2013 Fishing Report

Boston fishing charters
Boston charter fishing

Captain Patrick Helsingius

The 2013 season in Boston Harbor gave us many memorable days and some excellent fish. This is what we have come to expect, for it is hard to find a more rewarding experience then setting out with light tackle around sunrise, with the hope of hooking and landing any number of salt water species in our surrounding waters. We had a strong start in May as has been the case for the last few years. Herring and mackerel were abundant bringing stripers, both large and small into the rivers and bays. While the mackerel showed up as usual around the ledges in the outer harbor, fewer stripers seemed to be interested; we did better by fishing them back inside. On most days we mixed it up with various approaches and multiple species targeted.

The mackerel was available thoughout much of the season, into August actually. On many days we had to decide how much effort we wanted to spend gathering and live-lining bait, or if we preferred to focus our attentions on using artificial lures. Naturally, both are possible on the same day; but priorities have to be established. Casting lures in relatively calm and shallow water remains the captain's favorite, especially if he can use topwater lures. Black sea bass have been making inroads into the harbor, and last year they came early and stayed until October. These smaller bottom fish are absolutely gorgeous and are a blast to hook. We can only hope that they keep growing and coming back. We also did some flounder fishing which is always good in May and June.

While the black sea bass were a welcome surprise we also missed a couple regulars: blue fish and menhaden. I can't recall a year when there have been less bluefish, they simply never showed up in any appreciable numbers. Menhaden, or pogies, are large baitfish we usually see during the season, especially towards the fall. Despite the seiners that have been netting most of the larger schools we have still had a good amount the last few years, but this year there were practically none; and this may explain the dearth of peanut bunker to fuel the fall blitzes. This may also explain why fishing as a whole became quite challenging towards the end of August and most of September, there simply were not a lot of stripers in the harbor. Towards the end of the season, mackarel actually made an appearance again which is quite unusual - bluefish normally scare them off. Large stripers were drawn to this bait resulting in some nice action, most of it on the north shore.

Over the years it becomes ever clearer that fishing patterns are in a constant flux. Back around 2006 we had a few years where the fall run was something to behold. Massive schools of peanut bunker lured blues and stripers alike into the Boston Harbor waters. The key to hooking a fish was to present some form of hook, and perhaps to give it some lifelike action. Many of us have experienced those kind of days, and they are something to remember. Don't get me wrong, we still have them, but not to the same degree. As a charter captain I would like to have those reoccur on a daily basis; but as a fisherman I honestly really don't. The challenge, the reward, and ultimately the pleasure of fishing lies in the hope of turning some knowledge and acquired skill into an honestly hooked and landed fish. While we might complain about the days when fish are scarce or hard to entice, this is also when we learn new skills and are reminded to savor the fish we do hook, and perhaps even more, to savor fishing in a scenic setting like Boston Harbor.

The early hours are often the most productive on any given day so Go Fish was on the water around dawn on most of them. It's painful to get up that early, but every day rewards you in some way. Below are selected fishing reports from the daily fishing log I keep:

May 18

The first charter of the season was set up by a Norwegian grandmother who sets up fishing trips for her expansive family tree. On board today were Lars, Cecelia, Ketyl, and Per. The outlook was a calm and sunny day - and this is the way it played out - perfect for the youngest members of the crew who were three and six respectively. The plan was to primarily troll with opportunistic casting tossed in. On my way to the downtown pickup there was clearly some activity on Governors Flats so this was the first stop after picking up the crew. The action had mostly died but we decided to troll the area for awhile and sure enough we picked up a school striper on a custom rigged jig. The captain had an area in mind that had been working well lately but would require some casting finess: given that the focus was to get some action for the kids, we decided to do some flounder fishing. We had some good success, boating about the same number of flounder and skates. After awhile Per indicated that it would be nice to try some striper fishing again. A quick call to another charter captain revealed there was a bite up in Lynn so we made the trek, but by the time we got there they were mostly gone. Still, it had been a gorgeous day with some nice flounder kept for lunch.

June 10

Boston Fishing Charter Today I was picking up Lynn and her son Justin. Justin is a freshman at University of Texas and both were visiting Boston. I decided to try to collect some bait before the pickup and went to a few of the spots that had been working recently. Today the bait was sparse and I only managed to boat two mackerel before I needed to move on. The first stop in Hingham told us we were a little late to the party. We managed to hook a couple stripers which gave us a taste for more. My plan was to check out the channel area and north shore. Approaching the area it was clear from birds and sounder that fish were in the area. Soon we were hooking fish, both with lures and the live bait. The first striper to take a mackerel tossed the hook, but the next one did not. Justin took care to work this one and after a few minutes landed a 15lb. 35 inch fish. Lynn hooked a fish, just a little smaller, by working a jig. There was no doubt that the live bait was producing better results so during a lull we decided to search for some more. Boston Fishing Charter On the way we spotted some more birds and saw a school of stripers burst to the surface. A quick cast hooked another striper and we were off to the races again. After an exceedingly long time we boated a 34 incher - snagged by it's tail. When the action slowed down we continued to my designated bait gatherinr grounds. It took awhile, but eventually our sabiki rigs paid off as we filled up the livewell. We motored closer to the shore and trolled for awhile - once again hooking a fish in mid 30's. Returning to the harbor we found a number of very fast moving schools that were difficult to stay on. Eventually another striper took the bait, but as we could not set the hook I suspect the fish was rather small. We hooked up soon thereafter on a school size fish that Lynn reeled in. We topped off the morning with a few more casts and then returned to downtown. Fishing does not get much better.

June 19

David Moore, along with brothers Seymore and Mike, were taking their dad "Doc" out on a 75th birthday trip. Winds were a little high and there would be good sized chop - the captain had called the brothers to let them know, but they were all set to go anyway so we were going to make the best of it. Seymore lives in Arizona and likes to do a lot of fishing, mostly on the fly. Mike has a 9 year old son who he would like to take fishing on Go Fish, and Dave works for NPR. On comming out of the Fore River I debated how much time to spend scanning Hingham/Hull area and on a hunch decided to take a closer look. There had been nothing the day before but today we found a small group of birds close to Bumkin - the mood on the boat was good, as these experienced fishermen knew what this meant. Almost immediately Dave was hooked up with a good fish, once brought to the boat measured 31 inches. The schools would stay up for a few seconds and then move on quickly. The next two fish were both very small schoolies, hooked by Seymour and Mike. Boston Fishing Charter The next one was larger. As Mike clearly had a larger fish on he took his time to carefully work it in. Though only 32 inches, it was extraordinarily broad shouldered. Pictures were taken with all the fish and then the action continued for awhile. A great start, and now it was time to scan the harbor. Nothing in QB and the anchorage looked quite dead - although I suspect we would have found some pods here and there. A decision was reached to brave the chop to try to find mackerel off Graves. It took a long time to work the boat to where we wanted to go. We trolled both deep and surface rigs with no immediate success. After awhile there was some action on the deep rig and I believe it was loading up with mackerel. Then something that was clearly not a mackerel hopped took a ride. Perhaps it went for a mackerel and then saw the trailing jig, as that is where it was hooked. Dave and Doc took turns and used a lot of care considering the mackerel rig line strength. After a long battle, a 33 inch linesider was netted. As we returned to the harbor, I spotted a couple hovering birds and figured it was worth a look. They moved on quickly but had found a small school for us. This time it was time for Doc to hook up,and this time on a fish just under keeper size that provided a good work out. It had truly been a stellar day, with remarkable production considering the wind and chop.

June 24

Boston Fishing Charter Rob Shorter, along with his son Zach and best friend Ronnie from CA. Rob had a good trip last year with Zach and was back for more of the same. First we scanned Hingham real well since the area had been active recently but found nothing today. Our checked out a couple ledges i Quincy Bay and then headed to the shallows. Zach managed to get a short strike on a topwater lurehad luck on Moore trip, and Rob repeated this feat a little later. There were certainly a few fish in the area, but they were being selective; possibly after a night of feeding under the full moon. We fished the area pretty hard and then moved on to try some other structure. We checked out Hingham again and this time there was just the slightest activity with some fish marking so we stayed but could not coax a strike. Next we motored to the channel merge area and found some scattered birds. Perhaps there were bass mixed in but mostly we found bait. In fact there was tons of bait, mostly river herring, and by now a large number of boats had gathered - yet between all these boats we did not see any fish landed. Changing tactics a little we decided to fish some structure by Long Island and finally hooked up - we had certainly paid our dues. Rob hooked his fish on a jib, and then soon after we hooked a larger fish that Zach reeled in. The striper dragged him around the boat a couple times but eventually a nice 30 inch fish was landed. Ronnie had a couple close calls with both live and cut bait but could not get a fish to the boat. It had been a slow day but with some success. Above all, the crew had enjoyed the near perfect weather and company.

July 8

On board were Bob Borkow, his wife Lisa who had set up trip, and his brother in law Jim Huttner. Goal was to scan harbor first for topwater and then potentially go get bait. Scan we did in both Hingham and Quincy Bay. We fished Hull Gut and managed to raise some fish but none that would take our offerings. Next we tried some ledges and other structure, and finally some shallows. More fish were raised, this time with powerful swirls by our lures but no strikes. Next stop was the channel merge area where it was clear there was some low level activity. Given our luck so far we agreed to change things up using live bait. Boston Fishing Charter This required a trip a little further out of the harbor where we were able to fill the live well with both pollack and mackerel We trolled the area for a bit with no luck and then decided to take the bait inside. Around merge area there was some scattered pods of fish and charter boats. The live bait finally paid off as Jim hooked a good fish on the baitrunner. After a good battle, a very pleased Jim had his picture taken with his 34 inch fish. Bob is a big believer in catch and release so hopefully we will see this fish again when it's even bigger. We had hopes that live lining would produce some steady fishing but this was not the case today. On our way to the last spot for the day we saw some birds by Pig Rocks and for a few moments a number of breaking fish. While we moved as fast as we could it was hard to close enough, despite this Bob did manage to hook a fish. At the end of the day we had fought hard, seen most of the harbor, and had a very nice day on the water.

July 11

Boston Fishing Charter The previous day the fishing had been hot around Hull Gut. Fish were everywhere. In fact it was so good I convinced by son Corey to wake up way before dawn the next day. The weather was going to be near calm and sunny. Add a ton of breaking fish eager to eat everything in sight and you have the ingredients for a perfect day. Only problem was, someone forgot to tell the fish. They barely showed up in the Gut and we moved on to scan and fish a number of promising spots - all to no avail. Corey was again convinced his dad has no idea what he is doing. We did find a few birds at Nixes Mate and decided to take a closer look. A very small school of stripers had some bait trapped against the rocky sandbar. The fish would come up for a few seconds, dissappear, and then reamerge fifty yards away. After carefully closing withing casting distance we had about one cast before the fish would move on. On the other hand there were no other boats to maneuver around - this really would come down to execution. As Corey reeling in another fruitless cast he saw a fish break just within striking distance and made a long and perfect cast with a custom jig. The striper took the bait instantly and Corey set the hook, and proceeded to work the fish in carefully - we did not know if we would get another chance like this. A gorgeous fish was landed and then released. As it turned out, by the time we did all this, the few remaining fish had moved on. We tried a few more spots, and brought up some black seabass from the depths, but our day had already been made.

July 17

Go Fish Charters usually takes a few trips with The Fishing Academy each season. On board today where four kids enrolled in the program as well as the executive director, John Hoffman. The captain decided to collect some bait before the pickup although it was a little challenging to find this morning. Naturally, I also did some scouting around and learned where the fish had taken up stations: between Broad Sound and Revere. Boston Fishing Charter The fish were spread over quite a large patch, and camped out for a few hours. We had to keep moving to stay with any particular school but the more challenging part was to maneuver with all the boats that were collecting. Despite their numbers the stripers were being quite finicky; they would occassionally break the surface in significant numbers clearly targeted on very specific bait. Nevertheless we hooked up well enough to collect half a dozen keeper keepers, the largest measuring 37 inches. Nearly every cast was thrown with the real possibility of hooking a fish. The non-stop action continued for hours, and then when things slowed down at slack we decided to spend a few minutes fishing for sea bass and then, given the hot weather, decided to beach the boat at Rainsford for a quick swim - an excellent way to end the trip. Truly fishing at it's best.

July 20

Onboard today were Amy and Keith Gopel. Keith had fished a couple years ago with his Dad. We had in mind to check out the area north of the harbor between Winthrop and Graves - as that is where the fish had been in the last few days. On the way we spotted a few birds and fish by Pig Rocks and then at Sunken Ledge - but not enough to delay us much. However, the Gut looked promising as there were more birds in area, and every so often the surface would be broken by a school of stripers. They would stay up for a minute or so and then go back down - and this pattern would repeat. Keith was the first to hook up, and then he did so again. I tried a Storm lure and that worked immediately, but not for Amy. The fish were being very selective - targeting the bait mostly. Nevertheless, the action was good and every few minutes we would land a fish. All the fish were small so we decided to continue the hunt. As the action had been good inside we took a spin around Hingham and then back to Rainsford. In both places we encountered some fast moving schools that kept our interest. It was finally time to take that look outside which is where we encountered a fleet of fishing boats, a few birds, but not so many fish. Snuggling up to Long Island we found a school that had bait trapped along the rocks which is where Keith hooked up on a fat 35 inch striper. After a few more tight line experiences we decided to do a little sea bass fishing to end the trip. These fish are smaller but a lot of fun to catch and both Amy and Keith took their turns reeling them up from the bottom. Most were smallish but a couple broke into the keeper zone (14 inches). It had been a very good day.

July 27

Boston Fishing Charter Tamar, Victor, and Ben had a full day planned. After fishing in the morning, and then likely taking a nap to regain some sleep from the early start, they were attending a wedding the same evening. The predicted sun and calm weather showed up and we were greeted with a great sunrise. Our goal was to hunt for stripers, and while the harbor looked promising a dawn it was also very quiet. All the usual spots were rather unproductive. Tamar managed to hook a schoolie but that was it. Since sea bass fishing had been hot I suggested we change our target which turned out to be a good idea. We lost count of how many seabass we boated. Boston Fishing Charter While small, they are agressive with the lures and fight well. While seabass are mostly hooked very near the bottom it is a good idea to fish the entire column in this area - and that was the case today again, as we managed to hook a fish that was clearly much bigger stripers. We stayed in this area until it was time to head back to dock - it is hard to leave active fish after all.

Aug 6

Rick Vandersicle, a seasoned fisherman, was visiting his parents in Sudbury from South Carolina. His brother bagged so he shared the beautiful morning with his daughter Gracie. Gracie had clearly fished with her father many times as she was very comfortable with the spinning rod. A quick tour of harbor showed nothing - but my real destination was Broad Sound. As had been the case the previous days we found some boats as well as some hovering birds. Within seconds we had two fish on - a double is a good way to start. Boston Fishing Charter We followed the fast moving schools and hooked a couple more fish. After awhile when the action died down I moved to an area closer to shore with sitting birds and decided to troll for awhile. A fish grabbed one of the lures and ran, and ran... until we were spooled. Hard to believe, but that is the first time that has happened - and hopefully the last. I could not be sure if we had simply not put the brakes on soon enough or if the spool was not quite full to begin with. We returned to our previous schools that had emerged again and once more were tight to fish. We were having a good trip - nothing massive but many nice fish; both Rick and Gracie were well pleased. It truly was a picture perfect day. We put the icing on the cake with some nice seabass on the way back.

Aug 14

Boston Fishing Charter Joe Gilmore, Bob, and Rich O'Connell, high school buddies, had decided to use a fishing trip to catch up. The seas were a little choppy due to the breeze. Still, the last few days had produced some decent action around the channel merge area and this was our destination today. We made some stops along the way to target key structure but found nothing today. Arriving at the destination we immediately saw some surface activity and managed to nestle up close to some breaking fish. Joe immediately hooked up. This This had been the active area for a couple weeks and remained the best area in the harbor. The fish were fast moving and after awhile stayed down. In previous days the action had persisted much longer but it was time to move on. Scouting around we found some more pods of fish off Nixes andn then into the anchorage. By now a small fleet had collected as these were likely the only breaking schools in the harbor. Some of the boats predominately trolled which always makes for a challenging environment for those that are casting - especially when those trolling persist on doing so right through the middle of the schools. Boston Fishing Charter While the captain often tries to find fish with less pressure on this day, given the fishing conditions of the last few days, decided to stick to this area despite the fleet. The activity was constant but at the same time the fish were also being finicky and kept us moving. Bob hooked on to a hard fighting fish and after a nice long battle brought a 34 inch fish to the boat. This was kept to grill for lunch. By now all had hooked and landed stripers and eventually most of the schools left for the day. We fished a couple likely structure areas, but then decided to target sea bass. We had instant and constant action on this species - which is always enjoyable. The crew took turns hooking and pulling up from the depths fish of all sizes including keepers, one which was kept for an appetizer. Joe had picked a good day and everyone throughoughly enjoyed themselves.

August 26

Don Domingo was visiting the Boston area from San Jose, and had done his best to work a fishing trip into the schedule. Late August (and as it turned out most of September) had been a challenging time in the harbor. There were few stripers in the harbor and bluefish for some reason never showed up. I had informed Don of the fishing conditions but he was up for the challenge. I scanned the harbor on the way for the downtown pickup and had a couple spots in mind once Don was onboard. Targeting structure spots with artificial lures we managed to get zero attention which was unfortunately what I had feared. After a couple hours of our best efforts I suggested that we switch gears and fish for black sea bass. Don was agreeable and we made our way to my favorite mid-tide spot. The bass where there and provided non-stop action until it was time to drop Don off. Sea bass are always fun, most have been smallish but there are always a few larger that makes it interesting. We lost count of how may sea bass Don boated - and all were returned to come back larger next year. While it would have been nice to find stripers, Don had a great attitude and had enjoyed a successful day on the water.

October 14

Boston Fishing Charter Brian Wells usually books a trip and this year waited until the last day of the season, this time being joined by Alex Klevitsky and his father. Actually the fishing conditions conspired to bring this about. The fall season is often very strong, but not so this year. The fishing remained fairly week through most of September. Towards the end and into October, mackeral moved back in, probably due to the lack of bluefish in the area. Along with the baitfish some stripers moved into the area as well, although not into Boston Harbor so much - instead they camped out a bit north. The plan for the day was quite simple - find bait and fish north of the harbor. After a quick scan of the harbor that is where we headed. It was a cold ride up to Nahant. It would thankfully be a sunny and calm day but the fall chills had certainly set in. Nahant was infested with clouds of jellyfish - more than I have ever seen. The jellyfish swarms looked more like rock structure beneath the boat, without the depthfinder I would have been concerned about damaging the boat. Despite their presence it was still possible to jig up some mackerel which we did; a rather unusual event in mid-October. The goal was to present the bait along the rocky shoreline and relative shallows of the bay. We also tried trolling with lures and some blind casting as well. Eventually we hooked up on the live bait but soon dropped the fish as we had not properly set the hook. The next fish was well hooked and was reeled to the boat by Alex's father. We managed to hook a couple smaller stripers as well on lures but soon enough there seemed to be no more activity. We fished our way back to Boston. While relatively slow it had still been a great day on the water.

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