Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Few Evenings Ago

The sunset grew from ok to tremendous in just ten minutes. These photos don't really capture the moment.

Things are changing rapidly on the bay. The water temperature has finally dropped significantly, the fish seem to be gone now, cormorants and gulls rule the surface waters, and the days are notably shorter. All this happens within a month.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tonight on the Flats

I just got in...

It drained out fairly well tonight. We were out there to check on the oyster stocks because at these tides we can see where things are distributed and so forth. But I won't get into that aspect of the tide.

The sunset was jolting. Clouds were of multiple hues and the structural contrasts were mesmerizing. I felt small in the world out there, on foot, in the middle of the bay. A fifteen minute walk each way, in soft mud, is what it takes to get out there. We could have used a boat, but opted to take the hike instead.

If I had taken a boat I would have run into two large schools of breaking fish in Two Rock Channel. That was hard to take -- passing that up.

Some clips...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Post Party

The Island Creek Oyster Festival took place here in Duxbury on Saturday. It was fun. The weather cooperated this year. Last year it rained four inches and it was a mud fest. This week the weather has finally taken a decisive change in course: cool and unsettled. It has been a hot summer, and somewhat dry; a trend that started early and lasted late. Now it is finally changing.

This is the time of year when we finish planting oyster seed. The process involves removing them from their protective bags, then piling them into the skiff, and broadcasting them, with a flat shovel, onto the growout area. It usually works.

The fish are also turned on now - large schools of bass and blues, mixed, are lasting throughout the day. But please don't tell anyone.

I am actually too tired and discombobulated (and distracted by the kids) to write very much or very clearly. Maybe this is enough - with some photos from today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stuff Him in the Pipe

This trip was hard to plan. It took weeks. Schedules interfered, then weather. The trip was composed of the regulars: Joel, Don, and me. Jeff Hughes was supposed to be with us but he couldn’t do it on this date (could have last week – fogged out).

The plan was tuna. The method would be a combination of floating menhaden and spin casting. We needed live bait, the menhaden, and this was to be performed the night before the trip. Joel and I borrowed Greg Morris’ gill net and, with full and heavy confidence, plowed out to where I thought the menhaden would be. Don joined us and had a floating live pen to keep our catch in. I didn’t have a good feeling about this. We also had some rods with us to try for some of the small blues that routinely show up this time of year (in certain places).

First stop: nothing.

Second stop: zilch.

Third. Well the third was more promising because the local teen pogie expert was there pulling up plenty with his cast net. This was also, coincidently, where I found menhaden a day or two before, also where I find my early season tailor blues. So, with only a few hassles, Joel and I set the net under the approaching dusk skies. Lots of boats were out. It was a Friday evening, hot, and only a light SW breeze. So we spent most of our time guarding the net from boats. Some were just passing through and others were curious – perhaps they thought we were on fish and wanted in (a common occurrence on the bay). The net was not really a great help. We ended up casting about the area and hooking a couple of small blues with Yo-Zuri crystal minnows. The sun ended the day and we began the night by gearing up for the following morning’s offshore gig: sandwiches and drinks.

We set up our gear in my garage. With the doors open and lights on it comes to life. It is a place where inside meets the outside and sounds from the neighborhood are focused. We tuned into WOMR (outer cape radio…provincetown) and opened a couple of beers. The show entertained us and at one point we both buckled over in a painful fit of laughter. The DJ was discussing the oil spill in the Gulf, obviously a terrible situation, and basically concluded, quite plainly: “The CEO of BP should be taken down to the bathosphere….stuff him in the pipe.” Then there were other CEOs that didn’t meet his criteria of decency and they were also to be stuffed into the pipe. This was quite harsh indeed. But we folded over and remained crippled for at least one full minute. At this moment Alex Mansfield showed up with a pot of chili. More beer too, and after some final laughs we decided it was late and given our 3:30 planned wakeup, we’d better get some sleep.

So I set up the coffee maker to automatically brew us a distinctly strong pot for the early rise ahead.

I woke up about four seconds before I heard Joel flush the toilet upstairs. We were ready to go. The coffee was ready and I found my trusty thermos, the one my mom handed down to me after years of use back in the sixties and seventies when we toted the thing from Westport, Connecticut to Weston, Vermont on ski trips. It was special, and now full of hot coffee, and on the way to Stellwagen Bank.

After only a few minutes of pre-dawn scrambling in my garage and driveway we were off.

Don was ready at the dock and after we settled into his Grady White we ran over to our fixer – John Bunar. Don had arranged a pickup of some live menhaden, or pogies (or bunker), that were now required for our trip. These were eventually obtained and stuffed into the onboard baitwell. They were expensive but were to do the trick. I was not really enthusiastic about live lining for tuna. My preference was to search around and find them feeding or in conglomerates down below, and spin cast. The problem, I felt, with putting two or three live baits out, was that once you stop and do this you are pretty much invested in that spot. If there are no fish then you wait and could waste valuable time. But then again, these tactics are proven to yield fish, and sometimes quite quickly. Yet I prefer casting to a breaking school.

The ride out to the bank was smooth and relatively uneventful.

And so was our trip, for the most part. And that gets me realizing that all this time writing this piece on this particular trip is that I am, perhaps, stretching my time and boring you to death. Cut to the end: we didn’t even see one tuna, nor did any of the other 400 vessels out there. But we did find some very large stripers and the process of reeling them in was, of course, quite fun and gratifying. We did end up at the Race and dealt with all the others there, but it turned out to be fun and we landed more stripers there too. After reaching our limit we pointed the Grady White due west and gunned it into the building sea, the SW was strong and we bounced and slammed on the way home.

The thing is that this was a normal, regular trip out to the bank and the Race with Don and Joel. We didn’t make it down to our special bluefish spot, but we had met our expectations in terms of the ground we were to cover. The fishing could have been better. However, it was a day full the things that we sought. We had our moments, and Joel, to my surprise, even blurted out the following a couple of times:

“Holy fucknuts dudicus!!”

Exhausted and sun bleached, we stopped at the bar for one cold drink before each of us drove home.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm Still Here

Stories are being worked up.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I ended up catching a legal sized flounder today. I won't divulge how, but my efforts to raise one on clams around hooks failed. The water is warming significantly now and the crabs are showing up in large numbers. I would expect the fish to begin shortly. Maybe even tomorrow when the wind goes SSW. We'll see.

I'll start bringing the camera out with me. I've been leaving it in the truck.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Too early, too soon.

I went fishing this week. But I didn’t catch anything. I tried for flounder, first on a very windy afternoon. It was sunny and warm, but I was kind of an idiot for even trying. The decision to creep around the point at Saquish was less than smart. It was stupid. I took on some water and ended up turning around and hiding behind Clark’s Island. The wind was west at 25 to 30. Fishing outside was not going to happen. So I called a friend who I thought could guide me a bit through this early season stuff. He told me where to go and this I did, but it produced nothing. It was fun, however. I thoroughly enjoyed baiting my flounder rig and fishing along some of the most picturesque spots in New England – alone.

The next day I ran outside the bay into deeper water. I was sure that something, even a sea robin, would take my bait. But nothing happened. I needed to get back to work so I left and felt somewhat frustrated. But as I rounded Saquish rip I realized that it is still early and that in a couple of weeks it should be a different story. Stay tuned.

The only silver lining is that I caught a 12” tom cod in my crab trap on the oyster grant. I grabbed the slippery bugger – we looked at each other. After a few seconds I concluded that he was more concerned about this situation than I was about mine. But then I put the beautiful fish into the water and watched as it swam back into the depths. The crabs, plentiful, remained in the trap, until the next time.

Anyone interested in green crabs?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010


One way to get over the hump of winter is to cheat and make a 30-hour trip to Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. Here are a few photos until the journal entries begin.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Over the Hump?

February 8, 2010

I’ve been busy and it’s been cold, so time and mental energy have been rare commodities. But tonight I’ll provide a summary of how life on the water has been to me over the past few weeks:

Ice was something we all anticipated this winter, but this time it was weird ice. Sometimes, when it really freezes over, it thickens a few inches over the oyster farms and we wait a day or two for it to melt or get busted up by the fronts that routinely introduce new series of NW breezes; sometimes these even switch around, briefly, to the S or NE before reconstructing the NW gusts.

We’ve seen this pattern this winter, but something was a bit different on the east side of the bay where I work. Ice formed and we worked through it, but at the same time more ice was forming behind the Power Point Bridge, and this stuff built up, and built up into very thick slabs of waxy sea ice. This ice gets thick by being trapped by the bridge, building layers, and picking up marsh mud (and marsh), and it continues to build under the right conditions. And the right conditions prevailed for most of January. On the big tides (the moon tides, drainers, or spring tides) there is finally enough volumetric inertia to force this thick ice through the bridge supports, kind of like slicing slabs of cheese. These slabs move quite suddenly southward through the pilings on drainer ebbs like missiles in slow motion. As the tide drops these ice floes scrape the bottom and, upon the low, they eventually settle on the flats until the tide changes. These big chunks can measure up to 25 feet long and 4 feet thick and they often bring loads of marsh mud and clumps of weed along for the ride.

This is fun stuff for an oyster farmer. You know, finding truck-sized chunks of ice on the oysters. Well, we’ll see what happens.

So, in sum, January was kind of tough: it was perpetually cold but not cold enough to solidify the bay. The weather pattern seemed stuck on the same song each week. But then in early February things began to change a little. We had a warm week that straddled the transition from January, then cold, and now (finally) the higher angle of the sun is beginning to warm each day above freezing more consistently. And with this change I am seeing a response in the water. Crabs are waking up. So are the fish – some flounders are nosing about the oysters in search of mates and perhaps the blood worms that are now increasing in activity in the mud below.

I look forward to the longer, warmer days ahead.

Please visit Dave Grossman's version of the ice and related topics:

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter Scenes

It's been cold for several weeks. The water temperature in the bay is pretty much on the ice line which means that a day or two of subfreezing weather can result in rapid ice formation. But we keep working.