I think the main reason I’ve never gotten all that heady about hunting is because of one fish, the Striped Bass. There are few things that signify fall to me than the southern migration of this magnificent fish. The brookies halloween colors are amazing, but nothing beats the pull of a 3olb striper in foggy, rainy, blustery weather to make you accepting of the coming winter. This was renewed in me a a couple weekends ago in Boston.
The boss called me in his office about a month ago and said I was going on a trip with one of our hook vendors and one of the pro bass fishermen we sponsor to Boston to catch some fish. Store visits and “product testing.” If I ever bitch about my job, you have the right to kick my ass…
Two other coworkers and I land at Logan Airport in the late afternoon on a Thursday and make the prescribed store visits before meeting up with the rest of the group for a nice Boston seafood dinner. Drinks and good times before hitting the sack to get some rest before the bell the next morning.
No good trip happens without a nice dose of weirdness. The first morning had a taste. Our host rented a suburban but rationalized that all nine of us couldn’t fit in one vehicle so we haled a cab to follow us to meet our Captains. We make our way past the occupy Boston protest to the harbor docks. We turn down a sketchy hole in a 9 foot chain link and razor wire fence, through a vacant field, past some utility equipment before reaching the gated entrance to where the downtown lobster fleet calls home and where our Captain were waiting for us. To give you a better sense of the surroundings. The place had a feeling that this was where people who fell out of favor with Whitey Bulger were “taken care-of.” The cabbie apparently wasn’t too keen on following our suburban through that place, can’t say I’d blame him. We get through the gate and we’re in coastal New England glory. We meet the father and son Captains, Chuck and Skip who operate Boston Sportfishing Charters. The group divides up and five go with Chuck in the Skip a Dory a traditional down east lobster boat and myself and three others board the Linda Rose a 32′ Luhrs open sport fish with Skip and deck hand Mike.
We get underway in some of the densest fog I’ve ever been in out on the water. The highspeed ferry boats heading to Salem and Gloucester only appeared maybe thirty yards off our bow while we were running. A little scary, but thank god for the marvel of modern marine electronics! We run for only a few minutes before we make our first drift. I guess it’s appropriate now to come clean that this was not a pure bug chucking trip, though I did have them on the boat incase we found blitzing fish on the surface. Alas, the fish were holding in 50-60 feet of water. Even with my 350grain sink tip, I’d still be waiting on the fly to get in the strike zone.
We start nailing bluefish right away on chunked bunker. Bluefish are a wonderful creature. 25 years ago they were the only outlet for the northeast inshore angler because of the stripers were on the brink of total collapse before the miraculous comeback. These toothy sonbitches fight like a rabid, horned-up pitbull with hemorrhoids, but unfortunately now they’re generally considered a trash fish and a pain in the ass to those, like us, targeting leader shy stripers with mono leaders. The hook to land ratio was roughly 12 to one. This would start to aggravate deck hand Mike who loved to gaff the bluefish to keep for bait in the lobster traps. When the line would go slack, Mike in disgust would put the gaff back and instead reach for a new hook and or leader to tie back on the line with a look of dejection on his face.
As we’re hooking every bluefish in Boston Harbor, the folks in the Skip a Dory are stacking the stripers like cord wood working the same drift as us. Chuck, being Skip’s father was constantly on the radio rubbing his success in the boy’s face. Finally, Lincoln (who was on his first ever saltwater fishing trip) lands the Linda Rose’s first striper of the trip. We breath a sigh of relief.
They day continues with the swarms of bluefish destroying our terminal tackle and occasionally making it to the boat. Later in the afternoon, Chris hooks into something that he says is fighting a little different. Turns out it’s a dogfish about two feet long. Skip, in utter discuss proclaims, “just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse.” Mike really delighted in putting the gaff to the poor little dogfish.
About ten minutes later I hook into the Linda Rose’s second and final striper of the day. A fine specimen if I say so myself. We head back to the dock shortly thereafter and go back to the hotel to cleanup before going out for a fantastic meal. The funny thing, and beautifully ironic part of the trip was where we, a bunch of guys on a fishing trip were staying. The W Boston hotel. It wasn’t just the trendiest hotel I’ve ever stayed at, but quite possibly the trendiest place I’ve ever been, period. Needles to say we reveled in wearing our, smelly, fishslime covered foul weather gear and blood covered boots in and through the W’s lobby. That night we dined at Strega on the Waterfront where I had the best seafood and pasta dish served in a skillet with all kinds of local shell fish. The ratio of shellfish to pasta was 85% shellfish to 15% pasta, perfect. We found out that the place was better than we really knew. Wes Welker was dining there, for what that’s worth, he’s my stud receiver on my fantasy team. Back to the hotel to rest up for another go at the stripers in the morning.
Instead of fog, we were greeted with glorious sun and 20knot winds the next morning. The fly rod had no chance of making an appearance. About 30 seconds into the first drift, Chris hooks into our first striper of the day. Before Mike could get that fish unhooked, my line comes tight to a nice line sided beauty. Off to a better star than the day before. The day continues in a rolling sea hooking stripers every few minutes.
A great day for sure that was brought to its apex when Chris made the catch of the trip. I won’t give text to this part of the story, see the video at the bottom of this post. After this amazing feat of angling prowess what else could follow? Well, I hook and land a 30lb striper, the best fish on the Linda Rose for the trip. I was in glory fighting that fish and feeling the power with which the fish fought was a welcome struggle after the season’s many trout (not dissing trout, but versus a 6″ brookie there’s no comparison from a fight point of view). It was towards the end of the day, and the end of the season for the Linda Rose. Skip didn’t want anymore fish caught, he wanted his charter season to end on my 30lber, that’s cool.
Our two boat flotilla heads back to the dock one last time. We pack up the fillets that are now in my freezer and to the W we go to make ready for what would be one interesting evening. I had never had such a long dinner than I had that saturday night. We met up with a friend of our host at Del Friscos, which apparently is where the real housewives of Boston like to go and troll for some cougar meat. The funny thing about Boston is you can’t order a double drink. Drew and I had to negotiate with the bar maid to get a double 7-up and vodka, which Drew would later drop on the floor momments before we’re seated. The shattered drink was an omen for the weirdness about to descend on the evening.
We sit down at our table in a private room at about a quarter til 9pm and we don’t leave the place until after midnight. In the mean time we meet Tara, eat a mountain of shellfish, some steak, drank many bottles of wine, Tara visits several more times after her “roommate” and “roomate’s parents” leave. Now this is when things get weird. Just as we finish our entres on about 11’o’clock Tara reappears with three other ladies all of beautiful dark hair and olive complexion. One sits by me an we start chatting. I ask were she’s from, she says Palestine… Well, what do you say to that? She was a professor of Arabic studies at BU and her sister (on the other side of the table) just began her PhD studies in the same. Meanwhile, Lincoln is lecturing the one young lady that her husband is obviously cheating on her because of how insistent he was about her “going out and having fun that night.” Shane, a.k.a mister masseuse decided to ply his technique on Tara, and for once, and unfortunately in the situation for him, was working quite well. The two Palestinian sister however both asked in horror what he was trying to do. I had to explain his typically sad and creepy stratagem for impressing women. At several points I had to sit back and ask Drew and Ryan, “What the hell is going on here, and who are these women?” About midnight the manger decides it’s time for us to leave. Tara is hot on Shane’s trail and he asked us to hide him so he didn’t screw up things with the girlfriend he has home in Pittsburgh. Ryan and Chris get Tara in a cab and send her on her way. A quick night cap back at the W where we said our goodbyes before turning in and going our separate ways in the morning and back to reality.
An amazing trip. Being able to combine spectacular sportfishing in such close proximity to one of the greatest cities in the country is something special and should be experienced.
And now, for the catch of the trip: