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Peter D

THE OLD DAYS

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There are a number of folks here whose MA striper (and SW) fishing days go back quite a way-and whose experiences and recollections are fascinating.

 Perhaps a thread “the Old Days” would make interesting reading for both the new and old timers.

Areas that would be ripe for historic discussion could be:

 

Cape Beaches, Cuttyhunk and the Islands, Canal, South Shore, Boston Harbor, North Shore, Plum Island and the Merrimack

And - old tackle and tackle shops.

 

Peter DiGiovanni

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Peter, You mentioned the Cuttyhunk guide Bob Smith in a previous post. I never really met him but did observe him on one occasion. We had just come into Padanarum Harbor  from a nights fishing at Cuttyhunk with Frank Hart on the Saber II. We saw Bob Smith idling up to the dock with his two sports. Bob was a very big guy, He seemed to dwarf the fairly small McKenzie he was piloting. They unloaded their catch on to the dock into boxes. One of the sports pulled out a quart of whiskey. They passed it around, each taking a rather large gulp. The bottle never completed a second trip around them. A little later on the tourists showed up on the dock as Bob prepared his gear for the next nights fishing. A group of tourists gathered near his boat as he started rigging eel skins on large swimming plugs. For effect he held up a large eelskin and blew into it like a balloon to inflate it. He then slipped it onto a swimmer and secured it. Naturally this evoked a negative reaction from the females present. He then repeated the show for the next two swimmers he rigged. He seemed to enjoy the responses he got. He was quite a showman!

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Snookster:

I first fished Cuttyhunk with Frank Sabatowski (in his old boat), A.P. Tilton, then with Bob Smith, the latter for 10 years. His MacKenzie (Susan B) was custom built for him with the bow lowered so he could see when operating the boat from the stern tiller. As a result it was a very wet boat in a chop.

Bob liked his whiskey. When my wife and I returned from our honeymoon I brought him a magnum bottle of Canadian Club. When he unloaded our suitcases I told him I had something for him in one of the cases. He placed the bottle on his table in his shack on the dock and he finished it that week. His routine after we returned from night fishing (wire line or lead line trolling- depending on time of year) he had his breakfast, took a nap and came down to the dock to check all his rigs and make up skin plugs, while having his whiskey followed by a Bud chaser (one thing he never allowed was drinking alcohol while fishing).

I learned how to make these plugs from him. He had live eels delivered to him from RI. They went into a floating pen near his dock. When he needed skins he took out some eels, hung them on a nail on his shed, skinned them, scraped the fuzz of the inverted skins and made up plugs. He used primarily the large plastic swimming atoms on the rips and eel  skin rigs off the beaches. They went into a salt water bucket on his boat and were always ready for the nights trolling. He was meticulous when making these skin plugs. (I still have eel skins in a heavy brine solution is sealed jars that are over twenty years old). We used monel line when trolling in the rips (my favorite way to fish) and lead core after the fish left the rips and could be found along the islands shores (Nashawena, Nashon, Pasque). My wife never fished with us (I usually fished alone with Smith) - couldn't take trolling in a rocking boat all night. We had a lovely room at the Allen House and she read and walked the paths during the day.

When the fish were on the rips we fished the Pigs then across to Devil's Bridge off Gay Head. We had some interesting returns to Cuttyhunk from Gay Head in rough weather. We fished Quick's, but not as much as the Pigs.

I took those lessons with me when I got my own boat and trolled the mouth of the Merrimac at night.

Those were the Old Days.

PS- Smith had an interesting and abrasive relation with Charlie Haag, although he tolerated Frank Sabatowski, This group was fiercely competitive. A separate post required to amplify. He got along well with the Cuttyhunk native chartermen, Charlie and AP Tilton, Lloyd Bosworth etc.

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This is and old story. years back we had a fishing club NESGA ( New England Saltwater Gamefishing Asso.)  We were fishing in Cape Cod Bay a lot and  Al Cappy decided that the club members should have a map of the bay, coded so as we would all know were each other was incase we got into some big fish or a blitz. There were about ten of us with boats that went out every weekend.  This one week we went out of Sandwich Marina at the end of the canal. If one of us said come over and have coffee, that meant the bite was on.  Our charts were all coded with different blocks so that we and only we would know were each other was. We all went off in different directions.  About 8am in the morning we get a call from Al.  Myself and my friend were fishing outside the Pamet River and doing well. Stripers 24 to 30'' on almost every cast.  We tell them to come over and they tell us to come over also. Anyway we stayed put.  At the end on the day we are all coming into the Canal and Al's boat was infront of us.  We Hold the the 30'' fish and they look at us  and say thats it?  Then they hold up there 45 lbers and 50 lbers.  We told you to come over ?   that was the day Al got his 50''.     After we got in the marina he told us the fish were so thick you could walk on them and that they were big fish.  He said he had one that came right up to the boat and that the fish tried to grab his lure.  He got frantic and pulled the lure right out of his mouth. After he realized what he did, he put the lure back in the water and tried Jiggle it to get him again along side the boat.  He said it was the biggest fish he had ever seen. a good sixty lbs.   

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Wow. Thanks for creating this thread. It seems they come up every few years and in tidbits in other threads. I love hearing the stories from the old timers. I wonder what some of the people fishing the canal these days would think when they heard about the craziness of the back side beaches back in the day? My dad told me stories of the picket fences; guys getting tangled and cutting each other's lines. It is hard for some people to think much past their period of recollection. History is just what they can remember. Fishing, it seems, is a cyclical hobby. When the fish are big and easy to catch, lots of people around. When the fishing gets tough, the crowds thin out. 

 

I miss the days of fishing with my dad in the back bays for schoolies late at night. When the herring would start to run hard, we would find the spots where they would stage at the head of the bay and fish with 7" rebels in the dark hours. It was such a thrill as a kid to stay out late with my dad and experience those nights. I rarely caught fish, but it was just fun being out there. Then the memories of hitting the herring runs for bait. One throw of the cast net would keep me busy picking up fish for 15 minutes. Some would be thrown into the live well, with others being saved for fertilizer for the garden in the back yard. We used a double treble set-up when we would rig the herring. Two treble hooks wired together, one through the nose and one through the back. Very rarely missed a fish with that set-up!

 

Great thread and I hope to see what other post up. 

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Peter During one period of time Southy had at least four shops , Dorchester had 4 shops most on Dot avenue, one in Neponset Circle Mikes bait and Tackled owned by Bob Sarson and his wife They employed a rod wrapper [Little JOe] was his name that worked in the basement building Custom Rods. Al Phillips had another shop right up the road on the corner of Broadway, he also built rods . One shop was close to the beach area owned by Bobby Urban and when the early part of the season got going they would sell bait out of the stand at the beginning of the road to the Sugar Bowl . Most of the time these shops stayed open all year long selling sea worms . In the early time Bob Sarson would pay worm digger to dig and put the worms on the greyhound bus into park Sq. and he would sell them to other shops . Since he employed the diggers he never was out of worms back during those times and they were all graded for the specific type of fishing you would do. It is interesting to see that Whitey Kreuger had a shop in Somerville as he also had a shop for a short while on Dot Avenue, he also built custom rods. One person who was a meat cutter and supplied a lot of the custom rods around at that time lived on the South River was Ronny Brawn . 

It was also interesting to see you mention the retrieve method your friend used as that was a common approach when ever the water was like glass to make a cast , let it settle and reel like crazy let it settle and repeat it until you were reeled all up . It was a similar method one would use if using a jitterbug in fresh water at times. At times it had its moments for sure. WE did this mostly with surface poppers and some floating swimming plugs.

 

I can recall at least 7 tackle shops in and around the canal during that time frame . The only ones still open are Cape Cod Charlies, Red Top, Maccos. and the Sandwich Ships Supply. The Fishermen s Friend   across the street from Cape Cod Charlies was the same name as was given to Whitey Brother s shop in Dorchester. Caldera's on the bridge at Gibbs crossing moved across the road and now is under a new name [put a name on it] Another one was right at the foot of the Sagamore Bridge that was gone after they did all the new road work . Biff had one on the canal at the mouth of the opening to the Sandwich marine and later moved it to the cape side of the Sagamore bridge and was bought by Bruce Miller who then built is own shop up the street [Canal Bait and tackle ] At one time several of the shops were owned by folks that used them to clean money from the city. They controlled the worm market like some controlled the selling and buying of fish The shop in Neponset Circle at one time was part of that process along with a couple down cape. Some of the shops that failed , failed because they drank the profits and in some cases became gambling dens .as well . Alcohol was a challenge for most during those times and it was unfortunate otherwise they were successful in a hard business even during those times, as all shops had a core customer group that only would buy from them. 

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Angler1:

I do remember most of those tackle shops.

Do you remember the fellow on Atlantic Ave that sold grass shrimp (l40's and 50's)? He shucked and packaged fresh clams. But he also had a shrimp "trap" on the dock behind his shop where he carried live grass shrimp. They were sold by the gill (1/4 pint). He put them in a pint take out food container with sawdust and ice. A small piece of burlap was placed on top of the ice and the grass shrimp wrapped in the burlap. My father and I used these shrimp for trout on Jamaica Pond and trout fishing in the local streams.

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Most of the shrimp I used for the most part I gathered on Moon Island or bought them from Mike's tackle shop which by the way he also owned another one near the North River some where that his other son managed for awhile. It was a real small hole in the wall type of shop as i recall the times I would visit there. It is interesting to see how most would use the food container with sawdust and Ice . The burlap method was well received in keeping the shrimp alive for a long time. I have used a similar method to keep sea worms alive, with out the ice , but in the fridge for a long time

 

.Speaking of JPond , one of my favorite places for yellow perch and large mouth bass . I often would fish the pond next door however for pickerel which i did with a fly rod at the time .[Wards i believe was the name] It was really in part of Brookline village.   I even had a couple of opportunities to fish along side Mayor Curly during those formative years. Before he spent some time in prison while serving as Mayor of Boston. Did you ever fish the new pier that stands now at Castle Island before the 78 storm destroyed it  ?

WE have some one posting here that might have been living in one of the fore mentioned shops when his father was operating it. What say yee Brad about that time frame.

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Not to many guys k now what a gill of shrimp is today.   That's for sure. 

I remember while Smelt fishing in 0° weather we would catch a Tommy Cod and throw it on the dock.   It would flap about three times and be frozen solid 

 

Alantic Ave, do you mean Cooks just before the bridge on the right 

Edited by ccb

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CCB

I'm not sure what/where Cooks is. The place I referred to was between Lewis Wharf and the Aquarium is now. Recall there was a string of fish dealers along that stretch of Atlantic Ave.

 

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Do you mean the fish pier?  Where the fishing boats sold there fish

my godfather owned Puritan fish co. On the dock?

i was wrong it was Hooks on Northern Ave. 

Edited by ccb

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13 hours ago, ccb said:

Do you mean the fish pier?  Where the fishing boats sold there fish

my godfather owned Puritan fish co. On the dock?

i was wrong it was Hooks on Northern Ave. 

I can also recall Hooks on Northern Ave I believe some once fished for smelt near by. Was this the place where Fort Point Channel was out back ? Also sold Lobsters?

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13 hours ago, ccb said:

Do you mean the fish pier?  Where the fishing boats sold there fish

my godfather owned Puritan fish co. On the dock?

i was wrong it was Hooks on Northern Ave. 

It was around the Lewis Wharf area. Their were fishing boats in back of these dealers. I thought they were their own boats. I recall groups of fishermen baiting lines whose hooks with pieces of sea worms and the hooks fixed around the rim of wooden tubs. The hooks had small leaders attached to a main tarred line. I used to watch these guys patiently bait each hook and neatly fix each hook around the tub rim.

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1 min ago, Peter D said:

It was around the Lewis Wharf area. Their were fishing boats in back of these dealers. I thought they were their own boats. I recall groups of fishermen baiting lines whose hooks with pieces of sea worms and the hooks fixed around the rim of wooden tubs. The hooks had small leaders attached to a main tarred line. I used to watch these guys patiently bait each hook and neatly fix each hook around the tub rim.

Called a tub trawl......

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14 hours ago, ccb said:

Not to many guys k now what a gill of shrimp is today.   That's for sure. 

I remember while Smelt fishing in 0° weather we would catch a Tommy Cod and throw it on the dock.   It would flap about three times and be frozen solid 

 

Alantic Ave, do you mean Cooks just before the bridge on the right 

Now those Tommy cod always went home for an extra treat at supper time or was mixed into the chowder with silvers. When ever we went for cod that same situation would happen and the fish became like a solid piece of flesh , that did not move. When we got home we would empty the bag into the bathtub and within a few minutes the whole tub would be shaking with fish as they unfroze. Now that was a sight that I would wake up my sons to see , before i fillet them . I would not doubt that had they been placed back at that point in the water they would have swam away.   During some snow storms we would catch a cod place it on the wall and it would stand straight up like bowling pins in seconds . It was the only way to keep track of it and keep the rats from chewing on it at times. When the weather conditions got real bad any sea gull that landed to get out of the weather became a meal in short time from the four legged rodents. . We could often hear them , but in most cases were not able to see because of the snow falling. Another time like the canal, where in order to get the name of Canal Rat you had to spend a night on the side of the embankment and fall asleep only to have one or two rats running over you or even getting inside your waders.  THe Rat population along the canal was so great it was nothing during the daylight to see some running all over the rocks looking for food and when they came across someone who had been eeling during the night they would lap away on the outside of the waders where you had wiped your hands to get the slime of from the eels . The first time for me was an different experience from seeing them to actually feeling one scampering inside my waders , it was a scary thing, that you soon got over. For some it was no big deal to have some running over them as they were sleeping after fishing all night and for me that is how I was given that name in another time by those who valued the name and being called a Canal Rat . You not only had to put your time in ,[fish the whole night] until you could no longer stay awake and fall asleep on the rocks or walk way.  but you also had greet the canal rats that were searching out you for food. I never new of any one that was bitten during that time, but I could imagine it happening given some circumstances. Memories from the past on where the term Canal Rat came from in my young and formative years that was earned very proudly during another era of canal fishermen.

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