Jigging For Mackerel At The Isles of Shoals

One day in early July, Wendy and I decided to go salt water fishing. She remembered going out of New Hampshire’s Seabrook Beach some years earlier. A little bit of Google research revealed the fishing boat company she had used had moved but the other one at Eastman’s Docks was still there. So on Wednesday (July 15, 2009) we got up early and drove up to New Hampshire to do a little Geocaching before noon (the boat was scheduled to go out for the afternoon about 1:30 pm.)

Lunch time at Eastman’s Restaurant.

We got to the dock around noon and decided to have lunch in the attached seafood restaurant. The combined restaurant and bar had a nice tropical feeling with the decor inspired by Jimmy Buffet, but nicer. I had the clam strip dinner while Wendy ordered the haddock roll. Eastman’s Docks web page

Underway at last

Around 1:30 or so we got underway, passed by the Seabrook Reactor on the way out of the inlet, under the bridge, through the jetties, past Hampton Beach, then into the Atlantic. In about 45 minutes traveling on a mild sea, we were at the Isles of Shoals. They are a group of nine small islands about 10 miles off the coast just south of Porsmouth, N.H. Five are in the state of Maine and the remaining four are in New Hampshire. Although there were pirates in their early history, these days they host retreats and marine studies. Isles of Shoals History

Mackerel Found Here.

Today Atlantic mackerel were running in large schools sometimes coming almost to the surface. Wendy used a spinning reel, a light flexible rod, and a small silver lure with a single barbless hook. I used my camcorder and digital camera to capture the jigging process. The lack of a barb on the spoon’s hook allows the fish to be caught without serious damage. They can be taken off the hook by holding the lure upside down. Because the hook doesn’t have a barb, the fish falls right off. Mackerel strike at anything that that moves and is smaller than they are. Accordingly, whenever a mackerel school passed by there was a flurry of activity until suddenly they were gone. From time to time, the crew moved the boat to another location where there was another school feeding.

Schooner Encountered Along The Way

Wendy caught mackerel at a steady pace throughout the afternoon and when she took a break, she had me hold the pole. I caught two which were added to the 14 or 15 she had reeled in. Sometime during the afternoon, a traditional two masted schooner moving under full sail passed by somewhat to the west of us on the way to Portsmouth Harbor. It’s rare you can get a picture of both a lighthouse and a schooner underway so nicely positioned. The fishing continued. The mackerel we caught today measured 10 to 12 inches although a few were slightly larger. On the return trip, the mates cleaned and filleted our mackerel and those of the other fisherfolk as well. We put them on ice and later that evening we drove up Hampton Beach to one of our favorite lobster places, Little Jacks. Wendy had the twin lobster dinner special and I had the scallop dinner. The iced mackerel fillets arrived in Needham later that night and the next evening some were baked with various cracker and butter toppings. All were quite delicious. The remaining fillets are waiting in the freezer for the next time we feel the need for baked fish.

Wendy’s Hand With Mackerel.

A Mate’s Life Is A Hard Life.

When we boarded, we noticed all the crew were wearing light colored knee high rubber boots. Others had yellow waterproof rubber bib-like overalls. What did they know we didn’t know? Should we have some as well? The answer is no, the mates are mostly young guys who do all sorts of nasty jobs. Mates jump on and off the boat untying spring lines, they wash down the sides and the decks whenever fish splatter is around. They become expert with bleach water. After all you wouldn’t want the boat to smell like a fishing boat would you? Mates get to clean and fillet all the fish the paying customers catch. On a trip where the mackerel are running, they may have to process several hundred. They get to drop and raise the anchor any number of times as the boat is moved from place to place.
Only occasionally do they get to flirt with some of the nice looking young women who need to have instruction on how the spinning reel, rod, and mackerel jig is to be used.

Mate Cleaning Wendy’s Mackerel.