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May 04. 2013 3:10AM

Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Saltwater fishing is starting to get prime

Saltwater fishing hould be starting to get prime about now, with the first of the "winter flounder," often just called flounder around here, starting to show up. These fish are not just fun to catch but also some of the best eating fish out of the ocean. Also there's the odd chance that a few mackerel may be scattered off the coastline as well as some of the small stripers checking out some of the coastal tidal waters.

Flounder are not in the numbers or often not using some of the feeding grounds they historically used. Our Piscataqua River used to have flounders on just about every cove all the way up into Great and Little Bay but now most, if any of the flounder caught here aren't found much farther upriver than the tidal flats off Newington, and Eliot, Maine.

Some of the places to try are in Maine, off Kittery Point's Pepperell Cove, the Navy Yard Back Channel and out around Wood Island (the island with the old Lifesaving Building is located). Also further down the coastline going east, Brave Boat Harbor also usually has a population of flounder.

On the New Hampshire side of the Piscataqua River, you'll want to try in the cove off the State Pier (just upriver from the pier), the Peirce Island back channel, the Piscataqua Back Channel that leads to Newcastle and Rye's Little Harbor and Little Harbor itself, especially off the Wentworth By the Sea Hotel.

It's seven mile run offshore but if you find the flounder in Gossport Harbor at the Isles of Shoals you'll be in business. Those offshore flounder are often larger and very tasty. Also try around some of the shallow flats just off some of the islands there.

New Hampshire seems to be blessed with more flounder spots that nearby coastal Maine. Rye Harbor, both in and offshore the harbor has been the place to go the last few years. Off the jetties and rocks and by boat in the harbor there's been a lot of flounder being caught there the last few years. As you travel south you'll find a few flounders in various places but in the Hampton/Seabrook Harbors there can be good populations but you have to scout to find them. There's a lot of water there where flounder can be.

Off the Hampton/Seabrook Harbors and all the way to the Massachusetts state line, flounder are being caught in water from 10- to 35-feet deep. Drift fishing is the most popular way there as these fish are on the move most of the time.

When you talk about flounder in our area, the Mecca has to be Boston Harbor. Each year thousands of flounder are caught and this fishing has become an annual and very much appreciated fishery. There are too many places to mention but a good place to start is in the inshore start of the North Channel around Faun Bar and all the flats around Deer Island, which is easily identified for the huge treatment plant located on the island. Have no fear about fishing in a polluted outflow as the treated effluent is moved miles offshore before it is discharged in several areas. Boston Harbor's water is cleaner right now than probably anybody alive's lifetime.

Why haven't we spent much time on explaining flounder fishing gear? Because anything from a single line held in hand (a/k/a "handline) to a freshwater kid's spinning rig to a rugged striper rod and reel can be used. But the real flounder aficionados like to use a light and sensitive rod to feel the subtle bites. Flounder are not an aggressive fish like their fluke (summer flounder) cousins. Flounder hooks are readily available both snelled and plain. You need various sizes of sinkers from about an ounce to maybe three or four ounces, depending on the depth and currents. Best bait is clams or seaworms. You should have both as some days they are fussy.


Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.


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