much advice and information you've so generously shared here on this web site. I know I'm not alone when I say that I've learned an awful lot here from you and others over the years.

Respectfully,
JD
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Re: 6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

Postby jjdbike » Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:10 am

I know that many wise and experienced folks warn against overthinking this type of fishing & they are certifiably correct that it's not complicated. On the other hand, full disclosure, if you haven't noticed by now, I struggle with OCD.

I have been doing quite a lot of reflection upon this trip and comparing with others I done that were similar. It's the teacher in me, I try to learn from each outing and adjust / build upon my knowledge and experience with each outing. I also learn from others so I thought I'd share these thoughts.

For those considering doing something like this and are curious about tackle, I'll add a couple more details from my perspective. These are only my expereinces and opinions. There are many with more expertise and experience and they are welcomed and encouraged to chime in here.

For fluking I used a Black Hole Challenger Bank 731M with a Maxel 20 Hybrid. It was so very light, sensitive and a joy to use. That rod was perfect for this. The reel required a short learning curve but not much. Very quickly I learned that I could easily control that thumb bar by just pushing to release cast or release line and using the top of my thumb (thumb-nail) to lock spool. Easy.

For ground fishing I used two highly customized Newells (332 & 533 Thanks Steve, there were flawless!) on two custom UC jig sticks. I also had older style slow ratio Saltiga star drag 20 & 30H as back ups, but never needed them. I so love my Newells. Light, smooth and cast a mile. I did see many Penns new & old, Avets, Accurates, a couple Maxels and even an electric reel. Someone broke a Penn Fuji stick by high sticking. A conversation was had singing the praises of Ugly Sticks!

Those fluke loved the Gulp. I used 6" & 5" grubs & 6.5" Nemisis. The Nemisis tails were fragile and the paddle tail on the end kept getting bitten off. It seemed that sweetening them w/ spearing did increase the effectiveness.

For haddock, in the short time that I did use a high low bait rig (I jigged most of the time), adding a 4" Gulp swimming mullet increased my hook up rate & pretty much guaranteed I'd bring something up on most drops. When the bait (either clam or squid) got lost or stolen, the Gulp was still there. The mate told me, and he was right, that the Gulp also attracted more sculpins. But everyone was catching the occasional sculpin and I still caught more haddock with them. I used "Salmon Red", but I'm fairly confidant that pink would have probably worked just as well. Those with a better feel for bait fishing for haddock than I caught just as many, if not more w/out the gulp.

Also, I tried something different w/ my high low rigs this time. We all know cod roll on their way up. I knew there would be strong current. Last year on Georges I was having trouble with my hi lo bait rigs getting twisted and kinked up. I don't like the way a twisted / kinked rig sits in the water. This year I tied my high low rigs with Thundermist three way swivels instead of dropper loops. I was a tiny bit more involved and increased the cost of my rigs by a bit. There really weren't very many snags at all so losing tackle wasn't an issue. Also, instead of just tying on a bait hook, I crimped an open eye O'Shaughennsy hook on to a ball chain swivel. I believe this added protection against line twist, but also added bait movement. As hopped, I experienced zero line / rig twist.

Finally, for cod fishing w/ bait over a wreck. I heard the 1st mate explain to some customers how to rig. He said "all of the best cod fishermen rig like this". He explained that the bigger cod are not right on the bottom. He said "if you lay your bait right on the bottom, you'll get snagged more and catch more trash fish". He suggested in stead "one hook on a stand off rig several feet off the bottom at hip height, and load it up with clam". I will agree, I've read this many times and seen it's effectiveness.

Jigs:

On the way to the grounds there was a discussion about Norwegian style jigs (e.g. Solvkroken, LAV etc), vs Hammered Diamonds. One fisherman I know and respect as a very skilled and experienced jig fisherman said this. Norway style jigs have their own built in action vs Diamonds. He said he much prefers Norway jigs unless there is a ton of current. If the current is fast, he likes Diamonds better. He also said, with Diamonds one needs to add more action, but LAV's and Solkrokens not so much. He said that many people tend to work LAVS etc too hard and fast. He said there's no need to whip them. A smooth and easy lift and drop is all that's needed. He followed up with, "that's how they work them in Norway".

For me, I always thought Norwegian style for bottom pounding and Diamonds for squidding, though last year I did well on these grounds with diamonds. Also, I always used Diamonds on shallower grounds like off Block Island in winter. This time I used all Norwegian style jigs and caught excursively by bottom pounding. I did adjust the jigging action to stay closer to the bottom, working more horizontal than vertical for targeting haddock. I did attempt squidding at each area but got no bites while squidding.

Jigs caught pretty much everything for me, but as usual, bait had an edge on haddock. We didn't see many cod, and most were small, but using jigs definitely increased the amount of cod one caught.
As far a teaser colors (i.e. cod flies, squid tubes and or surge tubes) blue and pink seemed to be top producers.

Finally, weight: Yes it's more enjoyable and pleasant to use lighter weights. On the other hand, getting tangled is aggravating and takes valuable rail time when one could be catching. Also, fishing more straight up and down seems to be more effective than being scoped out. I say this to remind myself and others, don't be shy in increasing the weight of one's sinker or jigs as the current cranks up. The inconvenience of decreed sensitivity and work cranking up added weight is outweighed by less tangles and fishing more vertical. At times I needed a 20 oz jig or a 24 oz sinker, Some used 36. I'm guessing they had thicker running line and heavier top shot and rig diameter. It does make a difference.

Please feel free to add any thoughts or experiences.

Respectfully,
JD
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Re: 6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

Postby mikejd » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:33 am

That was a great write up JJd. Sounds like a great trip.
Thanks for the gear tips.
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Re: 6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

Postby EC NEWELLMAN » Fri Jun 28, 2019 11:20 am

I hope everyone who commits to a Nantucket Fluke and groundfish jigging trip to follow the suggestions that Jim has laid out here. Knowing Jim and the work he puts into gathering the correct tackle and terminal teasers, I would be guided by what he mentioned here.

I have been talking with Captain Jeff on how each of the last few Nantucket trips are changing and especially on how all the fisheries in that area are improving. This year it seems all the species have been late and that every trip sees improvement as far as the number of fish along with massive readings of bait now seen.

Future trips should see a good uptick in cod and pollock, and he cannot wait to get back out to Nantucket.
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Re: 6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

Postby makonick » Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:47 pm

Nice write up, thanks for sharing. Will be up there on the Bounty Hunter chasing some of those mats too towards the end of July. Good luck on your 7/7 trip.
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Re: 6/20 Voyager Nantucket detailed report

Postby Frank » Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:16 pm

Great reports, guys. Thank you.
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