May 30, 2014

It's easy enough...once you figured it out.

A few days ago, I was chatting with my friend Richard on the phone. He mentioned there were all these baitfish swirling all around his dock. He dropped a line in and they were chasing and nipping his chunk of nightcrawler, but he couldn't catch them since his smallest hooked were only #8. We suspected that they were Alewife. Usually, Alewife's diet consist of small items like zooplankton. They usually do not feed while spawning, so it was odd they were interested in the chunk of nightcrawler.

I was intrigued. I have yet to catch an Alewife. While I was in Virginia a couple of weeks ago, there were shad spawning and we were certain that some of them were Alewife. But since they were most difficult to tell apart from Blueback Herring, it was difficult to target them. Now this opportunity was present, I must exploit it as much as possible.

So the first chance possible, Richard and I tried for them after work for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, it appeared that the Alewife had moved out and only small number of them remained by his boat slip. We tried fishing small segments of garden worm but only caught salmon smolt after salmon smolt. Since our time was limited, we decided to give it another try a few days later.

This morning, I was organizing my gear for another after work attempt. While I was taking my shower, I thought "Hm...maybe they would hit a sabiki rig..." Well, by the time I step out of my apartment, I had forgotten all about the sabiki. It wasn't until I was halfway to work on the subway that I realized I forgot my sabiki.

Richard finished work early and I was able to get my work done quickly, so we arrived at his slip by 5:30pm. We decided to take the little dinghy to actively to search for the school of Alewife. While motoring around, I noticed some stickleback in the shallows; so I put on a tanago hook to try for them.

As I was leaning over the side trying to sight fish for these little guys, Richard was chatting with someone and found out that he caught some Alewife on hook and line just a few days ago. He mentioned something that resembles a sabiki rig. Of course...that's exactly what I forgot to pack. He did mentioned where he was catching these fish, so we headed over in that direction.

Sure enough, there were small schools of Alewife under the docks and boats. We had no sabiki rig so we tried to jig small chunks of nightcrawler or garden worm. We noticed that the fish would swarm and swirl around the bait only when we jigged. Enchanted as they might for the moving bait, they were not taking it. I tried to use small 1" twister tails in different colours but they were not any more tempted to bite.

Then we noticed someone jigging by his dock. We suspected he was jigging for Alewife, so we slowly drifted over to get more intel. Indeed, he caught an Alewife with a sabiki right in front of us. We started chatted and told him we were trying to catch some Alewife but had no success with our technique. It appeared that they would only hit sabiki. He would jiggle the sabiki a couple of times, pause briefly, then give it a sharp quick lift. The Alewife would usually hit on the lift.

He found out I was trying hard to get my #389 species and lend us a sabiki rig. Using the rig, it took less than a minute before I finally caught one!

Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) - Species #389!

Proof that they were not snagged.

Once we figured out how to catch them, it was super easy. We caught 8 of them quickly. Since it was getting toward sunset and the temperature was quickly dropping, we returned the sabiki to our new friend Pete and called it an evening.

Thank you Pete for helping us catch a lifer!

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