IN "the old days" when I was a kid, during mid-August and the month of September, the big pollock would come inshore along the beaches. Lots of old timers would troll for them in small skiffs and even rowboats. Some would drag hand-lines with a lure called "feathers" that imitated a six- or eight-inch baitfish. Some of the more well-heeled anglers would troll with more fancy gear, rods and reels and feathers, bucktail jigs or spoons.As a kid growing up near the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, we used to enjoy some tremendous pollock fishing right in the river in mid-city. This big run of big pollock would cause most of the docks and bridges to be full of people hoping to bring home a basket full of these sleek looking and hard fighting fish. They were pretty easy to catch on bait or lure. They were on a feeding spree after small baitfish, so when they were bingeing they were not that fussy about what they grabbed.
Pollock were cheap protein. Prices at the counter often ran under 20 cents a pound. But a skiff fisherman who caught a couple hundred pounds of fish in a day and got 10 cents a pound had made himself 20 bucks, a great day's pay back then.
Turning the calendar many years forward, we gladly accepted an invitation to join a pollock trip offshore on Captain Ricky Lapierre's Yellowbird Party boat. We first fished with Captain Ricky when he had his boat docked at Newburyport but wisely now has moved it to Hampton Harbor.
There's a lot to like about Captain Ricky and the Yellowbird. First of all Ricky is a sportsman; loves to hunt and fish. Secondly, most of the anglers on Ricky's trips are just that, anglers and not tourists out for a fishing trip. And because Ricky limits his number of anglers to 30 per trip, tangling lines and lures is much less frequent than on other boats we've fished on and Ricky knows the ocean bottom very well.
As we've written in previous columns, we always eat breakfast at Gauron's Luncheonette where Ute, who runs the place like a pirate captain, holds forth at the grill and also provides non-stop, bawdy entertainment. I love her. She's one of a kind. But you'd better have a good sense of humor when you go in there or you may find you feel a lot different than I do about the whole scene. Her servings are huge and quick as is her wit. And she's not bashful about giving you a piece of her mind about everything from national politics to local characters.
Back to the fishing. After about a two-hour voyage to Jeffrey's Ledge, Ricky announced, "Put 'em down." All aboard dropped lines in what seemed like an empty ocean. Only a couple of tiny fish, including a codfish that I must have grabbed away from its mother's arms, were pulled in. I gently massaged my tiny cod's belly to remove the excess pressure from its swim bladder that enabled the fish to dive back towards where it came from. You need to do this when pulling fish up from the deep. As the pressure of the water decreases, their swim bladders blow up like a balloon.
"Pull 'em up," was the next thing we heard from Captain Ricky. And we all did. "Sorry, we thought there'd be fish here today. We've got a 20-minute ride to the next place. There should be plenty of fish there."
And there were. We were rigged especially for pollock with 12-ounce jigs and teasers with hooks about three feet above the jigs. My buddy Bill and I were fast to fish before the jigs even hit bottom. Mine pulled up very hard and when the rig came to the surface it was evident why. There were two big pollock, both well over 10 pounds, on my line. Bill had one fish this time up from the depths but on his next five drops, he slowly and painfully cranked in two huge pollock each time. I was doing doubles about half the time.
This fishing went non-stop for hours. But it took several minutes to pull in those big fish from a football field depth of water. A majority of our fish was going north to my camp in Maine were it would feed a lot of people and fish was going to family, friends and neighbors. We put away enough for ourselves to last the winter.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.