Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Fishing in salt, fresh water is great at this timeBy DICK PINNEY June 17. 2018 2:56AM
This is that special time on the Seacoast when a lot of fishing opportunities become available, fresh and saltwater. It's very hard for a guy like me who loves 'em both to make decisions, decisions, decisions!
Because we live right on the shore of Great Bay, you'd think that fishing there would be my primary choice, but it's not that easy. Usually our primary goal is to catch a bunch of striped bass. If we're not after trophy-sized fish, we're happy to wear ourselves out catching and releasing a bunch of those feisty schoolie-sized fish.
And not that well known, there's apt to be plenty of the keeper-sized stripers from Adams Point, where Great and Little Bay join. Because we almost never fish "the Bay" itself, it's always a chore to back up to my boat trailer after checking all the gear out and filling it up with saltwater tackle and driving to the nearest deepwater launching area. We can only launch from our shoreline in the high tide hours because the Bay just about drains of water.
Because of this, and our fishing the tidal waters of Little Bay and the Piscataqua River, we'll launch either at Dover's Hilton Park on the upper reaches of the river, or trailer down to Portsmouth and launch at the City of Portsmouth's Peirce Island ramp. Both of those options are fine with me because a very large percentage of the stripers will not be found in the Bay itself but in the Little Bay's currents and deeper depths or the Piscataqua River all the way from Dover to the sea.
Occasionally when we want to fish the ocean front or go out to the Isles of Shoals, we'll trailer down to Rye Habor to launch, cutting down our boat travel considerably.
When we get tired of fishing the same old spots and the tides are right, we'll occasionally trailer down to Hampton or Seabrook and put our boat in there and fish both the Hampton River (depending on the tide) and the Hampton-Seabook shoreline to the mouth of the Merrimack River.
Long ago we gave up the anchoring and waiting for the fish to come to us. So we'll troll with either bait or artificials and hunt down the concentrations of fish. If we're having good luck trolling, we'll continue doing it, trying to keep in the areas that are still providing us with action. When we lose the fish we'll go on a trolling search and either anchor at the hot spots or continue to troll through them.
If there are plenty of bait-sized mackerel or pollock, we'll catch a few and put them in our bait tank with a pump going to keep the bait alive and perky. But both of those bait species demand a lot of oxygen so it's not possible to keep many alive. Freshly dead mackerel or pollock will continue to draw strikes from stripers or bluefish when trolled but their attraction dwindles with the time they are being used. Keeping a bait tank full of live macks or pollock is a chore and demands a larger bait tank and pump than my 17-foot Eastern boat can accommodate. But fresh dead bait will work well if we're able to keep them on ice.
Know that we are not targeting schoolie-sized stripers. Although they are lots of fun to catch, we've been spoiled after years of catching the bull-sized stripers that are measured in pounds, not inches!
Don't be fooled by the striper fishermen who brag about catching boatfuls of big stripers. For one thing, there are possession limits. For another thing, those opportunities are very rare, but in the "good old days" we did manage to have some impressive catches when there weren't bag limits and enough fish available.
Stripers are fish that are almost always choosing bottom structures that protect them and are magnets for baitfish that they feed on. This almost always pertains to the larger "bull-sized" fish as the smaller stripers will often feed on schools of small baitfish that will drift with the currents.
One last word about safety on the Piscataqua River and Little Bay: There is lots of sunken structure that can spoil your day and disable your boat. Until you are very well aware of this, it's a good idea to "poke-around" until you became familiar with the dangerous spots.
Drop us an email at email@example.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.