We were trolling the Race, off Provincetown, listening to David explain how his passion for mushroom foraging in the San Francisco Bay Area, is a lot like fishing for Striped Bass. As in, you never know what you’re gonna find or catch. Well, he was being very, very kind. Because, in fact, we had been trolling over countless “mushrooms” and we only had two fish to show for our valiant efforts! Brother Ben, along with Ben’s son Theo, rounded out the morning foragers. Born and raised in Boston, Ben and David both moved to California, coming East every summer to be with their Dad as they convene each summer in Truro. Their quest this morning was to catch enough fish for Chef David to prepare a meal for Dads birthday tomorrow. And after a quick change of scenery, the fish started flying over the rails. With foraging complete and smiles and weary arms held high, the three from Cali knew they succeeded. Happy Birthday Mr. Karlin!
The stoically beautiful older women with the purplish hair and blue and white striped pant suit was slowly making her way down the dock. “Is that the boat?” she eagerly called out, pointing to our enclosed Sportfishing boat, Nauset. “No Grandma, it’s this one,” replied a teenager, pointing to the center console open fishing boat berthed at the near dock. It was 1pm on a sweltering day last July. That poor woman in polyester already knew she was in for an uncomfortable at best, dangerous at worst, 4 hour charter under a brilliant sun. Her shoulders sagged. I silently cringed. Choosing an open boat with older customers on a hot summer day wasn’t the wisest of decisions. Yet, Social Media reviews, with their 5 star ratings, have changed how we make decisions. We are all guilty. We are too busy to carefully look through restaurant menus, locations, or comfort, when we can just go to Yelp, or Trip Advisor, and count the 5 star reviews! This same phenomenon is now prevalent amongst the charter fishing industry. But is catching a lot of fish really what you’re after? Perhaps it is! Is it enough that the restaurant has great food, but you’re eating in a hot, stuffy room, right on top of the next table? Maybe that’s perfect for you! Unfortunately, for Grandma, the downfall of social media is that the blanket 5 star rating doesn’t make it ALWAYS the right choice for EVERYONE. The good news? Well, if you’re reading this, you’re more of a free thinker. By virtue of comparing charter services, you still have hope! I’ll let you in on a little secret. 90% of the time every charter fishing boat in Truro and Provincetown fish the same locations. So, isn’t the wiser decision to choose the boat that’s right for YOU! Don’t be like Grandma…..
Who would have thought that a simple shirt could be sooo powerful. We had set off from the picturesque Pamet Harbor at the same early hours as the previous weeks charters. We went to the same spot, with nearly the same tide. We set out the same umbrella rigs with the same secret white and green pattern. But, we had until half way through the trip, only caught bluefish. Not that a bluefish isn’t a noble gamefish in its own right, and a terrific fighter. It’s just that we had been catching Striped Bass at this spot. Then I saw the infamous shirt, and everything made sense. Cliff, who had chartered the Nauset in the hopes of catching a nice Striped Bass for dinner, had worn a tee shirt from a radio station on the wrong coast, entitled, “Nothin’ But The Blues.” Wow, talk about a fishing fashion faux pas! And so it went. Andy, Cliff’s son, along with his girlfriend Brianna, who were visiting from Washington DC, only caught bluefish. In an act of mercy, Capt Joe changed locations and Cliff finally had his Striper, a small one. But, you can be sure that the Nauset’s fashion police will be much more diligent the next time Cliff tries to come aboard. Jeez!
Somewhere she was smiling. Kristin comes to the Cape with her kids Tyler and Katie to visit Al, her father. But, when the Nauset pulled out from the dock and into the channel of the Pamet River she wasn’t on the trip. So, we all tried to guess where she could be. Sleeping, knowing that two adolescent children wouldn’t wake her from a sunburnt slumber? Perhaps. Out and about shopping, knowing the kids wouldn’t rush her out of the store? A big maybe. Wherever she was, she was content in the knowledge that her father was in charge for the next four hours and she could relax. I hope she had as much fun as we did.
I could tell by their droopy posture and glassy look in their eyes, that Alec and Nick were done fishin. After 3 1/2 hours of trolling around Billingsgate and catching their fill of Striped Bass and Bluefish, they had hit the figurative fishing brick wall. Great! Let’s switch it up! Jim, the boys’ dad, had found us online, and together with brother in-law Scott had been lured into chartering the Nauset in the hope of having the two boys pull some lobster traps. In fact, most adolescents prefer lobstering to fishing by a wide margin. It must be the thrill of capturing something that bites back. Anyway, Captain Joe and I both have lobster traps close to the harbor, so it’s easy to pull a couple of traps on the way back to port. We only ask that customers let us know when they book the trip, so we can build in the time to do it. The easiest way to get kids to stop lobstering is have them pull up the traps. Our plan was working flawlessly, Nick and Alec were spent from hauling up 60 lbs of trap up 45 ft from the bottom. Then tragedy struck. The pot line wrapped around the engine propeller and we were stuck! Only one option, and it wasn’t Sea Tow. Into the water I went, bobbing up and down with the swell of Cape Cod Bay. With a sharp knife and Scott mischievously documenting my exploits with his cell phone, (Hello social media!) the propeller was free. The boys had their lobster, and a fish story of a different sort, that I’m sure they’ll be repeating for a very long time.
A little known, but true, Cape Cod oddity, is our own story of Atlantis. The mythical legend of the sunken Greek island is in fact a true story of the island of Billingsgate, off the modern day shores of Jeremy Point, Wellfleet. At its peak in the 19th century, 30 homes and a prominate stone Lighthouse guided ships into Wellfleet harbor. Storms and erosion took its toll, until the 1920’s when most of the homes were floated to the mainland and the lighthouse torn down. Nowadays, the area is locally known as Billingsgate Shoals, or just the Shoals amongst most fisherman. The island sank, but it didn’t disappear. It’s now a very shallow sand bar that can be very fishy, as it was today. Kevin and Matt, moved to Wellfleet from Provincetown three years ago. Kevin decided this year would be a perfect time to have a family reunion. They had a large crew and chartered two boats. Of course Kevin and Matt’s Boat won top fish honors and insured a Striped Bass dinner for the 40 members of Kevin’s family that’s waiting for dinner. I hope he doesn’t have to clean up!
Soon to be 60 year old (July 15) Bill Polis was really looking forward to this trip out of Provincetown. Sure, there were Stripers to be caught, but Bill was looking at the much bigger picture, time spent with his 3 adult sons; James, Chris and Alex. Personal time is a real luxury for a man who is tending to 3 businesses, who on the drive to the dock spent much of it on his two different cell phones directing business decisions. Yet, once on board, the smile appeared, the wise cracks started and his good natured energy and positive Karma shined through. It was a rare occurrence to have all of them together. James had flown in from DC the night before, the others from across the state. For a few precious hours, the boys and dad were together. And it didn’t matter if the sun wasn’t shining or whether the fish were biting or that the NE wind was howling, and the raw day made grown men shiver. It was Father’s Day!
We started coming to the Cape in 1984, as twenty something newlyweds. We passed PJ’s in Wellfleet all the time. It wasn’t near the water and it didn’t have a liquor license so those strikes were enough to keep us in P-town. Remember the Moors with the low ceilings filled with dusty seafaring memorabilia and Lenny Duchamp in the cellar as the piano man? Ahh, those were the days. Anyway, fate has a funny way of catching up to you. A couple years later we had Mara and Nick. Our lives changed and PJ’s was the bomb! We brought our own adult beverages and the kids would run around the “dining room”…great memory! Maccray , age 15 (yep, that’s the spelling), who has his first job at the same PJ’s, along with his dad Ron, tried to break a long standing family fish jinx aboard the Nauset …They got their fish, broke the spell, and I relived in my mind the great memories of our once young family and the special place that PJ’s will always have in my heart.
We promised ourselves when we started the blog not to share any hard earned fishing secrets. But the unlikely series of events leading to Melissa and Lynne’s giant Striped Bass allows for a lapse in protocol. You see, our little secret weapon entails stopping the boat when trolling umbrella rigs. That’s right, we stop when we troll! The rigs then drop in the water column, near to the bottom. Then we put the boat back in gear and the rigs swim up, looking to a Striper like a fleeing school of baitfish towards the surface. This technique entices finicky Stripers to bite. Well, this afternoon, the trip had all but concluded and Capt Joe put the boat out of gear so that the lines could be pulled in without the tension of the boat pulling against them. But, he unintentionally paused before winding them in. That pause dropped the rigs into the depths, precisely imitating what we do when stalling the boat. You guessed it, UP through the water column came the rigs and Fish On! Making that particular long pause, one that Melissa and Lynne may never forget.
She stands a diminutive 51 inches and weighs about a cord of wood. She’s had to wait a good three years while her two older brothers, Jake and Alex, had all the fun on their annual Striper trip. Their parents, Jason and Pam as well as Patriarch Richard, felt she was too young for a 5 hour trip at sea. Her brother Alex even has a permanent photo on our website! But today, Lady Luck shown down on this soon to be 8 year old. Yes sir! Of course she caught the largest Striped Bass of the trip, a short foot from her own height. That’s Lady Luck!