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Boston Harbor Flounder Fishing

Originally Published in Coastal Angler Boston June 2013:  Boston Harbor Blackbacks – Capt. Tim Egenrieder, AnglerFish Guides
One of my earliest memories and definitely my earliest saltwater fishing memory is being barely able to hold a rod and feeling the tap, tap, tap and surprisingly strong fight of a flounder.  With my Dad’s help, I was able to reel it in and remember staring in awe at this peculiar creature.
The winter flounder, Pseudopleuronectes americanus of the family Pleuronectidae, is a flatfish that almost always has its eyes on the right side of its body. They are also known as Blackbacks and lemon sole.  Winter flounder range from Labrador, Canada to Georgia.  Unlike most species, winter flounder move into shallower water to breed in the winter and then retreat to the deep in summer.  The majority of the spawn occurs from late February through early May in our waters.  Each female produces 500,000 to 1.5 Million eggs annually.  These fish live to be up to 20 years old and grow up to 28” and 8 pounds.
Flounder Capital of the World:
As I worked the fishing and boating show circuit this winter, I was consistently asked various forms of the same question – “How is the flounder fishing in Boston Harbor?  I remember coming up there as a kid and renting a boat in Quincy and catching them by the trash barrel.”  Quincy and Hough’s Neck were once widely marketed and known as “The Flounder Capital of the World.”  The days of small boat rentals and filling a trashcan with fish may be gone, but the flounder fishery is excellent and getting better every year.
The common shallow water shoals with easy access to deep-water retreats make Boston Harbor perfect habitat for the Winter Flounder.  They prefer mud/sand bottoms and love the eel grass habitats that are found throughout the harbor.  May and June are best months to get out and fish for them.
What to use:
On my flounder charters, I typically use a light tackle spinning rod and the Santini 2 hook Zobo rig from Fishing Finatics in Everett.  I adjust the weight so that it will stay just off of vertical to the bottom with weight ranging from ¾ to 3oz depending on current, drift etc.  Flounder will eat nearly anything.  Sea worms and clams are always effective and widely available throughout the region.  Buying bait is a lot like buying meat from a grocer.  Look for a shop that moves large quantities for the liveliest and freshest bait.
Anyone can catch a flounder.  They are aggressive and opportunistic feeders and are not shy about tugging on the end of a line.  There may not be a better fish to introduce young children to the sport of saltwater fishing than flounder.  I will never forget those days of my youth spent fishing with my family.
Lastly, they are delicious.  Fresh crab stuffed flounder with Old Bay hollandaise sauce may very well be the most delicious thing you ever eat.
I run flounder charters from late April through early July and begin flounder / bass combo trips mid May.  I hope to see you aboard this season.

Atlantic Menhaden

Originally Published in Coastal Angler Boston August 2012:  Atlantic Menhaden – The most important fish in the Atlantic. By: Capt. Tim Egenrieder
Most of us have been lucky enough to experience it – Whether in search of it or stumbled upon the telltale “flip” on a nice calm summer’s day.  A noticeable school of pogies has made their presence known.  They may just be actively feeding or they’re could be giant bluefish and huge striped bass hounding them.
The Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) is a member of the Family Clupeidae that consists of all the herrings, shads, sardines and other menhaden.  Their range is from the southeastern coast of Florida to Nova Scotia.  It is one of the few of its family members to breed in near coastal waters.  Adult females produce huge numbers of eggs from 30,000 to over 1/3 of a million per spawn.  The eggs hatch within a few days and drift into fertile estuaries where they will spend the first year of their life.  Juvenile (peanut bunker) and adult menhaden are omnivorous filter feeders that swim open-mouthed often in tightly packed schools where they feed on phytoplankton, plankton and zooplankton. 
Atlantic Menhaden are easily distinguished with a large Humerel spot just back of the gill plate and several smaller spots behind.  They have large scales over a bright silverfish white belly with a yellow tinted back and fins. 
The Atlantic Menhaden has developed many nicknames over time, several of which allude to their historical and regional significance. The word Menhaden’s most common believed derivation is from the Native American word Munnawhatteaug that roughly translates into “that which enriches,” a reference to their broad use as fertilizer.  The common northern New England use of “Pogy” comes from Native Americans in Maine that referred to them as Pauhagen or Pookagan.  New Yorker’s and surrounding areas common use of “Bunker” or “Mossbunker” dates back to the days of New Amsterdam.  The Dutch name of marsbunker is used for horse mackerel, a similar looking fish native to their home waters.  “Bug Fish” or “Bug Head” is a reference to the parasitic isopod (Cymothoa pregustator) that resides in the mouth of many pogies.
There has been considerable political and environmental pressure placed on the Omega Protein Corporation.  This one company is believed to harvest several hundred million individuals of the species each year.  They are then baked and ground to make Omega 3 oils, additives for things such as lipstick and fishmeal.  The only state on the East Coast that they are permitted to operate is Virginia.  The problem is that the vast majority of the breeding stock uses the Chesapeake as its nursery waters.
The ecological importance of this species cannot be overstated. Their abundance, range, feeding methods and forage provided make the Atlantic Menhaden arguably the most important fish of the Atlantic coast.  It is estimated that each pogy can filter 4-6 gallons of water each minute.  That math becomes daunting when you consider the size of schools they swim in over the range they inhabit.  Almost every fish in the Atlantic feeds on menhaden at some point of their lifecycle.  They can clean entire water systems while serving as one of the principal forage for nearly every fish of the Atlantic seaboard – (they’re pretty good to use as bait too).  It certainly seems like a fish worth protecting?

June Striped Bass Fishing in Boston Harbor

Originally Published June 2012:  June Stripers – Primetime for Light Tackle. – by, Capt. Tim Egenrieder
June is here!  The long processes of prepping the gear and boat, the anticipation through the long winter all culminate in June with some of the best fishing of the year.  It doesn’t matter if you fish from shore or boat, June is prime time for the light tackle angler.
The striped bass long migration has brought them to Boston, and they’re hungry!  June is also the month that the main herring swims - alewife, bluebacks and menhaden (pogies) have either completed their journeys and are falling back into the harbor or are just arriving.  These factors combined with 60+ degree water temperatures and all of the increased activity of other baitfish leads to some of the most spectacular visible feeds of the season – perfect conditions!
What to look for:
The worst kept secret in coastal fishing is that diving birds = actively feeding fish.  If they’re going to make it easy for me to find large schools of bass, I always say, why fight it.  These feeds, when paired with appropriate sized light tackle, can be the most exciting moments ever spent on the water, at least until someone trolls through it…
There are over 20 different species of gulls, 14 species of terns, 6 species of shearwaters, 4 species of storm petrels, 2 species of cormorants and then the gannets around our waters.  All of these birds have better eyesight than you, a better vantage point for viewing and have a more pressing need to catch fish than even the most crazed angler.  If they’re not very good at it, they don’t last very long.
Observing and understanding the differences between the above bird species can tell you everything from the size and species of bait the bass are on, the direction the school of fish is moving and even where the fish were half an hour ago. 
Where to go:
There is no set answer to this question.  There are structures that coincide with strong currents at stages of particular tides that hold fish more frequently, but it is far from every tide in every weather pattern.  You need to trust your sounder and make note of both schools of fish that you mark and active feeds.  If you go to the same place at the same tide a day or two later, you will often find them.  One of the best things that can happen in a day of fishing is finding a big school of active fish without any birds or other boats on them.
What to use:
I have long used DAIWA Coastal Series rods and reels for my light spin tackle. They are the perfect balance of finesse and power for fishing the harbor for striped bass.  The feel of these rods makes fighting barely year and a half old schoolie bass enjoyable and I’ve landed 40#+ cows on the very same setup.
My standard rigging is comprised of 30# FINS braid tied via a 12 wrap Yucatan knot to 30# fluorocarbon which is then tied directly to a 50# Tactical Anglers fishing clip.  30# test is more than necessary but loops can be easily picked out of a reel and the line holds up to the punishment that charter after charter can bring.  The Tactical Anglers clips give each lure more action and make quick changes of lures a breeze.
I always start each charter with the 2 lures that worked best yesterday and 2 rods rigged with a surface popper and a lure that can get down deep.  One of the 2 lures that worked best yesterday almost always includes a RonZ or Hogy soft plastic, usually white.
It is not at all uncommon to have every cast from every angler on the boat hook into a striper in the month of June.  If you’ve been longing to get on the water but work, life etc. have been stopping you – this is the time to blow them off and get out there.  I absolutely love June in Boston Harbor! 

Boat Ownership Costs

Originally published in Coastal Angler Boston February 2012: 
The Not-So Hidden Costs of Boat Ownership   - by Capt. Tim Egenrieder
I’m not sure if it’s a sign that the economy is improving, boat shows are advertising or simply that many are sick of winter and ready for the joys of summer, but the itch of getting out on the water is again beginning to spread.  It seems with steadying frequency that I am being asked questions on how much it truly costs to own a boat.  Would be first time boat buyers are often shocked by the long list of not so hidden costs associated with boat upkeep.
We’ve all heard “the best 2 days of a boat owners life are the day you buy it and the day you sell it”, “B.O.A.T. – Break Out Another Thousand” and “BOAT – the hole on the water you throw money into.”  Unfortunately, they are all true.
Once you’ve found that make and model that best suits you, be sure to have enough left in the boat kitty to provide for all of the associated annual costs.  There are 3 main categories of annual expenses: Fixed, Usage and Maintenance.  Understanding and preparing for these expenses can be the difference of joy and misery of boat ownership.
Fixed Costs:  According to the Massachusetts Recreational Boater Survey of 2010, of the 10,000 or so boats registered in the greater Boston area, more than 60% are kept at a dock or mooring.  The annual expenses can add up to almost 10% of the original purchase price every year.
Docking, Mooring or Trailer:  There are many options available.  Even if you have suitable space in your yard and a suitable vehicle, Boston is awful for boats on trailers.  Ramps are few and far between.  There are many different mooring areas, yacht clubs and marinas to choose from.  Costs range from $50 to over $200 per ft per season. 
Financing & Depreciation:  Facts of life and two of the biggest costs of ownership. 
Winter Storage:  Many yards offer package deals that will haul, wash, winterize, shrink-wrap and store your boat.  This will add up to at least $1000 each year. 
Insurance:  Boat insurance is relatively inexpensive – about $400 each year
Licensing / Registration / Taxes: These fees depend on how you will use your boat but will easily add up to over $100.
SeaTow / BoatUS:  The worst thing to have happen is a breakdown on the water.  Seatow or BoatUS will tow you back to your dock or provide fuel.  It is basically “get you back to safety” insurance.
Usage:  The most variable of all of the expense groups.  Frequency and type of use makes a dramatic difference on the type of electronics, amount of fishing gear and fuel you will consume.  Next to docking, this is easily where I spend the most money.
Fuel, Fuel and Fuel:  You will use a lot of it and best of all, gas and diesel on the water can be 30% more expensive than on land.  A very efficient boat will get 6 miles per gallon, most are in the 1-3 mpg range.
Gear: Electronics, Fishing Equipment, Flares, Life preservers, Bumpers, Dock Lines, Foul weather clothing, etc.  If you are anything like me, this is a never-ending pursuit, not just an expense.
Launch Fees:  At the boat ramp you can expect a nominal fee, usually about $15.  The travel lift at your marina is much more.
Maintenance:  Saltwater may be the most destructive environment to keep anything you care about.  Proper and frequent maintenance is essential to keep your boat running smoothly. 
Oil Changes:  Most manufactures recommend an oil change every 100 hours.  Doing it yourself is still 3X the cost of the oil change on your car.
Bottom Paint:  If you keep your boat in water for the season, you will need to paint the bottom with an anti-fouling paint.  This will inhibit the growth on the bottom that would otherwise increase drag and operating expenses.
Cleaning:  Seems benign, but specialty soap, vinyl and bilge cleaners, waxes and polish add up.
Zincs:  Sacrificial metals that are placed at strategic points around your boat to mitigate corrosion.
Tools:  Boats are where tools go to die.  Corrosion or dropping overboard will happen. 
Repairs:  Boats Break.  Wires and connections get corroded.  Pounding across the waves loosens screws, canvas and damages just about everything else over time. 
Now that you’ve seen all of the costs and pitfalls, is it worth it?  That is up to you.  I know that I have never woken up on a November morning and said, “I wish I had spent less time on my boat.”
Conservative Estimate of Highly Variable Costs of Boat Ownership
Based on 25’ boat kept in Boston Harbor maintained and stored by a boat yard –
Excluding purchase price, depreciation and financing
Cost Breakdown
Est. Annual Cost
Docking / Mooring
$90 – $200 / ft
Launch / Haul
$0 to $250 ea
Winter Storage and Prep
Approx $30 per ft
$30 to $200 per yr
$50 every 2 years
1 – 6 miles per gallon
SeaTow / BoatUS
$175 per yr
Oil Change
$200 per 100 hrs
Additional Maintenance
Approx $500 per yr
Bottom Paint
$200 - $500 per yr
$100 per yr
Safety Equip/ Misc Gear
Minimum $200 per yr
$300 – 500 yr
Approx $100
Avg of 15 times on water
$460 per trip
        For comparison: 4 hr fishing charter in Boston Harbor - $425
*****According to the Massachusetts Recreational Boater Survey of 2010, over 60% of the 10,000+ boats in the greater Boston area are cared for as above and are operated less that 65hrs.  Your experience can vary greatly from this estimate.  You can, for example, easily save thousands by trailering your boat and with do-it-yourself maintenance.*****(for under table)

Winter Fishing Attire

Originally published January 2012 in Coastal Angler Boston: - What to Wear?   By Capt. Tim Egenrieder
Late February, a few years back, I was steelhead fishing with a good friend.  It was a few degrees colder than freezing, light snow in the air and we were standing in 38-degree water up to our waists.  The water was that perfect shade of green and as the sun lifted I could see quite a few beautiful fish in my drift.  2 fly changes later and “thunk”, I was tight.  I yelled out, “this is going to be a great day, get the camera.”  That’s when it became clear the day would not go as planned.  His hands were shivering so bad that he could barely hold the camera.  I had to give up the hole and the perfect drift and head 30 minutes down the road.  I don’t expect to ever again see someone that excited to buy clothes at a 24 hr Wal-Mart.
I have only had a few notable occasions where a medical emergency has ended an outdoor excursion. However countless fishing, hunting, hiking, rafting, kayaking, skiing and camping trips have prematurely ended due to someone getting cold
There are only 3 ways that the winter elements can make you miserable: temperature, moisture and wind.  This misery is completely preventable.  Here are a few tips so that your buddy doesn’t have to frequently remind you of the day he gave up a perfect early steelhead bite to take you shopping.
Important  - what you should not do:
Cotton is evil.  If you are out in the cold and have the slightest chance of sweating or getting wet – DO NOT WEAR COTTON.  You are better off naked than wearing wet cotton. Cotton rampantly soaks up moisture and dries very slowly.  Your body will try and fail to heat the accumulated water in the cotton layer removing precious energy from your core. Jeans, white socks, t-shirts, sweatshirts or most of what you are probably wearing now are worthless when wet in the cold.
Never break a sweat and Never shiver.
What you should wear:
Always dress in layers.  The 3 layers to consider are primary, insulation and protection.
The primary layer is next to your skin.  Look for silk or 100% synthetic fabrics.  Different manufacturers call their synthetic fabrics different things.  Almost all of them work well at both wicking away moisture from your skin and giving you a primary layer of insulation keeping you warm. Tags from the manufacturer are fairly accurate for the degree of warmth they provide.  The primary layer should be a snug fit but not too tight. 
Next is the insulation layer.  Wool and fleece are all you need to consider here.  Both trap air between fibers keeping the cold out and the warmth in while wicking away moisture.  I find that wool can be bulky, restrictive and often too warm.  Fleece is incredibly comfortable, very warm and gives the greatest range of comfort.
The protection layer is exposed to the elements.  This is of course dependent on the planned activity.  The primary function is to block wind and water.  I prefer PVC coated bibs (oilskins) on the boat, neoprene waders when cold weather stream fishing and higher tech fabrics for most other activities.  Look for waterproof, windproof, hoods and fastening cuffs to keep the external elements out.
Headwear is a must.  It is well known that the majority of your heat can escape through your head.  Wool and fleece are again the only options.  The warmest hat I own is made of tightly woven wool and the non-itch liner still itches.  I usually take this with me but start with a fleece hat and neckliner and see if I can get away with it.
The one place that I always prefer wool is on my feet.  Merino wool socks have become very cheap.  I like to wear 2 pairs of socks.  100% Merino wool is best next to my skin for warmth and comfort and then a thick wool sock 2 layer for insulation.  Always take this combination with you when trying on boots.  I usually end up getting boots one size bigger to accommodate the added bulk.  Boots and socks that are too tight will restrict blood flow making your feet much colder.
Fingerless wool gloves are great when you need to stay warm while being able to full use of your hands.  Otherwise wear waterproof, well-insulated loose fitting gloves or mittens.
Finally, Never use fabric softener or dryer sheets on synthetic fabrics.  The components of these products cling to your clothes diminishing their water repellency, breathability and moisture wicking.  I always hang dry my synthetic fabrics as well. 
Everyone is different.  The ideal components for you will depend on numerous factors.  I figured out what suited me from a season as a ski lift operator in college and hundreds of Lake Erie steelhead trips.   Never wear cotton, buy quality materials and layer them.  Done right, 20 degrees in blizzard like conditions can feel the same as it does in your living room.

Cod Worms Article December 2011

Originally published in Coastal Angler Boston: December 2011

On a late season tuna drift, I noticed a few decent marks passing along the bottom and I decided to drop a jig and teaser down.  It didn’t take long before we had enough cod on ice for a few dinners. 
I’ve filleted a lot of cod and I’ve seen worms in most of them, but the fillets from this day were particularly loaded with the little critters… As usual all the typical crews’ response starting getting voiced – “that’s nasty” , or “eh, just some extra protein”, and “don’t worry, they can’t survive human digestion”, and several “no way, I’m not eating that.” among others.  I used to be in the extra protein camp.  Having researched it, not anymore:
What are they?
The Cod Worm, or more correctly the Seal Worm (Pseudoterranova spp) is a parasitic nematode.  It is a roundworm that is present in an estimated 75-90% of all Atlantic Cod.  They can be brown, red, pink, yellow or white in color.  They can be found in many species of fish but are most commonly found in cod due to their living on the bottom in close proximity to grey seals.  As usual, blame it on the seals.
The Seal Worm has a 4 stage larval process.  The life cycle begins when the final infected host (usually a grey seal) releases eggs of the worm in their feces into sea water.  The eggs immediately hatch into a larval stage.  The larvae are consumed by small crustaceans, which then are preyed upon by fish.  The 3 stage of larval development has a specially formed tooth that enables penetration of the gut into the flesh of the infected fish.  This is stage that you see in the fillets of the cod.  Finally, the host fish is consumed by a marine mammal (or human) where the larvae reside in the bowel where they seek a member of the opposite sex for mating.  The life cycle is completed when the female lays eggs that exit the host’s body through its feces.
Humans are an accidental host of Seal Worms.  They easily survive your digestion process and can even complete the 4 stage of development in our bowel.  They can survive in up to 80% brine solution and can easily survive a low temperature smoking process.
The Good News (Sort of)
Fortunately, most of us are not frequent consumers of raw cod, nor should we be.  The worms can be killed by freezing at -10 degrees F or by cooking to 140 degrees (keep in mind that household freezers are typically set to 0 and cod is opaque and flaky at 130).  The commercial processors use a candling table which shines a light up through the flesh making the larvae easier to see.  This can be done at home with a pane of glass positioned over a fluorescent lamp.  The larval worms might be 1-3 cm long, but only 5mm when coiled in the fish’s flesh. Needlenose or tweezers are all you need to remove them.  Soaking the fillets in brine or lemon juice can make them easier to remove. 
Basically remove all that you can see and make sure you thoroughly cook the fillets for the ones you couldn’t.  Or, just do what restaurants do - bread and deep fry them.
Worst Case.
So let’s say you consume a quantity of infested flesh – what happens next?  Potentially nothing.  You may pass them before they take up residence.  You can even become mildly infested and be completely asymptomatic.  The 3 to 4 stage of development can take from 3 days to 3 weeks.  In this time, you may have the abdominal pain / distress and you may experience other weird symptoms like tingling in the throat or arms.  In very rare cases you can become allergic to the slime that that worms produce from their skin.  Unless you are regularly consuming undercooked or raw infected fish, the entire adult lifecycle will complete its course within a month.
Do keep in mind that parasites have not survived most of eternity by making their hosts sick.  Their entire reproductive lifecycle depends on the hosts maintaining overall and intestinal health.  This is also not a new concern, with reports and scientific studies on these worms from the 1950’s, and comprehensive studies of health effects from over 30 years ago.  You can continue to enjoy catching and eating cod.  Seal digestive systems are often loaded with these worms because they don’t fillet, inspect, freeze, and then cook their catch, but you can.

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2012 Boston Fishing Highlights with AnglerFish Guides
2012 Striped Bass fishing highlights from Boston Harbor, MA with AnglerFish Guides. We had great fishing this year and would like to thank all of you that joined us on our charters. We hope you all ...
This is our first post on the new blog.  Check out our fishing highlight video from last year.  There are plenty of big fish pics and great video segments from our year in Boston Harbor.  Enjoy!