Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Change your bait, change your luckBy DICK PINNEY September 17. 2017 12:43AM
THERE'S A SAYING that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but this old dog is like a sponge when it comes to still learning some tricks and also, when appropriate, passing on a few when they are welcome.
Lately, we learned that there's no such thing as "absolute" when it comes to fishing for groundfish: cod, haddock, pollock, cusk, etc.
We had anxiously paced the deck of one of Eastman's party and charter boats that sail out of Seabrook each day. It was a long couple of hours until we reached our fishing destination. But knowing that these people had a reason for the long trip, we just sucked it up and waited until the captain's request to "Let 'em go." That allowed us to drop our baited lines down well over 100 feet to where the fish were supposed to be.
And they were! Huge pollock, which are my favorite fish to both catch and eat. The fight like crazy and are a handsome catch dressed in silver and black.
But it was not a pleasant surprise to me when my two baited hooks seemed to be ignored while my fishing buddy of the day, Blue Stone (that's his real name!) was fighting and landing one huge pollock after another. He was using three huge cod flies baited with cut clam meat: flies of three different colors of chartreuse, white and blue. I was using just plain gold hooks also baited with clam meat. And it just wasn't working!
We are not one to wait to make a decision, so we took the time to pull our hooks off, and found and attached three of our own flies, baited the hooks, and finally dropped our baited flies down to bottom. We got an instant reaction from the fish and finally were cranking on a nice pollock, which fought well.
When my first fish came aboard, Blue gave me a nice smile and a compliment, but when I looked at his huge cooler, it was more than half full of these great fish! And we no sooner landed three or four more the bite stopped. Completely stopped!
We'd never seen fish ignore our clam-baited gold hooks completely while others were catching fish. Never! But it was a lesson this old time salt learned well.
You gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em! After Blue had landed a couple of fish, we should have instantly changed over to what the fish were biting. We did manage to take what seemed to be forever to change over to the fly/bait combination, and did catch three nice pollock. Then it stopped just as quickly as it had started. We had been too stubborn and thought that our turn would come soon. Wrong!
But that wasn't the only mistake we made. Pollock are often foolish and lose all caution when you present them with a rig that includes a large shiny cod jig with a fly or two attached to your leader above the jig. I had such a rig within arm's reach and should have instantly changed over. That would have taken only a couple of precious moments and we most likely would have at least half filled our big cooler with pollock before the bite ended.
Even though there was an occasional fish hauled up over the rails for the rest of the fishing trip, it was nothing like that mad-minute that we experienced on that first anchor drop. Even my buddy Blue only caught a couple more fish, and my total catch after that was one small and one medium sized pollock.
Since then, we've rigged a separate rod and reel combo with three spaced out cod flies about a foot apart in various colors: white, blue (a killer on haddock) and chartreuse. We left a bottom loop that we'll slip the appropriate weight sinker so that the current and bottom depth will determine how heavy we'll need.
We try to use the smallest diameter line that we can, as that regulates how much weight you'll need to hold bottom with your baits or lure. But there's a down side on that. First, line tangles are often common when reeling in big fighting fish, and the very light lines that are now available are a headache to untangle and sometimes have to be cut and retied. So we try to balance our choice of weights with other factors and are quick to change when we need to. We also bring two rods onboard: one rigged for jig fishing and one rigged for bait fishing.
Also, you have to take into consideration what are the most prevalent fish you'll be catching, and these fish can be moody, taking bait like crazy some days and ignoring bait to hit a jig and fly rig on others. My usual bait rig without flies - only gold hooks and a weight - has brought me some great luck at times and has flunked out a few times. Also some days we can't keep the fish of our 9- to 12-ounce metal jig and fly rigs while they ignore the bait.
But a simple rule of thumb suggests that, on many days, haddock will often only take bait. On other days haddock will keep you busy when using a jig. Codfish usually will hit a jig. Pollock are also usually partial to jigs but not always! Cusk like bait but will hit a jig.
Another suggestion is that if you feel you are ready to become more than a casual deep sea angler, invest in your own rod, reel, line, leader material and terminal gear. Your success with your own gear will dwarf what you had been catching with the party or charter boat's rental gear.
Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and get out there and get you some.
Dick Pinney 's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.