Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Plenty of patience required to land a striped bass
By DICK PINNEY | July 31. 2016 12:02AM
When we picked up fishing partner Brad Conner, he was brimming with smiles. It had been a long summer for him and he had counted the days until we'd get some stripers.
The trip to Portsmouth's fine Peirce Island boat launch and parking lot went off without a hitch. Navigating the Port City's South End narrow streets is a challenge with a boat trailer hooked on.
Some tourists just don't get the idea that these streets are two-way!
Our 16 foot Alumacraft went off the trailer and into the water with ease. The tide was on the high side and we had plenty of water to launch on. And there were plenty of parking spaces left for parking vehicle and trailer.
Portsmouth non-residents are charged a small fee for use of the Peirce Island facility and it's a bargain. Some of the other launches to access the Piscataqua and Great Bay are also fee based and those that aren't are very difficult to manage, with limited parking.
Since my boat's four-stroke 15 HP motor hadn't run for a while, it quit several times when trying to get 'er warmed up, but finally it started to purr like the proverbial kitten. When we shifted into gear, it stalled several times before finally taking hold.
Brad and the Dickster know by heart almost every place on the Piscataqua River, and both Great and Little Bay, where stripers live. "Hey the tide's just right. Let's try the Back Channel Bridge first," Brad offered. So off we went at full speed to our first chosen spot.
Not noticing where I was really traveling, my mind was wandering about how much fun that first fish would feel on a rod. But when I slowed down and instructed Brad to let out his lure, above the hum of the engine he told me that we were at the wrong bridge! After arguing for a few minutes, we came to the conclusion that he was right, and a little bit of frustration on the Dickster's part about being disoriented sunk in. At age 78 you don't have all the ability to just go by your senses. You have to concentrate.
Our first pass under the bridge came up empty but on the second pass through, my rod had a jolt and the first striper of the season was soon landed - and let go because it was a foot short of the 28-inch size limit. But it put a smile of both of our faces to know that our time-honored approach with our homemade lures was still working.
But fish were scarce and more action didn't come for almost another hour when we ran into a school of small stripers. We were happy that we had caught a bunch of fish of a small size we hadn't seen in the bay area for years. It was a great sign!
Working hot spot after hot spot only brought a few more small fish, but just being out on the water on a sunny day and having all our gear working was making the trip enjoyable.
Trolling lures in the Piscataqua River and Great and Little Bay takes a lot of patience and very short trolling runs. There is so much debris flowing with the tide that your lure will be fouled with it in a matter of minutes. So one of our tricks is to run a trolling rudder about four feet up our leader that will gather the floating eel grass to keep it off our lures.
But even with that advantage, a trolling run of over a hundred yards is out of the question. So we concentrate on short runs and then pull in our gear and clear the debris.
There were hardly any other fishing boats out there when we were, so we didn't hesitate to work some of our trolling runs that we won't do when being watched, as they usually hold only a fish or two.
Usually, we won't fish them when other boats are near.
After we hooked a few small fish at our most productive spot, my rod finally signaled that there was a decent fish attached to my lure. After a spirited battle, the nice striper came to the side of the boat and we hoisted it onboard. It just barely stretched out to 28½ inches - just barely legal.
Jane and I both had a hankering for some baked-with-buttered- crumbs striper, so this fish was slated for the Pinney oven. Upon closer inspection, we found that another angler had hooked this fish, as a couple feet of heavy leader was sticking out of the fish's mouth. And when we looked down into the fish's maw, we could see a large single hook imbedded in the deepest part of the fish's stomach.
It was a wonder that it put up such a fight.
Try as we might, we couldn't connect with another keeper-sized striper. But we'd finally "been there and done that," and after a successful and stress-free boat loading, we left Peirce Island with a bit of fatigue letting us both know that we had quit at the right time - a feeling that we had ignored for many years!
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Reach him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.