Anglers can be a predictable bunch. If you know one or happen to be one, you know how you can get settled into certain habits and patterns, and be reluctant to change.
Anglers can be hesitant to try new places, new techniques or even methods. It’s too bad because often these new methods and techniques can open up whole new worlds.
So even though I loved to fish, I had never tried offshore groundfishing until about 15 years ago. Always too busy fishing for trout or bass or striper. Too bad because looking back, I missed out on a lot of fun and fish.
Travel offshore on one of Maine’s head boats or charter boats and you have the opportunity to catch cod, haddock, pollock and other species, many of these in the 5- to 15-pound range.
Maine’s recreational groundfish fishery is one of the better kept secrets in the state.
Many Maine anglers have never even tried groundfishing, even though it is relatively inexpensive, can be a lot of fun and certainly quite rewarding.
Groundfish can sometimes be caught near shore, but during the summer months most anglers seeking these fish need to venture 20 to 30 miles offshore to large offshore spots like Jeffreys Ledge, Platts Bank and Cashes Ledge.
Far from the sight of land, depths generally are in the 400- to 600-foot range in this area of the Gulf of Maine, but in certain places the ocean floor rises to the relatively shallow depths of 180 to 250 feet.
These outcroppings, which vary in depth and contain a variety of habitat, hold species such as cod and haddock. Anglers target these and other groundfish by bouncing jigs or bait on the bottom of the ocean floor atop these ledges.
For someone who has never fished for these species before, you can head offshore on one of Maine’s head boats or charter boats, both of which can take you out to where the fish are, provide the proper fishing rod and tackle, and even clean your catch when you are done.
Head boats, also know as party boats, are larger boats that generally carry in excess of 10 anglers. Charter boats are smaller boats that can provide a similar experience for a smaller number of anglers. Since they are smaller and offer a more personalized experience, they are more expensive. A list of head boats and charter boats can be found at the Maine Department of Marine Resources website, under the recreational fishing link.
If you head out on a head boat, the cost can be relatively inexpensive for a day of fishing. Half-day trips, which don’t go out as far and stay more near inland ledges and banks, start at $45 and last approximately four hours while full-day trips generally last eight hours. Full-day trips start at around $75. Once you are hooked, there are other options such as extended trips that are available. These boats offer trips from May into October.
Your boat will provide your equipment, which generally includes a stiff boat road, a large reel loaded with 50- to 80-pound braided line and a 10- to 16-ounce jig. If you are fishing with bait, generally there is a large lead sinker of similar weight along with two baited hooks. Boats provide baits such as clams, shrimp or squid. The heavy weight is necessary to get your rig down to the bottom and counter the effects of the wind and tide.
Anglers drop their rig to the bottom and jig or bounce it off the bottom. Cod offer vicious strikes and if you are fortunate enough to entice a 15-pounder to your line, it will feel like it wants to pull you down to the bottom. Haddock can have a much softer bite so anglers need to be more alert to their line on the bottom.
Cod must be 19 inches long in order to keep while haddock must be 21 inches. There is a nine-fish limit per angler per day for cod and no bag limit on haddock. For more information on size and bag limits on other fish species, go to the Maine Department of Marine Resources website. Your captain and deckhands will also be up to date on all bag and size limits.
So as the summer heats up and the trout and bass lurk in the depths reluctant to bite, head offshore and try something a little different this summer.
Mark Latti is a Registered Maine Guide, and the Landowner Relations/ Recreational Access Coordinator for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.