Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Party boat fishing lets you focus on the best part -- fishingBy DICK PINNEY August 20. 2017 5:45AM
IT SEEMED like the Dickster had been up for hours when we boarded the Eastman's party boat at the Seabrook docks. Well, in fact we had been up for several hours because we had either not heard the hour of departure correctly or hadn't even checked!
We had risen at 5 a.m. and had my neighbor Tom Decoster up shortly afterward. We hustled to get down to the Hampton Harbor, where we found that we had a long wait as the boat didn't leave until 9 a.m.! So we did what any other hungry and sleepy fisherman would do under those conditions. We headed back over to Hampton to Gauron's Lunch, where the legendary Ute held forth, and we do not exaggerate the "holding forth" comment.
Ute is a great and skilled breakfast cook but she's more famous for her fun and often scary attitude in the early morning. It's hard to tell sometimes if she's kidding or serious so, if you are wondering, the safe thing to pick is that she's serious!
We were smart enough to board our Eastman's boat and secure our fishing rods to the rail to stake out a pretty good place on the boat to fish. Being about two hours too early, you'd think that we'd be first on the boat to do that but, along with a dozen or so anglers onboard, there were several rigged fishing rods already strung along the railing, securing some of the best places to fish from. It's an unwritten rule that you never move a rod that is fastened to the rail!
We had made a mistake on the departure time - it was 8 a.m., not 9 - so we had an extra hour of waiting. That was OK. You can't win 'em all!
The Dickster did grab a few moments of sleep well offshore on the two-hour trip, and that was a big help. When we arrived somewhere that we figured was well past Jeffrey's Ledge, we found that bouncing a groundfish jig off bottom wasn't working so we quickly changed rods to one we had rigged for bait fishing.
It seemed that during that process, all the excited anglers along the rail were hauling in haddock on bait, so it was mere seconds when our baits hit bottom that our action started.
But the bad news was that about 90 percent of the haddock were just about an inch short of their length limit!
But Tom and I kept at it, pulling up haddock or missing strikes almost within minutes of dropping our baited hooks to the bottom, and we eventually had a small ice-filled tote with some just over the legal limit-sized haddock in it.
It only took seconds from the time you dropped your baited hooks to bottom before you felt the tap, tap, tap of a fish grabbing your baits. (We were using two hook rigs) But the amount of fish that we hooked that had bitten was not good.
The bottom had to be covered with smallish haddock. Even the ones that we kept were a mere inch of so over the legal size limit. But this situation kept all on board both enthusiastic and busy. And little by little we were filling our limits of haddock that were cookie cutters of themselves. No big ones. Just fish an inch or so over the legal limit.
Our boat's captain made several anchoring moves but the story was the same each place we ended up fishing. Nobody was complaining because there was plenty of action on the haddock but the lack of other species such as pollock and cod (cod were not legal to keep) was notable. The Dickster was disappointed about the lack of pollock, one of my favorites to both catch and eat. But the continuous haddock bite was hard to be angry about.
When the Dickster re-rigged with smaller hooks and fished with smaller chunks of clams, our bite-to-hook ratio went up considerably but the majority of those haddock we brought up to the deck were still under the legal size.
But how can you complain about non-stop action and eventually picking away at your legal limit with legal-sized haddock?
We can't remember being so tired when the skipper finally pulled the plug and headed back to shore, with a small crew at the stern filleting the fish for all of us and a huge flock of gulls following us in toward the shoreline several miles away, filling their guts on the haddock racks being tossed overboard.
Which brings us to the truth of the matter: When we used our own boats to fish that far offshore, we never felt entirely secure. And we dreaded the filleting of our own catch on that smallish boat, because one large bounce could cause a dangerous knife cut! And when we were skippering our own boat, the long trips to the fishing grounds and back again never gave this old goat a chance to catch up on my sleep deprivation!
So there it is. We love party boat fishing! We'll still pound around the Piscataqua River and Little Bay chasing stripers in our skiff. That's kind of what we call "run and gun" fishing. It's very effective hitting only the places that we've learned over the years will hold some fish. We'll either troll or drift these places and never just fish "willy-nilly" over unproven water! We've been fishing these waters for about 50 years! In all those years we've found where they live and concentrate on those proven spots. So it never seems to be a boring day.
Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and get out there and get you some.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.