Although most of the party boat operations begin in early to mid April, June is the month when things really begin to get going. Water temps in early spring are still quite cold and even though the days are getting warmer inland a day on the ocean in April will require anglers to bring plenty of warm clothing to be comfortable. Think of it as going out on a boat into a giant bowl of ice water, and fishing tends to start off slow and inconsistent during the early spring days . Things will generally start to improve through May as the days become warmer and the sun has more time to penetrate the deep waters off our coast which range from 50 feet to 500-600 feet in many areas of the gulf.

With the coming of warmer weather and water also come the fish. Cod, haddock, and redfish (ocean perch) begin to increase in numbers for the spring spawning, mackerel, herring, and alewives along with them. The latter three are important feed for the larger species so usually look for stripers to start making an appearance around early to mid June and behind them blues, dog fish, and tuna towards the end of the month. Blackback flounder have begun making an strong comeback in recent years along the sandy bottom coast of Massachusetts and New Hampshire and will begin to offer good fishing starting in mid May and growing stronger as the summer begins to take hold in June.

Most all of our Gulf of Maine species offer good sport fishing and are among the best eating as well. Cod and haddock are the most predominate species targeted by deep sea anglers and have been the backbone of the commercial industry since the abundance of these bottom feeders were discovered century’s ago. New Bedford, Boston, Gloucester, and Portland are all New England coastal cities that began as small fishing villages and grew into the seaports that stand today.

Deep sea fishing for bottom fish, either from party/charter boats, or from a private vessel will require good equipment to achieve good results of coolers full of fillets. Most party/charter boats will offer fishing poles that are adequate for a small rental fee, but if you intend to fish more than the casual summer tourist investing in good tackle is advisable. When I first started in the business 30 years ago the preferred set up was a heavy fiberglass rod around 7 feet long with a Penn 4/0-6/0 reel loaded with 50 pound monofilament line. Strong tips and length were needed to efficiently move the jig and set the hook in depths of 100- 300 feet of water. Many fishermen also preferred to carry a lighter tipped second set-up with a smaller reel and 30 pound line for bait fishing. Working a 14-17.5 ounce jig was a lot of work back then. Today’s equipment has come light-years in efficiency and being more user friendly. Light and fast retrieve set-ups have replaced the clunky fiberglass broomsticks formally used by anglers. Although the length is still important, graphite rods are both slimmer and lighter than their predecessors, and with the invent of strong but thinly braided line, smaller, lighter fast retrieve reels are the norm. Two good choices for rod are the Shimano Trevala and the Ugly Stick Tiger. line efficiency has always been an important part of fishing, especially in deep water. Monofilament was the most popular back in the day and came in many sizes, colors and diameters. Ande pink was the popular choice because it had the least amount of stretch in ocean depths. The less stretch meant less work with the rod to effectively move the jig as well as sensitively to feel the bite hundreds of feet below. It also performed fairly well in strong tides due to it’s smooth nature as long as a heavy enough jig or sinker was used. Dacron line was also around back then and was preferred by many, especially for bait fishing, because it had very little stretch, however it was horrible in tide currents due to poor water resistance. Today’s braided lines have revolutionized the way we now fill the coolers with the tasty offerings from the bottom. Brand names such as Spider Wire and Power-Pro are two of the many on the market that offer 0 stretch and incredibly thin diameters in many line strengths. Most of todays 50 pound braids have the same diameter of 20 pound mono thus allowing for more efficiency in water resistance and sensitivity for working the jig and feeling the bite. Another advantage lighter rigs loaded with thin line allow for is the use of lighter sinkers and jigs. 6 to 10 ounce rigs will work well even in the 400 depth range without much effort to the person holding the rod. There are A few disadvantages to braid, cost, lack of stretch, and tangles are the worst but can be overcome. It is more costly than mono, and because of it’s thin diameter will require quite a bit to fill a large spool. This is the reason for the modern small fast retrieve reels. With these 300 yards of Power-Pro should do well, but if for whatever reason you decide to use say a Penn 4/0 the line will take up little room on the spool thus making reeling up slow. To overcome this problem put a good amount of backing of mono on the reel first and splice the braid on top. I use a double fishermans knot to splice the two together. Lack of or no stretch can hinder your catch from reaching the boat because some stretch is needed as a shock absorber when fighting a fish. If there is no give to the line the hook will tear out of the fishes jaw because as it resists being reeled up the hole where it is hooked will widen resulting in it getting off after the barb can pull back out. To overcome this problem simply add 50 feet of good quality mono leader to give it just enough stretch without losing the advantages of the braid. The biggest problem is the tangles braid, being hard to see and with no memory can create, especially on party boats that carry a pile of anglers of varying expertise. There is not much one can do to get around this problem except try and fish from the stern or bow and away from novice fishermen using the mono on the rental rods. Inevitably there will be tangles and the best solution if you come up involved in a big mess is to cut your line and pull it through and retie either a new leader or the old one if you can retrieve it from the bottom of the pile. Most boats employ mates that are good at getting everybody straitened out in the least amount of time.

Jigs have been improved as well, if fact the selection offered nowadays can be confusing to the novice angler. Fishing on Middlebank and Jefferies Ledge in the 1970’s usually saw fishermen casting 14-17.5 ounce chrome plated Norwegian lures, and at times if the tide was slack and the water shallow, 12 and 10 ounce versions could be sent to the bottom. Today’s new innovations come in many colors and shapes. Most are both lighter and slimmer shaped for use with modern rods and reels. A major change also is the hook placement. The new offerings have a pair of single snatch hooks dangling on tethers from the top of the jig rather than the huge treble on the bottom. This new variation seems to work quite well because fish tend to strike the top or middle of a bait fish, and at times as the lure flutters back down on the action from the rod above. Being on top also keeps the rig from hanging up on the bottom. Choices in lighter jigs include the Butterfly jig from Shimano, Hopkins, and the old stand by Bridgeport Diamond jig.

Tight Lines,

Capt. Don