May 11, 2002

Solitary, Relaxing and Soothing, but not always!

Frank G. Dwyer
May 11, 2002

Often when someone thinks of fishing, an image comes to mind of a solitary fisherman waist deep in water, man against fish in nature. While this may be true sometimes, and I certainly fish as part of a relaxation and stress relief regiment, fishing can be quite fast paced, unpredictable and sometimes quite hair-raising.

Night fishing can be a very relaxing proposition, but can also be the source for terrific fish tales. Surfcasting on the beach, under a canopy of stars can be just the ticket for a relaxing commune with nature, but it can also be a heart racing experience. Take for example a trip my wife (hereon known as Tami) and I took to Martha’s Vineyard several years ago. We were lucky enough to be out Striper fishing with a well-known island guide, Cooper Gilkes III, when we came across a gentleman on the beach fighting what appeared to be a monstrous fish. “He’s on a shark”, Coop said, as we pulled closer and watched for a half-hour as the man fought with the fish on the other end of his line. Finally, he slowly backed up the beach eventually displaying the 85lb Brown shark he had been fighting.

The next day, we were back at Coop’s shop buying shark fishing gear and taking the free advice Coop was providing. We 4x4’d out to the same spot on East Beach on Chappiquidick where we had seen the shark caught the previous evening, and set up shop. Remembering Coop’s advice, we buried our sand spikes (tubes of PVC, to slip your rod into) deep in the sand, rigged up an eel with a 6-ounce weight and heaved it into the churning ocean. I repeated the process with Tami’s rod, and we began the familiar process of watching the tip of the rod bounce in rhythm with the waves.

In less than five minutes, my rod tip curled over violently and my line began to peel off the reel. I pulled the rod out of the spike and began what ended up being a 45-minute fight with a 70lb Brown shark. I would gain line and think the end was near, only to have the shark run again, peeling away all the line I had just reeled in. Just as I was starting to question what I was going to do when I got this fish on the beach, I saw Coop’s familiar truck heading down the beach towards us with another group of customers. They stopped when they saw me fighting the fish—just as we had done the night before—and lucky for me it was about the time I had gotten the fish to shore. Coop gave me a hand releasing the shark, and also snapped a picture for me. He then left with his customers for an evening of fishing.

As he was pulling away, Tami’s reel began to sing, and she too had a shark fight on her hands. Her fight lasted just about as long as mine, but the shark appeared to burrow into the sand at one point, and the line snapped. It still amazes me to this day that those sharks were well within casting distance from the beach. It was certainly one of my favorite surfcasting experiences and really got the heart pumping.

Fish have begun to make appearances around the Port in the typical early-season haunts. Shad are being caught at Rocks Village in West Newbury by both shore and boat fishermen. Shad darts are the typical lure of choice. There have also been reports of few stripers being caught at Rocks Village as well.

Reports also have striped bass being caught near and around Deer Island, but that could be a tough fishing spot as the Chain Bridge closure may put a damper on things, or at the very least make for a longer walk for shore anglers.

Anglers wading off Joppa Flats over the last few days have reported mild success at low tide with schoolie striped bass biting on both fly and spin offerings from area fishermen. Clouser Minnows and Lefty’s Deceivers in Chartreuse and White or Olive and White work well for fly fishermen. Soft plastics and small metal lures are working well for spin fishermen.

Bass have also been taken on Plum Island, both on the ocean front and in the river, however the fishing over the last week was still of the early season variety with finding fish being a hit or miss activity, from both shore and boat.

Martha at Surfland reports that fish are starting to appear in more numbers. Bait anglers using clams and sea worms have had success at Plum Island Point at low tide, and although no keepers have been weighed in and photographed for Surfland’s famous wall of pictures, rumors abound of legal sized keepers having been caught. (In Massachusetts, recreational fishermen may have 1 striped bass in possession per day with a 28" minimum length limit)

Ryan at Captain’s Fishing Parties on Plum Island reports that they are running daily trips aboard the Captain’s Lady on Monday, Wednesday and Friday as well as Saturday and Sunday. Half-day trips will start soon, and boats will run seven days a week starting in June. Cod, Haddock and even early season Pollock have been caught this year. Ryan reports Haddock in the 9 to 12 pound range and Cod in the mid-twenty pound range.

The seal herd in the Merrimack is quite large this year and they seemed to having a grand old time corralling fish for dinner when I was down there a few evenings ago.
The river has changed once again this year, so those of you who enjoy wading out on the sandbar be sure to check things out at low tide to survey the new terrain.
Fishing will only get better from here on, so get out there and fish!

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