Thursday, August 30, 2018

Party Boat Wreck Fishing

My grandfather was living with us for the summer, but the busyness of my schedule meant that we weren't able to go fishing as much as I would have liked. 

So when the end of August neared, I decided to take us out to the coast for a day wreck fishing on a party boat. The main targets for the day would be black sea bass and red hake (called "ling" locally), both of which would be new species for me. Funnily enough, I had never fished for these locally abundant species before, despite living so close. I was fairly confident that we would encounter sea bass and red hake, but I knew there were opportunities for several other bottom-dwelling fishes. 

The morning came quickly, and at sunrise the boat motored off towards the Atlantic. 

My grandfather enjoying the sunrise

The boat planned to stop at several inshore wrecks to target Black Sea bass, before moving to deeper water for red hake.

Upon arrival to the first stop, anglers dropped their lines as did I, and within a few seconds I have a bite and cranked up a double-header of black sea bass, a male and a female. We were using high-low rigs with clams as bait and 6-8 oz sinkers.

The black sea bass–species #130.

Both fish were too short, so back they went.

My grandfather and I did eventually tie into several nicer specimens that we kept for dinner.

The action was hot, although most fish were short. My grandfather caught a very plump Atlantic chub mackerel that we cut up for bait in addition to the clams.

Once most people had gotten their limit of two keeper sea bass, the boat left the area and headed east towards deeper water. It took a while to get there, and once we did, it took even longer for the boat to be positioned, since the lack of wind made for a tough drift. The first few spots produced a fish or two for some people, but the action just wasn't present. Finally, at one of the spots I got a little knocked, cranked up 200 feet of line, and pulled up a little baby hake that was missing an eye.

Species #131, the red hake.

As slimy as they are, I was able to position this one nicely enough to get a decent photo. 

After the first ling broke the ice, fishing improved and I caught several more hake. A man next to me was consistently catching American conger eels and ocean pout, but I couldn't replicate his success. 

Then on one drop, I got tangled with one of my neighbors (a common occurrence, especially on crowded days). After clearing the tangle, I felt weight on the line and set the hook into what felt like a much more decent fish than the ling we had been catching. Reeling it to the surface was an effort, but I was delighted to see an ocean pout on the end of the line. 

That's species #132, if you're following along. 

The pout was the highlight of my day, one of the strangest fish that inhabits our waters and one that I was really hoping I would encounter. 

Cool as they may be, they present quite a challenge to any person wishing to straighten one out for a quick photo. 

Beautiful pectoral fins on this specimen. 

I ended up finally getting a decent shot of it before sending it back into the ocean. 

One notable comment regarding the ocean pout: ocean pout are able to produce an antifreeze protein to prevent their body fluids from freezing in sub-freezing saltwater. My final project in Biochemistry is on antifreeze proteins in fish, and in researching it I came upon this knowledge; one more interesting thing about this species. 

No more new species would make an appearance, but as the day wound to an end I did get several nicer-sized red hake. 

A solid day fishing with my grandfather; we combined for a multitude of ling and sea bass to take back home to cook. And I got three new species out of the endeavor, bringing me to 132. I am on the road to 150!

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