Some good film of anglers putting the hammer down on some nice Norway Cod.




In spring everyone connected to the fishing industry, commercial, as well as recreational start to look for the Atlantic mackerel to show up. These little speed demons will start to filter into Massachusetts bay around May-June and into The Gulf of Maine in June-July. The length of their stay in any one area depends on the presence of their number 1 natural enemy, the bluefish. These past several years bluefish have heavy here off the New Hampshire coast, and as a result the ‘macs have only stopped in passing. In the past if the blues have come and gone the mackerel will return as long as they’re safe from predication, and will stay until they will migrate to warmer waters in September. An interesting factor in this matter will be if the recently heavy and increasing presence of Spiny Dogfish will have an effect on their migratory habits.
The Atlantic Mackerel(scomber scombrus) is a slender streamlined fish ranging in lengths and sizes from the tiny tinkers which are a couple inches ut to mature adults that reach 18 inches and as much as 3 pounds. These are strikingly beautiful fish, iridescent blue/green on top with 20-30 black bars, and a silvery white underbelly. Mackerel have two separate dorsal fins, and like their cousins the tuna, have several dorsal and anal finnlets.
The mackerel has a great many uses and is sought after by everyone and everything. These streamlined, stripped fish are eaten by most predatory fish in the ocean such as cod, pollock, striped bass, bluefish, all sharks, tuna, as well as whales and dolphin. Humans have a wide variety of uses for this fish that include food, bait, sport, and commercial sale. Food wise it is a desirable species. The flesh is between a pollock and a bluefish in darkness, and is flavorful and high in oil and fat. There are countless ways to prepare this fish, baked, broiled, Bar-B-Que, smoked, in soup, as sushi, pate’, the list goes on and will vary from different regions and countries. Mackerel are a much prized and sought after fish by most foreign countries . Germany and Russia have whole fishing fleets made up of factory ships and catcher boats that pursue mackerel globally, processing the fish and sending it back home for consumption.
These are a fast hard fighting fish that are desired by sport fisherman young and old. While they can be caught from shore most people prefer to fish from a boat, either private or a party boat. Minimal tackle is required, a light spinning rod with 10 pound test line, or a light 4/5 weight fly rod is good. For terminal tackle use small 1 oz. Jigs, bucktails, and tube lures to name a few. These are a schooling fish and if you use a multiple hook rig don’t be surprised to get a fish on every hook. While most people fish for food and the sport, others look to fill their freezers for bait purposes. Mackerel are prized by striped fisherman, either as chunks or live if possible. Tuna fishermen also them as bait, although no so much anymore. The process is long and messy for making trolling and daisy rigs, and more and more boat owners are opting for the per-made artificial squid rigs. The art of sewing and rigging hydroguted mackerel into trolling rigs is slowly dying to the less messy/more easy disposable age.
Commercially mackerel are caught for bait supply to tackle shops, fertilizer plants, used in vitamins and health foods, bait for the commercial lobster and swordfish industry, sold to processors for canning, smoking, etc. for human consumption, both here and abroad. Methods of commercial fishing range from handlines with multiple hooks, gillnetting, seining from boats and stop seining of coastal inlets, and midwater trawling. Each year of thousands of metric tons of Atlantic mackerel are caught on the US east coast for commercial purposes.
Mackerel are a fun fish to catch, especially for the kids. When these fish get wind of the chum used to attract them you need but lower your jig down 10 or 15 feet and snap it up and down a little, the fish will hit it like a freight train and the fight is wild. If you get into a good size school the bite can last for hours with the action non-stop. Most party boats here on the coast of NH, MA, and ME. offer ½ day mackerel trips from June through August, depending on their location in relation to the fishes migration. It is a great and cheap way for some family fun.

Bar-b Que Mackerel

head and gut the fish and remove the tail and fins.
Rub with lemon juice, salt and pepper inside and out.
Place in a bar-b-q fish basket and baste with a combination of lemon juice, butter, vodka, and bar-b-q sauce.
Cook over a hot coal, continue to baste. Cook until the flesh is flaky, 2-3 min a side. Avoid over cooking.
Before eating remove bones by first flaking the top flesh away from the bones with a fork. Then simply grasp the backbone and gently pull it and the bones away from the bottom fillet.

This dish goes well with wild rice and squash.
A medium dark beer will do well to wash it down



It’s odd the places one may find themself after 50 or so years slip behind them, and even more interesting the events that transpire between then and now. Me for instance, I grew up mostly in western Massachusetts near the Vermont boarder and was weaned on freshwater fishing. As a youth I terrorized the local trout streams and ponds on my bike with rod and can of worms in hand.
Even back then I had a fascination with the ocean and the fish that swam there. I knew little about the coast and ocean fishing except what I read in outdoor life and what I saw on tv, but I did know I wanted to be there, and did everything possible to get there. I drove my parents nuts wanting to take summer vacations at the sea shore, I wrote everybody and anybody that would listen about obtaining information on saltwater fish and fishing. I even got replies from time to time, one of which was from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Pretty impressive for a small town kid in the 1950’s! Even more impressive was I finally convinced my parents to take a weeks vacation on cape cod, not an easy deal for a poor family. I can’t remember what year it was or how old I was, but I do remember trying to surfcast with my freshwater rod and closed faced spinning reel that I had loaded with 20 pound test line specially for that trip. That didn’t work very well and I didn’t catch anything, but it was a start. After a few years and at the ripe old age of 16 I flew the coup for the summer and set up camp at a friend’s house in Falmouth. Now as luck would have this friends uncle had a 32 foot cabin cruiser and he promised to take the two of us out trolling for blues and bass that month. We trolled “ragmops” out at a place called horseshoe shoals just off Hyannis in vineyard sound and it was there I caught my first ocean fish, and although it was a bluefish and not a bass, it was like the shot heard around the world for me because For the next 36 years I would be  involved with saltwater fishing in one form or another.


Those were great days back then, there were tons of fish around and plenty of time to fish for them. From June to late fall we lived, slept, and dreamed striped bass.those first few summers on cape cod I was fortunate enough to stay with friends that lived only a few blocks from surf drive beach in Falmouth. We had only to bike or hoof it to some great surf fishing almost at our back door. Those were simple days and our rods and reels were simple also, we never had the luxury of those giant surf rods and reels. We made do with heavy spinning rods and bait casting rigs and did pretty well for a bunch of kids. Around mid June the alewives would begin their migration up the fresh water creeks to spawn and we kids would lie in wait for them with our dipping nets to scoop them up as they made their way up the waters. These nets were made up of chickenwire on a hoop with a long wooden handle and we would let the net set in the creek until we could feel the fish bumping into the wire mesh(this was at night). The trick was to let enough of them get into the net so when you picked the trap up it contained as many fish as possible. Using these as live bait was difficult because as fast as you would cast them out into the bay they would instinctively swim right back up the creek before the bass had a chance to grab them. You see you had to fish shallow creeks for the basket method to  work and the bass couldn’t chase the bait up into the shallow water. We would keep a bucket of dead ones for cut bait for ourselves, but the barrels we caught we did two things with, one being we would break the females in half and extract the roe to be sold to the local Portugese people for consumption, and the males and spent female bodies were sold to lobstermen for a couple bucks a barrel. Now the thing we would wait for here was for the river herring that had made it up the creek and spawned to make their way back down stream and to the ocean, and the beauty of it was the big bass would be waiting also. All we had to do during our nightly commercial venture was to turn one of our nets around to pick up outbound fish, into the back went the hook, back to the water went the fish, and out to the ocean they would head and also to the waiting bass.
After we were of age and got our drivers licenses we were able to broaden our horizons and branch out to greener pastures, not that the one in our back yard was brown, we just liked variety. There  had been a few incursions to exotic places prior to our new freedom when we could bum rides from parents and older friends, but now we were free to spend entire nights in pursuit of the sacred bass. Our adventures were to cover waters from one end of the cape to the other, and out to the islands and beyond. Over the years as I grew older and moved around the cape I would discover new fishing spots, new friends, and gained many new memories to look back at and reflect.        THE CAPE COD CANAL
The cape cod canal was always a biggie for me. I used to love to sit at waters edge and wait for the bass to make their way to where I sat. the canal was and has always been a popular spot for bass. My favorite place was between the Bourne bridge and the train bridge on the Bourne side. There was a road that went right to waters edge, and I could wait in my car for the fish to show if the weather was sour. Fall was the best time of year, the fish were fat from feeding all summer and they would school up in numbers to feed heavily before migration to the south. What a sight to see the birds working their way up the water way chasing the bait pushed up by the stripers beneath them. The water would be alive with fish smashing and crashing and at times you would think you could walk across the canal on their backs. Folk along the shoreline on either side would crank in fat, healthy bass until either their arms gave out or the school would pass. I used to like to use a medium weight spinning rod and reel and I always would use a kastmaster with a bucktail as a lure. Sure there were some days of no or few fish, but in 1970 there were many more when I drove away with water flowing out the back of the vehicle,  the ice melting from the fish packed in galvanized tubs.


when I lived on the mainland I would take the ferry boat from woods hole over to the island. It was pretty expensive to take over your car, so I would pack up my gear on the back of my bike in those early days and peddle to all my favorite hot spots. This was ok unless I wanted to keep a number of bass, and try as I would, toting a cooler around was next to impossible. After a couple weeks I got to know some of the locals and a few of the regulars and on occasion I could stash a few bass in their tubs, and even sell some of my fish along with theirs to the local restaurants, so for the rest of the summer I got out there as much as possible. The next summer however I found a summer job as a cook at a restaurant in oak bluffs and moved there for the season. This was perfect, I was the breakfast cook which left afternoons and all night open to fishing. I was also able to sell my catch to the very place I worked, and it didn’t matter if it was bass or blues, it flew off the menu as fast as the cooks could put it out.
I fished a couple different methods depending on where I ended up and at what time of day. Menemsha was always my favorite I think because it reminded me of the CANAL. I would sit on the stone jetty leading from seaward to the creek itself and watch for the birds to start working on the incoming tide. As was the case at the canal, Menemsha creek would be alive with bass and bluefish turning the water white chasing the mackerel up into the cove.  Here also I would use my bucktailed kastmaster on my medium spinning rod.  I also loved this spot for another reason, for at the base of the jetties in the parking lot was a small fish market, and for a meager sum of money a bored fisherman could get a plate of clams or oysters on the half shell from the raw bar to help pass the time waiting for the tide to turn. Life was good!
Although I fished a number of spots at night my best fishing for large bass was at Lamberts cove just west of vineyard haven on the sound side. Here I would sit at waters edge using a Coleman lantern for light and fish live mackerel or alewives on my bait caster. Some times cut bait would work well also with little interference from dog fish(sand sharks). I would cut a bait in half and float it just up off the bottom with bass float rig.
Then there was Chappy. Chappaquiddick island has to be the epitome of a surfcasters dream come true. It’s been many years since I’ve been there but I’ll never forget those summer nights casting the surf on Wasque beach. Hell, never mind the fishing, the beauty of this unspoiled shore was enough to make me want to just set up camp and never leave, to pursue the endless summer of surfing and bassin on white sandy beaches in the rays of the setting sun. Chappy is a small island just off the eastern side of the vineyard. To get there one has to first drive to Edgartown
where you find the barge at the town dock that will ferry both you and veichle the short distance across the creek that separates Edgartown harbor from Katama Bay. Once there you would follow Chappaquiddick road to the sign that pointed to Toms Neck lane road (it used to be called bridge road) and after a short distance to the small wooden bridge that went to the  parking lot adjacent to the beach. There are other roads on the island, but I believe most of them were private and not for the public to wander on. In fact if you do plan a trip over to chappy get a map and plan out the trip with new information from local sources, because  it’s been many years since I’ve been there and I’m sure there’s been some change. Even back then the few folk that lived there were reclusive and we tried to respect their privacy and property so as to keep our fishing paradise acsseable .this is good policy then and there as well as now and other places.
As I said chappaquiddick has a east exposure facing directly seaward, and for this reason there is always surf. Although Wasque was enjoyed by both fishermen and surfers there was never conflict due to the expanse of sand dunes and open space, and back then there were never beach goers, at least none that I remember. Here in the surf is where I would fish the long heavy surf rods. Live bait and surface plugs were the ticket here. A live mackerel sent out beyond the breakers was best, but in their  absence I would cast big blue and white Adams popper plugs and work them back through the waves while standing waist deep in blue surf wearing only cutoff jeans and sneakers. Talk about stress free and natural highs.
Both bass and blues were for the taking here, and if fishing was good in the day , it was even better at night, campfires and lanterns marking the places fishermen cast their baits.

As I said before, the fish were everywhere back then, however catching them was not always a given. I’ve cast lures in the bass creek in Yarmouth, fished live and cut bait in the coves of  bass river in south Yarmouth, trolled eels from Cuttyhunk to horseshoe shoals, all with success. There was a lot of experimenting and time put in, many empty hooks and fishless days and nights spent while compiling methods and knowledge to achieve success at different places. It was true then and it still is, if you want to consistently be hooked up, you got to put your time in, not only to develop methods and baits, but to gain a rhythm and patience to work those baits and pieces of bottom where the fish hang out.

I guess the bass took a nose dive in the mid 70’s. I’m not sure to what degree and for what reason, as fate would have it I too departed the waters of the cape about the same time the bass started their decline, to spend four years in the us navy. I managed to get stationed at the sub base in new London Ct., but for the next several years I did not have much time to get back to the cape to fish. I did some surf and beach trips around neighboring Rhode Island with minimal success, mostly due to lack of time to devote, and a lack of fish. The  Bluefish was the king of long island sound at the time, so I spent a lot of my off time on the head boats out of Grotten and Niantic Ct. in pursuit of the great salt water pirana. During those years for different reasons bassin got stuck on the back burner, and after my discharge I ended up in Gloucester Massachusetts to begin my quest of the groundfish that lie off the new England coast. As far as striped bass went in the early 1980’s there were few or none to be had along this northern rocky coast and they were far from my mind for several more years until one day while cutting bait on back of one of the head boats someone noticed some kind of fish taking the scraps being tossed overboard. Someone got a boat rod and baited up a hunk of clam and tossed it over just for giggles, and almost instantly was hooked up, but with what we were still not sure. It wasn’t a big fish, about fifteen inches long,but there laying on the deck of the Yankee patriot was the first bass I had seen in five years. I had not a clue that what I was looking at was the good old days on their way back.


This is how we prepared it at the Boston House Restaurant in Oak Bluffs
skin and portion the fillet, we used 10 ounce pieces
skinned side down place fillet on a metal broiler plate
season with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, a splash of white wine, top with a few bread crumbs and a pad of butter.
At the restaurant we would pop the dish into the oven over the broiler for about 10 minutes, at home a pre-heated 375 degree oven will do, remove and finish off under the broiler for a minute just to brown it off. Do not over cook! Slide broiler plate on a underliner and serve at once.
That was it, easy, tasty, and good for you.


As the month of May begins to wind down along with the spawning  haddock , the fishermen of Jefferies ledge begin to look for the arrival of the Atlantic cod.
Each spring these cod migrate to the gulf of Maine to spawn, providing a living to the commercial fishermen, and some very exciting rod and reel fishing for sportsmen.
The Atlantic cod is a fish of many names, bacalhau, rock cod, tom cod, schrod, market cod, whale cod, steakers, and fire engines are just a few of the many names this tasty fin fish goes by.
For hundreds of years fishermen have come to the gulf of Maine to harvest our cod. History goes as far back as the 13th century with the Vikings catching and processing cod on the isles of shoals, and making way for the Spanish, Dutch, English and others in places from Gloucester to Nova Scotia. These and other folk came to the gulf of Maine to harvest cod, process them on shore and then ship them back home as salt cod. As cod was then, it still remains the backbone of the New England fishery.
Codfish are greenish-brown in color with brown to light brown spots. They have a white lateral line on each side, and their bellies are generally pure white. There are certain color variations that depend on that fishes where abouts.  inshore cod that live in shallow, rocky areas are sometimes bright red or yellow, and are referred to as rock cod. They get their bright color from iodine in the vegetation they live in and around.
Off shore cod that take up residence for a length of time will usually develop a brown to golden brown belly. In any color variation cod still retain their spots and lateral lines.
A cod can grow to in excess of 100 POUNDS! While these giants are rare, there are a few taken every year. The average weight an angler can expect to catch is from 5 to 20 pounds and don’t be surprised to 30 to 50 pounders, especially in the month of June. Over the past 10 years these fish have made a dramatic comeback to the point where , in my opinion, fishing is as good as it was 20 years ago when I first got into this racket. Last year, starting around the end of May, just about every charter I ran we caught cod between 20 and 50 pounds, and on some trips I was actually able to target large cod. Being able to compliment a fine catch of haddock with a half dozen cod over 30 pounds sure does put a smile on a customers face!

The cod is a bottom fish, feeding on just about anything it finds along the ocean floor. While it prefers Atlantic herring or sand eels, cod will just as  eagerly feed on crabs, certain plants, shrimp, and other small fish to satisfy it’s veracious appetite. Cod don’t seem to mind where they eat as they will follow a bait source up the water column to feed. This little tid bit of information is very valuable to certain fishing methods as you will see latter in this article.

The fine art of cod fishing. 150 years ago the dorymen from Gloucester and New Bedford set baited trawl from their 10- 15 foot dories on the famous Georges Bank. While they let their trawls “soak”, they would jig a few cod with 2-5 pound lead cod jigs on hand lines. After they hauled in their trawl lines they would row back to the mother ship with their catch. Folks, these guys were over 100 MILES from land! Talk about a tough life!
Today we do it for fun. You’ll need a good stout boat rod, 6-9′ in length, with a stiff tip. The strength is needed in the rod to be able to set the hook in deep water. A good 4/0 to 6/0 reel filled with 40 to 80 lb. Test monofilament line and you’re ready to go. If you’re coming deep-sea fishing on a party/charter boat for the first time, and you’re not sure about equipment, don’t panic. On most all boats equipment is either furnished or can be rented for a few dollars, depending on the company.
Now for the business end, the terminal tackle. With all the new gadgets on the market today, I could go on for hours and come nowhere near to cover it all so I’m going to keep it simple. In truth all you really need is simple, the old timers did it with a simple lead jig, and you don’t need much more. I like to fish with a 14 oz. Norwegian jig on a 3′ 100 lb. Test leader. I tie 1 barrel loop in the leader and attach some type of teaser, either a worm or a feather. While There are many different sizes and brands of jigs to choose from I would suggest starting at 14 oz. But no higher than 17.5 oz. Cod jigging is hard work and there’s no sense in making it any harder. Teaser baits, the bait above the jig, is generally a rubber eel or shrimp on a  5/0 to 7/0 hook. This is attached to the leader using a  barrel loop.
The trick to fishing these rigs is simple. Let the rig hit the bottom, then point your rod tip  at the water, take up the slack line until you can feel the weight of the jig and give it 1 or 2 cranks off the bottom. It’s important to stay within a foot or so from the bottom with out dragging your gear on it. Then, using your rod in jerking motions, jig the rig up until your rod tip is pointing almost straight up. Now drop your rod tip back at the water, letting your jig flutter back to the bottom. Keep repeating this action. This jigging, fluttering motion gives your rig the appearance of a small fish chasing a bait fish, something most cod can’t resist as they are very competitive when it comes to food..feeling for the bite is simple, these fish will hit your rig like a freight train, leaving no question as to what’s going on, especially when a 40 pound cow cod puts her head down and rips off 50 feet of line before you can say “whoa  Nelly”!
The only variation to this kind of jigging is when, as I mentioned earlier, the cod are up in the water, sometimes over half way to the top, feeding on bait. This is not uncommon, and the “squidding”method of jigging works well on these fish. Simply let your rig to the bottom, then in short jigging spurts crank up 50 or 60 feet, let the rig wave there for a second or two, then flutter it back down and keep repeating.
This pretty much covers cod jigging, however some prefer to bait fish, and there are times that bait will work better than jigs. Bait rigs are pretty much a 100 lb. Test mono leader with three loops. two 5/0 to 7/0 hooks are attached to the top two loops, and a 16 oz. Sinker to the bottom one. This rig is fished with the sinker just barley touching the bottom, or as close as possible while still keeping enough tension on the line to feel the bite. Remember  when you do feel the bump or tug of a bite, you must set the hook by lifting rod tip hard, then crank down on the line to get your tip pointed back at the water, and start working your fish up.
Cod baits vary, and can include green crabs, hermit crab, shrimp, chunks of fresh herring, or mackerel,and  cut sea clams. Most often the party/ charter boats use cut sea clams, but don’t be afraid to try something like hermit crabs, they do work well.
Off theNew Hampshire coast the strippers should be pretty much in by the end of June. Look for them around hard bottom structure, and float live mackerel rigs back in a chum line from a anchored boat.
Also at the end of June start looking for the bluefin tuna to start making their appearance north of Cape Ann. These early fish are most often caught on trolling rigs of mackerel or squid. Later on when these tuna settle in on the herring and silver hake, the chumming method works the best.
So long until next month,
Capt. Dolphin Don

Dolphin Dons Tidbits

cod cakes

take left over baked cod, or steam some fresh cod fillet
add fish to mashed potatoes along with chopped onion, salt and pepper to taste and 1 egg. Add  as much fish as you desire.
Mix well, shape into patties and coat with flour and bread crumbs
they are best pan fried in butter, but can be deep fat fried also.
Serve at breakfast with baked beans, fried eggs, home fries, and corn muffins.

live baits and bait wells


There are many ways to catch and keep live bait, however the methods are different from place to place throughout the world. Here are some tricks and methods I have learned in the Gulf of Maine for strippers and tuna. While I know nobody will be fishing for a few more months, winter is the perfect time to get your boat rigged with a live well for the upcoming season.
The Northeast is a place of cold and deep waters, from Nova Scotia down to cape cod expect to encounter water as deep as several thousand feet if you venture out as far as the continental shelf. When fishing here in the north we most often deal in hundreds of feet, generally from 100- 500 feet. It is in these deep waters we find the baits most often preferred by anglers, the Atlantic herring, Atlantic mackerel, mud hake, (sometimes called ling), and the silver hake. All four are an excellent bait for Giant Bluefin tuna, and the herring and mackerel work well for striped bass.

Finding the right bottom and fishing methods

mackerel are a migratory fish that generally show up north of Cape Cod in the spring, late May- early June. These fish are most often found up in the water column regardless of the bottom, and are easily chummed to the boat and caught only a few feet down. Light spinning rods and either a single silver mackerel jig or multi feather/hook rigs work well. Ground sand eels work best for chum, mix it with beach sand or metal filings for the sparkle effect.
Herring can be found on most any bottom at different times of the year, late in the summer and early fall herring will be up on the hard bottom to spawn, during the spring and early summer the best place is on the deep water edges of ledges. These fish can be jigged with feather rigs fished on the bottom, or they can be netted with a small mesh(inch and a half to inch and three quarters) gill net. Set the net on the bottom with a bouy on either end, soak time can range from an hour to several hours. Keep an eye on the bouy so as some trawler doesn’t tow it off. Trawlers, or draggers are a good source of bait if you happen to know someone in that business. Try and be there when they haul back so as to get a few live ones. Another little trick is when selecting a few choice hook baits, and this goes for silver hake as well as herring, don’t let the fish touch ice, when you go to store them wrap them in cling wrap, this will preserve the body color longer.
Mud and silver hake for the most part are found in deep water mud, 250-350 is a good depth to work with. Multi hook rigs baited with small slivers of herring and fished right on the bottom work well, as does the same gill net used for herring. Hake are a bottom dweller and have a hard time expending the expanding air in their body from the trip up from the bottom. Almost always they come up all bloated up, sometimes with their stomach turned inside out and sticking out of their mouths. Pop this bubble with a bait needle and use the same needle to puncture the bloated fish so the air can escape. These fish should swim through out the trip if handled properly. The trick here with all live baits is to keep them cold. With the exception of mackerel, these fish are being taken from deep water that is much colder that the surface water and therefore need to kept as cold as possible through out the fishing trip. I have found the best thing to do as soon as the fish comes onboard is to immediately get them into a bucket of crushed ice and water. Once you have gathered all your baits then they need to be transferred to the bait well. There are many kinds of wells, the best for these types of baits is a closed water system. This system uses the same water over by replacing the oxygen with an aerator or circulation pump. This well allows you to maintain the water temperature as cold as possible through out the day by adding crushed ice from time to time.
The best well I have used I made from a 150 gallon size stand up cooler. This is a commercial grade cooler and can be found at fisherman supply stores. I attached a electric bilge to the bottom and ran a hose from it up to a length of PVC pipe I had attached to the upper part of the tank. This pipe was capped at one end and had small holes drilled the length of it. With the hose attached to the open end it provided an excellent oxygen producing water fall. The key to this rig was the fact it was insulated and with the cover on it and a few shovels of crushed ice, it maintained a good cold temperature with little effort all day long.
Mackerel can be kept in a open system well using surface water, however it is a good idea to keep them covered from the sun as much as possible.

All your tuna baits are dead? Not a problem if you remembered to properly wrap them before storing them on ice. Want to make a dead fish come back to life? Try this method used by a lot of the commercial guys. Dig out your best silver hake or herring, the scales should still have color and sparkle. First run a wooden skewer in through his mouth down to about an inch from his tail. Now push a 1 ounce egg sinker down into his stomach, and place another one in his mouth. Cut the stick off and sew his mouth and gills shut. Using a RAZOR SHARP  knife make a slice on top of the fishes back along the dorsal fin, just cut through the skin, not into the meat. Slide your hook and leader into this slit and carefully work it under the skin in along side the stomach cavity. Once the hook is in place sew the slit back up with dental floss. When I do this I suture the flesh and leave a length of the floss to tie onto the leader so the hook will not pull out. For the finishing touches take your RAZOR SHARP knife and make shallow incision around the bottom of each pectoral fin, just enough to loosen them up so they move about freely. Hang the end product a few feet deep alongside the boat for inspection. If done properly it will amaze you how lifelike it will appear, the skewer keeps the body straight, the sinkers are both ballast and depth control, and the pectoral fins move lifelike in the current.



Make scampi butter by melting butter, add fresh crushed garlic, a splash of white wine, some fresh lemon juice, and chopped parsley. Remove from the heat and let cool until pliable, then roll into a length of wax paper and refrigerate.

Use large shrimp, size u-10 are best, peel and de-vein from the bottom side of the shrimp. Stuff these with hunks of the scampi butter and place into a butter greased casserole dish, bake @ 350 for about 15-20 minutes or until starting to brown, serve on a under liner with fresh lemon wedges. Dry white wine goes well with this dish.

Care of Giant Blue Fin Tuna



As with any game animal there are different methods and styles of caring for your bluefin once you have been fortunate enough to catch one. If you plan on putting the fish on the auction block for sale to the sushi market or plan on eating tuna steak for a long while( with most tuna’s one might feed the whole neighborhood for some time) proper care will influence the product quality in the long run. The buyers look at core tempature, color of the flesh, and oil and fat content as indicators to the quality of the fish and it’s handling prior to being brought to market. What they don’t want to see is a high core tempature from a long stressful fight, or cloudy meat from not bleeding the fish. There is no control of the fat or oil content but even if you catch a fat butterball if it’s not properly cared for you may get beat out by a fish of less quality that was.
A tuna’s body tempature will raise the longer it is fought from physical excretion and stress. While I’m not one for bulldogging while on a fish, I also don’t baby them too much. Once the tuna has made it initial run it’s time to get to work and get him to the boat and stick him as soon as possible for two reasons, first the body tempature factor and second just in case of a bad hooked fish or a nick in the line or leader one is well advised to get the fish alongside the boat as soon as possible. Also keep in mind dart(harpoon) placement is important also. The choice sushi meat is in the mid section down to the belly so a hit there is not recommenced. The easiest and best spot is directly behind the pectoral fin in the hollow space. A hit there will cause minimal damage and it is the thickest part of the body and will insure the dart will be securely anchored. A shot to the head is not recommenced as the gill plates are rock hard and will deflect an angled shot, possibly severing the leader in the process.
Once the fish is tail wrapped comes the work and finesse. With care run a strong line in through the tuna’s gill and out through his mouth. Secure this line to the forward side of the vessel and secure the tail wrap line aft. Taking care not to bang the fish on the side of the boat slowly tow the fish along side to pass water through his mouth and over his gills. This is known as “bringing him back to life” in the trade, what’s actually happening is the cool water is cooling the blood that runs through the gills and in turn cools the body. Ten or fifteen minutes should do it and then it is recommenced to bleed the fish. This is done by towing it by the tail off the back of the boat. Once the fish is skiing on the surface with a sharp knife slice on either side of the tail just forward of the two small stabilizer protrusions being careful to cut just deep enough to sever the major arteries. Then with the dart pole(harpoon) with no dart attached work the gills under the plates and cut the big arteries that are in there, you’ll know when you get them from the large amounts of blood that will flow out and turn the ocean red.
Before lifting the tuna onboard prepare the spot to lay him for further processing by first wetting the area throughly with cold seawater to cool the deck surface. It is best to next lay out either a commercial tuna blanket, a air mattress partially filled, or any other type of blanket or pad to keep your product off the warm hard deck to protect the delicate flesh and to keep it wet and cool. Also when laying the fish down always be sure to lay it dart side down, leaving the undamaged side up and pristine.
Once the fish is onboard the work begins. Using a sharp knife, start by making a slit from the anal opening along the belly about 11/2 to 2 inches long. Reach into this opening into the body cavity with your finger and pull the tubes and cords attached to the anal opening out and sever them with the knife. This will unanchor most of the fishes insides except what is held in by the diaphragm.
Next the head must be removed. This is done best with a sharp hand saw. Make the cut where the BOTTOM part of the gill plate ends and saw straight through the head. The top part of the gills do not extend as far forward as the bottom so they must be removed using the knife to extend the length to the saw cut. Before discarding the head be sure to remove the “head steaks” for the barbeque later. Remove the gills by cutting them from the body cavity. The rest is easy, insert your deck hose into the slit at the anal opening and give it as much pressure as needed to blow the innards out the front of the body. If this does not happen after a few minutes remove the hose and check that everything in there has been disconnected. Once everything is out you must cut out the stomach and diaphragm with your knife, be careful not to cut into the meat, a cut up fish will not appeal to prospective buyers.
Another trick is to now kill all the nerves still active in the spinal cord. It is believed that these will generate heat as long as they remain active. Perform this task by simply inserting some heavy (300 or 400 lb. Test) monofilament the length of the cord and work it around to destroy as many nerves as possible.
Now you must clean the inside with the deck hose removing all blood and gurry. The only thing left is to now prepare the fish for transport back to the dock. This remaining task can be accomplished two ways. If you’re lucky enough to have a brine tank onboard simply lift the fish in, cover with crushed ice, add SEA WATER, cover and transport. Most of us will have to first fill the body cavity with as much crushed ice as possible, cover the fish with a blanket of some sort to reflect the sun off, and transport with the deck hose running over the body evenly to keep it wet and cool. If you have no ice be sure to keep it covered and very wet and get to the dock as fast as possible.

You will need:
A large cast iron skillet.
Two head steaks.
½ dozen good size raw shrimp.
1 pound lobster meat.
Several sliced Portobelo mushrooms that have been sauteed in butter, garlic and sherry wine.
A handful of both cherry tomatoes and ripe olives.
½ sliced raw onion
fresh basil, oregano, and rosemary.
½ cup vodka
1 cup tomato sauce.
½ cup heavy cream.
Heat the skillet so it is smoking hot, throw in steaks, onions, shrimp, tomatoes, sear on both sides a minute or two to blacked, remove from heat and carefully add vodka and return to heat and ignite to burn off the alcohol. Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients making sure everything combines well. Finish off in first a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, then pop it under the broiler an additional minute or two to finish off the top. Be careful not to burn.
Serve over fresh pasta along with a red wine of medium dark beer.

Cod and Haddock Bait Rigs

It won’t be long now before we’ll be dunking our bait rigs into the briney deep in search of the spring run of ground fish. After a long winter of eating freezer stock I look to every April for the first meals of freshly caught baked haddock or fried codfish. Traditionally here on the coast of New Hampshire and Maine the charter/party captains will be looking for those “magic” edges out on southern Jefferies ledge for the first schools of spawning haddock. Farther south off the Massachusetts coast in the mass. Bay and especially on Stellwagon bank anglers will be dropping baits and jigs in anticipation of the spring run cod arriving to feed on sand eels. The perfect cure for
one’s winter cabin fever!

For the most part party and charter boats will supply cut clams to customers, some will throw in native shrimp and cut herring. These are all excellent bottom baits and will catch you fish. Here is a list of natural baits I have found to work well on cod and haddock.
1.CLAMS, it doesn’t seem to matter what kind, surf clam, quahog, razor or steamer, bottom fish love them as long as they’re fresh. The party boats do the best job they can of supplying a fresh product but with the volume they go through week they rely heavily on frozen surf clams. Again, these clams work well, however some anglers want that extra edge and will go to great lengths to acquire as fresh as bait as possible. Does it make a difference? Yes, without a doubt. I have seen happen many times among fishermen of equal skills, and in equal circumstances, the person with the fresher bait will win out with more fish.
Surf and any other large clam should be cut in strips with a piece of the brown belly attached to each strip of meat. I like to believe fish can smell the belly part, and when baiting my hook I start with the brown part and weave the strip onto the hook with the meaty firm part holding the belly secure, that way the fish won’t just nibble the bait off the hook.
Steamer and smaller clams should be left whole and threaded on the hook the same way as the clam strips. Razor clams can be sliced in half as they are long and slender.
If you are shucking your own clams, don’t throw out the shells or the scallops(the mussel that holds the shell together) but save them for chum. Yes you can chum bottom fish, and if you can get a good amount of shell and scrap meat under your boat it’ll make a huge difference, however this is a method that works well in spring and early summer before the hoards of dog fish arrive for the remainder of the season. If you are fishing from a party boat be sure to check with the captain or crew before you start dropping chum into the water.

2.  SHRIMP, everyone, including fish love shrimp. Here in the northeast shrimp are a main diet for our bottom fish. These are the best for bait, the small, pink, gulf of Maine shrimp. These are caught commercially here off our northern coast in the winter by draggers and trappers. Most bait and tackle shops sell these baits frozen through the fishing season, but if you can get your own fresh from the boats or from the dock/co-ops, it can make a difference in your bait quality by freezing your own in smaller air tight plastic bags with a vacuum sealer.
When fishing use only thawed shrimp. Bait the hook by starting the hook first into the bait under it’s chin and sliding the entire shrimp onto the hook with the point sticking out from under the end of the tail.

3.  CUT HERRING AND MACKEREL. Both of these fish make excellent bait, however there are times, places and methods for both. First off, freshness in these two baits is huge. Both fish will tend to get soft and smell bad with age to the point they will be counter productive if used as bait. If you buy these products from a bait store try and get fish put up in vacuum sealed plastic bags, and check for signs of spoilage discoloration, sunken eyes, and  holes around the stomach area are the telltale signs.
Herring I have found will work  on almost any fish, at any time of the year to a degree. This bait is especially effective from mid may to mid-late June for inshore large cod, and from August through October when the schools of large pollock show up to spawn in the gulf of Maine. For bottom baits fillet both sides of the fish and cut long strips from the fillets. Weave these strips onto your hooks making sure to pierce through both meat and skin, and leave a little sliver of fillet trailing off the bottom of the hook as a teaser.
Mackerel is a excellent haddock bait because of the oil content, and because when cut in strips and baited properly it is a hard bait for bait thieving haddock to pick off your hook. Also fillet this fish first and then cut into bait strips, be sure to hook through the skin and leave a trailer.
Another trick with mackerel is to cut long, body length strips from the white and sliver under belly for use as a teaser on a jigs treble hook when jigging for large cod. This method works especially well on those bluebird calm days by letting your jig hang just off the bottom and just giving it a twitch once in a while to wiggle the mackerel strip.
Both of these baits are a favorite of dogfish and unfortunately there will be days when you will have to abandon them to try and get through the sharks.


having fished  with clients from around the world I’ve seen plenty of odd things go onto hooks, some worked and some didn’t. What follows is a short list of things that either worked or I feel have a chance of working.
Green crabs sliced in half. (Live ones)
hermit crab. (No shell)
sand eels hooked once through the head
sea worms(live)
small pin silver hake( usually coughed up after dropping a big cod on the deck)
pepperoni, a small sliver on a hook along with a clam strip seems to work well for cod.

Do commercial sprays and attractants really work? Yeah, I think a lot of them do. Scent is a big part of how a fish locates food and if your bait or chum put a good smell into the water it’s going to attract fish. Which ones work best is up to you. I recommend any spray or solution that contains fish or shrimp oil, cod-liver oil, or anis extract. Haddock are especially fond of the anis. A few drops of pure extract in a bucket of clams works well. Here’s another trick, stuff a piece of rubber tubing with cotton and slide on your leader above your hook and soak in your favorite spray or solution for a longer lasting scent at your hook. Just about anyone and Everyone who has spent any time deep sea fishing has heard about WD-40 as a spray on attractant. Weather it does or not is still a mystery to me, I’ve seen days when it does work, and times when it didn’t. It doesn’t however seem to harm anything, so I guess if it makes you happy to do so, spray it on, but I’ll stick with the anis thank you .
Chumming is a good method to attract fish( especially haddock) under your boat. As I mentioned earlier clamshells, especially shells with clam meat still attached are an excellent chum, ground fish, fish and shrimp oil all will work fine. Getting the chum under the boat in 100-300 feet of water is the trick. A weighted steel cage works best, pack your chum in a fine mesh bag to keep the tide and fish from stealing your mixture away. It’s best to tie off your chum line on the bow to avoid catching it with your rigs. If you haven’t a chumpot a quick trick is to fill a paper sack about half full of chum, then tie a couple large sinkers on your fishing line and put the sinkers in the bag leaving a foot or two of slack line in the bag. Then close 5the bag with a strong rubber band and secure the bag to the line as well. The trick here is to lower the bag down to the bottom with your rod and let it sit a minute or two to soak well, then jerk your rod tip up several times like you are jigging so the sinkers inside the bag burst out the bottom and release the chum.
Another point about CHUMMING is the boat should always be anchored, no sense in drifting away from the fish once you get them to the boat.


As one travels to different regions methods and rigs will vary along with the types of fish and bottom. Listed here are a few tips and rigs for use in the Massachusetts bay and gulf of Maine.

Hooks. There are hundreds of types of salt water hooks on the market right now that will catch cod and haddock, and to go into each one would require a whole book on the subject. I like to use any type of super sharp J style in size 4-7. The smaller 4-5 are great for haddock, and I like the strength of a 6-7 for larger cod fish. I like a double rig with the sinker on the bottom and the hooks about 16 inches apart above it. Always top off the rig with a barrel swivel to attach to the mainline snap swivel. A hooked fish will always twist around on the way up and This will prevent the fish from kinking the line and twisting the hook out of its mouth. Using only one hook is a good idea when the pesky dogfish are around, remove the top one as the shark generally hang higher off the bottom than a haddock. This method also works well when larger cod and pollock are around. If you double up with too large fish they will try to swim in opposite directions and snap your rig. This brings up the question of what size material to use to construct these rigs.These ground fish are not all that skiddish, so  Without getting fancy I will use most any 50 pound test monofilament for my rigs. In the late spring when large cod are around and if they are hitting herring or clams I will use 80-100 pound test and one hook, the same for late season large pollock.
There is a growing trend to circle hooks these days and I have tried them. They must be rigged differently than J style hooks because of their nature. Circle hooks are designed to catch the corner of the fishes mouth and to do that you have to let them take a little line first before reeling up. It’s important to remember with circle hooks not to set the hook before reeling, it will pull the hook past the jaw and out. These hooks work best rigged on a 20 inch leader of mono or fluorocarbon attached to the mainline with a 10-16 ounce egg sinker above the swivel to allow you to give the fish a little line after you feel; the bite. This rig and method are the same as used in the tropics for grouper and other warmwater species.
These are basic simple rigs that will catch you fish when fished properly. There are a lot of commercially produced ones out there on the market that will save you time from making your own, and will do a good job of catching fish. Any tackle shop along the coast will have ample varieties, and the shop workers will be happy to explain the different kinds once you explain what your plans are. Keep in mind if you plan on fishing from a party boat to keep the rigs simple without a lot of metal attached to your line as this will tend to make any tangles tough for the deck crews to deal with. Happy fishing!


baked haddock in newburg sauce

grease a casserole dish with butter.
Place skinned haddock fillets in skinned side down, rub with sea salt and fresh ground pepper
make a newburg sauce by adding sherry wine to cream and milk and thicken.
Cover the fish with the thickened newburg sauce, add crushed Ritz cracker crumbs, and top with butter pads.
Bake for 20 minutes @ 350 degrees
serve with an orange squash and rice or sweet potatoes
enjoy a glass of pale ale or dry white wine