This holiday weekend is filled with everyone wanting “one last summer weekend on the boat”, even though some of the best fishing is yet to come. Boston Harbor absolutely reflected both cases this past weekend. First the number of boats… between all of the regular city traffic with ferries, barges, tankers, and tugs that was already enough, but then add in the 40-50 boats around Deer Island causing a commotion. There was a lot of moving parts on the surface, but also a lot of fish below to be caught.
Heading out mid morning each day we were doing the same thing everyone else was, searching for a pogy school to get some bait. It did not take long to find a few schools inside of Deer Island and within 30 mins we had our fill. Given the number of boats on the Deer Island Flats and around the rip, we ventured a little deeper into the harbor towards South Boston to find our fish.
With a 40lb wire leader (in case of Bluefish) using two circle hooks, one in the nose and one in the tail, we slow trolled two pogies around other nearby schools. While approaching a school we would plan how to troll near it so that our bait would seem as if it was venturing out of the school to attract a near by Striped Bass. While you pass the school you can use your fish finder to see if you mark any Stripers or Bluefish stalking the bait. If you are able to mark a few fish, it will help you narrow down where your bait needs to be.
This weekend we were only able to attract Striped Bass to our baits, which will at first push your live bait to the surface. You will start to see the bait swim a bit harder, and its tail will leave a wake on the surface. This is a classic Striper hunting strategy and it only becomes more fun from there. Anytime now the Striper will attack from below until it is able to grab the pogy. Since we are fishing with a circle hook in its tail we instantly set the hook to avoid any deep damage to the fish. This should result in a hook set in the lip, and offer the chance for a very healthy release. We had luck all weekend when we found our own water and schools of pogies to work. The best action we found was on the side of the deep Boston Harbor channels that had bait schools near.
Two years ago this kind of action lasted into the first couple weeks into October so do not think its over quite yet. Get out there when you can, use your fish finder to find a pogy school holding Bass and Blues, have patience, and set the hook when you have the opportunity.
Boston harbor 8/9/2018
Being able to slip out of work around 4pm on a beautiful day led to a great night ahead. We left South Boston around 5pm to get fuel in East Boston before we started our excursion. I had heard of and was worried about draggers and commercial fishermen using nets to remove full schools of pogies in Boston Harbor. On our way back from East Boston we started to look for our bait, and with the wind the way it was, it should’ve been easy. Though, I believe because of those commercial boats, we went all the way into Quincy Bay still without any sign of pogies.
We decided to throw some soft plastic lures and do some prospecting around Hangman's Island and some other rock piles close by. There were small fish around but nothing to be crazy excited about. Because of that we left those fish in search of the possible bluefish school farther outside Boston Light.
We had three rods out while trolling for Bluefish; one popper, one swimmer, and one deep diver. There seemed to be the same story outside as it was inside the harbor, just not much going on. Until we spotted what looked like a rip current in the distance, but something was different. As we tried to get closer we realized we could not keep up with whatever it was at trolling speed, and every minute or so there was a big swirl near the boat. So, in the process of switching gears again from trolling to casting again, we re-rigged and tried to keep up with this school of fish.
Once set up correctly we sped up in front of the school and waited for them to come to us instead of chasing them, it ended up being an enormous school of pogies being pushed very fast from something below. My first thought was that Bluefish had found the school and were going to blow it up any minute. I threw our snag into the school of pogies and was able to get one. While reeling it in so that I could put it onto a rod rigged with a circle hook everything seemed normal. Out of the blue my line started to rip across the bow at a pace much faster than what a pogy could produce. When the line came tight again my reel began to sing and I knew something had found my pogy before I could get it to the boat.
When Bluefish are around the school I have seen this happen before. But this fish dove down to 80ft and did not want to move, doing exactly what a larger striper would do. Now I am thinking that I had snagged a striper following the school and I had her by the tail or some odd place which is why I had trouble moving her from the deep. After a stalemate and a battle getting her head to face the surface, we were able to get her to the boat and figure out what really happened.
I did in fact snag a pogy, as I was bringing it to the boat this 42” Striped Bass inhaled the whole pogy and my treble hook, which was exactly what I didn’t want. The treble was deep in her and I was worried I would not be able to release her, but we also realized she was not bleeding at all. With her size I was able to stick my hand and arm in there to very carefully remove the weighted treble hook. That took up some valuable time. Getting her back in the water, holding her lip and he tail we put the boat in idle forward with an aim to get some water over her gills. There was hope but not much promise that she would make it, and about 7 minutes into trying to revive her it didn’t look like it was going to happen. As I was thinking about pulling her back into the boat she gave me a kick and now I could see her gills moving on their own again. After another minute or two she gave me a couple more kicks and one final large one to send her off, and we couldn’t have been happier. It was the perfect cap to a beautiful summer night, we had to work for the fish today, but it was all worth it.
In all we believe they were out this deep following this particular school of pogies because of the water temp. We read 62 degrees around the school, there as the rest of the harbor was at least 68 degrees.
- Jack Murphy
stellwagen bank 7/29/2018
With the goal being a hook up on a Bluefin Tuna, we left Cohasset at 5am and arrived on Stellwagen Bank just after sunrise. When we hit the western edge of an area between Middle Bank and the South West corner, we decided to put out some squid bars and troll until we saw some activity. On our troll South, we started to mark schools of bait and noticed a few whales off in the distance. As we got closer the activity became more prevalent around the Southern edge of the bank.
Within minutes we were surrounded by Humpback Whales bubble feeding and a couple breaching. As we continued our troll we did our best to stay out of the fleet of boats (we counted 76 boats at 9am) but still in the whale and bait action. The life demonstrated by the whales and the marking of bait on our fish finder meant we were in a good place to find the tuna we desired. While we started to debate setting up a drift with live bait, or stick with our plan on the troll we were dodging Humpbacks coming up for air.
We decided to stick with our troll and make sure a spinning rod was ready up front in case of any quick blowup we saw on the surface. We didn’t see any other boats hooked up which made us feel better about our decision to keep trolling; we followed the whales north. At about 9:30am while everything was quiet except for a few whales coming up to the surface periodically, while looking off our bow all of the sudden I am locking eyes with a 400-500lb Bluefin flying out of the water chasing Mackerel. I quickly reached for our stickbait lure that was on the spinning rod we had set up on the bow, but by the time I was able to cast I knew the fish had moved on; of course I casted anyway. Waiting for a miracle to happen and the fish to turn on my lure on the surface, it never came. We trolled right by the hole it left in the water again with no luck and no further evidence of tuna being in the area.
That is how the game works out there sometimes, these fish can be there one second, and vanish the next. While we didn’t have any luck, we did get some awesome drone videos of Humpbacks feeding and resting on the surface. Every experience out on the Bank or offshore is exciting and we can’t wait to get back out there. Even though we came up empty handed we are working on mastering the next trip to get a bite. Constantly reading and watching to come up with the next best idea or spot we can find. There is always next time.
Boston Harbor Pogies and Stripers
On a day that the afternoon was booked with work, I decided to head out at sunrise to see if I could find some fish before it got busy. Leaving the dock at 6am we were in search of Mackerel out around the outer harbor islands. While drifting and slow trolling we marked what I am convinced was a massive school of pogies, our sabiki rigs bounced through the school with no hookups which is what lead to my conclusion. Continuing on, we found a few schools of Mackerel in some larger rips inside of Graves Light.
When we decided we have enough bait, I wanted to see if there were still some Stripers hanging offshore like the last few weeks. During our troll, the fishing proved to be a bit slower than it had been. It took just under an hour to find our first fish around Martin’s Ledge. The fish was very aggressive and hit like a bluefish in open water. She came up to the surface and with that slow, powerful pump of her tail I knew it was a Stiped Bass. The fish turned out to be a fat 36” and we were happy with the catch though it took longer than we had hoped. Getting closer to the time we needed to be off the water, I wanted to give some leeway if we found pogies on the way in.
On our way in, we just passed the Deer Island rip and there they were, flopping pogies. We saw one, then two, then three come up to swipe at some food on the surface. Pogies consume plankton which in turn produce the energy the rest of the ocean needs when they become prey. Though, when I saw them in their feeding behavior that means they are totally comfortable and there are not larger game fish below. Blue Fish and Striped Bass will stalk the schools and when a pogy tries to make a break for it, the game fish strike. So, a strategy while fishing with pogies is the snag and drop method.
You need a treble hook that is weighted down with lead. When you locate a school, you cast past it and slowly reel back. When you feel a “tap…tap…tap” that is your weighted treble moving through the school, and you act by essentially setting the hook; snag. When you bring the fish in, and you can tell the school you are near is being harassed by Stripers of Blues, put a circle hook in it and quickly return it to the water. If the school is feeding and seem to be calm, then gather the bait you need and move on until you find another school that is more active.
The schools we found were not being harassed so we had to move on, and with our time constraint we did not find a school being pushed by Stripers or Blues, but I plan to be back out soon enough. It is an awesome way to catch big fish when you do it correctly!
- Jack Murphy
ENGINE TROUBLE... 7/11/2018
Recently because of issues with my 90hp 1990 Yamaha, I have invested in a new 90hp Evinrude E-TEC. Though it was gut wrenching shelling out the money to make this investment, once I got over that part of the process I started to get very excited. The thoughts of flying through Boston Harbor with a much quieter and more efficient engine quickly made the stress go away.
The first part of the process was towing my 17’ Boston Whaler out of South Boston to a ramp near the Quincy Yacht Club. Once that was completed we were able to get it on the trailer, and back to Cohasset to work on a plan the next day (Monday). I spent most of the next morning finding the phone numbers of Evinrude dealers in Massachusetts to find the best deal that worked for me. One of my biggest criteria was who had the motor in stock so that I could be back on the water the fastest. At the end of the day I had 3 quotes from shops in the North and South Shore ranging from $9,500-$11,200 with tax included. With those written down the decision was easy, I called back Jeff at Diamond Marine in Ipswich and on Tuesday I was to bring my boat up there for a much-needed upgrade.
One of the best parts of the process was Jeff and his crew at Diamond Marine. I pulled up to the shop Tuesday afternoon, and within a couple minutes we were running through everything going on in the boat. He started telling me about why they designed certain pieces on the older Whalers and what he liked and disliked about them. Of course, the next thing we started talking about was the Yamaha that was on the boat, and the E-TEC that was soon to be. The wiring and controls were to look much cleaner than the current set up, and he had no problem with the state of the boat and battery location. With that completed, we went inside to talk about which tachometer I wanted and settled some minor details. I left the shop feeling great and confident about my choice, he also tipped me off to put my broken Yamaha online to see if anyone wanted it.
Wednesday the old Yamaha was sold and that cash went straight to the new engine, thanks Jeff…
A little over a week later Jeff and I talked, we decided on the next Monday I could come pick up my Whaler with a pretty, new E-TEC strapped on it. Arriving on Monday he walked me through what they did, what they needed to change, and explained how the water test went. After I had all my questions answered we shook hands and I was on my way back to the South Shore to launch. In short, the boat was dropped in, ran great, we had an awesome first ride and I moored it back in its rightful spot.
I return to the boat in the morning, she fired right up, everything is great again. Though… after about 45 mins of running through Boston Harbor I get an overheating alarm, come to find the engine is no longer dispelling water out of the exhaust. Given that it was July 3rd and the late afternoon, I knew I would not hear from Jeff, but I called and left him a message anyway. I got a call back Thursday morning at 7:30am, which I would consider ASAP given the holiday on the 4th. We decided it was best for the Whaler to find its way back up to Ipswich, so they can figure out what went wrong.
I was able to bring the boat up to the shop Friday mid-morning, and to say I was happily in and out of there in a jiffy is an understatement. I pulled up, Jeff and another mechanic immediately start taking the lower unit off to check the water pump, come to find out the problem was a mis-manufactured impeller. Within 35 mins I was back on the road and now the moment I have been waiting for, the rest is history. She runs great and I would still be dead in the water if not for the effort from Jeff and his team.
No one can go through a big fix with a boat, car, or any kind of large toy and always expect everything to be perfect. Flat out stuff happens, and it so happened that this time it was me that got a faulty impeller. It was at no fault of Jeff and his team, and I cannot commend them enough for the effort they put in to get me back on the water as soon as possible. Thanks again Jeff, hopefully I don’t see you again soon though I wish you the best!
This tournament is based in Boston and was run out of Pier 6 in Charlestown, MA. The tournament went from Friday June 15th at midnight – Saturday June 16th at 3pm.
With these details in mind, the LJF crew for the tournament consisting of myself, Dave Murphy, and Cam MacDonald had a lot to put together Friday after work. There was a Captain’s Dinner at 5:30pm Friday night and we wanted to be there to make sure we knew the tournament details and received our Captain’s Bag. Through some miscommunications online vs. email a group including us were told it started at 7pm…
So to start this tournament off we had missed the Captain’s Dinner, not exactly ideal.
Though were arrived late Friday night it did not deter us from fully preparing for a long day of fishing Saturday. We arrived back home to gear up and pack for an early morning. We had eels in the fridge, ice, refreshments, subs, snacks, bagels, and waters ready to go; plus all of our gear. All of this along with the three of us were to be perfectly spread out around our 17’ Montauk Boston Whaler.
Our alarms went off at 1:45am with an aim to leave the dock by 3am. Our goal was to fish eels for at least two solid hours before the sun breached the horizon. Packing the truck and finding a parking spot in South Boston went much better than planned. It was a very quiet car ride and also a quiet, coordinated attack to get gear down to the dock and loaded on the boat. Everything was going smoothly until, as I am sure some of you have experienced, a sabiki rig was magically tangled with a rod loaded with braided line. There aren’t too many things worse than dealing with this when you are trying to get off the dock asap.
Thankfully we made a few cuts of the braid and we were back in action, pushing off the dock around 3am like we had planned. We started cruising out through Dorchester Bay, President Roads, and the Broad Sound South Channel to fish eels on some outer Boston Harbor rock piles. Arriving close to our first destination and coming off our plane it was stunning to see a bright clear sky and hear nothing other than the noises coming from our boat; the engine running, and the terrible sound of a foam coffee cup rubbing against the plastic windshield (which needed to be moved asap).
We had made it in the darkness and could start fishing. We rigged up our slimy critters and were fishing three rods within minutes. One was weighted off the stern, while two of us made casts and slow retrieves during our drift. With our tips up high preparing for that first hit, we were all ready. One of the first meaningful “ugh”s was let out shortly after… one seal pops up, then another, and another until a solid handful were staring at us like we were intruding. Seals are not a good sign for any fisherman. We tried moving and setting different drifts, but the same outcome repeated itself, more and more seals. By the time we were over fighting for space with the seals, the sun had started to pop over the horizon and we decided to change tactics and search for Mackerel. Being out in deep water anyway helped our search and we had 5-6 Mackerel within a few minutes. These were quickly rigged up (one weighted and one free) and tossed back in while we continued to fish for bait.
On our way out in the direction of the B Buoy we were able to hit a couple bumps we found on the chart and were successful. We had our first bass bite and it resulted in a 30” fish. For a tournament that’s not what we are looking for, so she swam back down deep, as we thought “at least we were doing something right.” Our next bite was an interesting one. Since we are using circle hooks, if you set them correctly the fish sometimes can seem as if she doesn’t know she is hooked. That’s what we believe happened in this case. Dave Murphy picks up our light spinning rod and begins reeling this fish straight in to the boat “This one may not be any bigger than yours Jack.” And let’s welcome the second “ugh” of the day. Only until this fish finally feels a good tug towards the boat, and she took off. She went from one side of the boat to another, and down deep taking plenty of line back with her. The sound of that reel was exactly what we needed to hear.
Dave plays the fish perfectly as she executed another full run, and a shorter one immediately after. Through his constant pressure and patience, he was able to pull the fish along side and we were able to get her in the boat. This was a much better fish at 42”, the laughs and the smiles said it all. This was a solid fish to bring in, so we packed her up though we knew we needed bigger to pull out a win.
Here comes the third and final “ugh”. Our 90hp Yamaha engine original to the Montauk decides I don’t have reverse anymore and is sticking on its way into forward. Out as far as we are we did not want to test what this engine had left. Once we were able to get the boat back into forward at 8:30am we started our limp back home. We arrive back at the Pier 6 dock to weigh in our fish at 11:10am, and had to sit and wait to see what everyone else brought in. Turns out the winning fish was 46”, and there were seven boats who landed and weighed in Striped Bass between 42”-46”; a very competitive tournament for this early in the season. For what we were given and the time we had I believe we made the most of it. The Whaler is now out of the water and will be back just in time for July 4th with a new 90hp Evinrude Etec. Until then it seems like everything will be from shore for us.
This was a great tournament and we cannot wait to get back next year for a shot to win.
Race Point June 9th, 2018
It was 3:34am and my phone was, rather unsuccessfully, trying to rouse me. After the cursory five (or sometimes ten) minutes sitting on the edge of the bed, I had gathered myself and my clothes for the long day of fishing ahead. Dry bag, rods, tackle boxes, leaders - all accounted for. As I managed to slurp the last of my coffee, the rest of the crew were repeating the same checklist to themselves. With gear in the truck, we were finally en route to the dock.
With the morning birds beginning to sing, we loaded the boat, ferrying gear from the truck to the dock. 4:30am the boat was ready and so were we, so we blasted out of Cohasset harbor and headed South. When we reached a comfortable cruising speed it was time to dole out breakfast; grocery store bagels, and my sad, sloppily spread, cream cheese. It was a quiet ride until the sun popped up above the horizon and we couldn’t help but verbally admire how beautiful it was.
Our crew, made up of myself, Jack Murphy, Dave Murphy, and Cam MacDonald, grew increasingly excited and impatient to reach our destination. Now 5:45 we were at Race Point off Provincetown, and it was game on. We started the morning by getting all the gear setup, live-bait rods, and some fresh sabiki rigs. Bait was the first order of business, and in a short amount of time we had a livewell filled with a nice range of mackerel.
Previous to this trip I had never personally been to Race Point, thankfully Jack and his dad, Dave, had been many times. It was astounding to see how quickly the water depth dropped off, and no wonder big bass amass here to feed in the rip. We fished two rods while trolling, both medium-light spinning rods with live-lining reels. What our crew also likes to do while trolling is have one guy on the bow blind casting to increase our odds a little, and this time it payed off big.
About an hour into fishing we were getting bit by 29-31” fish with decent regularity, which was a very good start. We were all quietly hoping for those big, Race Point fish, we had all traveled for to show up. In one of our trolling sweeps our guy on the bow, Cam, cast out his bright pink Hogy pro tail in hopes of attracting some attention. While we were all looking at a large DownEast sportfish heading for us, Cam had paused his retrieve to join us in the look of disapproval and confusion at the boats intentions. Well maybe that pause was all it took because a half second later WHAM! something large had just inhaled that pro tail.
This fish was clearly larger than the school fish we had been seeing all morning. Lines reeled in, we attempted to maneuver to get some line back, despite the impending sportfish coming down on us. For the size of fish I’m sure Cam felt the ultra-light spinning setup may have been a bit out-classed, but he fought carefully and patiently. Straight up and down with the line, it was a waiting game to get her to come off the bottom, but when we saw the deep color it was obvious this was an impressive fish.
Lipped and hauled aboard this magnificent fish was a solid 42” with a massive broom-like tail. It was difficult not to cheer when Cam held the fish up, a large fish on an ultra-light spin setup fooled by an artificial lure. This fish ended up being the boats largest of the day and, without question, the most memorable of the day. Another 40” fish broke up the day and again the 31” class fish took our baits for the remainder. It was a worthwhile trip nonetheless. I can’t wait to head back down later in the summer and see what other surprises Race Point has for the Lucky Jacks Fishing crew.
- Jack Loveday