Riptide Report: End of July Update
August 1, 2011
It’s the middle of summer, and while most non-anglers think this is prime time to fish, generally it’s when things slow down a bit. The warmer water tends to send the bass deep, while the bluefin also head for cooler areas before returning for the big fall feeds. What’s left is loads of small bluefish, sharks and, when the weather permits, canyon fishing.
The end of July and beginning of August is when I normally cut back on my charter bookings and go with more of a “take it as it comes” approach. This allows me to jump on any stray inshore action that pops up, and also make last-second runs to the canyons when a weather window opens.
Mid-summer also a time for Capt. Shaun Ruge and me to catch up on midseason boat maintenance. Our busy schedules in May and June take a toll on boat and gear alike, and the summer slow time gives us a chance to re-rig and fix those little gremlins before the big fall push of bass and tuna.
Between boat-maintenance sessions, Shaun and I did manage to get out for a few trips. We ran a slower-than-normal shark trip south of MV with Jeb and his son, little Matt. The hardest part of the trip was finding enough rat bluefish for bait. Funny thing about blues: When you don’t want them around, they are everywhere, but try to find them when you need them and they’re nowhere to be found! When in doubt, buy your way out, so thanks to the crew of the dragger off Noman’s for the bail-out bait ;). The fishing wasn’t much better than the bait-making, but we did manage to get Matt his first up close and personal look at a shark. The blue was more than happy to pounce on the foot-long squid slithering under the new kite.
Next up was a recon trip with Capt. Shaun and Capt. Chris Gately south of ACK in 4’ to 5’ seas, which did nothing except make us all a little bit shorter than when we started the day. A few blues in the tuna spread were all we could find in the washing machine of the shoals. After that beating, the next week was dedicated to boat and gear work, and generally trying to take it easy and enjoy the summer.
This week we were back at it with a tuna trip east of Chatham for clients Bill and Jerry. The tuna bite has been heating up, and my buddies over at the Hook Up have been trolling the fish up pretty well for the last couple weeks. Despite warm water in most areas, Chatham still has some arctic water temps, and the massive amounts of sand eels and tinker mackerel have had the tuna getting more and more active.
We launched out of Bass River, and within a few miles of rounding Monomoy we had tuna going airborne as they chased the little macks all over. As far as we could see, fish were launching out of the water and spraying bait. It seemed like a layup, but the fast-moving small pods of bait kept the tuna from staying in one spot for more than a few seconds. It’s a good thing the Riptide is fast, because it allowed us to race to the best feeds and still have a few seconds to launch a plug into the melee.
The guys had several fish swing and miss at their purple Ocean Lure RTS plugs, but the tuna’s aim was poor, and after 6 to 8 close calls we were still 0-fer. Then a perfect cast into a strong feed got the attention of one of the bigger tuna, which crashed the Ocean Lure but missed again. Lucky for us, this fish was not about to go home hungry. It tracked the lure back to the boat as we all watched in anticipation of what was about to happen. When the fish was 15’ from the boat, it accelerated and piled onto the RTS, and this time it didn’t miss. After a shower of white water, the Stella’s drag began to scream, and showed no signs of letting up.
Obviously, this was not one of the 25- to 125-pound fish we had been seeing. With most of the spool gone, I gave chase as the guys cranked like mad to gain back the 400 yards of lost line. As we weaved through the high fliers, I just knew they would end up being an issue for us. Sure enough, the fish got into one of the pot lines. It took some creative maneuvering with a very loose drag, but we were eventually able to get free of the high flier. By that time we had lost a bunch more line, but not the fish.
The guys swapped out fighting the fish, and were both set up with Black Magic harnesses. This fish would not give up. After close to an hour, we got the fish to the boat and we were able to get it under control. It was the fattest fish I’ve seen in a while, looking more like a bigeye than a bluefin. But despite a ridiculous girth the fish was only 72” long, and an inch short of going to market. It had to be released. It was a hell of a fight and an amazing team effort for everyone onboard. That fish pulled out all the stops, but in the end we won the game.
A few days later I had a trip lined up with regular customer Tom and some of his work friends. When his friends bailed out last minute, Tom did what any good father would do: He gave the trip to his son Ben and one of Ben’s friends. The boys showed up early and met Capt. Shaun and me for the trailer ride to Bass River. We ran out to the prior day’s numbers and found similar numbers of tuna taking to the air in the shallow water. These fish were even harder to get close to, with single and double busts, but no sustained surface action. The troll guys were getting covered up, but the casting crowd was struggling.
After a few hours of playing Whack-a-Mole, things started to slow down. I thought we might have missed our shot. Before giving up hope, I decided to leave the area and run to a place where we’ve done well in the past when the main action off Chatham died. We ran hard and fast to get to the numbers before we lost the tide.
As we neared my numbers, Ruge saw a few fish break, and I aimed for the action. Ben was poised on the bow, and when the tuna gave us another quick surface show, he nailed a boil dead center! The fish must have been impressed by the killer cast, because it turned around and inhaled the Ocean Lure RTS in an instant. We were tight and off to the races.
Ben’s no novice when it comes to fighting tuna, and I’ve been lucky enough to guide him to some killer tuna in the canyons. So this fish’s days were numbered. Ben turned on the heat, and in around 15 minutes I put the steel to a fat 59″ slot fish. We had sushi for dinner and one happy crew.
By now the tuna action was dead, and even though we covered a ton of ground there was just nothing happening. Then we got a call from Capt. Jeff Smith of Fin Addiction Charters. He had found an awesome surface striper bite. The guys were thrilled. They had their tuna and were happy to change gears and go for bass.
We made the long run to Capt. Jeff, and from the first cast to the last the guys were doubled up. I even took to throwing a hookless Ocean Lure so Capt. Shaun could shoot some photos of the fish crashing the plug over and over. Ben was good enough to help me and my friends at Shimano out by using a test reel I received a few weeks back: a new Stradic 8000FJ. He put the reel through its paces and landed what we believe is the first-ever striper on the 8000FJ. The reel easily handled bass up to 30 pounds when paired with a Terez rod.
After around 50 big bass, the guys were ready to head for the barn. We returned to the ramp with a bunch of fish for Ruge to clean. Rather than making a mess of the Riptide, we took advantage of the fish-cleaning station on the Bass River fish pier. What we didn’t expect was the crowd. The big stripers and the tuna became the center of attention for numerous beachgoers. We stood the tuna on end and had a line of little kids whose parents wanted pictures of the tots next to a fish that was taller than they were.
The guys got to tell their fish tales to vacationers hanging on their every word, while Ruge demonstrated his fish-cleaning skills. It was a great way to end the day. That is, until I slipped climbing into the boat and smashed my face off the rear lifting eye. A little blood and a big bruise were the result, but fortunately I wasn’t that good looking to start with!