Earlier this week Mark Phillipe told me about some weird fish he had been catching in RI waters, something he nor anyone he knew could remember ever seeing in all the years fishing those waters. They turned out to be chub mackerel, a fish I have found very little about. They are much like typical Atlantic mackerel but they have a different color scheme and are a bit thicker, and I believe they get a bit larger. Obviously I was instantly interested. A weird mackerel species that is infrequent in these parts and of course one I had never caught? Yeah, I wanted one. When Mark invited me out I immediately said yes.
I got up dark and early this morning, pumped and ready to fish. We got to the boat before the sun was up and made got ourselves ready then headed out. First we were going to hunt for some stripers, as they wouldn't be feeding all day and the mackerel almost certainly would be.
Fishing big open water for stripers on the boat is totally different from what I'm used to and just feels like it will result in bigger fish, which is more often than not why you go out on the boat anyway. We started out in a famous spot that had observed before but never fished. I started out with a popper, and on the first drift it got slammed by a bluefish. Not hookup. The next bunch of passes failed to produce so I switched to a white deceiver. The fourth or fifth cast with that fly a fish came out and pounced on it. It was only a little striper but in that current it pulled really well. It seemed to be the only player around though, so we went a half hour's ride east to a rip that was just forming on the outgoing tide. Mark did some damage there with a very respectable bass and a solid bluefish. I got the run around, and when the fish really started showing off I had an even harder time.
The showy fish were doing something I've heard of and seen in videos before but had never witnessed. There were substantial stripers working in the flat water at the front of the rip just chowing down on smaller sized squids. On one occasion when the fish broke very close to the boat I could see a few squid leap 6-7ft across the water trying to escape 24-40 inch stripers, and small schools of them scattering under the surface. These fish only popped up momentarily and I may only have gotten a few shots that could have produced fish. It was tough. Really tough. And all I want to do now is figure it out. But we didn't do it before the bite seemed to slow, so we went to chub mackerel HQ.
I saw them from a long way off, and it got my heart going a little bit.
Then we got closer and I started having full on palpitations.
If you've ever seen a Montauk striper blitz, in person or on video, this kind of resembled that. Big white water areas with tons of fish breaching and rain bait spraying everywhere... the major difference is that the Montauk fish are chunky stripers and these were spastic mackerel. But fishing to them isn't too different, put the fly in the white water and strip. The result was immediate takes, hookups, and crazy fights for what are really not big fish. It really isn't hard. I got my 60th species. Scomber colias. That's a solid milestone for a NE fly rodder.
After those first few fish it became kind of silly. I knew I could pretty easily stick them and they were all from the same cookie cutter, so I found myself with a bent rod in one hand an my camera in the other. I wanted to capture the magic.
There was near constant action on that point. There were some lulls, but if there were fish up we were going to get takes when we got flies to them. We left before they did, and if I had to guess I'd say they're probably still chewing out there. Hard to say. I can't wait to get back to them though.
As we motored away I noticed my adrenaline was slowly starting to subside. In the back of my mind was the though: "how crazy was all that?". And it hit me like a ton of bricks when got home. What an oddball fish doing an odd and visually spectacular feeding display. THIS is the kind of thing I live for. This is why I fish. I can't thank Mark enough for putting me on these fish.