May 25, 2002

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Frank G. Dwyer
May 25, 2002

Last Saturday the alarm started chirping at 4am as planned and as always I shot out of bed with the anticipation of getting on the water and chasing fish. The weather had called for rain, and as I looked out the window in the pre-dawn hours, it appeared the weather folks were accurate this time.

I put on a ½ pot of coffee and struggled to get my rain gear on while listening to the drip of the coffee machine. I filled up a very large cup with ice and coffee, then headed for the car, which of course was pre-loaded with my gear.

Driving towards the marina in the pouring rain to go fishing may sound strange, unless you’ve done it before with success. Once you’ve had a banner day in the rain, it does not seem so strange to be heading out in weather like we had last Saturday. After all, the fish don’t know it’s raining, or at least I don’t think they care!

My ballast, otherwise known as my friend of 20 years Don, was driving up from Watertown for our 5am meeting and I wondered as I drove if he made the trek even after seeing the weather. I should not have doubted Don’s commitment to fishing as his vehicle was already in the marina parking lot, and he was nowhere to be seen. Trudging down the dock, I saw a Don casting off the last section of dock into the Merrimack awaiting my arrival.

Don has been the fishing with me both from shore and the boat for several years, so we both went about preparing the boat and our tackle, with virtually no words spoken. Once we had cast off from the dock, Don was the first to speak and said, “I don’t think the heavy stuff is going to come down for awhile”. We both laughed at the pirated line from the movie Caddie Shack, as the rain and wind continued at a decent clip.

To make a long story short, we had a very memorable four hours of fishing that rainy, windy and generally nasty Saturday morning. Even though the wind and rain intensified during our time on the water, we landed and released somewhere in the vicinity of 100 striped bass, including four fish that were over 30 inches. With 3-foot, wind induced waves rolling over Joppa Flats, we felt at times as if we were fishing miles offshore.

While many folks probably looked out the window on that rainy Saturday and saw a washed out beginning to a weekend, others saw it as a beautiful day. Looks can be deceiving.


Fishing has certainly gotten better over the last two weeks. Striped Bass are holding in the typical upriver spots around Carr Island and Deer Island. Anglers’ using soft baits like Sluggos and Bass Assassin’s rigged on small lead heads reported several days of consistent fishing.

Tuesday on the outgoing tide, the river mouth had a huge cloud of diving birds working a large pod of bait, with many large striped bass feeding beneath. I saw bait, fly and spin fishermen all enjoying the frenzied action.

Fishing on the oceanfront has also been quite hot over the last two weeks. Spin fishermen have been having good luck with metal and soft plastic lures as well as the old stand by, the buck-tail jig. Jean from the Parker River National Wildlife Reserve reported that a small portion of beach is available for fishing on the Reserve, accessible from parking lot one. None of the other beaches are open for fishing at this time to protect the 10-12 pairs of Piping Plovers nesting there.

Anglers fishing the river at Plum Island point are also having success, mostly at low tide. This can at times be “combat fishing” as the crowds can be quite large. A fast moving current combined with shoulder to shoulder anglers can lead to many crossed and tangled lines. There’s plenty of shoreline to explore if you find the Point to crowded!

Many fishermen have been wading off Joppa Flats at low tide as the fishing activity has intensified. Fly fishermen have reported success using olive or chartreuse over white fly patterns on fast sinking lines. A word of caution for the uninitiated, wade fishing on the flats can be a blast, but there are many factors to consider when doing so. The sand is quite soft on the flats, it’s important to have tight wading shoes to enable you to pull yourself out of any soft sand. Once the current gets moving, footing can be tricky, so it’s key to be alert at all times. In case you take water over the top of your waders, it’s a good idea to wear a belt to ensure that they don’t fill with water, creating a dangerous situation. The incoming tide and fast moving current can take a fisherman by surprise, so it’s important to know that tides for the day you are fishing.

Liz at Surfland reports that many larger fish have been caught over the last week, including shore caught striped bass weighing 18, 19 and 27 pounds! Liz also agrees that Joppa Flats has been producing nicely for anglers at low tide.

Frenchie at Captain’s Fishing Parties had good news as well, reporting Cod catches in the 20-30 pound range in the past week, with one big boy weighing in at 43 pounds! A 14-pound Haddock was also caught this week. Whole and half day trips are now running daily.

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