June 8, 2002

Sometimes the Fishing is Secondary

Frank G. Dwyer
June 8, 2002

Early in May this year, as our somewhat mild winter was becoming but a memory, I was enjoying one of my first mornings on the water of the season. The spot of choice was the bank of the Plum River, just beyond the bridge leading to Plum Island. Knowing it was early in the season for us North Shore anglers, I looked at the day as a chance to work out the kinks in my cast with the notion of catching a fish secondary.

The walk out through the salt marsh is always an interesting one. Tidal waters create a soggy surface littered with hidden mud holes and footing can be less than ideal. The mud itself smells like a mix between rubber and fish entrails, although only truly pungent if you are unlucky enough to sink into one of the many holes. On this day I was fishing with a friend, and it’s probably not a good idea to head out onto the salt marsh alone as I recall hearing a story of an unlucky fisherman who sank chest high into the mud on a rising tide. He made it out, but only after a long struggle.

The fly-casting motion came back easily as I stood on the bank of the swiftly moving river. To clarify, the motion was good, but the cast itself was not quite yet up to par. Even so, it felt great to be fishing again and I was thoroughly enjoying the beautiful spring morning.

At one point I looked upriver, towards the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and saw what I at first thought was a dog, or perhaps several other dogs. Upon further inspection, I saw that I was looking at four deer running across the salt marsh, and what a beautiful sight it was! The deer were running at a steady clip, every now and again leaping over one of the many small creeks that run through the marsh. I watched for several minutes as the deer continued to run—out further from cover, which I thought was odd—and faded until only the small white dots of their tails were visible. I did not catch a single fish that morning, but the deer spotting made the day eventful in my book.

I also recall fishing the Plum Island oceanfront a few years ago on a clear and cool starlit night. There was not another soul on the beach as I was watching the tip of my rod bounce in rhythm with the breaking waves. As I was waiting in the hope that a fish would take the bait I had so graciously laid on the ocean floor, I noticed a very strange, orange glow off in the horizon, directly in front of me. The glow became more and more intense, until at last the moon began to rise, seemingly from out of the ocean’s depths. Over the next couple of minutes, I watched in awe as the full moon rose from the ocean to its perch in the sky. I continued fishing for a few more hours with no success, but left the beach a rewarded man.


The fishing continues to please most anglers around the Port. Since my last column, I have had several excellent outings at a variety of spots.

The upper Merrimack continues to produce, with fish being caught in many spots above the Route 1 Bridge, including along the shores of Carr and Deer Islands. Fishermen are catching fish anchoring in deep holes and enticing the fish with cut bait, while others are still having success with a variety of artificial lures including metal and plastics.

Joppa Flats continues to produce and was loaded with fly fishermen this past weekend. Both the incoming and outgoing tides are producing, with the key being the moving water. Twice last week on Joppa birds were seen hovering over bait with feeding stripers underneath. I did notice an influx of smaller fish over the last two weeks, and have had success weeding out the bigger fish by switching to larger flies and lures.

Kay Moulton at Surfland reports that a 33lb striped bass was weighed in at the shop this week. A boat angler in the Merrimack caught the fish. Neil, who works in the shop, reported a great day on Joppa Flats with many legal size fish in the mix. Kay says anglers have been having luck with worms and clams along the oceanfront and some fishermen are having success with herring at the jetty. Kay says, “There are a lot of fish around”.

George at Captains Fishing Parties at Plum Island point reports continued good fishing. A 37lb Cod was caught by an angler from Hudson, NH on Tuesday and George reports Cod in the 20-30lb range as well as Haddock from 10-14 pounds. A few early season Pollock have been taken as well. Fishermen on the ½ day trips are primarily catching Mackerel.

If your looking to learn about fishing the salt, or interested in meeting other anglers, you should check out the Plum Island Surfcasters. The Surfcasters are a group of recreational anglers who enjoy fishing and other related areas such as beach access, conservation and fishery management. Year round meetings are held every 3rd Tuesday of the month at the Newbury Fire Hall. If you want to learn more, attend a meeting or visit their website at http://plumisland.surfcaster.com/

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