It cannot truly be cod fishing season in New England until the Yankee Fleet vessels are bustling through Gloucester Harbor filled with smiling faces and the anticipation of a big catch! With over 60 years of experience, Yankee Fleet is the most notable charter company on Cape Ann. Heck, I’m pretty sure they invented charter fishing from the Port of Gloucester. I am proud to say that I am the third generation of the Perry family to enjoy this tradition and I hope to pass it down to generations to come! Hopefully, after you read this report, you too will join the many, happy, Yankee Fleet family members.
This past Tuesday, April 16th, was the opening day of Cod Season for waters north of Cape Cod. There was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to kick start my season on board the Yankee Patriot. I was not disappointed! It was everything I remembered as a child. It was everything I remembered from last season and everything I needed after dealing with a stressful week in New England and the thick, sad feeling surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombing. As they say, it was just what the doctor ordered.
Our party arrived at the docks at 6:30 AM. At that time of the day, it was really a quick ride from Boston’s Metrowest to the historical shores of Gloucester Harbor. After being greeted by the professionals at the office registration desk, we gathered our gear and headed to the docks. There she was, the Yankee Patriot, which, in my opinion, the icon of the fleet. She’s a wood constructed, low deckline vessel, which makes it all that much easier to haul cod, haddock, pollock and other large fish over the rails. The deck plan is such that there is plenty of elbow room and deck space for everyone. She’s equipped with comfortable bathrooms (for both men and ladies), and an inside cabin with booths and a snack shop that offers a wide variety of meals and snacks and beverages. (Please, do NOT bring your own alcohol aboard. Yankee Fleet possesses a liquor license and beer is offered at a competitive price) The Yankee Patriot has been in service since 1965, but was overhauled in 2001. She is as beautiful and efficient as ever. Just the sight of the vessel at the dock brings back fond memories of my youth.
Yankee Fleet provides everything you need for a great day of deep sea fishing. Free bait is available, and is refilled as needed. Most often chopped sea clams are used. If you are inclined and eager for a work out, the fish will hit just as hard and often, if you use a jig. There are some beautiful pink, powder coated jigs available at the tackle shop that have been taking lots of sizeable fish! Make sure you get one before boarding. Rods and reels can be rented for the trip. If you do have your own, make sure it is the right equipment and tackle to bring up big fish in approximately 200 feet of water.
We had the joy of fishing with Captain John Greenleaf and Captain Thomas Orrell. Tom has worked at Yankee Fleet since his days in college in 1979 and began managing operations since 1989. He graduated from college in 1980 and received his Capt.’s License in 1982. In 2008 he then purchased the company. He has proven that he knows the business and knows where to find the fish! John, a Worcester, MA native, moved to Gloucester after college to make a living on and from the sea & was a Captain for Yankee Fleet for 9 years. He has recently rejoined the company after some time tending to his own commercial fishing business. Both of these guys have a knack for customer service and tailor their days around the individual customers. They are quick to congratulate a young boy for his “huge catch” and make polite, small talk with the ladies. Yet, with a quick stroll to the bow of the boat, typically filled with salty fishermen, the crew will drop a belly-busting joke, not suitable for the kids on the stern. They are guys’ guys, family men, Captains and yes, big kids!
Yankee fishing excursions travel to the areas known as Stellwagen Bank, Tillies, and Jeffrey’s Ledge. Stellwagen is southerly as you depart the harbor. Jeffrey’s ledge is to the north. This puts Yankee Fleet in an advantageous position to find fish right outside of their port! On this particular trip, a whole day adventure, we traveled an hour and a half to the North side of Stellwagen Bank. This National Marine Sanctuary is home to one of the world’s richest feeding grounds. It is not uncommon to see porpoise, whales, seals and other predators roaming these waters for the same fish we are hunting. On this day, the waters were just at two foot. The sun was shining. Though, as early as it is in the season, the air was cool and there was a steady, easterly breeze at 10 to 15 knots. Truly, not a bad day at sea for the opening week of cod season!
All in all, the fishing was as expected for the opening week. Many cod were taken aboard. Some were too small to keep, but there were plenty of fish at 19 inches or greater that made it into the coffee bags. There were at least three, very large, wolfish or Atlantic catfish that were brought aboard, but under new regulations, had to be released immediately. The winner of the ‘pool’ took the prize with a very large, and well fed, cusk. If there were any haddock or Pollock taken, they were taken at the stern as I didn’t see any in my fishing area at the bow. Suffice to say, it was a good experience for all on board.
Whatever your interest is, Yankee Fleet has a trip that should fit your needs. If you are a beginner, or a world traveling adventurer, or somewhere in between, they’ve got it going on. Full day trips can be booked today! Beginning in June, they offer both Half Day Fishing, and All Day fishing. They have charters for Tuna, Overnight Cod and Haddock, and Overnight Snapper and Grouper trips as well. Last but not least, if fishing is not on your agenda when you visit Cape Ann, give the office a call and inquire about their whale watching excursions. While I’ve not participated in this trip, many people I’ve spoken to have claimed that they are a great time and that the crew is completely knowledgeable regarding the fish and marine mammals you will encounter . Of course they are, they have salt water running through their veins!
To find more information about Yankee Fleet, visit their website at: www.yankeefleet.com or give them a call at 1-800-942-5464. Book your trip today and start your own memories that will last a lifetime!
A parting note: If you have ever fished with Yankee Fleet, you may remember Mr. George Cabral. George was the epitome of the ‘salty old dude’. He had the knack for putting a smile on everyone’s face. He was a hard worker, a dedicated family man, and guy with a huge heart who touched the lives of many generations of New Englanders. I remember his presence on the Patriot as one of the highlights of my trips. Unfortunately, George passed away last December after a courageous battle with cancer. He will be sorely missed. The ‘lantic just isn’t the same without him. This blog entry is dedicated to George and all those who fished there before us. May they rest in peace and get their daily limit on their new fishing grounds, behind the pearly gates.