If we can pick a good day, we’ll try to get out on the ocean for catching some of what we like to call “eating fish.”

Those big ocean going big pollock will be our chief target but we’re apt to get a nice mess of other good eating fish, such as haddock and redfish.

Jeffrey’s Ledge is usually a hotspot for groundfish but they can also often be caught in offshore smaller ledges but not in the concentrations of Jeffrey’s.

We have the capability of fishing from our own boat out there (it’s close to 20 miles a trip!) but we haven’t done that in about 10 or more years.

Why? Because it’s much safer and probably more economically sound to sign up on one of the party boats that sail out of any one of our local ports: Rye Harbor, Hampton Harbor, Seabrook Harbor or Portsmouth Harbor.

These commercial party or charter boats are much more suited for that multi-hour cruise to the good fishing grounds in that they are much more comfortable, have the amenities of bathrooms, kitchen, a roof over your head and have the electronic devices to put you right on top of the fish and keep you there.

We just love the freedom of concern that using a party boat gives us. And also it’s a chance to relax on the more than an hour-long trip out and back. They also provide fish filleting and the sturdy bags to hold the fillets and ice to keep them fresh.

A big crowd gathers at the stern of the boat to watch these masters do their work. When the crew was filleting the day’s catch my last trip out on one of Eastman’s boats out of Seabrook, their mate Nicole made quick work of filleting each fish, so we decided to time her. Making only four cuts on the first side and three cuts on the second side of the fish it took less than one minute to create the cleanest and nicest pair of haddock fillets we’ve ever seen! She’s like a machine, but much better looking!

Onboard, especially when the fish are really hitting and tangles are fairly frequent, the whole crew, including the captain, is out on the deck helping anyone with landing their catch and untangling lines when necessary.

When a big fish is hooked it’s a good idea to call for a crew member to come with a gaff to ensure the fish comes into the boat and does not fall off the hook coming up the side. A call for “gaff” quickly brings a mate to your side and your fish to slip into your own tote to put on ice.

We do have a few bits of advice to make a party boat trip more enjoyable. First, if you have fishing gear that is saltwater proof and capable of handling big fish, it’s a big improvement over the rental gear that, because of its function, is not as sensitive as your own probably will be. And that’s not a knock on their gear. Because of the wear and tear that day after day’s use places on their rental rods and reels, ruggedness and reliability trump gear that is sensitive to a fish’s often-light bites.

We rig our deep sea fishing rods that have a fairly light action with braided line in at least a 50-pound test. To this we tie on a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader of 30- to 50-pound test and at least 20 feet long and often quite a bit longer. The joining of the braided line to the leader is done by a double uni-knot of at least four twists. (We won’t go into detail on this knot but if you have computer savvy you can easily find out how to tie one). This knot allows the small knot to slip through your rod’s guides with little trouble.

Our usual bait setup entails a couple of loops to attach hooks to, set about two feet apart, above where you’ll tie on a lead sinker from 8 to 16 ounces, depending on the depth you’ll be fishing and whether the boat is drifting or at anchor. A crew member will help you with setting up this leader if you have trouble and also most boats will furnish enough monofilament to complete your rig if you don’t bring it with you.

Jigging for groundfish is a physical challenge for some of us older folk but we’ve found that easing up a bit on the jigging action will produce almost as much success as the more violent jerking that some people use.

When jigging starts to get tiresome, we just switch back to our bait rig for a while and get a second wind. But it’s awful hard to watch people next to you hauling up fish after fish on their jigs when your bait rig is going unnoticed!

Crew members are not at all put off by newbies! In fact that is a big part of their jobs and their livelihood depends a lot on their service and their service is often rated by the cash tips that are traditional to leave for the crew.

Last night for our evening meal, Jane and the Dickster dined on baked-with-crumb-topping, fresh-caught haddock. If God created a better tasting fish, he/she is keeping it for himself/herself!

Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and get out there and get you some!

We’ve fished on Gauron’s, Eastman’s and Ricky Lapierre’s Yellow Bird. All sail out of Hampton/Seabrook Harbor and all have given us a great day.

Dick Pinney’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.

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