13 Dec 2016
Our 2016 fishing season has come and gone. As of this writing there are only 22 weeks left until my marina reopens. But who is counting???
May started out a little earlier than the past few seasons due to the warm winter. My first schoolies were caught on May 10. They just kept filling up the river and on May 18 I caught 52, May 18; 32 more and then I just could not pick on the little guys any more. It is always fun to catch a schoolie on a "trout rod" but I started hunting mackerel for bait and "keepers" for clients.
I did have several days where I could catch sub legal bass on plugs while I was on the way in or out of the river. That brought my total catch up and it was as good a May as I've had since 2009.
June was solid but on par with 2015. There were plenty of bass in the Merrimack but still not back up to what we had before what I call the Crash of 2014. 2013 it was stupid easy and we were catching, not fishing. There were plenty of mackerel for bait and a good number of stripers but you could not make a lot of mistakes. There were very few suicidal stripers out there. Presentations had to be good and "hook sets" very good to catch dinner. But it got better....
July started picking up. There were more fish caught overall and more keepers in July than in June. I will never know if the fish were just slow to get here or if they were happy "outside" and simply had not come to the river (in big numbers) in June. Over all the entire river fished better from the bridges, the flats & to the mouth. It was starting to be more fun and a little less stressful on the Captain.
August turned out to be one of my best ever! It really was a combination of reasons. I did fish the Merrimack but only at specific tides. I was running down to the Parker and Ipswich Rivers a lot and I started fishing the beaches again. I was having good luck on the incoming tide down south. When fishing the beach I was usually trolling live macks and searching for the right "pools" where the bass were feeding on herring or small pogies. I'm not sure what they were feeding on all of the time but if I could find them, they sure did like fresh mackerel!!
September I split my time evenly between the Merrimack, Parker & the beachfront. The mackerel were still readily available if you fished early & had plenty of chum. There were a few bluefish (I only landed 9 all month) that scared the stuffing out of the bait but live mackerel was the golden ticket to catching fish. I handled 3 times more stripers and 4 times more keepers than the previous September. There were also more "market" fish in the mix. A Market fish is a striper that is 34"s or greater and saleable if you are a commercial fisherman. I do not sell fish.
October came with it's normal wind issues. While there were some great days, there were plenty that you just could not fish. Or I was just to worn down to go out & bang around with the same enthusiasm I had in May. I also was having motor issues that will be corrected with a new engine for 2017. I only fished my boat 4 days, some years I do not get out at all. On October 17, 2 days after my marina closed, I went out on a beautiful, mild , calm day. I really thought I would take a really nice boat ride just to prove to myself that the stripers were gone for the year. Wrong!! After a lot of hunting I found a spot where the bottom was covered with fish. After several tries I realized they were micro bass & moved on. A little while later I stopped to clear a line ( I was trolling 2 rods) and all hell broke lose! I ended up with 14 bass, 3 legal with 1-38"s & another 39"s :)) While it was still good, I went home, happy.
To sum it up. In 2016 I handled almost twice as many stripers as I did in 2015 without targeting micro bass.Of those fish, I had 110% more legal stripers and certainly more Quality 34" plus bass than in 2015. I really, really want to get back out there and catch more fish in 2017!
Now I guess it is time to get back down in the cellar, play with gear & dream about how I'm going to find even more stripers next year!