Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Umbrella rigs are the tried and true way to catch those big stripersBy DICK PINNEY July 16. 2017 3:48AM
THE FIRST of July has almost always been the unofficial start of the striper fishing season for the Dickstah. Although there's a scattering of fish that come in earlier, they are apt to be on the small side as the larger fish will usually target the schools of mackerel and pollock that come later.
It's not that we don't like catching the small stripers. But when we're striper fishing, we have to admit we're looking for some great eating fish as well as the sport of catching the larger ones. And we don't enjoy hook-wounding those small stripers that you know will have some mortality because of it.
We've probably written too many columns about ways to catch stripers with some regularity but we'll admit that one of the hardest ways to catch some big and legal keeper-sized fish is to troll with that ugly and hard-to-fish umbrella rig.
For years, when we were pretty ignorant about this "rigging-fishing," we were getting much of our knowledge from a friend, the late Bob Folger, who we'd met and worked with when Bob was a Massachusetts Conservation Officer and the Dickster was a New Hampshire CO.
My then-district chief, Paul Tasker, advised me that I'd have to create a working friendship with the local Massachusetts and Maine wardens as our patrol areas adjoined both states. Believe me when we say that was an incredible pleasure as over the years we developed a great friendship with several Maine wardens, with the closest being Tom Flarity and Folger, the Maine Coastal Warden.
Tom was not an avid fisherman but we did escort him on many fun and memorable fishing trips on the Piscataqua, where he did get the fever for catching and eating the stripers caught there. On the other hand, Folger was an old hand at saltwater fishing of all kinds and we learned a lot from him, including some tricks that we'd never seen such as umbrella rig fishing.
Most of the highline Massachusetts striper fishermen were not out there catching stripers for the sport of it. There was and probably still is a group of small-boat commercial striper fishermen that could earn a healthy but seasonal income by targeting stripers. These guys and some gals had learned the tricks of catching lots of stripers as fast as they could, thus the umbrella rigs, although not terribly sporting, were the death-threat to the striper population.
Massachusetts' striper size limit then, if my memory serves me, was smaller than our New Hampshire size limit so the umbrella rig that enabled catching more than one fish at a time was almost universally the choice of that small-boat commercial striper fleet.
We in New Hampshire who became quite fond of that kind of production were mostly defending our umbrella rig catching because we almost universally filed off the barbs on our hooks. We did lose the odd fish that shook the hooks but when keeping good pressure on the fish, those losses were uncommon. We were unabashedly "killing and chilling" too many of those very valuable gamefish quite a few years before the impact of our small group of commercial striper fishermen became obvious. Most of us gave up this practice but occasionally still dragged those multi-hook rigs when things got boring.
One of the more sporting but very effective striper catching rig is the "tube and worm" combination. We've written about the tube-n-worm rig recently but can't help passing the word about a very productive striper catching rig that also allows for more harmless catch and release, especially when you file off the barb on the single hook that this rig features.
With the tube and worm rig, all you need to do is to stop at your favorite bait shop and pick up a couple of tubes and a dozen or so seaworms. Believe the Old Dickster when we say this is a very productive method of catching all sizes of stripers!
But also believe me when we say that it "just don't work" without at least a small piece of seaworm on the hook. Not regular earthworms but seaworms! It's got to be the scent of the worm that finishes the deal as we've tried other chunks of bait and earth worms and nothing else produces like a seaworm or part of one on that tube's hook!
We especially like the tube-n-worm fishing as we don't have a boat rigged with a bait tank and probably never will have another one. All we need is a small cooler with a chunk or cubes of ice and a box of seaworms and we're in business. If there are any stripers around, we'll catch our share! These "dang-thangs" are a sure bet if there ever was one!
We have to publicly thank our close friend Pete Santini at Fishing FINatics Sports in Everett, Mass., for putting us on to the tube-n-worm fishing. He'd been sending us a few samples that were just collecting dust in my fishing equipment room when, for some reason, and I think it was because we were having trouble catching live bait, we relented and tried the tubes. It's funny because we had spotted Pete in another boat fishing Little Bay that day and we were banging the heck out of the stripers on his tubes! We phoned him that night to share our story and he said that they'd had a great day and his host had told him that he thought that was Dick Pinney fishing in one of the other boats that day. His friend was right and we were having a blast and continue to have lots of very good days using the tube-n-worm rig.
It's just the beginning of a great season of striper fishing. Get out there and get you some and take our advice and give the tube-n-worm rig a try! Pete's tubes seem to work as well or better than any of them.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.