Capt. Joe Huck enjoyed a brief bit of rest and relaxation this week, taking advantage of some precious down-time in the wake of porgy season-a span of the early season that leaves all hands pretty much exhausted. Naturally, much of Huck’s free hours were spent tackling the endless laundry list of maintenance and boat chores that keep each boat in the Fleet running in top form through a grueling year-round schedule. Since the last report on Monday, the Helen H devoted each day to half-day fishing out in the middle of Nantucket Sound.
As is always the case, each trip’s fluking success depended largely on what Mother Nature served up by way of drift conditions. On the days when tide and wind lined up, pushing the boat over ground at a decent clip (or one force over-powered the other with similar results), the pick of quality slabs was decent to good. On those days that provided minimal drift, the catch suffered.
Huck noted he’s been fishing mostly open bottom, focusing his efforts in several areas dotted with conch pots. Asked why, he explained that the conch gear provides two bonuses where the fluking’s concerned. First, the presence of this fixed gear discourages draggers from working the area, affording the fluke there some measure of indirect protection from heavy fishing pressure. Second, Huckmeyer believes the bait bags that hang in the conch pots attract swarms of the small red swimming crabs you’ll often find in flukes’ stomachs during the earlier parts of the slab season. Big fish for the week, caught on Wednesday’s 10 a.m.-to-2 p.m. half-day run, was a 10.3-pound doormat landed by master angler, Ms. Brenda Bodine of Burlington, NJ, on a Plain-Jane rental rod sporting a Plain-Jane drift rig (see photo at end of report). At the time of her catch, the tide was cranking and the Helen was approaching a knot and a half on the drift.
In general, the fluke fishing has yet to get into high gear, but Huck has no complaints about the ratio of keepers to shorts so far. He expects that this season will improve by the week. Due to the Fourth of July holiday and resulting mayhem around Hyannis, the Helen H will be making only one Nantucket fluke run this week, that trip sailing on Monday, July 5, 7 a.m. to 4ish p.m. (though, as most who’ve made these trips with any regularity already know, the boat has been known to put in extra time when fishing has been slow or the bite goes crazy late in the day).
After that outing, the half-days will resume, with the scheduling particulars yet to be carved in stone. Joe thinks they’ll plan to run one 10-to-2 trip per day for the first half of the week, then run two (8 a.m. to noon and again from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.) in the second half. Of course, this tentative line-up is subject to change; call the office to get up-to-the-minute sailing schedules.
On the striper front, the fishing was nothing short of lock-and-load early-week, with charters aboard the Fish Hawk racking up as many as 50 nice stripers per outing. On Wednesday, Carol Ann Huckmeyer took a long-awaited pause from manning the phones and playing Super Mom, and headed out on the Fish Hawk with the girls for their annual bass trip. All told, the six women in that group boated an impressive 35 bass, retaining only their legal limit of course. Proving her street-cred behind the reel, Carol was high-hook with the trip’s biggest lineside, a well-fed cow in the low 30-pound class (see photo, top right). All their fish were taken on shell squids dropped back into the standing waves of several hard-charging rips not far from Monomoy Island off Chatham. This top-water approach to catching bass in bait-filled rips is a mighty exciting alternative to the wire or lead-core trolling tactics so many other southern New England charter boats employ.
The striper fishing has been best on the strength of the west-running ebb tides, which deliver cooler water and large bodies of squid and other baitfish from points further east. Escalating water temps inside have cooled the bite a bit, mainly because the bait has been moving off the beach and out into the rips that lie outside the three-mile state-waters “fence,” beyond which striper fishing is strictly verboten. That situation is likely to change again as the timing of the tides comes back around again. As a side note, the Helen H Fleet’s six-man charter boats frequently adjust sailing times for the striped bass charters to work around tides, leaving earlier or later to give clients every available edge in their cow hunting. There are plenty of prime dates available for July stripers off Monomoy, but now that the Cape’s into the peak of the tourist onslaught, the phone’s ringing off the wall and the white space in the calendar’s disappearing faster by the day. Reservations/questions/comments? 508-790-0660.