The 2008 season was great in many ways. We had a lot of fun, created many memories, and landed a large number of fish. At the same time, it was a season very different from recent years. Fish patterns changed, and we had to adapt to them. Only time will tell if we had a year that was an exception or one that is establishing a new pattern.
So what was so different? First, the spring mackerel hung around much longer than usual. Bluefish did not show up in the usual numbers and those that did mostly remained outside of the inner harbor. Bait was often plentiful, and more so than in the past, stripers became very specific in what they targeted. We had nothing to complain about in terms of size; more large stripers and blues were landed than in recent years. Mackerel lasted well into June and there were pockets around through July. Menhaded (pogies) arrived in June and essentially schools could be found in various locations in the harbor throughout the season and consistently from August on. As pogies invaded the harbor, the stripers began to target them almost exclusively, and it became more challenging to hook them on artificial lures. The biggest change from previous years, however, was that the "blitz" never occurred. During the last years it has been common for the inner Boston Harbor to be invaded by large schools of peanut bunker chased by striped bass and bluefish, and associated flocks of sea birds picking them off from the surface. These feeding frenzies have consistently produced excellent light tackle fishing, but for some reason did not materialize this year. Instead we resorted to using live lined bait and were usually rewarded with big fish.
Of course many things stayed the same too. Most of the large bass were taken in spring and fall, and early mornings remained the best time to fish. Go Fish Charters was on the water at or before dawn on most days as striped bass are sensitive to light and there is no doubt that low light conditions are best. We were often rewarded with tight lines against a backdrop of a magnificent Boston Harbor sunrise. We used light tackle gear throughout the season as it is more fun and challenging. Our fishing plan often targeted shallow waters and structure with artificial lures in the early and late morning. As the day progressed we would often switch to some form of live bait and hunt somewhat deeper waters. On all days we would mix it up and take advantage of the fishing opportunities available.
Overall 2008 was a great season. Below are selected fishing reports from the daily fishing log I keep.
One of the challenges of fishing is dealing with the weather, and deciding whether or not to head out. Dangerous weather is one thing, but deciding if a steady rain or drizzle will be enjoyable can present a dilemma. Often fishing can be quite good on calm drizzly days, but at the same time you want to enjoy yourself and you don't know if the steady drizzle will become a downpour. On this day it was a close call and we considered canceling, but Philip Andrews who recently moved to Boston from Louisiana was ready to go with camouflage rain gear to boot. Launching around dawn we initially fished some structure in Quincy Bay with little interest, and then moved on to the anchorage. Here we found a small flock of birds working some bait. Sure enough there were bass beneath and Philip hooked fish on both jigs and top water jerk bait. On this calm drizzly day it was exciting to see the bass explode on the surface lures, so Philip mainly fished these and was rewarded with several bass including a hefty 30 inch fish. After about 45 minutes the schools broke up and we resumed our hunt in the shallows of Deer Island. As low tide was fast approaching I decided to target the channel edges around the airport and this turned out to be a good decision as we consistently were hooked up to good sized school fish using weightless plastic jerk bait as well as various jigs. Lures retrieved slowly across the surface often yielded the best results. The action continued throughout the early morning until it was time to return to dock.
Gary Cohen wanted to take his dad Howard, brother Andrew, and cousin Steve fishing. The weather forecast once again promised rain, but with a nice incoming tide and relatively calm overcast conditions in the morning we set off. After scanning several areas including Hingham, Quincy Bay, Spectacle Island and President Roads we found stripers at Nixes Mates and a nice flock of birds chasing the herded baitfish. Most were mid sized school fish with a few close to keeper size. Most fish were hooked using paddle tail plastic lures on 3/8-1/2 oz. jig heads, thrown into the mayhem. We tried to jig a few deeper and behind the school in hopes of finding some larger fish. The action was steady and often we had multiple fish on at the same time. By now the wind had increased and it had started to rain lightly. Usually I have several extra plastic ponchos onboard but today the best the crew could do was use large plastic bags to help keep the water at bay. Howard was quite a sight with a black garbage bag as a rain jacket, fighting the wind and the waves, and mostly with his fishing rod bent over. The action continued for about three hours. As the surface bite died down we planned to search for larger fish trolling with live bait, or perhaps search for flounder. By then, however, a steady rain had set in and it was decided to return to dock. A somewhat disappointing finish to what was a good fishing day, but more fish were landed during those early morning hours than almost any other day in the season. Why do we fish? For most people it's the sensation we get as we feel the fish on the line and then strike to set the hook. It never seems to get old.
A pattern of sunny calm days had set in with good fishing opportunities available. However, a delicate approach would be required to attract fish around shallow structure. On board was Kevin Johnson along with his friends Chip and Jack. As we arrived in Quincy Bay at dawn it looked promising but we hooked only a few small bass. These waters sometimes produce large bass in the early mornings, but you need to find the small pods of fish and the presentation needs to be just right. It was time to move and I decided to scan around Spectacle and Long Island. We found several schools of bass, all relatively sparse and fast moving. We managed to hook a few fish before the schools disappeared. As the morning was progressing I decided to fish some deeper channel edges before the tide weakened. Switching from casting to trolling we consistently hooked up on stripers, some close to keeper size. As these fish spread with the incoming tide it was time to go hunting some more. At this point the sun was high in the sky and fishing opportunities could found in the shallows again. We raised a couple fish at Veazie Rocks but none found the hook. We had to work for our fish this day, but with the friendly group of guys on board, we had a nice day of fishing.
Today Go Fish Charters participated in the Safe Summer Kickoff sponsored by The Fishing Academy. This is a non-profit organization that takes kids, many of them from the inner city, out on fishing trips. This is an opportunity to provide a positive outdoor experience to youth that would typically not be able to go salt water fishing. On this day Boston major Menino came and spoke after the event. As the kids are not picked up until 9:30 it allows the captains to do some early morning fishing on his own. On this day I found some fish around the Long Island bridge and Rainsford Island.
Fish were clearly marking as I drifted over the rocks, and sure enough I had some nice hookups with keeper sized striped bass using various plastic body shad on jig heads. After picking up my passengers, including The Fishing Academy Executive Director John Hoffman, we tried to fish Quincy Bay but by then the water was slack and the morning surface bite had dissipated. Targeting channel edges worked well however and we hooked fish both trolling and casting. The previous year Go Fish Charters had earned the "Most Fish Caught" award, but could not produce quite the same numbers this time. Returning to dock, the crew enjoyed a barbeque, listened to major Menino, and left with good memories of fishing in Boston harbor.
Onboard today were Phil Jackson and friend Mark from the HP sales team. A light breeze prevailed as we set out to fish the outgoing tide. As the previous day had included good bird activity in the early morning I spent some time scouting around Spectacle and Long Island, but yesterdays activity was not to be found. Next we targeted the shallows in Quincy Bay, and had good luck raising fish. Several fish were hooked, with a couple over keeper size. All fish were hooked on Assassins worked on the surface. As is typical, presentation is critical. Phil had success with a frenetic walk the dog as well as twitched approach. Mark raised some fish but could not draw a strike. As the action died down around mid-tide it was time to find new areas. At the airport we targeted some deeper channels and immediately had success, as we consistently hooked fish up to keeper size. The action continued until it was time to return to dock. Phil will be back later in the season to target some larger fall fish.
I met Peter Hernandez and his son Victor at 5:15am on a downtown pickup. Peter had flown in to help his son move into his college dorm. The day was calm, and as the sun started to track over the horizon we found some relatively fast moving schools of stripers by Castle Island. Peter, who had a lot of saltwater experience immediately started to hook fish, most of them on plastic dressed jigs worked at various depths. The action lasted for over an hour but it was hard to stay with the schools. After awhile it was time to hunt again and we scanned a number of locations in Quincy Bay and the airport area. The deeper channels around the airport are often productive but on this day we had probably waited a bit too long as the tide was nearly high. Our luck turned as we once again scanned the inner harbor. We found some very eager schools of bass herding herring, and unlike the morning bite, these were not very fast moving and provided solid fishing for well over an hour. This kind of activity at this time of day is unusual but was very welcome. Both Peter and Victor were consistently fighting fish and Ii was a great way to end the day.
I did not fish Newburyport as much as in previous years. This area fishes very differently than Boston Harbor and is often more sensitive to the tidal stage. I was very concerned about this trip as high winds were predicted and afternoon thunderstorms were on the forecast. However, Christian Raudeluna had planned this trip for his father-in-law Fred for quite some time and was eager to proceed. Along for the trip was Matt and his girlfriend Kara. At high tide I decided to target Joppa Flats and to work the edges along Woodbridge Island to find some relief from the wind. We were able to hook a handful of schoolies using both paddletail jigs and Slug-gos. As the tide started to move faster I wanted to try out several productive spots along the channel to the mouth and once again we found some fish. The mouth is often productive using light tackle but today, the outgoing tide amplified the westerly wind and the waters between the jetties were brutal. I found some lee along the north beach and also a school of bass along with working terns. These fish were more finicky but we still landed a few. High winds are always a challenge when trying to catch fish, and fortunately it died down just a little as the day progressed. It was time to settle in for some trolling along the channel edge. Hookups were consistent as we landed fish on every pass with fish close to keeper size. The action was very good given the conditions, with fish perhaps feeding up before the approaching storm. As we viewed the storm clouds approaching the question was always if we had time for one more pass and I knew we were cutting it close. A few minutes after the happy group of passengers were returned safely to dock, it started to pour, and the lightning bolts were not far behind. On this day, I'm sure we maximized the fishing potential.
Each summer, Go Fish Charters does several trips with The Fishing Academy. During the course of the day, we will take small groups of kids into the harbor and expose them to saltwater fishing. The name of the game is find fish quickly so that the kids can experience hooking and landing fish. As the day progresses the type of fishing available often changes. On this day the first group experienced one of the better "blitz" like periods of action during the summer. These fish were best hooked by casting swimming jigs. As most of the kids were too young to effectively work the light tackle rods, the skipper and mate were busy hooking the fish and handing the rods to the younger fishermen to reel in. It was non-stop sweat inducing action. While the rule is not to leave fish once you have found them, we had to head in to get another group of kids. When we came back, the surface schools were still there but they would die down after awhile. As they did, I decided to troll adjacent structure with good results; consistently hooking fish up to keeper size. Trolling this way is often the best approach with children as they do not need to work the rods much but it can still be involved. Once again, all the kids reeled in 4-5 fish apiece. We repeated this for one more group of kids with the same success. These young fisherman had picked a good day, and will probably learn sometime that it's not always this easy.
Today we had the Cutler family onboard. Visiting the area from Texas were Phillip, his wife Dee, and their kids Garrett and Chase. Their spirits were high as I picked them up downtown on this calm and somewhat foggy morning. We immediately found a few birds and schools of stripers in the inner harbor. Phillip hooked a couple schoolies, but it was soon clear that Garrett had a larger fish on. While young, Garrett was a skilled angler and soon landed a fat 27 inch striper; it seemed that he always had a fish on. When this bite started to fade I decided to explore around Spectacle and Long Island and sure enough, close to the tip, we found another school. From this point on the action was continuous. With all the casting and fighting, we would actually take breaks with fish visibly surfacing around the boat. Fishing became easy but no less fun. We received a brief respite as a dense fog bank moved in and engulfed us. I had to move the boat close to Long Island to stay out of shipping lanes. During this time the fish clearly moved closer to Deer Island but it was too dangerous to follow them. After awhile the fog lifted enough for me to move across President Roads and back onto the fish. The fish would take both surface lures and jigs. On a calm day like this, it's always exciting to see stripers explode on top water lures. On my recommendation Dee started to fish her jigs deeper. I showed her the jigging action I prefer, and Phillip used this to hook some nice fish including 29 and 28 inch stripers. Dee, ignoring my advice, chose to use a slow steady retrieve without any jigging action at all. Naturally, she hooked the largest fish of the day, a hefty 33 inch 15 lb. striper - very nice on light tackle outfit. It was truly an outstanding day of fishing.
It was another close call in the morning. The forecast predicted a breezy day and light to steady rain, and it was pretty accurate. Stephen Klemm, and his thirteen year old son Brandon were on vacation from Illinois. We had already shifted the fishing day once, so this was their last opportunity and they were eager to give it a try. The real concern on this day was the wind. Brandon wanted to try his hand at fly fishing in salt water. Our first stop was Hingham Bay, where I hoped we would get enough relief from the easterly winds. However, the winds were still in the 15-20mph range which is really at the very limit for the most expert of casters. Brandon showed that he had some good casting skills and gave it a good try. Given the chop I suspected any fish would likely be deeper, and while I had a sinking line rod available, this was
not really the place to try this kind of casting for the first time. To maximize our opportunities, we shifted gears to light tackle casting and trolling. Our next stop by deeper channels around the airport only yielded a couple fish so we moved on to some different structure around Lower Middle. By now the wind hand moderated a little and our luck changed. We had a good stretch of consistent hookups with several nice bass up to keeper size. By now the rain had become steady, and both Stephen and Brandon were wearing spare ponchos that I keep on the boat. As is often the case, fishing in less than perfect weather is often rewarded. On a tough weather day Steve and Brandon were happy, and I had thoroughly enjoyed their good natured company.
On board today were several kids participating in The Fishing Academy program. We had a very calm partially sunny day which was perfect for the kids involved. There was no obvious surface activity so I decided to troll with tubes. Tube and worm fishing is often very productive and also a great way for young anglers to be involved without having to cast and retrieve lures - which is often difficult for them. Unlike other charter guides, I stay away from lead core lines and heavier outfits when fishing with tubes. There is no difficulty in obtaining the right depths using braided lines and I feel a light tackle experience is always more fun. With kids, the key is often to start hooking fish quickly to keep their attention. Today we focused on structure around the airport and Spectacle Island and immediately started to hook fish. Generally trolling close to the bottom works best and each kid soon landed 4-5 fish each, with the best stripers in the low 30s. I repeated this with another group of kids to complete the day. All in all, it was a great day with more than enough fish to keep things interesting.
Captain's day off - which means I went fishing anyway. The season has been a little different so far. For one thing the mackerel lasted much longer than previously, but pogies have been around in pockets all season and stripers have zeroed in on them. This has made fishing with artificial challenging at times. Today I decided to fish with live bait the whole day so the first order of business would be to snag some pogies. After snagging a few it was clear that predators were targeting the same baitfish. I hooked a large fish on the snagging hook that took a ton of line but finally released before I could see it. This is why I prefer to re-rig the bait on a different rod, but on some days it's hard to make this happen before the bait is destroyed by
bluefish. After snagging the next pogy I let it swim just back and bit lower than the rest of the school - sure enough it was hit by another large fish. This one did not take as much line and I was able to land it, a hefty 30lb 42 inch striper. Once the adrenaline inducing frenzy was over I went to Quincy Bay and snagged a few more bait. This time rather than fish in place I decided to take them for a ride with the goal of slow trolling over some structure. The Faun bar did not produce but I had good luck around the drop offs near Governors Flats. Bluefish were still around so I had to include wire leaders in the rigs, which at least today did not seem to spook the stripers. I landed several bluefish and stripers, the largest which was 43 inches and 28 pounds. Large bait attracts large stripers, and it's very hard to beat live menhaden.
Onboard today was Phil Jackson who takes a couple trips each year with Go Fish Charters. The captain had told him about the large bass that were being landed, so the pressure was on. Unlike previous days there was little sign of pogies, but we did find a nice school of blues by the Long Island bridge. We were able to hook these on jig heads dressed with plastic tails as well as top water lures. A quick trip north of the harbor revealed no action so it was decided to return and fish live menhaden to structure. I found a nice spot working a channel drop off in front
of the airport. As bluefish were present I attached a stinger hook with wire. Once the fish were attracted we were also successful in casting to them with various artificials on light tackle rods. I like to change things up during the course of the day so we drifted and trolled both live and dead pogies; and also cast various artificial lures. We mostly hooked blues, but also a couple nice stripers measuring 41 and 38 inches. I doubt we would have had nearly the same results without the live bait.
The fall pattern continues. Plenty of menhaden but no peanut bunker - and no blitz activity! I wonder every day if this is the day it will begin, but have a feeling that it won't. Phil Andrews was onboard for another early morning trip. Philip prefers casting and working lures so we spent the first part of the morning searching for top water action but as has been the case lately did not find much. We deciding to take advantage of the excellent bait fishing that was available instead of fighting the odds. I had snagged a few pogies in the early pre-dawn hours but decided to go to Dorchester to find a few more. There were no obvious pogy splashes but I was able to find a few bait balls on the sounder. I decided to drift the merge area in front of Marina Bay and it was soon clear that we had attracted some fish. Our pogy began to swim in the customary erratic pattern that foretells the moment it is engulfed by a predator. Sure enough Phil had a large fish on. Our excitement evaporated when the fish released - more than likely a striper as the whole pogy had been taken. Phil promised to set the next one harder. After a few minutes a second fish was hooked, a nice 36 inch 18lb striper. The action waned and after searching for a few more pogies we motored to the inner harbor. Trolling and drifting with both live and dead pogies we landed a couple nice sized blues, and then found some surface fish by the Long Island bridge that we hooked using jigs. We toped off the day with a large striper at the very end of the trip. As we were ready to pull into my slip, we decided to make a few casts into a menhaden bait ball that had appeared. As we pulled a pogy from the school it was engulfed by a large striper that Phil landed successfully. Measuring 43 inches and 28 pounds, it was the largest striper to date for Phil, and obviously a great way to end the day.
Scott Longeuil, a seasoned fisherman had booked this charter to introduce his friends Juan and Xavier to salt water fishing. The plan was to be opportunistic, fishing live menhaden but casting artificial lures when possible. Our first stop by structure along President Roads produced a fair amount of hits, but we managed to land only one blue - albeit a nice one. Sometimes it's hard to time the hook set just right when blues are toying with the bait. As slack approached it was clear the structure was going to loose whatever fish remained and it was time to search Quincy Bay. I found a small group of birds and fish close to Veazie Rocks and we had good luck hooking stripers on surface lures and jigs - the largest being 31 inches. The school kept moving but not too fast so we were able to stay with them. By now about a dozen boats had gathered to target them including several other charter boats - these were probably the only surface fish in the harbor. As the tide started to move, the schools dissipated and I decided to search out some structure again, this time with more luck than in the morning. Trolling tubes and pogies we hooked some nice stripers up to 43 inches. We had caught fish using many techniques, but it was nice to hook a large fish towards the end of the trip.
Early October had been marked by poor weather and the fishing never really recovered as the season wound down. By now I was resigned to the fact that the blitz would not occur this fall. Nevertheless, I had hopes that the nice calm weather we had this day would be good for fishing but I suspected it would take some work. On board today was Mike Dryer and his two sons, Mitchell and Cameron, as well as friend Phil. Once again, pogies were available but were hard work to get. We did find fish in spots that had been working in recent days. While we landed one bluefish at Hull Gut, we struck out at Nantasket and Deer Island. I decided to target structure around the airport and finally also started to land some fish. The Dryer boys have
fished with Go Fish Charters several times and usually have not needed to be this patient. Towards the end of the morning it was clear that we had a nice sized fish on the line. With the crew taking turns, a hefty 39 inch striper was landed. The fish was the largest so far for the boys and clearly the highlight of the day. Checking in with other charter boats I could confirm it had been a very slow day overall so we were happy with our results. We found a small pod of blues by Deer Island before we returned to dock.