Monday, July 19, 2010
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.