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To a boat owner, the approach of the holidays spells the end of the fishing season here in the northeast. Thoughts of delightful days on the water are replaced by concerns of winterizing the boat to protect it from the elements of the harsh winter to come. For me, this used to be a sad time, sort of like parting with a good friend. A few years ago, however, I discovered that I could still enjoy the rewards of a day of fishing all through the winter season. I discovered that fishing for cod on one of the local party boats was a lot of fun and very rewarding. Party boat fishing for cod in the winter is not at all like drifting for fluke on a balmy day in July. As such, it requires some important preparation. Protection from the cold ranks high on the priority list. If one would also hope to bag a few tasty cod to grace the holiday table, then some thought should be given to tactics and tackle. Living in Babylon, I find it most convenient to patronize the boats at Captree. I have found that familiar faces and the development of a rapport with the captain, crew and regular customers from one area or boat is most valuable.

As for choosing a boat to sail with, I suggest trying a couple of different boats at the beginning. Each boat has its own particular style and attributes. When you find one that is comfortable for you, patronize that boat as a regular. Remember that it is a business in which regular customers are valued highly. Crews are more willing to go the extra distance for a regular customer. While on the subject of crews, their regular salary is nothing to brag about. They depend upon tips to make a descent day's pay. Winter weather is an important consideration in planning a trip. During this time of year, windless, warm and dry days are almost unheard of, and a certain amount of discomfort is to be expected. However, to board a boat when the forecast calls for winds in excess of 20 mph., temperatures below 20 degrees, and a possibility of sleet or snow is asking for trouble. For these reasons, I avoid long range plans. I listen to the forecasts and wait for the right day, usually finalizing my plan the night before. Concerning proper dress, the rule is light but warm. Layers of lighter weight clothing provide warmth without restricting movement. A quality set of lightweight thermal underwear, such as made by Helly Hansen, warm street clothes and a set of coveralls containing thinsulate is usually sufficient for basic warmth. Insulated waterproof boots and gloves are a must, as is a heavy duty set of foul weather gear for when conditions get sloppy or for added warmth. Don't forget that a great amount of body heat is lost from an uncovered head, so a quality woolen watchcap that can be pulled down over the ears is also in order. In addition, winter seas are usually lumpy even on windless days, so take the normal precautions to prevent seasickness.

Well, how about catching fish? In my experience, I have found that two rules pay off with fish most often. Keep terminal tackle to a minimum and get it where the other guys aren't. The first part is easy. I use a single 7/0 cod style snelled hook attached to a dropper loop three feet above a sinker just heavy enough to hold bottom under the prevailing conditions. I thread on a single skimmer clam, hooking it through the hard tissue several times and running it on up the shank of the hook. This is all that I use, and I have been high hook on the boat a number of times.

The process of getting your bait to be in the most productive spot can actually begin long before the boat leaves the dock. What I am referring to is getting a prime position from which to fish. Since this is a first come first pick affair, it might require arriving at the boat an hour or two before sailing time. I consider the stern quarter to be the best position on the boat. From this position a number of factors are in your favor. Underhand casting can be directed both to the side and astern, thus covering more territory. Baits fished astern from a boat at anchor will not be dragged by currents and are usually the first to be encountered by cod moving up current to the smells of these offerings. Your fishing line also will not run under the boat as it undergoes its normal shifting from side to side. If a stern position is not available, I would take the bow as my second choice. This area provides a degree of advantage similar to the stern, and in addition, is usually not too crowded.

What kind of tackle should you use? My suggestion is to keep it as light as possible but of high quality. Large metal spool reels just cannot cast the distance necessary. Heavy line inhibits casting and requires an excessive amount of sinker weight in order to stay put on the bottom. Double hook rigs with three skimmers on each again restrict casting and are prone to move in the current. I have never been outfished by someone employing such gear or techniques. I use a Penn 970 reel, as it is compact but strong and made for casting. In addition, it has a high speed retrieve, and a very smooth drag system. Many people laugh when they see this reel being used for cod, especially when it is spooled with only 25 lb. test line. It has caught 40lb. cod and for that matter 40lb. striped bass with no problems in the past. I do splice in a ten foot section of 40lb. mono to the terminal end of my running line in order to prevent breakage of the lighter line at the hook and sinker connection. For a rod, I use an eight foot fast taper medium-heavy blank, preferably graphite. I utilize a minimum of guides and only cork tape on the butt section to which I tape on the reel using a number of wraps of electrical tape. This keeps the outfit light and allows placement of the reel so as to allow for the best casting leverage. With this combination, I can easily cast 75-100 feet and thus get my bait out there all alone and looking good for the first hungry codfish that swims toward the boat.

Good Fishing, Capt. Al Lorenzetti Al Lorenzetti 1995


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