When we first were introduced to the local party and charter boat fishing, it was on the Captain Lou out of Newburyport, Mass. And that was because one of my lifetime friends, Captain Bill Brindamour of Hampton, was skippering the boat. It was fun for me to harass him and joke with him during one of his fishing trips for cod, haddock and other groundfish.
But a funny thing happened along the way. We not only got hooked on groundfishing but also on the ease of doing it on a party boat instead of my own, ocean going, 22-foot Eastern "Plane Jane." No worrying about anything while on that big party boat. No weather scares or fear of breakdowns miles out to sea. Just a nice boat ride and chances to bring home some great fillets, almost always worth more than the price of paying for the guided trip.
At that time, Captain Ricky Lapierre was also fishing his Yellowbird party and charter boat out of Newburyport. And on days when Captain Billy wasn't running, we'd hook on with Ricky and had likewise great experiences. Then the Captain Lou sailed for sunny Florida, sans Captain Billy.
Eventually, Ricky's Yellowbird moved to Hampton Harbor and became my go-to party boat, along with Rocky Gauron's and Eastman's boats, that are docked in Seabrook. They all deserve credit for good service, good fishing and attention to detail.
Yesterday's trip on the Yellowbird brought back lots of memories about trips with Ricky in the past and reminded me of his skill and ability to find fish, under not always the best conditions. With my great grandson Kyle Griffin, who luckily for me lives only a stone's throw up the street, we had the time of our lives catching keeper-sized cod, haddock and a few big pollock.
Along with the huge number of slightly undersaized haddock and an occasional dogfish that were released, those legal fish were going to make a nice pile of welcome fresh fish fillets, to be enjoyed by our family and friends.
The Yellowbird is a bit smaller than some of the boats that power out of Hampton Harbor for a day's fishing, but Captain Ricky smartly limits his load of anglers to 30 people, giving each of them about six feet of space on the railings to fish with, and that limits the amount of tangles considerably. Along with Ricky, who unlike most charter captains also works the deck and even cuts fish, his daughter Meg, a high school senior, and one other helper work the deck, keeping an eye on everyone's fun and pleasure. It was so nice to see Meg, as the last time we'd seen her she was practically a newborn and in her mom's arms. Now she's an accomplished first mate, and skilled with all the training only a dad can give. She is the apple of his eye, and he is hers.
The day started with short periods of rain and with seas building, not the best of conditions. But when we got on anchor some 24 miles offshore, the sky brightened, the seas lightened, and conditions eventually turned to perfect. But it was the fishing that was incredible.
Because of my macho, macho-man mind, I started working a heavy jig in about 200 feet of water, not making much success other than warming my cold and aching joints. But Kyle, a very skilled angler, started to pound on the groundfish, using bait so it didn't take long for me to switch to lighter gear and also fish with the clams, provided by the boat, for bait.
We proceeded to put a whoopin' on the fish, with plenty of cod, good sized haddock and some big pollock making for a nice catch of fish, while releasing about two dozen smaller fish that didn't make the size limit.
We did run into some dogfish, which most of us know are the bane to groundfishing and anglers. But when they got too thick, Captain Ricky would move the boat to the next "secret spot." It would take an hour or so for the dogfish to find us again. During that hour, everyone on the boat was filling their totes with great-eating and fun catching ocean-fresh fish.
Along with my sister-in-law Putzie, and her husband and my lifelong friend Roy, we just booked a trip on the Yellowbird (396-1151 cell phone) for next week. And now we're working on fishing gear and counting the days. Tomorrow night, Jane and I will be dining on baked-with-buttered crumb haddock. Life can be good.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.