Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Sometimes, you come up empty
IT'S only human nature to write about all the great fishing and hunting days you've had, but here's a fishing trip that although it achieved its goal - two old-timers getting out on the water - was a bit frustrating from the beginning.
My neighbor and I had hatched a plan that once a week, preferable on a mid-week day, we'd fish in his boat one day and the next week fish on mine. We decided to do that after a day fishing in my boat turned out very well, with a dozen or so stripers caught and some nice keepers in the mix. We were fishing with "niner-rigs," which are also known as umbrella rigs.
My rigs are homemade. Instead of nine hookbaits, my rigs have four small teaser rubber (actually plastic) four-inch shad attached to each of the four wire arms that come out of a center lead weight. Each arm has an eyelet mid length that these hookless teaser shad are fastened to. On the outside of each of the four arms is another eye, which a six-inch rubber shad is attached to. These four rubber shad have a size 5/0 or 6/0 hook that is crimped on an eight-inch section of 80-pound test leader that is treaded the whole length of the shad using a long rigging needle. The bend of the hook sticks out of the shad near the tail. It's a job to do this right!
There's what we call a dropper shad with a longer leader similarly hooked onto the lead sinker that is molded around the four arms. So there are nine shad, with five of them armed with a hook.
These rigs are very hard to troll, as there is a lot of water resistance to all that fishing gear! And they are expensive to make at around $20 a pop - but much more expensive if you don't make your own. They are striper and bluefish killers when fished properly, that makes the hard trolling very much worthwhile.
That day out with my neighbor was his first time fishing with these rigs and he did admirably well and was totally taken in at the effectiveness of these fake baitfish rigs.
Because of the amount of floating debris in and on the waters of the Great Bay system, you can only make a short trolling run before you get your rig fouled with the debris, mostly eelgrass and rock weed. Even though we use a device about six feet in front of the umbrella rigs to catch the floating debris from reaching the actual lure, trolling runs are usually less than a hundred yards before you have to reel them in and clean them off.
That in itself is hard work. And to keep the rigs off bottom we use line-counting reels to keep from having them snag something and prevent loosing the rig.
It's hard and complicated fishing. But when it's working, days of up to three or four dozen stripers caught and mostly released are the reward. Another good feature of these rigs are that, almost universally, our fish are not hooked deep, making hook extraction easy and with little damage to the fish.
That first day with my neighbor, we both took one fish home and released several others.
Our second day that next week, his day to provide the boat didn't go that well. The constant rain had muddied the water up so badly that our rigs would disappear when only about a foot under the surface. Even though we were fishing in places that my little group of "striper spies" had tipped me off to, we had not a hit or even the slightest tug on our lines after pounding away for hours on several places that have always been honey-holes.
We had a chance to talk with Kevin Semprini of Portsmouth. We'd mentored him in the use of our rigs and had actually had rig-building lessons with him. He'd been likewise skunked, sharing our own fruitless efforts.
But he did reveal that he'd talked to several other striper fishermen that I'd known as successful, and they were catching a lot of fish using live bait in a lot of the places that we got nothing.
So here's what we suspect happened: The lower levels of water were cold and clear-ocean water when the tide started in. And most of the stripers were concentrated there where the bait fishermen could easily get their baits down to them.
We'd been reluctant to put the big and cumbersome live bait tank into my boat until then. Now it's ready to go and when the going gets tough with our umbrella rigs, you can bet we'll be happily drifting around with live mackerel or pollock doing the job for us. Lazy fishermen don't catch much!
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.