Ordinarily, early June in Cape Cod sees large influxes of 40+ pound “stripahs” as well as the beginnings of a bluefin tuna run that is second to none. Unfortunately, with regular rainstorms and seasonably chilly weather racking the cape’s coast, this year’s arrival of the giants was delayed. Worse yet, our Father’s Day weekend trip saw some of the worst wind the cape had seen this year. Nevertheless, schoolie stripers were plentiful in the Provincetown area. Reports claimed that this made for some fun casting, with occasional keeper-size fish of 28-36 inches as well. But, from Reading, PA to Boston, and then further to P-Town, a 10-hour drive (and then some) through rainy conditions, certainly took its toll and our first night did not last much further than sundown.
Finding a tackle shop in the area was enough of a challenge on day 2, but we managed to get some intel from the locals on catching fish from the surf. By playing the tides, we found ourselves up on the beach about 3 hours before dark with a feeding frenzy happening within 10 feet of the sand. We wouldn’t have noticed the activity without a local screaming, “BOYS! LOOK AT THE FISH FLOPPING ON THE SAND!” The aggressive feeding pushed small baitfish onto the beach and we were able to use these small fish to catch four bass of 20-26 inches. These fun-sized bass put up an incredible fight on the IRT300, though the fun would only last a few minutes as the blitz ended as quickly as it had begun, and the schools of bait moved into the deeper water where we watched birds and bass feed for a bit longer.
Luckily enough, we were able to catch a live mackerel in the surf and live-lined the fish in hopes of a bigger bass. It didn’t take long for a strong hit and soon a 27-inch striper appeared, just under the keeper size. Throughout the remainder of the night, stripers would hit smaller 1-2 oz. topwater poppers, but it was fairly slow until 30 minutes before dark when the wind picked up and the surf became rougher. This change in pressure must have pushed more baitfish in close to the beach, because the 6-inch Al Gag Whip-it Fish™ produced repeatedly within 10-20 feet of the sand. After the bite was said and done, we landed about 15-20 stripers that evening, putting smiles on our faces and making memories we’ll never forget.
Though day 2 was an unguided adventure, day 3 saw us scheduled for some more structured fishing with Captain Ralph Wilkins on the Odysea. Captain Ralph is a commercial bluefin tuna fisherman on National Geographic’s flagship show Wicked Tuna. He has caught giant tuna up to 1050 pounds and is renowned as one of the best at catching these monsters. I initially met Ralph in Hartford, CT at the Northeast Hunting and Fishing Show and he was immediately impressed with the quality of the IRT Reels on display He saw the benefit in fishing an American-made product and immediately wanted to be part of the team. Though the tuna were not plentiful enough for us to take our search offshore, many boats had been catching keeper stripers on the other side of the cape and some were reporting fish up to 40 inches hitting the deck.
Just inside the breaker walls, we set up shop on a large school of mackerel. After 10 minutes of pulling up four fish at a time on Sabiki rigs, we had enough bait to be ready for whatever waited for us in the striper grounds.
Trolling Daddy Mac™ umbrella rigs proved to be effective from the start. Lines were out and, within 5 minutes, the first undersized striper came on board. We would land 5 more before seeing a legal fish. Excitingly, the keeper came to the boat hooked up with two other schoolies. From the cabin, Ralph yelled, “BRING ME THAT FAT ONE!” A 32-incher slid into the cooler. We would hear other boats claiming to catch a few more keeper fish, but we would catch another 15 fish without another eater. Though the action would slow from time to time, trolling remained the most effective method on the boat. While the intensity of bites varied, the drag got to run a few times and we were able to leave with some meat.
Those who have trolled for long periods of time know that the day moves slowly, but Ralph’s charisma and storytelling made this simple trip one of the most memorable adventures I’ve ever been a part of. Honestly, we could have been walking on the sidewalk and it would have felt intense because of Ralph’s recount of his many life’s tales. Stories from Wicked Tuna, recounts of his younger years, and his many opinions of the fishing industry gave us more excitement than any fish had the entire trip.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and welcome to the IRT Family, Captain Ralph!