It all began with a bluefish surfcasting tuna bait run Wednesday evening. We’re pretty sure we’ve found a spot down Cape that will consistently produce small bluefish from shore-which is a rarity. The spot offers easy access to a deep, dredged out channel that is currently holding a ton of baby pogies.
Only problem was the tide was slacking when Mazzola and I arrived at the spot. Like usual, there were a ton of juvenile menhaden, but really not much life at all in the form of bluefish. We saw a few blues break the surface here and there, but ended up getting skunked. I think things will be different if we hit up this shorebound spot half way into the incoming tide.
The weatherman was calling for southwest winds of 5-10 mph for Thursday, so we decided to make our first giant tuna trip of the fall yesterday morning. Hopefully the blues we had stowed away in our bait pen were still alive and kicking, and ready to be fed to some tuna.
Unfortunately, we had a major die off in the bait cage. Just about all of the snapper blues were dead at the bottom of the pen. Luckily 5 of the older, bigger bluefish were still swimming happily in the cage. My guess is that the younger, small snappers are too sensitive to the temperature change, and thus perished. It was a bit of a bummer, but we now know that blues under 12 inches won’t survive very long in our bait pen.
The tide was dead low which meant I was climbing down 15 feet via a homemade rope ladder in order to access the bait pen. I’d imagine this was quite the site at 1:30am, and it wasn’t long until we started to be questioned by some of the late night fishermen in the area. Due to the language barrier, I’m not sure if we were able to effectively explain the situation. I think the guys thought we had set up a “bluefish trap”, much like a lobster trap-just for bluefish. Maybe this guys is on to something…
Nevertheless after meeting some very “interesting” fishermen at the marina, and grabbing iced coffees from one of the most enthusiastic Dunkin’ employees I’ve ever ordered from (especially considering it was 2am) we were off to Plymouth in search of pogies.
Prior to yesterday, I had only seen live pogies on two occasions. The first is when we purchased live pogies last spring for bait. The second was earlier this year when I saw a couple pogies swim by my boots while fishing the Cape Cod Canal. I’ve wondered for years how certain, talented guys in our area consistently catch live pogies to use a tuna bait. This simple little foot long bait fish has driven us bonkers for years!
I’m happy to say that we may have finally “cracked the pogie code” yesterday morning. Our plan was to set a 100 foot long gill net along a channel edge that we had heard produced pogies from time to time. It could not have been longer than 10 minutes when we noticed the buoys on the gill net were bouncing around.
As we brought the gill net in to the boat, we were shocked to see not 1 but 3 three adult pogies caught up in the net! Finally, after years of trying, we had caught a live pogie! Funny to think that we managed to catch a 600 plus pound tuna, before being able to catch a 12 inch pogie-funny how things work!
After a few more sets with the gill net our live well was chock full with adult menhaden and one shad. We had netted close to two dozen big pogies when all was said and done. Hopefully this spot will continue to produce bait through October.
With plenty of bait we headed out to the western edge of Stellwagen Bank. It was a beautiful morning with light winds out of the south. It was an easy ride and we had baits in the water 45 minutes after departing Plymouth.
Of course, it was not long until we hooked up with our first dogfish (sand shark). These “rats of the sea” are virtually everywhere! Doesn’t matter if you are in 50 feet of water in Cape Cod Bay, or 150 feet of water at Stellwagen Bank-you will catch a dogfish.
I baited up with a fresh live pogie and set him off the port side. As I was feeding line out an enormous fish came up and inhaled the pogie right off the stern of the boat. Fish on!
Right off the bat we knew this was not a tuna, but this fish still had some serious size and quickly began peeling line from the Penn International 80 setup. We cleared the other lines and began fighting what we figured was a shark. About 10 minutes later I had the fish somewhat close to the boat, when she decided to make a run for the bottom.
The shark began stripping line from the 80 and made a dash for the bottom as Mazzola circled the boat to avoid cutting the line on the engine prop. The fight did not compare to that of a giant tuna, however this fish was still very powerful and put some serious bend in the rod. I set the drag to full pressure in an attempt to lift the shark towards the surface.
A moment later we got a glimpse of the beast. This thing was massive! It was a blue shark, and was easily the longest fish I have ever seen in my life. Blue sharks are pretty common off New England, but I had absolutely no idea they grew to such a size. We estimated the fish to be around 10 feet in length and at least 400 pounds.
We finally were able to get the shark close enough to cut the line a foot or so up from its jaws. Unreal!
The wind began to kick up so we made our way in tighter to the Plymouth coastline and reset the baits. At around 1pm we had something suck down the live blue we had set under the kite. A minute later we were tight again!
Right off the bat I knew we weren’t hooked up with a giant, but I figured there was a chance that it was a small tuna that didn’t yet realize he was hooked. The fish made a few nice runs, but we soon had her under the boat. Unfortunately not a tuna, but another blue shark-this one was around 7 feet in length. We both were surprised to have hooked up with another shark, just several miles from the Plymouth coast.
After checking the radar it was obvious that we were going to get slammed by strong thunderstorms, gusty winds, and even some hail. We decided to make a run for the dock to avoid the worst of the weather. It was a good decision. The wind picked as soon as we rounded the Gurnet outside Plymouth. Always best to play it safe and err on the side of caution.
All in all a great trip. We even managed to catch a striped bass on our way in before pulling the boat. No tuna on this outing, but we finally found a great spot to catch pogies-which is awesome. The massive blue shark was a sight that I will certainly never forget.
Tight lines this weekend. The north wind predicted for today and tomorrow may just light things up on the striped bass and tuna front!
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