The unusual catch of the day fishing in Portsmouth on the Piscataqua River

July 12. 2014 11:02PM

MY grandson-in-law Joe (father of my young, great-grandson Colin) likes to fish for stripers around his home grounds in Maryland. He mostly fishes from the surf and usually lands some decent fish each year.

Last year he and my granddaughter, Meghan, came north for a week and Joe and I were treated to one of the best striper days ever - maybe the best. We were fishing with shad umbrella rigs around some of the big bridges in Portsmouth on the Piscataqua River and we lost count of our catch when we were in the mid-30s.

We were catching and releasing sometimes two fish on one rig and these fish had some shoulders. They were no doubt averaging over 20 pounds and some going to 30. A couple of times we had to ask Joe to lift a pair of fish on my rig that this old fanatic couldn't get up over the side of the boat. We did save a couple of the fish for our use.

That night we were treated to one of the best striper meals we've ever had with grilled freshly caught fish and some great family company. Even though Joe is about 30 years my junior, he was pretty weary and I was really dragging.

This year's fishing trip with Joe on the Piscataqua was as different as night and day. Putting on about 40 miles on my 17-foot skiff, we covered some 50 years of my striper hot spots and ended up with two keeper fish in the boat and one short one released in our seven hours of fishing.

But that was the good news. I worked feverishly in the early morning before the fishing to put together a couple of new shad umbrella rigs for us to use, my other rigs were a mixture of broken or missing some baits rigs and not really suitable for hosting my fishing partner of the day.

Early on in our fishing, with the tide running very hard, we were trolling our new rigs with the tide, hoping to find some fish that I'd left a day or so before. And then a slight disaster hit. A big mooring ball that had been dragged under appeared right in front of the boat. There was no turning or stopping, so as hard as I could we put the power on and tried to steer away.

That worked as far as not hitting the buoy with the boat, but both of our reels were screaming when the umbrella rigs hit the mooring ball's anchor line. We were in trouble, to put it mildly.

Trying to maneuver the boat and crank in some of my fishing line while Joe was doing the same, we finally got up current of the buoy but couldn't budge the rigs. We finally had to cut the lines and leave about $75 of fishing gear hooked onto the buoy.

Using some older rigs that were fishable but not the best, we fished up river to the Great Bay and downriver to the ocean and back and forth a few times. It was bad - really bad. We did manage to hook and land one very small fish.

When Joe checked for the tide times on his cell phone we decided to go back to the scene of the crime and try to retrieve our gear.

The buoy had surfaced but there still was some current, and on Joe's first attempt he couldn't lift the anchor line an inch. But I had some experience with mooring balls and often the extra anchor line lies on the bottom and gets weeds growing around it that can be pulled free with some of the boat's power.

The buoy had a round hook on top that we tied our bow docking line to, and giving the boat some serious power it was obvious that we had created some slack in the line. Cutting the power, young and very strong Joe at first couldn't budge it but then applying some extra power that came from somewhere inside him, the line broke free and up came the two umbrella rigs that he quickly cut the hooks and got them back into the boat. That was the catch of the day for both of us.

So two very tired striper warriors stumbled back to the safety of our Pierce Island Launching area and with some difficulty got the boat back on the trailer and headed for home.

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

SportsOutdoorsFishingNew Hampshire

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