The big Volvo located deep in the heart of the Amanda Marie rumbled to life. Gloucester harbor, bathed in the soft glow of the early morning sunlight, was flat calm with the surface full of reflections of the 'city that surrounds it. A few working boats were making waves in the dark water, their wakes rolling white on top and then disappearing into the energy consuming water.
Mike backed the boat away from the dock as MaryGayle and I pulled out the fishing gear and readied the rods. Sliding in next to Ten Pound Island, we tossed the Sabiki rigs over the side, trying to find the mackerel we wanted to use for live lining.
Although we caught a couple, they were on the small side. We checked a couple of more spots in the harbor but just couldn't seem to find our bait fish in the size and numbers we wanted. Mike opened up the throttle and steamed toward the groaner located just off the breakwater. As we neared it, the Furuno screen turned red/yellow showing us a school of bait. We dropped down to them and were soon loading the tank with the blue/green mackerel.
With our precious cargo on board, Mike turned the boat East and motored on out about a mile and a half to the 150 ft. mark. Two rigs were geared up with a tandem hook set up. We ran one hook through the nostrils and the second just under the backbone in the tail section. The third rod had just a single hook. That one we ran through the nostrils of a big horse mackerel that Mary Gayle had jigged up off the bottom.
Stripping about thirty feet of line off the first reel, Mike blew up a small balloon, tied it on the line and we floated the whole outfit off the stern. We repeated this process two more times, each line varied in length so we had baits at different depths.
As Mike and I worked with the rods and reels, MaryGayle was busy filling the white bucket with small mackerel that we would eventually use as chum. It seems we were drifting right over a huge school of bait fish. And, usually where there is a school of mackerel, there are a few big stripers.
In just a few minutes we had a set of three balloons floating nicely off the back of the boat, bobbing up and down gently in a light northeasterly breeze. I started to slice chum on the cutting board located on top of the ice chest. We kept tossing it over the side, trying to establish a nice slick in the water to attract the stripers. The baits hadn't been floating out there fifteen minutes when the first big bass struck.
The reel sang it's beautiful music and we all reacted in our usual semi-panic. The bent rod was closest to me so I grabbed ot out of the rod holder, engaged the drag and set the hook hard three times. As I did that, MaryGayle and Mike wound in the other lines to get them out of the way.
The rod bent to the task and I started to turn the crank on the Penn reel. It was a good fish and this was going to take a while. Mike got out the net and the gaff and placed them within easy reach. MaryGayle picked up the spare rods and moved them inside the cabin. The deck was clear for action.
The fish drove away from us as he tried to pull the hook loose. when that didn't work, he headed straight back at us with me winding the handle as fast as I could to keep the slack out of the line. After a few more runs he came to the boat. I kept his head up as Mike, in one quick move, slid the net under him and levered him into the boat.
There were high-fives all around as the first striper of the day flopped on the deck. It took a couple of minutes to get the hooks out of the fish and out of the net. We put him on top of the big white cooler to measure him. At 33 1/2 inches, he was the biggest striper we had taken this season.
MaryGayle fished a big mackerel out of the live well. Hooking him up to our rig, we floated him out the back of the boat. Re setting the other two rigs took a few minutes, but soon we were set again. I resumed cutting and tossing chum as MaryGayle kept filling the chum bucket with fresh-caught mackerel. Mike kept fiddling with the rods, keeping the floating balloons and the live mackerel underneath from crossing each other. What a team!
Within a few minutes another rod went off. This time MaryGayle set the hook. We knew right off this was a bigger fish. What a fight he put up. He just did not want to come to the boat. But slowly and surely MaryGayle guided him to the waiting gaff. Mike hooked him and swung him up onto the deck.
By this time there were several boats around us. We drifted along in the rising breeze, the sun in a cloudless sky warming the boat and crew. With a "haul'em up" from Mike, we put away the gear and headed back in toward the groaner. We set up to the south of it but with little result. The mackerel schools were all around us, but we couldn't raise a striper. We all had afternoon commitments, so we pulled the lines and headed on in. I washed the boat as MaryGayle put away the gear. Go to Amandamariefishing.com for some great pictures.
Another great day on the water.