ANNIE B with CAPTAIN NATE
Before I dwell into this FISHING UNITED .com ‘Insider’ report, I would like to ask this question, “How many times have you’ve taken a fishing trip which greatly exceeded your expectations?”
Here is one in which it not only exceeded mine, but has and will exceed what you will expect in fishing with Captain Nate of the ‘ANNIE B.’
It should come as no surprise when fishing out of Eastman’s Dock located in Seabrook New Hampshire, that fleet owners/operators Captain Les Eastman Jr. and Captain Phil Eastman run one of the most noted customer service oriented for-hire fishing business in the northeast region. I should add that all the captains and crew treat every fishermen like family and then will send everyone home with more than a few dinners worth of fillets, and normally a cooler-full of various tasty groundfish during the fishing year.
I have fished in the past with the Eastman’s fleet super cruiser the LADY MERRILEE III, and I have seen the proverbial “white glove” attention to their customers from the start of the day getting onto their vessels, until the end of the fishing trip with the on deck service given to all the fishermen. It is pretty similar when fishing with Captain Nate Ribblett who operates the 42’ Provincial built ‘ANNIE B’ charter boat.
If you pay attention, one of the things you will notice is that Captain Nate goes about his fishing day with a big smile and the most pleasant of demeanor throughout the trip. Working single-handed he does everything you could ever ask for of a captain working deck as he will be setting and picking anchors by himself, unhooking, bleeding and cutting all fish, this while making up a haddock or whiting multi-hook fishing rig when a customer for one.
In-between this, he will also be ready to gaff fish, unfurling the rare braided line tangle, removing your fish from your hook and always being an ever present constant when caring for the harvest of the day with icing down the catch on his vessel. I have never seen a captain keep as close an eye with the ice on a day’s catch.
Once again I should backtrack and mention Marc Schloss who organizes fishing trips through his website ‘FISHARK ADVENTURES’ who was extremely thoughtful in getting Ralph Scaglione, noted as ultra-custom road builder ‘Rodwinder’ and myself on a ‘ANNIE B’ charter during the prime time of the season for XXL silver hake, better known in the fish market as King Whiting.
Marc has always passed along various fishing reports from the Eastman’s fleet during the season, and when fishing with the “Great Captain Nate” he always notes what a dynamo of energy he is as he rarely sits down, and goes about his deck work in the most humble manner without ever asking for any accolades from those who fish with him.
For those who have not done this deep water ground fishing, normally the game plan is put in place before the vessels leaves the dock as Captain Nate first wanted to start and ensure a boat limit of haddock, and then spend the rest of the day focusing on the King Whiting, which from this point I will use ‘KW’ as the term for them.
On the trip out it also gave me an extended period of time with Captain Nate and listen to him discuss the fishery and where they fish during the season, how the fishery has changed, along with the many options fishermen have in either jigging or using bait. I should also add that Captain Nate is a strong proponent of groundfish stock sustainability, and he speaks from vast experience in not only working with Captain Phil and Les, but also in working with various commercial gear types and more important, in collaborative research with various marine academic institutions as well as with the New England Fishery Council
There is a reason why I am bringing this up as Captain Nate has be involved in some of the most important studies as it involves rod and reel fishing and the mortality-impact to various groundfish.
(See: http://s3.amazonaws.com/nefmc.org/5b_Ma ... C_2017.pdf )
It is here where Captain Nate freely passes his knowledge and how fishermen who now fish in the GOMaine should fish, plus the luxury in the amount of various species which one can take home on trips taken out of Eastman’s Dock. Here were a few key thoughts he passed along.
1- The GOMaine codfish stock is in an extremely depleted state, and though you will at times catch so many codfish while fishing certain areas along Jefferies Ledge, codfish in the cooler are no longer needed to make a recreational fishing day.
2- He recommends to use bait instead of a jig and curly tails/cod flys for haddock, as normally you will catch your limit in a relatively short period of time without pre-maturely wearing yourself down in working a jig.
3- There is also a bountiful amount of groundfish which you will catch on these trips. Besides having a generous 15 fish haddock limit, you also have unlimited whiting, ling, redfish, as well as pollock and cusk. Mackerel are another bonus which many of us enjoy, while also seeing white hake and an occasional wolfish when fishing hard bottom, but these critters have to be returned. The bonus fish which can be expected on these trips will be halibut, porbeagle sharks – the ‘cold water mako,’ and bluefin tuna, and a notable number will be hooked on the ANNIE B during the fishing season with Captain Nate.
The main point being made here is that you will have the ability to catch a vast array of great tasting seafood, and that any cod or wolfish that are hooked, are a catch & release bonus to take a picture of and then safely return back to the ocean.
Getting back to our fishing day, bait is always provided on these trips, but unlike what some old timers are used to in using clams or clam bellies, squid and/or mackerel – depending on availability, are provided.
For deep water fishing over 40 fathoms, both baits remain on the hook much better than clams, and mackerel is a superior bait for catching bigger haddock. Marc spent the ride out properly cutting bait for everyone and even would cut up freshly redfish, whiting and ling strips which he again would pass out to the group onboard. Captain Nate will also when filleting out the whiting will set aside the white whiting belly which makes an excellent bait to catch big whiting. For those who are not familiar with this fishery, a big hint here, use the underside of the whiting belly strips and mackerel.
Another tip which both Captain Nate and Marc will pass along is to keep your rigs simple. I was surprised in Captain Nate using Don ‘OLDE SALT’ brand 5/0 circle hooks. For those who ask why use circle hooks, please trust both Captain Nate and myself when we say, “use circle hooks when fishing in the deep for haddock.” I fished like a demon and for the only time in my life, never reeled up without one and sometimes two haddock on my line, and this was in slightly over 50 fathoms of water.
Captain Nate also highly recommended to put my jig and cod fly rig to the side, and whipped up a ‘hi-lo’ dropper rig tied on 50 lb test mono. A quick description and image provided below has the bottom circle hook set roughly 10-12 inches off the bottom, a reasonable separation between the top dropper loop and then another 12 inches to a swivel.
All one has to do is tie one of the ‘Power Snap Clips’ to their mono top shot, and then they can change rigs out quickly, especially when they start to become twisted up as a result of catching fish. These rigs will be strong enough to hold up to catching a pollock or two of this size.
For those wondering about the recommended hook sizes, the 5/0 circle hook is used by Captain Nate, but an alternate choice can either be the octopus or the preferred (by me at least) beak style ‘J’ hook. As you can see from these images with the 5/0 circle hook, anything within this size range should fish as well as you can expect for both haddock whiting, and surprisingly even redfish - yet catch bigger species like pollock and cod. I recommend to pre-make your rigs, both for haddock and whiting using Ande 60 lb test clear coil leader material to lessen the twisting of your rigs. The next images here should be a good reference to the hook sizes discussed.
Now the fishing is supposed to be the easy part, but when Captain Nate pulled up to the haddock drop, the readings on his bottom machine were climbing off the seabed, and I did expect a pretty quick bite. Captain Nate humbly stated to me that along with the haddock it would also be a mix of dink-size (smaller) pollock, redfish along with possibly whiting and ling, but the haddock sure had their “eating shoes on” for this trip! If I can sum up how quick the haddock fishing was, our 6 man charter group possibly filled and made the fastest haddock limit while fishing at a depth of water of over 300 feet.
With the fishing so fast and furious, Captain Nate eventually went about emptying the Xacta box out to get an exact haddock count, separating out any redfish, whiting, ling and pollock and then did not one, but two hard counts of the haddock onboard. As the next haddock just happened to come over the rail, he then stopped everyone from haddock fishing as we had reached a boat limit just after 8:15am. He reminded everyone not to be disappointed as this was now a great opportunity to spend more fishing time focusing upon the ‘KW’ and providing him the flexibility to now try a few different ledges in the area where these XXL size whiting are found.
Notice in the two pics below that Captain Nate empties out the Xacta box and counts every haddock by hand going into blue totes.
It was the time to take a much needed break, and for me it was in self-soothing by taking a few Advils as it felt like I just finished a Cross-fit workout to my shoulders and back. Here I should recommend to the older angler to bring along the proper “light in weight” rod and a high speed reel, but as much in also pacing yourself as pulling fish from over 300 feet if water will put some people on their back, even those with workout muscles. Fishing muscles are required here in wisely pacing yourself in combination with the proper tackle.
Similar to the GOMaine haddock fishing, the whiting fishing is done while on anchor. It is as simple as baiting up with a strip bait, dropping down to the bottom, locking your reel up and at times slightly bouncing your sinker. Wait for a good bite and stick it hard especially when fishing these depths. Try as best to wait for, and feel added weight on your line which should at least be two or more fish being cranked off the bottom.
Once again for those “old timers” who do remember when we had a true whiting fishery in the NY-NJ Bight where drifting was the preferred method there, but not here. Captain Nate will not only explain, but show you how he anchors up against a ledge, and you cannot deny the results when you see these XXL sized whiting. Now I should point out that you do not always catch 2 lb and larger whiting every time you drop down to the bottom, but you will catch whiting at two, three or four at a lash, depending on the number of hooks on your line and if you leave your rig on the bottom to bring up more than one or two fish.
Here is a good picture of Marc showing not only the size of the whiting he catches, but also the hook size in reference to the mouth of this ‘KW’ and how the rig will get twisted up when being pulled up from the deep with a fish on. If your rig does become a twisted mess, remove it and replace with a fresh/new whiting rig.
I would also pass along that the whiting fishing was slightly slower than the ridiculous haddock bite, but that at the same time you were also catching the great tasting red hake or ling, as well as other species. This is where one has to ask themselves on how many whiting and ling they wish to bring home as you reach a point where you compile 25-30 whiting which is more than enough to bring home for yourself and others to eat. Now add in with your whiting catch the haddock along with ling, redfish and even pollock, and you should have a very generous amount of fillets by the end of these fishing trips.
Now to the tackle for whiting, and much thanks to Marc who passed along some excellent tips on what to use. I should add here that due to the popularity and success of using ‘GULP’ – I used a few pictures from a trip Marc made just the other day. These should give those an idea on what to use in making your whiting, redfish, or even haddock rig up.
Standard ‘meat’ rig with no glow tubing, beads or GULP, and it works really well.
Here on another trip, the use of GULP rig, which he did use on our trip but here caught a number of different GOMaine groundfish species.
Here is a close up showing you that your standard size GULP will easily attract and help you catch redfish.
This brings us to whether to use glow beads, glow GULP, glow tubing, or various squid skirts. Though out of habit for deep dropping we prefer using anything glow, consider that Marc will fish without using anything that glows when on the bottom. He makes a good point that when the dogfish are around, glow makes them climb even quicker and to take them off or not use a rig with anything that glows. He also proved that you can catch any groundfish species without putting anything that glows on his rig on this trip. If you do want to make up a few glow rigs, glow tubing does help in giving up a good light signature and having your hook standoff, but can take a few minutes to remove if the dogs are around. Squid skirts though - can easily be slipped on, and then up the hook, then quickly removed if need be. Also notice the glow of these squids in my small tackle carrier when the lights go off. As you can see in the little tackle kit I bring along, all you need is a few different cod flys, shrimp gummy tales and twister-style grubs.
Also for these trips, you do not need to pack a bag weighted down with either standard or Norwegian style diamond jigs and at most all you need is just a handful (2) of each - 8, 10, 12 oz diamond jigs and/or - four or so ‘knockoff’ Norwegian 250g (close to 9 oz) and 300g (10.5 oz). Unless the trip is some combo of haddock/whiting and pollock, you do not need to bring a large assortment of jigs along on these trips, especially when you are not bottom bouncing on craggy or obstruction laden bottom.
For those wondering about which rods and reels to use, I recommend to contact either Marc or Ralph who will guide you in the right direction on what to bring, but I do believe Ralph did mention that he prefers using this blank for this fishing, and as a reference:
Black Hole - USA Challenger Bank 761MH
As for one of the best parts of going fishing on a FISHARK ADVENTURES charter with Marc is the food, and once again it was a dining delight as a great group of people brought a very tasty mix for breakfast, lunch along with various dining treats.
If anyone is now wondering about how to get on a FISHARK ADVENTURES trip, it is as easy to register on Marc’s website: http://www.fisharkadventures.proboards.com and sign up when he post the charters he makes during the season. The one we made on the ANNIE B, a 42’ Provincial, is like having the comfort of a party boat, with enough deck room to spread out along the rail. It is that comfortable a vessel where no one is bumping into each other. With the awareness these days about social distancing, you will easily be more than six feet away from the next angler along the rail.
In closing, I have to thank Captain Nate and Marc for putting together as good as a bottom fishing trip as anyone can ask for. Since I have been asked about, “How really good was the fishing?,” I believe Ralph will concur with my answer in that by midday, our day was made in what we already were able to bring home for both family and friends. Captain Nate, who started cutting fish just prior to 9 in the morning, sent everyone home with multiple bags of filleted groundfish when we wrapped it up barely two and half hours later.
But as much in summing up this trip on the ANNIE B and Captain Nate, Marc and the group onboard made it a trip which I wish could be repeated again and again.
I hope to be back soon....