IT WAS dead-low tide at Portsmouth's great Pierce Island boat launching and docking facility. The tide being the lowest of the month because of the full moon effect left little water alongside the dock to drop my 16-foot boat into. So a debate started between my longtime fishing and hunting buddy, Brad Conner of Greenland, on what side of the dock to launch at. (We prefer to drop the boat into the side that the currents will sweep the boat up against the dock so it won't drift away and make it difficult to board.)
On one side the wind would take command and on the other side the tiny amount of tidal currents were not meaningful. So we did the best thing. With Brad holding onto a stern line out on the dock, we just didn't care which side to launch on and he had quickly secured the boat to the dock with the stern line.
As we said, it was a very low tide. It wouldn't be high tide for six more hours as the tide came in. And both Brad and I have had notoriously poor luck on stripers lately fishing the incoming tide. But we were on the water and were going to enjoy the freedom of that, regardless of the outcome with fish.
But because my job was to run the boat and pick trolling passes, it became more and more frustrating to end up with only big bunches of floating seaweed on our umbrella-type lures. Luckily Brad is one of those people that has little to say and is quite stoic and is a veteran of hundreds of striper trips. He knew that we were fighting the odds, Especially considering that our incoming tide catch statistics were horrible.
For six hours we pounded just about every known striper place on the Piscataqua River, the back channels and Little Harbor and then moved upriver to Little Bay, where things didn't change at all. No hits, no runs, no errors.
Then in Little Bay which is about six miles upriver, we watched as a debris line moved down towards us, signaling that this was the "tide line", where the currents had changed and the tide had started out.
Almost immediately, with the tide changed our next trolling run was interrupted by a striper hit and I played and landed a small fish, about 18-inches long. Then both Brad and I had hits, with Brad landing a similar sized fish. And when we moved from our regular trolling runs to new ones, we'd get a strike or two and land a fish or two.
But it was getting long in the fishing day and both of us were getting a bit weary. "Let's take a run up to Baldy's,'' a favorite trolling run that we've fished for about five decades. There was a boat anchored and chunking and chumming just uptide from our regular trolling run so we carefully set up the run without impacting his fishing.
First run in a nice fish but not a keeper, second run in and Brad's reel let out a big scream as a really nice striper was stripping line against his reel's drag. It put up a good fight and when we gingerly lifted the fish into the boat, we found that his hook was just barely holding in the tough lip membrane. We quickly decided to give this fish a fast release as both of us agreed that this fish was a female, given the size of her belly and was probably loaded with eggs. Almost universally the larger stripers are females, which we call "hens."
Pretty tired and almost ready to giver 'er up for the day, we did hit a few other good spots heading downriver and hooked and landed three or four more decent stripers that were not of keeper-size (28 inches) but hit hard and put up a good fight. We release these fish as soon as possible to prevent damage.
At the Pierce Island launching area we were two tired old dogs and it wasn't as easy to put the boat back on the trailer as it was to float it off, but we made it with no problem. We then fought the famous Portsmouth traffic and tired but very happy, relived our day on our way back to our homes in Greenland.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.