Tis the season for offshore adventures
This time of year, the crew is in a constant state of readiness – offshore rods spooled up, lures rigged and ready, Robb Roach’s boat fueled up and the crew on call.
All it takes is a call to send us on an off-shore adventure, where land is nowhere to be seen, the water is unbelievably clear and blue, whales and dolphins provide good company, and every bite is absolutely thrilling because you never know what you’ll get!
The first call came from Arnie Colonna, Robb’s buddy from Atlantic City, N.J. – time for Yellowfi n Tuna. With a plan to fish in place, Robb assembled his crew: Capt. Jay Howell, offshore newbie A.J. Petrarca and Ty Leger, Kettlebottom cameraman. We shoved off aboard Arnie’s boat, Intensity II, at midnight, the bright lights of Atlantic City disappearing over the horizon as we steamed to sea.
Arriving just before sun up, Arnie’s son, Nick, decided to pass close to a lobster buoy to try for a Mahi. Petrarca was up, since this was a new experience, but he handled the fish like a pro – a 35-pound Bull Mahi. Soon after, we got a 10-pound Blue Runner, a member of the Jack family.
Trolling offshore is unpredictable – just before the bite was redhot, but we spent the next couple of hours with nothing going on. The crew told fish tales, at first eagerly scanning the sea for signs of fish, and one by one, began to doze off. Sighting a large pod of Pilot Whales, Nick swung the boat to pass close and suddenly two reels were screaming line as our spread was attacked.
That’s how it is – one second, everyone is napping and in an instant, it’s chaos.
One fish popped free, but Petrarca was on the other one, fighting like an old pro, and soon a 75-pound Yellowfin was on deck. A couple more hits appeared, including close calls on Marlin, but soon the group had to run back in.
Petrarca was smiling the whole ride home.
Back home last Saturday, Howell and Leger got a call from a buddy, who told them to get out to the 40-fathom line ASAP, where Bluefin Tuna were feeding. Jamestowner Tommy Munro and Petrarca came along on a 4 a.m. Sunday trip. Lines were cast off in the pre-dawn darkness and ran out until water temperatures suitable for Bluefins were reached.
With the sun hovering just above the horizon, the crew was getting the lines set when they spotted some huge splashes 200 yards ahead – tuna! Turning on an intercept course, they put the lures ahead of the fish and one hit hard, peeling about 100 yards of line off the spool at a lightning pace.
Knowing this was a good fish, Howell took the rod and, with the crew working like a well-oiled machine, the fish was soon boatside. Petrarca sank the gaff, hauling in 100 pounds of pure muscle.
Trolling back over the area, we quickly had a Bluefin for Petrarca – about 40 pounds, which went back to fight another day. Next, Munro brought a cute little 10- pounder to the boat, which was also returned to the water. After catching a couple huge “alligator” Bluefish, a rod was suddenly screaming out line at a furious pace. The 100-pound fish finally came to the boat defeated and the crew was able to remove the hook and let it free.
Satisfied that every crew member had a Bluefin notch on their belts – including first Bluefins for a couple of members – it was time to head back to Conanicut Marina.
The Bluefin bite has since grown colder, but that’s the nature of offshore fishing – you have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. The highlights of this trip included a large pod of Porpoises playing around the boat and the sighting of two Hammerhead Sharks – extremely rare in our waters.
The Block Island Striped Bass have been cooperating, and Fluke, Seabass and Scup are also biting along Newport and the South Shore, especially in deeper water, from 50 to 100 feet.
But while the in-shore bite is good for Stripers, Bluefish, Fluke, Seabass, Scup and Tautog, the real adventures can be found offshore this time of year.
Ty Leger is with Kettlebottom Outfitters. Visit www.kettlebottom. com.