Monday, 12 July 2010

Fish for the Freezer

Just a day's work from completing the outboard project on the cat, and I'm offered a trip on a friend's brand new turbo-diesel powered fishing boat. With the weather prospects for the next few days ruling out fishing on my own boat, I figured I could take the time out. Besides, if I took my laptop and we used the wreck finding program, I'd get the chance to see which wrecks were populated with fish. The boat does 30 knots, so in theory, we could get to some real out of the way wrecks. We can't sell any fish, being unlicensed, but there's room in my freezer.

The boat is not yet fitted with an auxiliary engine. This bothered me. Sailing is usually slower, but a mast and sails are much simpler and more reliable than an engine.

4:30 start! Not to catch a tide, or avoid bad weather later. Not to increase fishing time either, because we can always just keep fishing through the evening. But an early start seems to be a tradition amongst anglers, the grogginess from getting up in the night making a peculiar memorable day more likely.

The wind was light, but wind during the night had left quite a swell, and 10 miles out of Dartmouth we'd had to slow down to 8 knots or so. It would be hours before the swell died down, so we abandoned our objective of the Hurd Deep and the Channel islands and headed back towards Dartmouth, to where the swell was less, and then west to the Cat Banks. The ride was rough. It was a case of either wedging yourself in somewhere, or standing up and using your legs for suspension. Breakfast was off the menu, and even ordering breakfast would be difficult over the whine of the turbo.

Years ago, the Cat banks could be pretty reliable for cod, ling and pollack, and sometimes bass. Yesterday, we caught one cod and a few small pollack, but first time for me, a John Dory, the only fish I've heard of with a proper name. Never seen one before, but apparently this is a big one:

As the swell died, we made our way further out into the channel, wreck by wreck. Nothing but small pollack and pouting, that we threw back. We kept some of the bigger pollack.

Finally, at 4 pm, we got to a wreck about 40 miles from Dartmouth, between the shipping lanes. Here there were fish. Lots of them, and right away I had first a big cod, then a big pollack:

These were the biggest fish of the trip, looking less than spectacular after a night on ice. Normally, I'd fillet and freeze them right away, but this trip was different....

We caught several more cod, and many pollack, and we got fish every time we drifted back over a certain spot. When I say 'we', actually, I mean mostly 'me'! I got the John Dory, the biggest pollack, the biggest cod - in fact all the cod but one. So...

  • I'm a better fisherman than the other three very experienced fisherman.
  • I was dead lucky.
  • I used the best lures.
It might be nice to think the first was true, but I think the third option is most likely. Three Jelltex shads with a 12 oz. Fishtek lumo pirk on the end. Like in the picture on the left. These weren't the actual lures I used - I left them on the boat. On the rig I used, the bottom shad was a Jelltex lumo shad, and that caught I'd guess one third of the fish I got, the rest hitting the pirk.

That the others didn't switch to what I was using straight away suggests that they were thinking I was just lucky, and that their efforts with live mackerel, sidewinders, pirks without the softbaits, softbaits without pirks etc were sure to pay off some time soon never happened. What makes this odder still is that the owner of the boat is the owner of Fishtek! The guy that designed and made the lures - so of course, we had heaps of Fishtek gear available.

Anyway, after a rewarding session like that, I make no apology here for rating Fishtek stuff and adding the link here. These lures are even better than the manufacturer claims! That's the case Pete isn't it? Either that, or you reckon it was all luck, because it couldn't be the first option could it?

The fishing stopped when the near spring tides got into full flow, and we could hardly get to the bottom any more with our lures. We set off back towards Dartmouth, intending to hit another wreck on the way when the flow had dropped a little, but still 35 miles off, the engine quit.

It was obviously a fuel problem, despite the gauge reading 1/4 full. We had a 20 litres tank, tipped that in, prime pumped the engine a couple of times and we were off again, but this time at a gentle fuel-conserving speed, and headed directly for Dartmouth.

3 miles out of Dartmouth, just as we were getting the camera out to take some snaps of our catch, the engine died again. Out of fuel. No auxiliary engine. The fuel gauge was still reading 1/4 full, so we unscrewed a bulkhead and some straps to pull out the tank. It was very nearly empty. The pickup pipe was fine, reaching close to the bottom. The best we could do was to hold the tank at an angle to gather the remaining fuel into a corner, and rerig the pickup pipe so that the end was submerged in the corner.

That got us home, but only just, and very late. The engine conked out again, right at the mooring. And I conked out before I could fillet and freeze the fish, so they were left covered in ice for the night.

A memorable day then, as intended I expect. Fish in the freezer, and I'll be having John Dory for lunch for the first time - it's supposed to be really great tasting. We'll see.

The fact that the inshore wrecks are now empty of fish has got me wondering again about sustainable fishing, but I haven't finished mulling over that, so I'll leave it for another posting.

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life