Going 60 miles offshore can help snag a big catch and lift the spirits, but it's not for newcomers
The speed of today's fishing machines opens up the possibility of reaching spots previously thought too far away for one day. It's now possible to run 60 or more miles, get in some often great fishing, then run home - all before the clock ticks over into a new morning.
With the snowbirds just back from another winter in Florida, we might mention Al Golinski and his 25-foot Sea Vee watching the Key West weather, ready to make a long trip out into the Gulf of Mexico. One of these trips in 2008 caught a world-record mangrove snapper. Before he left the dock, Golinski would let one of the local guides in Murray Marine know just what wreck he was headed for in case trouble developed.
The late Capt. Wally Albrecht of Key West and I often made 40- to 60-mile day trips in his 25-footer, but not before Wally would tell the fellow working the tackle store counter at Oceanside Marina where we were headed. On one of those trips we landed a great catch of mangrove snapper to 10 pounds, the average weight such that the next day fishing great Capt. Robert "RT" Trossett remarked it had been 20 years since he'd seen snapper that size.
With the snowbirds now back in Northeast waters, it's not surprising they will be making long runs this spring and summer.
Capt. Jimmy Koutalakis of Arlington, Mass., and I will be running his 31-foot Sea Vee up to the fingers of North Jeffreys Ledge to check out some spots given to me by a former commercial fishermen. To save some traveling time, Koutalakis tows his boat around from ramp to ramp thanks to the 11,000-pound capacity of his Ford F-250. We plan to launch at Newburyport on the North Shore of Massachusetts, make the run to the Fingers and then home before dark thanks to the 30-plus mph speed and sea-cutting ability of the Sea Vee's hull.
Daylight savings is also a big help, giving us extra time to load the boat back onto the trailer before it gets full dark.
Through the years, I've enjoyed some great trips with Jimmy, who would trailer his rig from his home in Arlington, Mass., to the public ramp at Bass River on Cape Cod. Launching at first light on a warm, summer morning, we would be on our way to the Fishing Rip and some wrecks southeast of the famed rip - often 60 miles from the dock at our farthest point. We'd catch our limit of cod, some great pollock action plus fluke, and catch-and-release striped bass. By late afternoon we'd be headed home, the autopilot making the run easy in calm seas (mandatory for such trips). Three of four anglers on board were busy with fish cleaning, the last keeping watch at the console for problems.
I also hope to make a long run with Capt. Jack Fiora, who keeps his 42-foot Wesmac at a marina in the Mystic River in eastern Connecticut. Thanks to the boat's speed, we'll leave early in the day bound for some far wrecks 50 miles south of Block Island, looking for pollock, white hake and maybe some large cod.
But go we will, the travel and fishing taking all day, tied back up at the dock at Gwenmor Marina before midnight, home safe thanks to a competent skipper with an impressive array of electronics.
Going far out and back in a day is not for the newcomer. Just because a friend has a new rig with twins does not automatically qualify him or her for such trips. If anything, you might politely decline an invitation from such a person, worried he might take more chances with weather than an experienced mariner. Listen to the weather right up to the night before, and if there's the slightest question, postpone for another day. Listen both to the inshore and offshore forecast.
Fishing grounds over the horizon often promise good action or big fish; unfortunately Mother Nature might have other ideas. Capt. Albrecht and I left Key West one morning under a light and variable forecast. We steamed 62 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico and arrived to find our spot on the fishfinder all lit up with fish hovering over the structure.
We anchored and proceeded to start catching large porgies, snappers and various groupers. Things went well for about 30 to 45 minutes until the first shark showed up. That first one was followed by a second and a third and into double digits, including a large hammerhead. Our bite was over - the long run and waiting for just the perfect day all for naught. It was a long, downcast ride home.
As this baby boomer travels deeper into Social Security, I find it necessary to have the next day free to rest up. It might be prudent not to have a heavy day at work by seeing an important client or supplier right after a long run back and forth to the grounds. On the other hand, if the client is an angler, your exploits of the previous day might grease the wheels a bit for a profitable meeting.
Running a long way in a day might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it adds zest to the fishing year. If you go with care, long-day runs are often a great day on the water.
This article originally appeared in the New England Home Waters Section of the June 2010 issue.