2008 Season in Review
Thank you, thank you, and more thanks. What a great time we had this year and I think the success was more than just catching fish. We really found our niche this year and built upon the relationships that we started in 2004 when I started Black Rose Fishing Charters. My customers are my greatest assets. If you weren’t good people, this job wouldn’t be any fun. Surrounding ourselves with good people is the best way to enjoy life and it was very evident this year that I’m on the same page with a lot of people. Thank you and keep me smiling! I would be remiss in my duties as a reporter and husband not to give all the credit in the world to my wife, Stacey, for continually encouraging me to pursue this career. She’s been amazing.
I want to mention my many sponsors, supporters, and helpers in this year-end recap. In many instances, I’ll have hyperlinks to their websites and phone numbers to contact them if you have any questions. It’s been a pleasure working with these many people and I look forward to continuing our relationships in 2009 and I have room on my boat to add more! I feel that our relationship is a great, two-way, win-win street.
Okuma Fishing Tackle stepped up to the plate for 2009 and will be supporting me in a greater role with the company. I look forward to testing new equipment with them and giving my 2cents in the design of tackle best suited to the way that we fish in New England. I’ve always been an analytical person, so this is a perfect match for me. In 2007 and 2008, I increased the amount of Okuma tackle on my boat and I found that it met my needs very well. I used light tackle for spring cod, using the RED ISIS or Titus T-10 reels and Guide Select Rods . In the summer, I’ve really enjoyed their Titus Gold 50II reels and Catalina stand-up rods for my tuna and shark fishing. They’ve been fantastic and are reasonably priced, which is important in today’s economy.
Sea Striker Sunglasses were the sunglasses of choice in 2008 for the Black Rose. I have always worn these glasses, getting them from Boaters World. They were perfect for my boat because they didn’t break the bank. I can’ afford to go through 6-12 pairs of expensive glasses over the course of a season. But I do need good sunglasses. The varieties of polarized sunglasses that I wore this year fit the bill great. Thank you to Cliff Weil, Inc. for providing all of the sunglasses on the Black Rose this year.
Navionics provided the Black Rose with the new Navionics Gold Card that worked on my GPS/Chartplotter. The detail in the new version (vs. the 2004 version) was heads and shoulders better with more detail that I could use in my efforts to find fish and structure.
How can I sum up a year like this one? Variety? Improvements? Big fish we caught? Bigger fish that we lost? Teamwork? So much went on this year that I don’t know where to start.
Speaking of variety, in 2008 we caught cod, haddock, wolf fish, ocean pout, white hake, redfish, sea raven, spiny dogfish, smooth dogfish, striped bass, bluefish, fluke, mackerel, bluefin tuna, sea robin, scup, black sea bass, cunner, herring, sculpin, blue shark, and cusk. That’s 23 species of fish and we lost a couple of mako sharks (more on that later).
I think that the best thing to happen to the Black Rose was the addition of a second bow rail around the whole front of the boat. I also added a 2’ pulpit as an additional casting/jigging platform to allow two fishermen easy, comfortable, and safe accessibility to the bow. Fishing up there is now probably the best spot on any charter boat around on which to fish!
It’s an amazing place to fish, whether you’re jigging for cod/haddock or casting at stripers or bluefin tuna. Yes! We found that the bow is the best place to fight a big tuna on spinning gear. If we have to chase the fish down to keep from getting spooled, it’s simple to just follow the fish. When the fish starts circling at the boat, there’s plenty of room to let the fish do “its thing” without wrapping around an engine.
In addition to adding a pulpit and second bowrail, I also removed one of the battery boxes at the rear of the boat. This allows you to walk right back to the port stern quarter and fight a fish. This is great for tuna and shark fishing, but also let’s you more effectively pitch a jig while cod fishing. Plus, sitting on the cooler on my transom seat, putting your feet on the rail, and comfortably fishing for cod while sitting down is amazing. Of course, we still have a double-wide swingback chair that lets two more of you bottom-fish while sitting down. Pretty cool and very comfortable. I keep telling people that we have the largest 25’ boat ever made! It’s a foot wider than most other 25’ boats and has tons more fishing and sitting room. Kudos to the designers! No other 25’ boat fishes as well as ours.
Most of you are well aware of the cabin….it’s been a lifesaver this year. We got caught in a couple of severe rainstorms and had 5 customers and myself inside the cabin out of the elements. In the spring and fall, with the door shut, even 30 degree mornings are comfortable inside the cabin. I can have 4 customers and myself comfortably sitting down for the rides to the fishing grounds. This spring, two brothers slept in the cabin for the 28 mile ride to the fishing grounds at daybreak. They had plenty of room to spread out and sleep in the cabin, and I’m not talking about the down-below cuddy. I’m talking about the pilothouse. I still can’t believe that it’s a 25’ boat! And, being a 25’ boat with a 250 HP Suzuki 4-stroke…it’s fast and quiet. We’ll travel comfortably, quietly, wind-free, dry, and warm at 30+ mph. Early spring and late fall are great times to fish, but 30 degrees and 30 mph without a cabin? I don’t think so. The cod bite this spring and the tuna bite this fall were nothing short of epic, but the waves do kick up and the air temps rarely get into the 50’s. I love my cabin. It’s very well-designed and I plan even more amendments for next year.
Taylor's Marina in Green Harbor. My new home and home for all of the 2008 season. Thank you John Taylor for getting me in there. What a difference in my lifestyle having a slip there made. At the end of the day, I could actually go home and relax with my family. My organizational skills got very well-honed after all of my trips over the past 4 years, so it was amazing having everything always ready for a trip. My slip was right next to the Harbormaster’s boat and I could gas up from my slip!!! How cool is that? I used the boat so much that I never even painted the bottom and hardly anything grew to my hull! That was surprising.
My ice supply kept us cold all year---I had two 94 quart coolers of ice on all but one trip this year, so our catches were perfectly chilled. It’s my calling card, kindof. I really pride myself in prepping fish 100% and quickly. When fish are caught, we have them bled, rinsed/filleted, bagged, and iced. It makes a difference when it comes time to freeze them after your trip. I have always thought that we did a great job by filleting, and many of my customers have expressed their approval. That makes me feel good. I even got good kudos from a sushi chef! That was the best feeling. Still more to learn about that art, though. But I’m learning and eager. How amazing was the tuna this year? I’m still drooling about the taste and dreaming about the fight.
Big fish we caught?
I’m a charter boat and it’s my job to take customers fishing for the hope of big fish; for the hope of consistently catching fish. There is a difference with expectations when it comes to fishing for tuna vs. fishing for cod/haddock. With tuna, catching one per day is a great day. Just think---one fish and it’s a great day. What about zero fish? It should still be a great day because that is fishing. One cod or haddock and it’s painful. Luckily, we don’t see those days except on the rarest of days. And since I put fishing reports up after every trip; I don’t hide anything. But big fish? Sure, we’re a 25’ boat but that doesn’t stop us! We caught plenty this year and check out my daily reports to see where, when, and what we caught. Not one to hide anything, remember I post fishing reports with photos after every one of my trips. I put a lot of effort into these fishing reports for those of you stuck behind a desk far too much. Keep reminding me that you read them and it’ll encourage me to write even more and publish even more photos. I love it.
They hit us and hit us hard. We did most of our shark fishing at the end of August/beginning of September. In 2009, I WANT TO DO MORE SHARK FISHING. I’M ADDICTED. I LOVE TAKING PEOPLE SHARK FISHING AND SHOWING THEM THE LARGEST FISH OF THEIR LIVES.. We caught nearly 50 sharks in one great week! How amazing is that? The largest one that we got to the boat was well over 500 pounds. No BS and no fish tale. Blue shark, but we released it because we don’t eat them. Someday I’ll probably take one for the scale, but it’s a tough sell to me because I really enjoy catching them and they’re a great resource for us. They’re very resilient and are amazing fighters when they start getting larger than 300 pounds. But they don’t taste good according to all reports, so we do our best to release them. Yes, we hooked bigger sharks this year than that gigantic blue shark, but more on them later.
Yes, we hit them even harder this year? No giants landed this year, but we’re getting closer. We lost two giants that took us by surprise. More on them below, though. With the regulations this year and over the past several years, we saw a lot of 60 inch fish come our way. Most of these were caught on my TunaCandy lures. These were mostly 120-140 pound fish; our largest was 65” that we caught on a live pogy on a 50-wide standup rod and reel. The largest tuna that we caught on a spinning rod was 62” and the battle lasted less than ½ hour! The customers passed the rod around so that no one got beat up too badly and they could really put a hurting on the fish quickly (as we already had our limit and we didn’t want to wear out subsequent fish). A revival at the boat and the fish swam away quickly. Using spinning gear and casting at breaking tuna and into “fishy waters” was very successful for us in late August, September, October, and November. Amazing.
Big cod and bottom fish
This wasn’t the year for us for big cod, though we did have some great trips with solid numbers of fish. We landed plenty of fish in the 20-30 pound range, but managed to miss out on anything bigger than that. It wasn’t much of a big deal, as the numbers were there and we managed a lot of 20 pound pollack this year. These fish are a blast to catch and can fill a cooler in no time! The haddock bite was excellent once again. We did land a huge 35 pound white hake!
Big stripers and bluefish
We landed many stripers this year in the 40-45” range and we really had a great time fishing for them at the end of May, June, and July. They were a blast on light tackle (forget about wire-line jigging on the Black Rose---by special request only). We had amazing action on the smaller versions of my homemade Tuna Candy lures. 9" lures that are easy to cast and easy to fish. That is to say, anyone can put good, fish-catching action on them. They are simple to use and very effective. I can’t wait for the arrival of stripers in 2009. I’ve made some great improvements to these lures and click here if you want to buy some.
Big sharks that we lost
I am still sick and it’s been since August, but there is a world-record sized mako shark with my rig in his mouth. Man was it enormous. How big was it? 12-13’ long and fat as sin. How big was the Massachusetts record Mako? 1328 pounds, but 11 ½ feet long. I asked the man who caught it. Ours was bigger than that. Shark fishing, on August 29, east of Stellwagen Bank with two brothers and one’s 13 year-old son. We caught a 200 pounder after a slow morning. It was a great fight and largest fish for the 13 year old. Not long after that, another shark hits and really puts a hurting on his Dad. I figure it was about a 400 pound blue shark. Now, this is what they were fishing for! Big fish and great battles. Normally, when the sharks find the boat (blue sharks), the action really kicks in and is usually non-stop for the rest of the day. But no. It died down. We waited another hour+ with nothing. This was strange---the day before we were flush with sharks in that area---10+ and we only had one customer!! We had 4 lines out, a 4 gallon chum bucket, a tuna rack, and a tuna head. Then, all of a sudden the boat shook and we all got wet as something was grabbing onto the tuna head and shaking us around! We couldn’t even tell if it was a shark at first. We thought it was a whale by the size of it. It was slamming the boat, trying to rip the head off of the rope. It had swallowed the tuna head like a piece of popcorn. This was the head off of a 140 pound tuna!! Frightening. Panic? Yes. Excitement? Even more so. We cleared all of lines as fast as possible and cleared the deck within 30 seconds. It had just ripped the head off and was going after the rack. Matt dropped a rigged mackerel in front of it and it woofed it down like nothing. Matt set the hook as hard as he could, but the shark didn’t care. It just kept eating at the rack. He set it again. He set the hook again. The shark couldn’t be bothered. When Matt sat down with his feet against the rail, he finally got the fish’s attention and it swam away and we were on! The customer took the rod and we battled the fist for at least 45 minutes before it got aggravated an made a decent run, catching it’s tail in the leader and snapping us off. I want that fish! It wouldn’t have been a world-record because Matt passed the rod off (and plans were in the mix to continue passing it off from person to person), but that’s ok. It was huge!
That was the big one we lost. We can quantify how big it really was because we saw it. Two days previous to this event, we had a shark trip with one customer who flew in from Idaho to fish for sharks for three days. On his first day, he had the shark fisherman's dream day--he fought fish for 5-6 hours during the day!!! That's almost the entire time we were out there! He brought almost 10 fish boatside (all blue sharks). One fish, however, got away and I still don't know how. Fishing in 300' of water, one bobber went down fast and the line ripped off the reel at an alarming rate. Fish on! With a little maneuvering of the boat, we had to start chasing the fish down. We had a Titus 50II spooled with 500 yards of 80 pound Power Pro and 300 yards of 80 pound mono. Put it this way, chasing that fish down at 15-20 mph, I was afraid that we were going to end up with no line left!!! It almost spooled us, but we quickly got that under control, gaining back most of the line before it ripped it all off again! It was amazing. We managed to get that line back and had the fish in a normal, vertical battle. We were now in 500' of water and the fish was just starting to give up a little when the line went slack. Our customer reeled back in all of the line, only to see his bobber (1/3 the original size) and his perfect mackerel. It wasn't even cut!! I figure that a big mako grabbed it and just held onto the hook with the mackerel safely in it's mouth. After an hour of battling, the shark must have just opened it's mouth and spit it all out! Crazy. I have no idea how big that fish was, but it put us through the ringer something amazing.
Big tuna we lost
Ok, hooking a giant tuna on spinning gear is tough. Tell that to my customer, who hooked a fish in 140’ of water only to lose it 3 hours later in 350’!!!! We couldn’t stop it from a stationary boat under any circumstances. Every time we pulled alongside it, it would scream off line. We tired it so that it’s runs went from 400+ yards in the first hour to 200+ yards in the second hour, to less than 50 yards in the 3rd hour. No one even volunteered to take the rod and give him a break. There was no way he was going to give up the rod! Kudos to Dom on manning up, big time. (Not that there’s anything wrong with passing the rod around—we do it all of the time, but there’s something special about going toe-to-toe with a huge tuna solo) We were cruising slowly at 2mph, when one customer said “look at that shark following us”. A huge mako had found us and our tuna. When the fin disappeared, I knew it was over. The tuna caught wind of that shark and took off at 30-40 mph, squealing line off of the reel like I’ve never seen. We got broken off before losing all of our line in a futile effort to stop the fish. It happens.
We lost another giant this fall while drifting on Stellwagen Bank using pogies. As an experiment, I downgraded one of my leaders to 80 pound fluorocarbon, in case the tuna were line-shy. It happens. I had amazing 170 pound flouro on the other rigs (it’s very thin) and the giant tuna hit the 80! Darnit. The tuna scared the pogy to the surface, where the tuna hit it at 30 mph, coming completely out of the water in the process! It was enormous and we didn’t have a chance on the 50-wide. It ended up biting through the leader when it inhaled the pogy. It was a fun 30 seconds and a reel that heated up with the drag screaming at full tilt, anyways! Next year.
Teamwork? Well, Matt Merrick, my right-hand man, mate, and second captain on the Black Rose graduated from college this spring. He wanted one more full year on the Black Rose before starting his “real job and career”. He had a blast this summer, knowing it was his last summer fishing for his job. With the whole world in front of him, he took a great job with EMC in their sales management program this fall. But teamwork? He’ll be tough to replace---after 4 years of running trips with me, I didn’t have to say it and he knew what needed to be done. But, the good news is that I know the boat and tackle so well that I think I can relay that to anyone quickly. Of course, I talk too fast and most people can't understand me when I get riled up. Oh well. 2009 will be a blast. If you want to fish for sharks, weekends are just as good as any other days and we'll hopefully be able to convince Matt to join us for those trips!
So, what happened this year month-by-month?
We had amazing weather this April and we made the best out of it. People shook off the winter and put some tasty cod and haddock fillets back in their freezers. As was expected, the action on Stellwagen Bank got better and better as the month progressed---and it started off great. We focused a lot of our attention on the NW and NE corners of the bank in April. We also found some great numbers of fish just east of the bank in 150’ of water and even further east in 225’ of water. But the good news was that most of our fishing was done on the western edge of the bank, which is only a 20 mile run for us. Reports were that the bite was also strong at the SWC, which is only 16 miles for us. When we’re able to run at 30 mph, that means you don’t have to wait very long to go fishing! Once the fish were on the bank, we hit fish solidly in 100-120’ of water. That’s so much fun.
We made an almost complete switch this year in April, May, and early June to light tackle and jigs. The Okuma Red Isis reel matched with a 7.5’ Guide Select casting rod was a match made in heaven for us. I can’t say enough about this combo after using it for a full season. We had no problems with it and we really beat them up badly. It’s a light rig, but we could still cast a 10oz diamond jig easily with it. When conditions were right, we usually opted for 6 oz Norwegian or butterfly jig. StingoFish Lures made a 6 oz DUEL jig in pink that slammed the haddock this spring! Haddock!.
Instead of bouncing 17 oz Norwegian jigs and heavy rods/reels, we were able to get away with jigs as small as 5 oz, 30 pound braid, and rods more commonly seen on the fluke grounds. But they worked great and the rods have plenty of backbone to handle anything that comes our way short of a shark, tuna, or big halibut. But, we still have a chance! These are fun rigs to fish with. On most days, we’d also have spinning rods available for the cod jigging. That’s even more fun! It takes a trained fisherman, usually, to get used to jigging for cod with the spinning rod as it’s a different feeling while holding bottom. I think it’s more effective for someone who is used to this type of jigging. I personally love it. In 2009, I’ll be using some of the Okuma Salina Baitfeeders (80 sized) for this type of fishing (and tuna fishing). With the baitfeeder function, it’s easy to let out a few feet of line at a time when the drift dictates it.
I love the action in April—it can be non-stop all day. Sometimes, though, the bite “turns on” at certain times. There is sooo much bait around that feeding is too easy for the cod and haddock. That is to say, they fill up quickly and don’t have to feed. We mark them like mad, but can’t buy a bite. Then…the bite kicks in big time. I made a conscious effort against my nature this year to wait it out. That’s tough for me if you know me---when I stuck by my guns and stayed in productive areas, we’d be there the whole time that the bite was on. The other alternative is to run around, looking for feeding cod on the fish finder. What usually happens, though, is that we end up where we started and hit the same school of fish when they start feeding again. So, why run around? Just keep fishing. It is just as productive and less stressful… Our season starts on April 1 and I’ll be ready.
More of April, that’s for sure. We hit the same spots as we did in April, but never had to leave the close confines of Stellwagen Bank. We found fish from the old BE Buoy, dead-center on the bank in 90’ of water on many days. Other times, we’d find them stacked up on the western edge in 100-140’ of water by the new BE buoy. And we’d find fish at other times to the NE of the Bank, as the water drops from 120-140’ again. Somedays there were lots of small cod, but other times it was 10 drops for 10 keepers. Those days are crazy and leave us looking for haddock in deeper water (usually). We got haddock as shallow as 85’ of water this spring! How cool is that? We’d often slow, slow jig with bait on the teaser hook. Many haddock, however, hit the Stingo-Fish 6 oz butterfly jig with bottom hook (not top-assist hook). What a great lure in pink for the haddock. And 6 oz?!! Yes, but the key is casting the lure into the direction of the drift and fishing it vertically or “better than vertical”. That is to say, don’t drag it too far behind the boat or else it’s not going to be as effective. In this regard, my boat is perfect---I can easily fish two people on the bow and have two people fishing the back of the boat. I’ve had 5 people fishing the back of the boat comfortably if the drift isn’t that bad. I do like spreading out, though, and I have 11 feet of rail in the back of the boat to fish and 9 feet of bow rail to fish on! That’s 20 feet of fishable space on one side of my boat! I told you before, it’s the biggest 25 (27’) foot boat ever made!!
We landed our first stripers of the year in May---in 120’ of water at the NE corner on the bottom. Then we noticed thousands of them just under the boat. All 20+ pound fish, but we couldn’t keep any because we were in federal waters! On June 1, I wonder how many of those stripers got stuck in the miles of gill nets dropped on our favorite spots?
Speaking of those nets…at midnight on May 31st, Stellwagen Bank became a net town. Everywhere you went there were nets. Nets everywhere. We lost dozens on jigs at the beginning of the month, trying to pull fish from our great fishing spots. After a week or so we gave up trying to beat the nets; they decimated the local cod population on the Bank, and forced us back into deeper water. We were able to grab some good cod and haddock on the Western Edge of the Bank, fishing in 200’ of water as it rises to the Bank, as long as the draggers hadn’t just wiped the area clean.
They were everywhere(so were the cod and haddock, of course). We also found great haddock fishing on the edge of Stellwagen, as the depth went from 180-200’ of water. This bite lasted a bit, then the fish even moved deeper, but we still stayed on them as they moved into 240, 260, and finally we fished in 300’ finding cod and haddock. I know that there were fish deeper, but I’d prefer to catch them in relatively shallow water….Or…
I’d just prefer to fish for stripers when the cod go deep. Why not? They were all over the place in June. We had one day in Buzzards Bay in which we took about 14 casts and landed 14 keepers (5 customers, Matt, and myself). I exaggerate a bit, but not by much. It was amazing as half of those 14 fish were greater than 20 pounds and 4 were over 30 pounds!!! It was a bloodbath to say the least and amazing eating.
Speaking of eating…stripers became one of my favorite fish to eat. I love them. It’s a perfect broiling fish and it even holds it’s shape nicely when poached in a spaghetti sauce or thai coconut sauce (my favorite). So, I love the idea of light tackle spin-casting to stripers throughout June. Much of the fishing effort is around Race Point, which is only 20 miles from Green Harbor. An added bonus about fishing Race Point in June is that the tuna will make their way around Peaked Hill Bar at the end of May and will pass by, giving us the chance at a fish of a lifetime, early in the season. We caught our first tuna this year on June 20. We landed 3 that day and lost 4, seeing fish blitzing from Peaked Hill Bar all the way around Provincetown! Great day. The weather in June is almost perfect almost all of the time. I love it. Did I say that Peaked Hill Bar holds huge stripers in June? We had one day in which we were throwing back 20 and 30 pound stripers because we limited out so quickly!! That’s a good thing about fishing for tuna around Peaked Hill—if you get stripers there, you can keep them because you’re within 3 miles of shore. The problem we had on Stellwagen Bank in June and July is that there were so many stripers that it was often tough to get to the tuna!!! And we couldn’t keep the stripers. We caught our biggest striper of the year on the SWC while trolling a big squid bar. It was in the mid-40’s pounds. Great fish, but we had to throw it back. I’d rather catch them on surface casting lures and light spincasting outfits. That was our method of choice this year, although we’ll be employing live bait more in 2009 I suspect. Thanks to Bob Pronk at Green Harbor Bait and Tackle for giving me an old livewell for the Black Rose. It came in very handy this year!
July 14th….Bluefish invade Race Point. Up to this time, it was a striper haven. We were locked into the striper bite and it was a blast. We did ok on the cod in deep water, fishing in waters to 350’ deep, but doing well enough to merit the extra reeling. The pollack made a showing in July, and these fish really could put on a fight! For someone looking to ramp up to fishing for tuna on spinning gear (which really peaks in the fall, I’d recommend fishing with us in mid-to-late July for stripers (and bluefish) on light, light line. It’ll teach you how to work the drag effectively and get a fish to the boat. Plus, seeing a bluefish leap out of the water as it smacks a lure is an awesome sight! The giant tuna made an appearance in July, which is always interesting. Done right, it’s a relaxing day—go fishing for bluefish and set up shop on a tuna corridor before slack tide and wait with 8-12 pound bluefish on for bait. We suspend them from kites or send them down under balloons. It’s not the type of fishing in which you “expect” to catch a giant tuna, but the hope keeps you going and excited all day.
Speaking of this type of fishing….it’s exactly like shark fishing, but with shark fishing you expect to catch sharks, and usually multiple sharks. We had a couple of 20-shark days this year and a few more 10 shark days. We even had a giant mako on for an hour before it broke off (it was well over 1,000 pounds). Not shark fishing in July was a big downer for me this year. I was busy, very busy fishing for other species, but….. But I still want to go shark fishing at every opportunity! Even though I have a slip in Green Harbor, I’ll gladly trailer my boat to Falmouth in late June/all of July to go shark fishing. The action there is so incredible (usually, of course. There’s the old me coming out “past performance is no indication of future results”---10 years as a financial advisor percolating back to the surface.)
With shark fishing, I stand by my statement that it is the BEST WAY TO ENTERTAIN YOUR CUSTOMERS IF YOU ARE IN SALES!!! If they’re the seasick type, then you can’t win on a boat. But, if not, you can’t lose if you take them shark fishing. Not at all. Even if you get zippo all day, they’ve still relaxed, sat with you on a boat, you’ve gotten to know them and vice-versa. But, get one shark and you’re a hero. They’ll be fighting that fish in their mind for a long, long time. Get multiple sharks, hooking everyone on board up with a shark during the day and you’re golden forever. Hook them into a mako and you’re a sales god, because they’re going home with tons of delicious shark meat (on par if not better than swordfish). Not to mention a set of shark jaws to put on your wall! We do shark fishing very well on the Black Rose and our enthusiasm is without question!
August was a great month of fishing for us!! I mean, everything that we targeted cooperated for us. We only fished for stripers/blues once and we caught more bluefish than I’ve ever seen! They were all big, big fish, pushing 15 pounds. It was fun on light tackle, that’s for sure. If you wanted to start "practicing" for tuna on spinning rods, I'd recommend fishing with us for bluefish in mid-July through August. We'll catch bluefish until your arms are tired, but we'll do it with light tackle and you can get really comfortable with the drag systems on reels. It's the most important thing to learn. You'll learn how to push a rod and reel to the max and see what it can do. You'll be amazed. This is some quality equipment.
The cod….excellent. Actually it was the best fishing of the year for big fish and consistent action. I bet that it would have been great in September and October, but we had requests to fish for sharks or tuna instead. Fishing for cod while shark fishing is amazing. Also, fishing for sharks while cod fishing is amazing as well. Just a little different mentality, that's all.
We really had a run of sharks on Stellwagen and Wildcat Knolls like we’ve only ever dreamed about. We started fishing out there on August 16th and we slammed the sharks every time. The fish were out there much earlier than that, but we didn’t have any charters who wanted to target those big fish. The cod fishing is traditionally very good in August and those days got booked by people looking to hit the cod and haddock. When we did fish for sharks, they were mostly big fish, too! We had 7 or 8 fish that were greater than 400 pounds and dozens more between 200-400 pounds. A small fish was 150 pounds. That’s amazing, by the way. We lost two big makos, unfortunately. I mean BIG….I’ll be back with bigger bait next time, too! One mako took a tuna head off of a rope next to the boat…it ate it like a piece of popcorn. The tuna head weighed about 25 pounds!! The tuna action started to heat up more with fish on the surface for longer and longer every day. It got very, very promising by the end of the month and we started getting ramped up with our spinning gear for the bluefin tuna!
In September, it was a continuation of August, except I had a slew of cancellations that really hurt me. Some were weather-related, some health related, and there were a few that were completely unexplained. The cod fishing was amazing and there’s always a good chance of hooking a shark while codfishing. In fact, I don’t go codfishing any more without having a 50-wide or two on the boat and in the water while we’re fishing. Why not? It’s always amazing to see how close big sharks will come to the boat when we’re bringing up a constant stream of cod and haddock….and then chumming up the sharks with the filleted carcasses!! So..keep a line in the water and get ready for something very big and scary.
One of the cooler things this month was the number of tuna sightings that we had east of Stellwagen Bank on our codfishing grounds. We often saw schools of fish breaking out there. We weren’t about to go chasing, but it was cool to see them. Next year, perhaps the customers would like to make the adjustment and switch on the fly to go tuna fishing if we see them busting out there. This is a perfect chance to make the day a little longer, actually. As I often say, if you want to fish longer, we're already here so let's do it. To be fair to my wife and kids, if we're going to stay out there longer than originally agreed, I simply charge by the hour for the extra time. We had chances to cast at them a few times as they were on the same structure that we were fishing. The pollack bite was still strong in the deeper waters to the east.
Rock on. We had a tuna month to dream about. It was amazing. On most occasions, we forewent the squid bars and went with live bait and a drift pattern over the edges of the SWC of Stellwagen Bank. It’s a relaxing way to fish and it hooked us a giant (which we lost after a minute or so when it bit through the leader) and many tuna to 65” long! That’s a big fish and they’re very, very tough. While drifting with live baits, we’d also cast for tuna. Both methods worked and we kept our customers happy for the whole month. They came back looking for more in many cases. It’s that addictive. When we didn’t have live bait, we’d just cast at them all day. There was less running and more gunning—and I liked it. Running around is frustrating, I’ll tell you. Sometimes you feel like you can’t stop if you don’t see anything. Better bet is to find fishy waters and wait it out and cast/jig away. Keep the lines working. But…it worked. Our best day was 9 hookups and our best day of landing fish was 7 fish!
The learning curve with bluefin tuna isn’t very steep, unfortunately. It’s a gradual process. The first fish you hook…don’t be disappointed if it whoops you something ugly and leaves you confused. It’s not like catching a cod that makes a 10’ run. These fish may run for 500 yards against 18 pounds of drag. They can run at 30 mph! We heard reels make noises that I didn’t know machinery could make. The equivalent of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. But scarier. Luckily, I have a very mobile, fast boat and we can chase just about any fish and keep you from getting spooled. The largest fish that we caught on a spinning rod was 62” long and roughly 150 pounds. It was a beast. There is no shame in passing the rod to the guy next to you. It was done commonly on the Black Rose this year. Plus, it keeps everyone in the game during a long fight.
Once the first tuna hit the deck and was on ice, it makes the fishing so much more relaxing---they were going home with tons of fish! If a fish broke off, fine. It happens. If the fisherman wants to pass the rod to someone else, that other person isn't terribly worried about breaking it off because one fish was in the boat already. I really got into the lure making this fall, making 9” and 12” rubber lures that had amazing colors and patterns. They really killed the tuna(and stripers) and I was so happy to mess around with molds, colors, scents, and hardeners….I felt like a scientist! I’ll happily sell those TunaCandy Lures if you’re interested. Check out my website for more info..
This is the last month of our fishing season on the Black Rose. Tuna…they keep on biting, so we’ll keep on fishing for them until they move on out of here. On the days when we were able to get out there in November, the fishing was amazing. We had schools of fish jumping and busting all around the boat at all times. Some of those fish were just huge!! They should be here until Thanksgiving!! And in case you didn't hear, there was a giant tuna run off of Chatham that was better than in years and years and years. Hundreds of giant tuna to 1,200 pounds were landed in 5 days!! Can you believe it? Yep. I wish I had heard about it before it was over.
I pulled the boat from the marina on November 13th, but the boat is ready to deploy on a moment’s notice! It’s just in my yard. The weather in November is so unpredictable that I don’t have any trips booked, but many people are on my ‘go-to list” if we get a good weather day. Drop me a line if you’re interested! It’s going to be a long winter, but I can’t wait until April 1!!!! Have a great holiday season, Merry Christmas, and I’ll keep in touch over the winter.
Well, book early if you want a weekend day. They go quickly, especially the April trips as people are hoping to get some fresh fish again in their freezer. I’ll be working on another website that will be a forum site for my fishing reports and discussion forum for my customers and other interested people. I’m excited about building the site as it is the natural progression for my business. I love this industry and want to remain as involved as possible. I’ll be bringing the site live by the end of the year. If you have any ideas on what you'd like to see in a fishing forum, please let me know.
What to look for in 2009
Busy. I imagine that next year I will be even busier than this year. Having the slip makes this very easy for me. Running trips as often as I did this year really allows me to get in the swing of things and stay on top of the fish. I think that you could see that from my fishing reports. I had a good idea of where the fish would be from day-to-day and what techniques would work best. I’m getting more patient as I get older. And it pays. I hope that the price of fuel doesn’t get back to the $4.95/gallon I paid at the pier this summer. Right now, I’ll be happy to see prices less than $3.00/gallon next year. I saw prices at the gas station for $1.79/gallon. That's amazing. The best way for you to keep your costs from rising next year is to book dates now and lock in 2008 rates. As always, I honor my early bookings with the lower rates. Many other boats had fuel surcharges last year, but we were able to avoid passing that cost to you.
Well, thank you for reading this much; I hope that you enjoyed it and were able to share in some of these great memories with us. If not, I hope that you enjoyed reading and watching the videos over the year and were able to live a little vicariously through my reporting. Have a great winter and I'll see you in the spring. Keep in touch; I love talking about fishing and it keeps me going over the winter!!Sincerely, Capt. Rich Antonino