The 2010 season proved to be another great year for fishing the Boston Harbor waters. As has been the case the last few years, many aspects of the season were different from the previous year. The fishing is always dependent on the presence of bait and the cooperation of the weather and tides. We clearly expect some bad weather during the season, and when it does show up it can disrupt some established productive fishing patterns, and certainly this was the case with several storms from the northeast. This was especially true towards the end of a better than usual August, when a storm essentially drove the fish down for a couple weeks. The fish did come back in September but not to the extent that we have seen in the past. Northeast and northwest winds are particularly challenging and they invariably make for a challenging day, and we had a few of these. On the other hand July and most of August were very strong fishing months and we took good advantage of them.
On the bait front, the mackerel lasted much longer than the previous year and was very similar to 2008 where we could find them for most of June and again towards the end of the season. Herring was available in various forms beginning with the alewifes heading up the rivers to spawn. Pogies returned to the harbor after being quite hard to find last season. These adult menhaden continue to be a favorite meal for both stripers and blues. Sometimes there presence can make it difficult to target these predators with artificials as they are so focused. That said, I will gladly take more pogies in the harbor. I had speculated that we would see more pogies as the juvenile pogies (peanut bunker) had made a return in 2009 after taking a year off in 2008. On this note, it was disappointing to see that the fall blitz was very limited in the harbor and surrounding waters. It will be interesting to monitor the adult pogy population next year.
The early hours are often the most productive on any given day so Go Fish was on the water at or before dawn on most of them. When the wind is relatively light there is the possibility of sight casting off beaches, flats, and other relatively shallow water areas. These fish fight harder and it's hard to beat the explosive surface takes on the soft plastic lures we typically use. We probed the water mostly with top water plastics and jigs custom made by the captain. While casting is my favorite technique it is not always the most productive. As the days progressed we usually varied the technique to include trolling and drifting with lures and live bait. For some reason some of the structure spots in the harbor held fish with less consistency than previous years, perhaps because there was simply too much bait luring them outside.
I think we learned a lot this season, and there is always more to learn. I plan on being on the water a lot in 2011 to increase our odds. Below are selected fishing reports from the daily fishing log I keep:
The day began early at 5:45am downtown Boston for a pickup for Isaac Leung and his girlfriend Cathy. The harbor was very calm which made for very pleasant conditions. As we scanned the inner harbor we found a few small pods of bass along with hovering birds. The fish were quite spread out broke surface occasionally. As Isaac and Cathy were new to fishing and using spinning gear it was time to do some basic training. After a short session both were able to start hooking fish. We needed to chase the fish and after awhile the boat pressure increased to the point that the fish stayed down. Isaac hooked a keeper sized fish on top water jerk bait and Cathy managed to land a fish just a little smaller on a jig. As the fish showed no signs of coming back up it was time to move on. The next stop in Quincy Bay was not as fruitful. What looked like nice conditions for sight casting came up empty - the fish were simply somewhere else. It was time to search again and a complete scan of the harbor found no apparent surface fish so it was time to target some structure. We tried casting and trolling around Deer Island and other inner harbor structure to no avail. Finally, as we targeted some deeper channels we started to mark some fish and with persistence were able to get some good hook ups. We were able to land a half dozen fish including one over 30 inches that Isaac kept for the kitchen. It was a nice end for the trip.
Buzz Clasby and his wife Helen were on a vacation trip up from Kentucky. They had seen Boston quite a bit, including the freedom trail, USS Constitution and done some whale watching. The morning brought a moderate breeze from the Northeast which is not my favorite condition - but this was the only day they could fish on. Helen, was a little reluctant to go out in a twenty foot boat but after some discussion she decided to give it a try. There had been some thunder during the night and the harbor was devoid of birds and surface fish. I took it slow so that the ride would not be excessively bumpy. The harbor was devoid of birds and other boats for that matter. We did some casting at Castle Island and then at targeted some structure around the flats. Buzz hooked up on a mid-sized school fish using a jig. After awhile I decided to switch gears to troll around the airport structures and channels. While we marked fish we could not get a hook set. Most of the time, fish will set themselves but today they would just nibble and avoid the hook. It was clear that this would not be a great day for fishing. Buzz is a great fan of lighthouses, as the wind had moderated a bit we took the trip out to the Boston Light house which was now brightened by the breaking sun. This round went to the fish as it often does on a Northeast breeze, but the view of the lighthouse was spectacular.
On board today was Klaus Christian, his wife Camilla, and there two children Oscar and August. After the downtown pickup I decided to return to some fish that I had spotted by the harbor entrance on the way in. It was a beautiful and calm day, perfect for fishing with kids on board. The fish were a bit sparse and there were already a few boats in this well trafficked area. We did some casting as well as trolling with but the larger fish eluded us. Oscar showed some real good casting form. It was time to scan the harbor and we found a bite at the Deer Island rip. Similar to the fish by Castle Island they did not last long. I decided to target some deeper structure and tried a couple favorite spots before I was able to find some marking fish. Cast jigs were attracting followers but no takers, but we had more luck trolling tubes and were able to hook some good fish. The boys had been very patient and had finally been rewarded. While it had been a relatively slow day for harbor fishing, they had landed a perfect day and thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
The fishing has improved considerably. While there were some good days in May there was no real consistency. June has definitely brought some favorable weather and fishing conditions. With high expectations for the day we started the day at dawn. On board were Jim Clark and his two fishing buddies, Paul and Greg. It was a clear day with a bit of a breeze from the Northwest, but not enough to keep us at dock. With the prevailing wind I was not really sure what to expect and decided to target some structure around George's Island and Rams Head. We were rewarded with a couple school sized fish at George's and then at the Nixes Mate rip. It was a decent start but we were looking for larger fish. By now we had spotted some bird activity around the South Channel area and decided to
Aboard this day was the Melendez crew: Jose, Xavier, George, and Jose. They generally make a couple outings a year. Scheduling is generally dependent on when everybody is available. I was not crazy about the tide since it was exceptionally low and slack at dawn and it would take some time to build. As nothing was immediately occurring in the harbor I decided to head out to the Graves area to see if we could find some mackerel. On this day they proved hard to find and I did not want to spend too much time chasing bait. On our return I decided to fish the Nixes Mate area as the tide was beginning to move. As the wind had settled I determined that our next destination would be Quincy Bay. Generally this is a good area to try for these conditions but on this day it as quite barren. However, quite close by was some structure that had attracted both fish and birds. There were already a couple boats by the time we arrived and soon there would be a whole fleet - a common occurrence when there are not that many fish to be found in the harbor. George and Jose both hooked up on stripers. Given the thin school and heavy pressure we only had a relatively short time to work these fish. Returning to shallower waters our luck changed for the better, as it was clear that there were fish cruising about. Not a large number, but enough to provide some good action, and best of all we had these fish all to ourselves. Fish are generally quite selective in this area and once again this proved to be the case. Carefully worked jerk bait resulted in good fish for Jose and Xavier. We worked the area until the tide went slack again.
Phil Andrews typically takes a couple trips a year and has caught some big fish onboard Go Fish. It was a very calm day which is very enjoyable to fish in - on the other hand sometimes it can also be just a little too calm. On the right day this was a near perfect day for sight casting. I had high hopes for our visit to Quincy Bay and had high hopes that we would spot some cruising bass. After trying a few spots it was pretty clear the fish were not hanging in the area - we fished it pretty hard. After trying a couple spots on the way to the airport we still could not find any decent sized fish. Phil is an avid spin caster so we had no thoughts of resorting to trolling. As the tide was just starting to come in the activity picked up. Fishing structure in the inner harbor we started to have some followers on our top water lures. Given the calm conditions we were using a quite delicate approach. We had some explosive takes on the surface. With heightened senses these fish would explode on the lures and you would at most have a split second to set the hook before they spit the lure out. On some occasions the fish actually miss the lures somewhat so you don't really have a chance at all. It's also easy to get a little trigger happy - it's a delicate balance. Phil know the routine very well and hooked a few fish including a nice sized keeper. Eventually it became evident that we would have not more luck luring the fish out of the depths and we headed to structure along the Deer Island rip and the Nubble Channel for a few more fish. Back in Quincy Bay we attracted some fish but could not get them to strike. In all it had been a thoroughly enjoyable day on the water.
Carey Starkey had booked a two day event for both fishing and viewing the famous fourth of July fireworks on the Boston Esplanade. This event is attended by hordes of people from the greater Boston area and is considered among the top few events in the country. The fireworks are also attended by a fleet of boats that congregate on the Charles River. To get to the fireworks, Go Fish needed to navigate through the locks from the harbor side, and then back once the event was over. Carey had planned the trip for his two sons. Stephen, a Marine on leave, and Jarred who was making plans to attend college. While capt. Patrick had heard of the annual event he had never made the trip before - it was quite a show. Carey is a fireworks buff in addition to an avid fisherman. As it turned out Carey developed some kind of eye infection so the fishing leg needed to be scrubbed - a shame as the fishing north of the harbor was in a frenzy.
Onboard today were Fred Miller and his daughter Carrie. Carrie will be attending Boston University and visiting the area to get acquainted. As one of her real passions is to fish, Fred had planned a Boston Harbor fishing charter. Most of Carrie's experience had been with freshwater sunfish, bass and pike, and this would be her first saltwater experience. Given the slack water at dawn it was not a surprise that the harbor was relatively quiet. Our first stop at Rainsford gave us hope as we found some rising fish, but they proved to be rather fast moving, and before we could find homes for the hooks, they were gone. We had similar results in a couple more spots in Quincy Bay, swirling fish, but no takers. As the tide started to progress beyond high it was time to explore the waters outside the harbor that had been so productive the last few days. Heading North out of the harbor we encountered some flocks of bird and large schools of bait. They were moving rather quickly. Mixed in were both stripers and
The Jansen family from Norway was visiting there parents in Boston and decided to try some harbor fishing. Peter, his wife Sisi and their son Morten rounded out the crew. The plan was to fish the harbor first during the slack tide and then head outside to find some of the schools that had camped north of the harbor. Quincy Bay seemed devoid of fish but we did find some action at Spiers in very shallow water. Nothing real large was hooked but the bite was sufficient to keep the interest of all onboard. As the tide started to move I was eager to make the move out of the harbor. On the way we found a few birds by Rainsford and Presidents Road but did not spend much time to exploring those opportunities. Heading Northeast we found a good sized flock of birds chasing bait. By the time we joined the fray there were already a few other boats on this fish. We enjoyed some spectacular fishing with many fish breaking surface trying to gorge themselves on herring. We followed the schools for a couple hours until the activity started to die down. While there were other boats it never become cumbersome as it often does. It helps to motor ahead of the moving schools and wait for the fish to come to you. Unfortunately, on occasion there are boats that continuously motor right through, disrupting the fishing for all. As the action tapered off I decided to gamble and head further North, rather than wait for possibility that the fish would reemerge. This turned out to be a good decision as I found large schools North of Nahant that were mostly free of boats. Once again we found scattered pods of breaking fish. On some occasions were literally in the midst of dozens of surfacing fish and could see multiple bass follow our lures - the action was relentless. The Jansen's were clearly having an amazing trip and could not believe all the fish. Peter loved to use the topwater lures to draw strikes on the surface. After a couple more hours they crew was exhausted. Morten hooked a few fish by himself and was surprised by the strength of the fish. One of the last was a blue which impressed Peter quite a bit. The Jansen's kept one of the many keeper sized bass for supper.
After another downtown pickup it was time for another day of exploring the harbor. Lou Cabrera had scheduled a day of light tackle fishing for his group that included his wife Ginger and his daughter Rachel. Rachel mastered casting quite readily and by the end of the trip Ginger was doing very well also, especially with the jigs. It is impressive how fast people can pick up the essentials. As we were starting at slack my initial plan was to probe some channels before we headed outside the harbor. We trolled and cast to no avail however and decided to head out. Sure enough, there were schools of fish in the shipping lanes and Ginger and Rachel started to hook some fish. Unlike the previous day, these schools did not last long and it was time to explore. A trip further North did not produce as it had the previous day. Ginger hooked up on a hard fighting fish and struggled for a couple minutes before it broke off - it had bitten through the leader. Clearly it had been a bluefish. We fished our way back to the harbor, and eventually found some fast moving fish at the Sugar Bowl. We managed to find some more fish between Rainsford and Sunken Ledge. Ginger hooked up again, and Rachel had a number of near misses. We had battled hard on a gorgeous, calm water day in Boston.
Daniel Sherman had booked a fly fishing trip for himself and his friend Kyle. We were on the water early and right after the no wake zone we spotted some activity with a couple of boats were zeroed in on. Rather than crowd the boats we continued and found some breaking fish around Sunken Ledge. We hooked a few fish including Daniel's first saltwater fly rod fish!. This bite did not last long so and it was time to keep moving. I wanted to explore George's Island and the Black Rock Channel area. Fish were clearly marking but they were holding deep and could not be lured by our offerings. Not wanting to waste too much time I moved on to the South Channel where we found some birds and top water action. At times there were tons of breaking fish. Kyle was hooking fish after fish, but Daniel resisted the temptation to switch to light tackle rod and was rewarded by fat keeper on the fly. After a bit we moved to action closer to Lowell and ultimately Nixes Mate. The non-stop action continued, by now pursued by a multitude of boats to the point that it was getting a little crazy. As the schools dispersed we fished structure in Quincy Bay and the inner harbor. Daniel wants to fish again - if he gets a day as good as this one he will be very fortunate indeed.
Onboard today was Travis Zorrilla and his fishing buddy. Fishing the last few days had developed a specific pattern which I intended to follow. Our first stop in Quincy Bay did not produce so I proceeded out to Bob's Bass area where boats were already collecting on this weekend day. I often recommend non-weekend days for this specific reason. The pressure on the fish often becomes to great, especially if you have boats ripping right through the schools. We had some bursts of surfacing fish but they were quite targeted in their prey and proved difficult to hook - much more selective than recent days. By now the activity had settled down. There were sporadic surface action in various areas with a throng of boats in hot pursuit at the first sign of action. With persistence we could get our share. The other alternative has to had further North in search of less harried fish. As is often the case, I made the gamble. I motored up the coast and along with a couple other charter boats scanned the north shore. Today the gamble did not pay off and so we headed back to the outer harbor entrance where there was still some low level activity. We managed to hook into some stripers before the schools scattered. After this we fished a number of structure spots that often hold fish but managed to hook only a couple as the tide was loosing steam.
Doug and Connie Chaney were vacationing in the Boston area and had decided to spend a day on the water. They could not have picked a more spectacular day. Sunny and calm and hopefully some fish too. After a somewhat late start we headed straight for the mouth of the harbor where schools had been working the last few days, and sure enough they were still there. We managed to hook a few fish amongst the schools and found some in the shallow waters of Nixes Mate as well. The bite was decent but was tapering out. As we motored into Quincy Bay we found some more surfacing fish by Rainsford. We then continued to scan the inner harbor but by now it was quiet. We received a timely call from another charter captain that there were fish up north so I decided to take this tip. It took awhile to motor out and scanning the general area it was not apparent that there was any activity as the birds had not spotted these fish. However, due to the very calm conditions it was possible to see breaking fish from quite a distance and we were able to hone in. The fish were relentless for close to two hours. On a few occasions fish literally erupted everywhere all around the boat. As soon as you could get a lure on the water it would be snatched up by a bass. What made these schools unique was the size, the vast majority were over keeper size with many up to 40 inches. There were a few bluefish bite off's but most of the fish were stripers. During the frenzy some of the bass would nearly jump all the way out of the water as they gorged on herring. This was certainly among the best two hour stretches all season.
It was a beautiful morning as I picked up Wayne Dunwoody downtown for a day of fishing. His wife Donna was in town for a meeting and he had the day off. Wayne is a farmer in Missourri and fishes when he can. There was practically no wind so it would be very pleasant cruising around the harbor, although there was a bit of morning fog to contend with. Our first stop around Rainsford Island showed some signs of life with a few small pockets of quite finicky fish. With quite some effort Wayne got one hookup. The next stop was the North Channel where we found more birds but also more fog. These fish were equally difficult to hook but with effort a few more fish were landed. While I wanted to test the waters outside the harbor I was reluctant given the poor visibility and instead returned to easily reached structure in Quincy Bay but by now the fish had left. Around slack tide the fog finally lifted and I headed out Presidents Road to see if I could find some more action and potentially some mackerel to use as bait. We managed to pick up a little bait and then found some more around Boston Ledge. We tried to fish them on the spot but hooked a dogfish so it was time to move. We took the bait and tried a few areas well outside the harbor, until Wayne hooked a hard fighting bass just under 40 inches. Proceeding West closer to Egg Rock Wayne worked the spinning gear to land a few more keeper sized fish. Wayne had enjoyed a great day of fishing, and returned all the fish to the sea.
David Tierney, a teacher, had booked a day of fishing for two former students, Joel and Erly. The forecast for the day was a bit breezy but this was the only day they could fish so the decision was reached to give it a try. The first stop at Spires was productive as everybody hooked fish to topwater plastics as well as shad jigs. The fish were mostly small but it was a great way to work in some casting lessons for the inexperienced crew. A scan around the inner harbor revealed only a few scattered birds and no apparent fish. As we had reached slack tide I decided to try and gather some bait around Boston Light. We were able to jig a few up and took them back into the harbor. By now the waves had grown considerably to the point where I was trying to fish productive lee locations. The Deer Island flats area can be productive on an incoming tide but not today. We tried a couple more spots until we notices some birds erupt at the harbor entrance. The trip, while short, was quite a challenge with the chop. Nevertheless we managed to hook a couple fish into the 30's with the mackerel and some more on jigs. The schools were moving quite rapidly and we followed and tried to get ahead of them as best we could. When they headed closer to protected waters around Spectacle the fishing was more pleasant, but we did brave the chop as they moved back into the channel area. The action was building but David indicated they had a schedule to keep so it was time to call it a day. It had been a rather productive morning - we had certainly made the best of this breezy day.
Each season, Go Fish does a number of fishing trips with kids from The Fishing Academy as well as trips arranged directly by parents. In most cases the kids might need a little help with casting the lures and certainly in fighting the fish. A fish around the legal threshold is usually quite a challenge to reel in. In some instances I choose to troll to take some of the difficulty out of the equation. Today there were two trips, the first with Aiden, Levi, Liam, and Karesh; the second was an all girls trip with Sammy, Elena, and Cassidy. All were joined by their counselor Nihera. After the pickup in Boston we immediately found breaking fish in the Governors Flats area. We cast and trolled for fish for well over an hour. Each of the boys reeled in three to four fish, some well into the 30 inch range. As the action diminished I moved on to explore Quincy Bay and found more fish and a collection of boats around George's Island. The schools were meandering between George's and Rainsford and we had no problems staying with them. Most of the time we were able to just camp out and cast to these eager fish. The kids had all enjoyed some tremendous fishing and it was time to change crews. As I headed back with the girls the fish were still chasing bait in the same area and the girls picked up where the boys had left off, each hauling in about the same number of fish. Compared to the lake fishing they are used to this really was a completely different world.
Mike Showaler had decided his sons, Max (9) and Michael Jr.(12) needed a fishing trip. Along for the trip was grandpa Howard. Max had not been enjoying the sight seeing in Boston too much and needed a change of pace. On top of that, it was Michaels birthday. The crew was picked relatively late at 7:00am to give the boys a little more time to sleep in, as it was they seemed a little groggy. This would change soon as we encountered flocks of birds as soon as we arrived at the Sugar Bowl. The boys were hooking mid sized stripers within minutes, with all signs of sleep deprivation erased. We followed these schools for about an hour but as time went on more and more boats joined in the fray and it was getting a little crazy. This area normally has traffic as it is the main channel to the inner harbor. If you add a throng of recreational and charter fishing boats it can be quite a mess - and it was. With hope of finding more pleasant fishing I decided to head out of the harbor. Motoring out the South Channel revealed nothing. By the time we reached Graves I was beginning to wonder if our search was going to work out. I decided to hook right and head South. After another fifteen minutes we hit a vast field of voracious bluefish. We hooked fish quite easy by either trolling or casting. Max had some difficulty casting for distance so his preferred method was trolling. All the blues hooked (and they were all blues) were at least nine pounds. Top honors went back and forth as the crew was boating fish after fish; first at ten pounds, then eleven, and finally settled at 13 pounds on a fish landed by Michael Jr. A thirteen pound blue puts up a tremendous battle that he will remember for a long time. The action continued for several hours. We found a few more schools on the way back to Boston to return the exhausted crew. I imagine they all went back to their hotel room and took a long nap.
On board today was Jamie and his father. Jamie is an avid fisherman, and despite being only ten does his own casting and most of the reeling. Only on the largest fish will he ask for help. He has yet to lose a rod - which is more than I can say for some much older folks. The bite was on in Hull on a fairly calm day. There was a mix of stripers and blues and they did not take a lot of coaxing to take our lures. Between all the fish, Jamie's arms were getting quite a workout - my guess is they will be sore tomorrow. After awhile we started to troll to make things a little easier for him. The largest fish was a 36 inch bass that set a new record for Jamie, but I think the bluefish were more difficult to bring to the boat given there vigorous head movements. Jamie's bass is on the left. I wanted him to hold the fish straight so everybody could see it's girth but as you can see he could not quite manage it. The bite took us to Rainsford Island after awhile. We stayed in this general vicinity the whole day as the schools showed no signs of dispersing. As we left, the fish were still going strong. It had been a great trip.
Another Fishing Academy day was in store. Our first scan of the day did not reveal any signs of fish. With four kids on board: Ryan, Chris, Josh, and Mike, my goal was to find visible surface fish or at least marking on the fish finder. Casting to structure would not be feasible given the skill set and number of kids onboard. A trip through the Quincy Bay area was not very promising either. The Hull area had been good recently so I headed towards Hull Gut and Hingham Bay. Sure enough, there were some fish. Not as many as on some recent trips but nonetheless enough schools to command the attention of everybody on board. As each kid had a turn reeling in a few fish the excitement spread. While not as many fish as the previous academy outing, they made up for it in size with several fish into the upper thirty inch range. On the larger fish the kids would take turns reeling in - and could only manage a few turns of the handle each. As the schools moved around the bay the kids became bird watchers and helped the captain reach the fish before the fleet that was beginning to amass. The kids were spent and were dropped off at George's Island to refuel and revive their sore arms.
A wire day. Nothing but blues. Outstanding action the whole trip. Marc Gillette had scheduled this trip for himself and his son Erin. Joining them, and rounding out the crew, was Marc's friend Mike and his son Miles. Marc had fished with Go Fish the previous year and had landed a 40 inch bass so the expectations were high. Fortunately the bluefish that had decided to camp out off Hull were still there. While there would be no matching the size of his striper, the action more than made up for it. Today, all the fish were bluefish, and while I started out with some fluorocarbon leaders, as soon as time allowed all the leaders were changed to wire. The action was relentless. It was common for the anglers to hook up at the same time, in fact I had to ask people to take the remaining lures out of the water once we had two fish on at the same time - it was becoming difficult to get all the fish into the boat, clean the boat from the bait brought onboard along with the fish, re-tie lures, and most importantly to avoid the razor sharp teeth. All in all a great problem to have. The harbor giveth and the harbor taketh - today it was in a giving mood.
Weather had broken up the nice fishing patterns of the last week. The breeze was a bit on the stiff side today but not enough to postpone the trip.
Given the probability that there would be little surface action today I was loaded up with live pogies and the goal was to fish them in and out of the
harbor. Onboard was the Melendez party, a fun-loving group that loves to fish and has been onboard Go Fish many times. Our first stop was the airport
area where I had marked and hooked some nice fish the previous day. It soon became clear that they were no longer holding in this area. Our next
stop in Bob's Bass Triangle was more promising. Occasionally, the bait would get excited and behave in an erratic way - more than likely there
were some bluefish around. We fished the area quite hard as this had also been a producer in recent days. Subsequent stops in the outer harbor
were also fruitless. Checking with other captains it was clear everybody was having a vert tough day - there were practically no stripers in the harbor.
The Melendez crew deserves a fish frenzy day, but this was not it.