Jump to content

Tuna, whale, and mackerel in Sandy Bay

Guest guest

Recommended Posts

My brother, John, has been fishing since he was a child. He was hooked by his grandfather and neighbors and has taken nearly every opportunity to fish from beaches and boats since. More recently, he has done most of his fishing from his kayak. This season I have decided to be more open-minded about fishing and today was my second kayaking fishing trip with him.

We launched from Granite Pier at about 11AM. The sky was windless and hazy. If the air and water hadn't been so cold (slightly less than 50 degrees and slightly more than 50 degrees respectively) and the water so clear, one might have mistook it for a late summer day. As soon as we left the little harbor it became apparent there wasn't much activity in the water. However, beyond the Salvages, serious fishing boats could be seen clustered on the horizon. John asked if I minded paddling out to Avery Ledge. I said no problem, so we set out towards the south end of the breakwater.

There was no activity at the Ledge, but we could see some birds circling out between the Salvages and the boats. As we passed the Salvages John pointed out that some of the boats were tuna boats. We continued on at a good pace, but our progress now felt much slower. Without land or at least bouys and/or lobster pots, speed and distance become difficult to judge. "Wouldn't it be cool if I hooked a blue-fin?" John asked. I asked if I should rescue him or the rod if he got pulled in. "By all means, get the fish," he replied.

When we arrived at the closest boat, John asked if they were fishing the bottom. They replied that they were. They also told us that there hadn't been much activity since the whale showed up. Sure enough a few minutes later there was the distinctive phoosh of a blow hole and a black form breached about 50 yards away from us. It was much larger than the orcas I have seen from a kayak before, yet it's dorsal fin was so small it looked like an afterthough in the middle of it's back. I was amused that a whale would choose to go fishing with the boats. Unfortunately, it was the only glimpse we were to catch of it.

At this point John decided that he might be better off fishing for the mackerel that would be close to the bottom. Not having the appropriate lure, he asked one of the fisherman if he wanted to trade a mackeral lure for a shad. All of this conversation made me realize that one of my preconceptions about men who go fishing might be wrong. I always assumed that part of the allure was being alone where it was quiet. More conversations with other people fishing during the day further dispelled the theory.

A brief attempt to hook some mackerel was fruitless, so we decided to paddle over to Thacher's Island for lunch. The boat ramp was dry and desserted. John found a couple of plastic chairs which we set up next to the boat house in the sun and out of the wind. While I ate my lunch, I noticed that what looked like weeds at our feet was mostly domestic species that had gone wild. Raspberries, sage, and some type of Moutain-Laurel-like evergreen dominated the purple poison ivy here. A couple of honey bees were also spotted among the plants, which is remarkable considering that most, if not all, of the wild hives have been killed by a mite infestation in this area of the country. Perhaps Thachers is just isolated enough to escape infection.

As we sat eating lunch, another kayaker approached and landed on Thachers in a beamy, plastic boat that had been rented in Rockport. This morning I had debated wetsuit vs. drysuit yet this guy set off alone in jeans and a sweatshirt.

We left Thachers and headed towards Pebble Beach where John had caught two bluefish last night. There was a boat there and several people fishing from shore. John stated that there was definitely something going on here, but at first I saw nothing interesting. Then I saw the dense schools of tiny mackeral below my boat. It looked like a deep shag rug of gunmetal grey under the water. A few minutes later the surface erupted all around us as the stripers thrashed through the schools. In some places you could follow the paths of the invisible predators as the baitfish literally sprayed through the air in front of them. Given the millions of hors d'oeuvres around them, it was not surprising that the bass showed no interest in the shiny lures being cast into the schools. After 15 minutes or so John gave up on catching any fish here. He said anything feasting that aggressively had to be juvenile anyway.

John continued to troll as we headed back to Sandy Bay. As we approached Straightsmouth Island we could see several boats in the gap hauling up 2-3 large mackerel at a time. It was here that we finally got some nibbles on John's line.

The last time I went kayaking fishing, we caught some undersized stripers. John showed me how to temporarily paralyze the fish by grasping it by it's lower jaw with my thumb in it's mouth. We would gently remove the hook and I was instructed to lower the fish into the water and wave it back and forth while it overcame it's shock. He told me to be careful not to touch the sensitive gills. When it started thrashing, we would let it go.

John landed the first mackerel which was probably about a foot long. He stuck his fingers right up through it's gills while removing the hook. As he did this he said, "Mackerel have this soft, insubstantial head." Upon retrieving the hook he grabbed the head in his hand and tore it off of the body. The unexpected savagery startled me. He rinsed the blood off of the fish and his hands, pulled up his sprayskirt, and dropped the fish into his cockpit.

I was better prepared for the next two that he landed in quick succession but declined the offer to land the third one. If felt it was silly to reel it out of the water only to hand the pole back to him. I wasn't quite ready to rip anything's head off. Maybe next time.

We headed back to the boat ramp, stopping briefly a couple of times to cast into some schools. We carried our boats up the ramp, depositing them at the top before retrieving our cars. While I watched John fillet the fish with cold yet practiced hands, a couple of fishermen arrived at the ramp with their trailers, backing them in tandem down to the water. I recognized the one on the far side as one we had seen out on the water. The other pulled his Land Rover up the ramp again while trying to straighten out his trailer. Just as he was about to drive over my kayak, I put up my hand to warn him. A voice said, "I'm not going to run over it, man." I looked into the face of a young, tanned man with long dreadlocks. Another personal generalization of men who fish was dispelled.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"As we sat eating lunch, another kayaker approached and landed on Thachers in a beamy, plastic boat that had been rented in Rockport. This morning I had debated wetsuit vs. drysuit yet this guy set off alone in jeans and a sweatshirt."

I was that guy from Rockport in the beamy plastic boat...(OK, so I didn't get the best kayak that day... but it was flat calm). And I enjoyed meeting you and your brother John on Thatcher's Island.

On the way back from Thatcher's Island I saw a seal, momentarily, at Whale Cove, just before Straitmouth Island... the ocean is getting colder, and the seals are returning...

As I approached Rockport Harbor, I remembered your whale story as I approached two young Rockport teenager out fishing. As I approached, they were bringing a fish on board. While they were engaged in reeling the fish in, I noticed three sleek seal heads watching. I could imagine their thoughts, "How do we get out jaws on this snack..."

As I approached, the seals saw me, slapped the water with some force, and disappeared.

One teenager said to the other,"What was that?"

The other kid answered,"It was a whale!"

I just shook my head, and I paddled on.

But, Wendy and John, I do believe your whale story. You seemed much more knowlegeable about whales.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, we passed a large group of seals as we passed the Wet Salvages. They were the largest group either of us have seen off of Rockport. They followed us for a short while, some of them holding their upper bodies and heads way out of the water to get a better look.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Translation from British speak to American... Christopher would like Jack to dress properly for conditions. Christopher would like him to wear neoprene rather than denim and would have preferred if he didn't paddle alone. Gosh that Christopher is just so sweet to be thinking of Jack like that and they haven't even met!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

>Wendy: "This morning I had debated wetsuit vs. drysuit, yet

>this guy set off alone in jeans and a sweatshirt..."


>Jack: "I was that guy in the beamy plastic boat...but Wendy

>and John...you seemed much more knowledgeable about whales."


>Yes, and a lot more besides!

Yes, Chris, thank you for your concern. For the record, however, the waters around here are swimmable until the end of October--- just don't stay in too long. If you tend to get chilly, bring wool.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a fin whale that you described. They are actually very large whales, but all that you usually see above water is the leetle fin.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...