Wow did this past season fly by! I can't believe my last report was mid-July, but that doesn't mean the inshore or offshore fishing was bad, in fact, it was OUTSTANDING. Before I begin my 2016 season recap, I just want to thank all of those who came to Newburyport to fish with Manolin Charters. I've made some tremendous new friends this year with whom we can share memories together forever. Thank you all for fantastic attitudes, generosity, and reminding me everyday why I love doing what I do. We had an ridiculously busy season this year and it couldn't have happened without the repeat customers, word of mouth, and referrals. Hard to be believe that next year is already year 5 and I have seen some of my early customers' kids grow up through high school and college!! I feel old now, but am thrilled to be a small part of their life that they enjoy.
So lets break down the Merrimack River charter fishing reports chronologically as always.
May - Unreal start to the season! The mass invasion of micro stripers all up and down the coast had the striper fishing community buzzing from NJ to Maine! From May 8th - May 30th (and way beyond when we started targeting keeper fish) it was utter ridiculousness. No matter the tide, time of day, wind pattern we were catching schoolie stripers at a fish per cast rate for 3 hrs straight all on super light tackle. One memorable trip in particular was when 7 year old Elle Shields caught 92 stripers on artificials on Joppa Flats....all by herself! It is a great tune up to get back on the water with friends in a low pressure environment. The goal here is light tackle and even had quite a few customers break out their fly rods! I can't even begin to describe the mass quantity of fish that are here now. This year class of stripers will keep returning to the Merrimack River throughout their lives and are going to make Newburyport even more of a fishing destination than ever before.
June - The keeper stripers had moved in. We caught our first keeper on Memorial Day (If you want to be the first to catch a 30"+ fish, typically your best shot is Memorial Day weekend) and it was on from there. Newburyport and Merrimack River fishing was in full swing! Mackerel were in thick and fishing was great. We did have some trips we had to move due to weather throughout the month, but none the less fishing was fantastic with constant rods bending, keepers going home, and bait easy to get. Well, that was until Saturday June 25th with longtime customer JJ and his crew....Quick story about our trip....So the days leading up we had been putting a hurting on stripers, like 30 - 50 fish days, mostly because of all the tinker mackerel you want. So JJ's trip comes rolling around and, wouldn't know, you can't find a mackerel anywhere. My phone was going off with calls and texts, I was reaching out to buddies on the water, and the chatter on the radio was comical when people were describing the straight up disappearance of the Roanoke Mackerel. Luckily, we found a small school and some caught some other baits and had a great day of striper fishing. Well, the funny part of this happened about a week later when the OSEARCH (Great White Shark Tag and Release Program) posted that one of their first ever tagged Great Whites "pinged" in 30 ft of water by the buoy just outside the Merrimack River on.....June 25th. That one creature sent the mackerel beelining further offshore where we would have to venture to get our baits for the beginning of July.
July - The past few seasons have shown us that July is starting to rival June for primetime Striper fishing. One of the major reasons is the baitfish abundance in our waters has been amazing the past few seasons. This year, for the first time in my adult life, we actually had pogies on a consistent basis for pretty much the rest of summer. It was really cool and led to a fantastic big striper bite later in the season. A year ago or two, the quota for commercial pogies (also called bunker or menhaden) was cut down 10%. That 10% gave us millions of fish our area has not seen in years. Let's hope it continues.
Back to the stripers. Fishing was great on the whole. We did have to run far to get bait for the first week or so, but with the longer ride a lot of the times we saw cool marine life on the way out. You definitely learn to appreciate your lifestyle when, for example, 13 year old Nate from Ohio sees the first whale of his life, gets up close and personal with an Ocean Sunfish, catches a million mackerel at the Isles of Shoals, then has to reel a striper every two minutes for 4 hours! I love giving people an opportunity to experience a day like that.
Toward the end of the month after the moon, the big girls started arriving. We caught a bunch of 38+" from July 18th fish on including a 51" 42# and a 48" 37#. Also, I had a writer from Sport Fishing Magazine come aboard and write an article (I'll post on that in another blog) which was a really neat experience.
We began shark fishing the third week of July....and.....WOW. WOW WOW. We found a stretch of water where we were just crushing sharks. We AVERAGED 13 sharks per trip! Ok, now a few of these trips were cut short because the crew had had enough! In addition to the numbers, we finally had legit opportunities with three separate mako encounters. Each one ending in heartbreak. My god. How cool? We rarely get makos in any numbers here, but what those three fish do (A fourth, my buddy John landed a 400#er on a trip we split up into 3 boats) is allow me now to pattern them out and find out where they like to hide around here. This sharking extended well into September.
August - Great by August standards. I was offshore most of the time, but was still inshore every few days. The shark fishing remained bonkers, the striper fishing was still good but dying down a bit. early in the month I started fishing the Parker more with some great success, then all hell broke loose along the Plum Island beach front. My favorite way to fish is to slow troll mackerel, but we haven't had that opportunity the past couple years. The one thing that does suck about this fishing though is that it can be lights out/ can't miss fishing then absolutely dead, then on, then off again. Unfortunately, my time was short lived as I started football camp and the rest of the guys on the water were crushing fish well into September. Once football started, I did another striped bass and two offshore charters. Really wished I could have made it out there more, but luckily it was worth it as our team went 9 - 2 and finished as the #4 team in state (via Boston Globe and Herald)!
A few other quick notes from the 2016 season:
- So many young kids on the boat this year! It was so great to see a new generation of younger fisherman from 4 - 12 years old putting away the stupid Xbox and iphone and embracing the outdoor lifestyle! I hope its a trend on Manolin Charters that continues.
- Also, I had a few groups of 15 - 17 year kids who pooled up their money and came out fishing with their buddies! I thought that was super neat as well. Each time, I was surprised to see 4 "kids" and no adults. They called/emailed and booked the trips themselves and were awesome to have aboard.
- The conservation attitude my clients showed this year in particular. Most trips weren't necessarily to fill the cooler. Most groups opting to keep only one or two 28 - 32" fish and letting bigger fish and more keepers (even if they were allowed more) go. As I grow as a guide, I really appreciate this attitude of just taking what you will eat immediately and preventing having 10 month old striper filets in the freezer. I will never forget the god awful 2014 and 2015 seasons (even tho 2015 was a little better) where fishing was very, very difficult. I never want that to happen again. That being said, I still have no problem if you want to keep your legal limit!
What's new for 2017?
- School's Out Special - Weekday Afternoons May 8th - June 2nd
- $50 per person Open Boat Light Tackle Casting to Schoolie Stripers
- Get back on the water after a long weekend on the cheap
- Super fun, lots of laughs, and low stress style of fishing the back rivers
- Beautiful landscapes
- May 20th, and 21st (27th and 28th will be open to striper fishing as well)
- Offshore Haddock and Porbeagle Shark Trips! Weekends in May Only
- These are the only 4 dates where we will specifically target haddock and try to grab a porbeagle shark offshore on Jeffrey's Ledge. If interested call ASAP
- $750 up to 4 people
- New Handle Upgrade on our Shimano Striper Reels
- Repeat customers are going to love the new feel of these handles I put on my striper reels. They are much, much more comfortable and powerful. You will immediately feel the difference. The reels themselves are perfect for our fishery, but the handles always bothered me. Well, this winter we had them upgraded to give you the best experience possible
- New Matching Custom Mackerel Rods
- am getting back into rod building and decided to do a make over on my mackerel set ups first since they definitely take the biggest beating of all my gear. New reels and cool olors
- Designed to easily store our long mackerel rigs easily and safely
- A huge Engel Cooler
- Mounted to the deck in the bow like a "coffin box"
- Keeps your fish ice cold for your trip and hold ice for up to 5 days
- Roto molded so you can sit on it on the way out, while we drift, or stand on to cast or take pictures
- I'm working hard to increase my photography skills (youtube videos, books, talking with photographers) to capture your trip the best I possibly can. I'm practicing on everything right now and hope to buy a nice camera soon that will live on the boat. Of course, I will send/post your pictures for no additional charge.