Chris G., known as 'JIGGY' on the boards has put together an article on a fishing road trip made with his family, first stopping to fish with Captain Jason of LITTLE SISTER charters in Massachusetts and then to Maine to fish with Captain Mike of the NOR'EASTER - https://noreasterfishing.com/ and Captain Tim of the BUNNY CLARK - https://bunnyclark.com/update.htm
Chris provides his insight of the fishing day with his perspective of the operations on each trip.
I again would like to thank Chris for the work he did in putting this article together....
With all the craziness going on in the world today, I really needed a vacation to get away from land, cell phone reception, and all the other nonsense and negative energy that’s spread through all of major communication mediums. Now that it’s over, I’m relishing the memories and beginning to think about when I can do it again!
The destination for the vacation was Maine, but it was only a slight detour to swing by Quincy Harbor on our way up north, so we figured it would be a good time to fish the world famous flounder grounds. Being a millennial, I never had a chance to witness even remotely good flounder fishing anywhere (best trip I was ever around saw 7 flounder on a full party boat over 15 years ago), so I was chomping at the bit to see what these things looked like in numbers.
Working on the Viking boats while growing up, I would hear stories about the absolutely tremendous flounder fishing in Montauk Harbor. In particular, off the back of the Viking Starship at the dock! When the boat would pull out, the propellers would kick up all the mud and made a little crater on the floor where it would drop off to 12 feet. The flounder loved to congregate over here throughout the year, and anglers would routinely arrive at the boat a few hours before the scheduled 4am departure time for local cod trips and fill a bucket of flatties by fishing in the dark right off the back of the boat in the lights. The mates would never leave the filet table the entire trip – cutting flounder on the way out, then clams for the first couple hours of fishing, and then cod until the boat hit the dock. Talk about loading up on tasty filets!
Anyway, back to the present day (and reality). I heard Jason Colby on the Little Sister was picking away at the flounders, so I wanted to pay him a visit with the good reports coming out of the area. Unfortunately, conditions were not on our side. The day before there were severe thunderstorms throughout the Boston area, and a stiff northeast wind. Either of those variables in isolation can negatively impact the bite, so having both of them didn’t make things look promising. Nevertheless, I wanted to go because my mother (Queen Helene, as I like to affectionately call her) had agreed to come fishing with me and my Father on her third ever fishing trip! She had gotten sea sick on the second of her two previous trips, so she had been hesitant to step foot on a boat since.
To get to the part you all really care about, the fishing was excellent; however, the catching was poor. We only picked a couple of flounder, which didn’t surprise me given the conditions. The water was pretty dirty from the storm runoff, and it was mostly cloudy. You could feel the fish barely committing to the bites, and just lying on the bait without actually trying to swallow the hook. We had to move away from the big fish spots and come inshore in search of cleaner water. We were able to pick a few fish there, and then decided to call it a day early because my mom was able to catch a keeper flounder, which was my primary goal for the trip, and it was starting to rain intermittently.
Even though I didn’t top my record for most flounder seen on a trip, it was one of my most enjoyable trips. We caught enough to make a fantastic flounder francese dish, and my parents had a blast. Captain Jason is also quite a character, and had tons of stories and entertainment for the Galletta clan. I met him on the Viking many moons ago during a Stellwagon cod trip on the Viking Superstar, and he is exactly how I remembered.
The next day my father and I took an excursion on a boat we had never fished before, the Nor’Easter with Captain Mike Perkins out of Kennebunk. We went with Captain Mike based on a recommendation from a close friend, and I am glad we listened! The atmosphere on the boat, to say the least, was something very special which I have not experienced in a very long time. Mike is one of the most laidback and mild mannered captains I have had the pleasure to be around, and made it feel as if we were a life-long friends who got together to experience a day away from land.
For example, he would regularly communicate with the passengers to say things like “alright guys, we’re picking away here, I’m happy to stay, but would you want to try exploring a little deeper water for the bigger ones?” It felt as if we were right behind the wheel with him helping chase the fish and put meat in the boat. Having worked on boats, I understand it’s a very fine line to toe because Mike is the professional and knows best, but he also valued our input to ensure we had a great day on the water. At the same time, it would drive most captains crazy to have the customers backseat driving, so he did a fantastic job of balancing that. I cannot recommend this boat enough with the friendly, and warm atmosphere onboard.
The fishing and catching were both excellent. The entire boat exclusively fished with jigs. All of the rental rods had jigs, with mojos for teasers. At first I was perplexed to see this; however, the more I thought about it – it made a ton of sense. I know most jig fisherman take pride in having some superiority over bait fishermen (myself included), but we have to be real with ourselves and understand that jigging for ground fish is (for the most part) easier than bait fishing. You don’t need to worry about when to set the hook, if you have any bait left, etc. because the fish just hang themselves on the jig.
It was a solid pick throughout the entire day. About 2 fish every 3 casts. My father and I each ended up with a full freezer bag of haddock filets, which was a little less than what others had. This was mostly due to all the cod we kept catching! The two of us couldn’t stop hooking them, which was a ton of fun. They were biting very aggressively, and would start swimming with the jigs in their mouth. So your line would just so slack, vs. hooking them on the upswing when they just hang on the hook.
We were also greeted by a decent size porbeagle who was trying to steal my haddock, which was fun to see. From my experience, I typically see them hanging out around the boat, and I’ll have a general idea of where they are (either circling the boat, or sticking at a certain depth to pull fish off as you reel up). This one came out of nowhere. I had a hunch something was up because as I was reeling in a haddock, it started absolutely freaking out (more so than normal) as I got to my top shot around 30 feet below the surface. It reminded me of tuna fishing with a live bait, which will put up a normal amount of resistance, but you’ll know a predator is in the area when you see the line starting to dance every direction as the fish freaks out. I kept reeling, because we hadn’t run into any issue with fish being lost by sharks, and when my haddock got to the surface I prepared to pull it over the side as I normally would. Just as I was about to pull its head out of the water, a ~150 lb shark came shooting up from the depths like a rocket.
Fortunately, I was able to pull the haddock away unscathed, but it got my adrenaline pumping for sure! Without much hesitation, Mike threw in a shark rig in hopes that we could have gotten some tasty cold-water mako steaks, however, we couldn’t get it to bite. That was another example of why Mike is such a fun guy to fish with. He wants to chase fish and have a good time, and was at the ready to hunt whatever was around.
For day 3, I went solo and did a marathon trip with Tim Tower on the Bunny Clark. I arrived at the boat at 3:00 am, and enjoyed one of Tim’s famous speeches going over the Bunny Clark operation before we left the dock. We were going to be steaming over 4 hours to our first location in hopes of catching a halibut. The spot we were going to has consistently produced numerous halibut bites, and Tim was hoping this would be a trip where we would put a big flat one on the deck.
I was pretty tired from the previous two days of fishing, so I went down below to grab a bunk and get some rest on the way out. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and I barely moved in my bunk as we made the long haul. I was hoping to get a few pictures of the sunrise, but I was so deep in my sleep that I didn’t wake until the engines were slowing down to get ready for our first drift!
I normally fish with a jig and teaser, but knowing we had a shot at big fish I used only a jig the entire trip. Having a teaser not only weakens the line from tying a dropper loop, but increases the chance of breaking a the line should you get a double header and the fish swim in opposite directions. This is why I always use 80 lb test for ground fish rigs, even if I’m using a mainline that’s substantially lighted.
We stayed in the same general vicinity the entire trip, and we had a solid pick of beautiful fish. The weather was “too nice,” and we have no drift at any point during the trip. If we did, it would have been a slaughter. Everyone caught a bunch of TRUE 3 lb haddock with the occasional 4 – 5 lber thrown in. They were stunning fish. We also had the occasional shot of 7 – 10 lb pollack, as well as some jumbo wolfish. I think we had 5 or 6 over 10 lbs. I caught my personal best, at 21.5 lbs, and wanted to share the story that goes along with it.
When jigging ground fish, I normally try to keep a tighter drag because that’s the only way I can get a solid hookset when I get a bite since there is so much water resistance from the jig. If I feel it’s a decent fish, I’ll loosen the drag a little bit so I don’t pull the hook (typically, you never want to touch the drag while fighting fish, but I’ve caught enough where I know how to do it and not mess things up). On the upswing of working my jig, it doubles over, and feels like dead weight that I couldn’t move. My stomach immediately dropped in hopes of it being a big halibut which was on the bottom and being stubborn (I felt a bite, so I knew I wasn’t hung up on structure). After a few seconds, I feel my jig starting to come up off the bottom, and with my being disappointed that it’s not the trophy fish I dreamed of, kept the drag tight and start cranking whatever I hooked in to. Naturally, the hook pulled so I dropped back down to the bottom and kept working my jig.
A few minutes later, my rod doubles over again, and it feels like dead weight! Once again, my stomach dropped in excitement, until I started gaining line after a few seconds. Even more frustrated, I don’t loosen my drag and started cranking it in. Sure enough, I pulled the hook again, and dropped back down to the bottom. Less than 30 seconds later, my rod doubles over again and I don’t even know what to think. I think to myself “whatever the heck this is, I’m going to find out,” so I actually fight the fish as if I care about landing it. It barely fights after the initial hookset which was dead weight, and before lone I see the dark-grey glow of a wolfish when I get my first glimpse of deep color!
Now it makes sense why it felt so heavy initially – wolfish will often times wrap their tail around a piece of structure after the hookset, so it can feel as if you’re stock on the bottom. This didn’t, however, explain what happened with the previous two hooksets. I thought to myself “no chance, I had 3 wolfish bites in a row like that.” Just as I said that to myself, I saw the wolfish spit up 4-6 pieces of cut clam baits right below the surface. So maybe it was possible that I was playing games with this same fish for the past 10 minutes. They’re known to be very territorial, and I was clearly not the first hook this fish had bit today. There’s no way to know for sure, but stories like this are what makes offshore fishing trips special. You’ll never know what will happen, or what you may hook up to next.
Even though we didn’t catch any halibut, it was so exciting, and such a treat knowing that we were in an area where you had a legitimate chance to hook up to one. There aren’t many places in the northeast where you can do that.
The last day of our trip was an extreme day trip with the amazing Captain Ian Kensington. The weather was supposed to be nice for the first half of the trip, and then winds would pick up to 15-20 knots for the last couple hours of fishing. The weatherman was right, for the most part, and we had nice conditions for the first half of the day. We drifted the whole trip because anchoring would have made the fishing too easy.
I had well over 30, 17+ inch haddock, but only kept the ones I didn’t need to measure to easily obtain my bag limit. The fishing was absolutely superb with a constant pick throughout the day, and a fish on at just about all times. There were a handful of small cod, a few pollack and cusk, as well as a few wolfish around 10 lbs. There was nothing particularly noteworthy to discuss, but it was an extremely enjoyable trip.
There was a wonderful atmosphere with amazing company up on the bow. The fishing was just about as good as you can possibly ask for without it being absolutely stupid and simply become catching. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy bailing fish, but there are times where it just gets stupid and there isn’t much satisfaction when you successfully angle a fish. Ian struck the perfect balance by keeping us on the drift, and trying to catch some bigger haddock vs. just anchoring on a pile of 17-18 inch fish.
It was a wonderful trip and a great way to end the vacation.
A variety of jigs were used. On the second one from the right, you’ll see i added an assist hook with a squid skirt over it. That assist hook probably caught the most fish. It was remarkable, and something I’m going to experiment a little bit more. I also noticed that the curly tail/ squid skirt combo caught much more fish than a bare hook on the jig
A variety of tackle offerings on the bunny Clark for purchase. Tim carries some of the best terminal tackle around. The pink fly is a proven fish catcher, and the purple one always seems to be able to catch a haddock or two.
This picture shows the variety of lures used, both as a teaser above the jig, or as a chicken rig on two dropper loops above a sinker. Cod flys significantly outfished the soft plastics, although they also caught more short haddock. The purple and strawberry colored curly tails did catch a few jumbos.
A close up of one my favorites in soft plastics.
Another close up. Notice the paper clip type "quick snap" used to attach my jig to the mainline. I cannot say enough good things about this piece of terminal tackle. It allows you to easily switch jigs, and doesn’t risk opening up like a snap swivel. Here is a close up of the clip and the way it should be positioned in order to quickly 'snap' your jig on.
I used this 16 oz LAV jig most of Tuesday when searching for the halibut. If I’m not fishing with a fly, I’ll throw a second hook on the top of the hook. This setup with a skirt over the curly tail has consistently caught big haddock for me south of Cape Cod, but it barely caught anything during this GOM road trip. I like the skirt because it give a ton of movement when the jig changes direction, and the curly tail provides action when the jig is moving in one direction.
When you keep bigger haddock for your limit and the results. Look at the size of these haddock filets!
We normally are used to cooking up some pretty neat fish dinners, and here is the time to enjoy your New England seafood prize.
There are a number of home-made, traditional ways to make flounder francese. and here is mine of course with the added fresh lemon. This is one of the tastiest way to make any fish if you enjoy using lemon, and as good as it looked here, it tasted that much better.
One perk of traveling to Maine, besides the fishing and taking home fresh seafood is that you can pick up some of the finest local tasty jams. They are extremely reasonable to buy and what are literally "homemade fruity spreads" from a few of the shops in the coastal towns you will visit.
I love traveling up north to New England because my dad and myself go fishing while my mom can enjoy going shopping around the towns and villages. Look at this beautiful windmill, and I hope you enjoyed my story on these fishing trips in Massachusetts and Maine.
Chris 'JIGGY' G.