The Bug Bug
I have gotten The Bug bug this year. Lobster fishing is just plain fun to do, but that has been true since hoop-nets came to be. So it is a bit of a mystery to me why I am so smitten to target the crawlers this season.
It could be the anticipation. Fishing for lobster can be exciting. As the net is pulled from the dark water and the bioluminescence lights it up as it is moving to the boat, you can almost see the bugs before the net is out of the water. And you just never know.
Last night was a perfect example. We tried a new spot since the wind and chop and crowds made our go-to location unfishable. Within a couple of hours we had 101 bugs hit the deck for measuring. Of those, 12 were legal. Not bad.
But that is fishing, and for me the sport has always had an allure, so maybe my Bug bug this year is driven by other factors.
It could be Gusto, our new for 2017 30’ SportCraft. This is the perfect boat for running lobster hoop-net charters. In years passed we hooped on our 24’ center console. It was a great platform for 2, but quickly got crowded with more than that on a hoop net charter.
Gusto has a very roomy cockpit which has a much better layout for people and gear. Gusto can easily accommodate 6 passengers for a regular fishing trip, but for hoop netting we suggest a limit of 4 anglers.
Locals know that fishing a small skiff is ideal for a one person hoop-net trip. A small skiff is nimble enough to get in tight to the boiler rocks that lobster cling to, and they are shallow draft vessels, meaning they can slide over some very skinny water without harming the boat or motor.
Larger vessels are generally less maneuverable, have deeper draft hulls and can present visibility problems for the operator.
Gusto is different. At 30’ she is pretty big for tight quarters, however she has a single, direct-drive engine, so there is less running gear in the water than many boats her size and she has a very shallow draft.
Single engine direct-drive boats can be tricky to steer. Unlike an outboard engine, the directional forces are limited to fore and aft by the direct-drive set up. However, Gusto has a bow thruster, which is a small electric motor built in to the bow and just below the waterline.
A bow thruster provides port and starboard (side to side) directional forces. I used to laugh at boats with thrusters since they seemed to be ‘cheating’. Now, I love my thruster.
Picture this. You are on a dark ocean heading for a small, lighted pick-up stick in a slight breeze with a small chop out of the northwest and a cross current. You need to approach this stick close enough to allow your angler a chance at grabbing the stick without running over the float line attaching the stick to the net.
This can be a tricky maneuver as the operator spins the wheel and applies power to use momentum to make the single rudder turn the boat. A bow thruster adds a very functional directional tool to the mix allowing the boat to more easily come into alignment with the stick.
Thrusters are joystick controlled, so the operator now has three tools but only two hands to make the maneuver. It takes a bit of getting used to, but after a few trips I feel very comfortable with the whole process.
Gusto has a few other features that make her a good hoop-net charter boat. She has a forward open-helm hard top enclosure with all glass windows. Seeing at night can be difficult, particularly through plastic isinglass that is never fully clear and is always deformed to a degree. Add a couple of sunbaked years into the mix and it can be downright dangerous to peer through such a set up.
Glass windows still reflect light back at the operator, but they are uniform and easy to keep clear. The trick is to minimize interior light sources, a constant battle with customers and their iPhones and flash cameras.
Gusto also has a secret weapon. She is set up for using a powered line puller. I know what you are saying, “That’s cheating! Too easy!” I used to agree. But the bugs are moving and changing their preferred locale. Sometimes that means going deep.
Most of our nets are shallow, anywhere from 15 to 55 feet deep. We do not need and do not use the line-hauler for these. But, when we cannot find bugs in the shallows, Gusto has the tools to fish them deep. A definite benefit when out-of-shape customers are pulling ten nets two times per night.
Maybe it is the weather. We have been having gorgeous, warm nights on the water so far this season.
Maybe it is the customers. Anybody nutty enough to want to go out on a boat at night to catch bugs has to be an interesting person.
Maybe it is all of it. The bugs are crawling, the weather has been great, the customers have been fun and Gusto is dialed in for hoop-netting. Who could ask for more?
By Capt. John King, Afishinados Charters
Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – 888-613-7770 – firstname.lastname@example.org