Taking On Merrimack Stripers

Neighbors Bonnie and Bruce Paquette dropped by to pay my husband and I a visit and to offer an invitation. Bruce is an avid striped bass angler and had been out nearly every day that week. Bruce thought since the fish were in a cooperative mood we might like to join he and his wife for a day at sea in search of monster stripers or bluefish.

Having never had the opportunity to pursue stripers or blues from a boat, I was eager to give it a go and we agreed to meet with Bonnie and Bruce at 5 the next morning. After a quick stop for coffee and gas, we soon arrived at the Salisbury Beach campground. Putting into the Merrimack River in New Hampshire on this morning was a bit tricky, as the tide was at an absolute dead low.

We then made our way out of the river toward the open sea to catch some bait. We used light tackle, much like I am accustomed to using for largemouth bass. At the end of each line, Bruce had tied off Diamond jigs with the hope of attracting enough mackerel to fill the live bait well in his boat.

Fishing For Bait Can Be Tricky
The first bait fish to make it into the boat was indeed a mackerel, but as we continued to jig the only fish we could catch were small pollack. After catching several pollack Bruce decided we should pull up our lines and move to another location to look for a school of mackerel. He had more faith in this bait when fishing for stripers and was not happy with our load of pollack. At the second spot again, we were only blessed with one mackerel and a dozen or more pollack. As the day was getting on, Bruce resigned himself to using the pollack for bait and headed out to one of his favorite places to angle for stripers and bluefish.

Bruce anchored his boat about 7 miles off shore in sight of the Seabrook nuclear power plant and proceed to rig his heavier spinning rods to fish with our lively bait. Two of the rods would be equipped with heavy monofilament shock leaders extending from the main line. And at the ends Bruce tied off a size 6/0 treble hook and approximately 4 feet above the hook was tied a slightly inflated balloon to be used as a bobber of sorts.

On these two rigs Bruce baited the hooks with the mackerel by placing one of the points of the treble hook just under the dorsal fin and then one at a time played out the line allowing the mackerel to swim away from the back of the boat.

The other two rods were rigged in much the same manner except instead of the mono leader, Bruce tied on wire leaders. The bait on these lines was the larger of the pollack we caught in the event that any bluefish may be in the area.

It was interesting to watch how the baitfish behaved beneath the balloons. We could tell that they felt unthreatened as they casually swam about. Then suddenly one of the balloons came to an abrupt halt and began to quiver violently. It was obvious that someone was making the pollack at the end of that line quite nervous in the neighborhood. Then in an instant the balloon disappeared beneath the waters surface and we had our first fish of the day on the line.

We fished in this fashion for about three hours and all told we were successful in landing three nice striped bass including my first real keeper that measured 33 inches. It was a great day for great fish and even better company and who knows maybe next time I will finally get a shot at a bluefish.

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