Second, we opened a home page on the Internet on January 5, 1996 with the direct help of Matt Roche at Global Solutions Providers (http://www.globalsolution.com). By the beginning of the season, the Bunny Clark site had grown substantially and offered up to the moment weather links (inshore, offshore & weather buoy reports), our complete company profile including schedules, rates and crew, our annual newsletters, our state and world records, fishery management information and a daily Fishing Update. Of the most benefit to my fishing guests was the Fishing Update link which I edited myself. I used this as a means to give Internet readers up-to-the-moment fishing trip reports with our landings, participating angler’s names, accomplishments and current photos. It was like writing a daily news magazine. I got frequent e-mails based on the subject matter I was writing about which gave me the feeling that I was reaching people in a more personal manner. We still maintain the site at http://www.bunnyclark.com and provide you with new information concerning Bunny Clark, Corp., details on any winter fishing trip I might take, important fishery management news or anything I think might be of interest to people who enjoy the area and fishing on the Bunny Clark. This Internet site will serve as a medium to bring you new information in a timely fashion in order to better prepare the angler for fishing on the Bunny Clark.
The season overall was very different from previous seasons. The weather was cooler than normal and gave us the coolest ambient surface water temperatures that we have had since I launched the Bunny Clark in 1983. Because of the cooler water, we were bothered by bluefish and blue sharks less than any other season. We also saw porbeagle sharks, our colder water shark, more frequently than any other season. Along with the colder water came more powerful storms than ever before. We lost almost a months worth of fishing trips where we couldn’t even leave the Cove because the ocean was too rough to make the attempt. It seemed that on most occasions when the weather was good, it was really good and when it was bad, you couldn’t leave the dock. Even so, Mike McKay and his son, Jim, completed their first good weather marathon trip in three years after being rained out for the last two!
We had our second best season for landings of wolffish and haddock. The wolffish were larger this year than other years but the haddock were smaller than last year. Amendment 7 to the New England Fishery Management Plan went into effect on July 1 which raised the legal length limit on cod and haddock from 19 inches overall length to 20 inches. We noticed the difference in landings immediately but got used to it after a couple of weeks. Amendment 7 also gave us a two hook per angler limit and a no sale provision for fish caught on a party boat. Even with the increased restrictions, our landings were 15,000 pounds greater than last year. As I predicted in the 1996 guest letter, a larger base line stock of smaller groundfish gave us more landings in the legal range than any other season except for 1991. The 1996 season came in third for total poundage landed, an excellent fishing year.
The equipment enhancements we made during the winter turned out to be great improvements for the 1996 season. The new stiffer boat rods that I designed and had made by Saco Bay Tackle Company (http://www.sacobaytackle.com) worked as well as planned. At six and a half feet long, they were a good light bait rod but were stiff enough to be a good jigging rod as well. The nice thing was that it was a good stepping stone to the longer custom graphite jig sticks that I have available on the Bunny Clark. The new purple rubber baits I had designed and made at Mojo Lure Company worked well also. Anybody who used this Mojo with a piece of bait increased their catch of haddock significantly.
There will be many improvements this year on the Bunny Clark. Most of these will concern enhancing boat and engine performance. The important improvement for this season will be the installation of a basically new 8V 92TA Detroit Diesel engine. I say basically because some parts of the engine (long block, crank shaft etc.) will be new and other parts (turbos, starter, alternators etc.) will be taken off the existing engine. Detroit Diesel is funding the whole project because they feel that the existing engine was delivered with inherent problems that would cost more to continually fix under the warranty package. This custom engine will be built in Portland, Maine by the most trusted name in diesel engine repair and sales, New England Detroit Diesel-Allison/Power Products (NEDDA). I have had a lot of engines in my lifetime and there is no one that stands behind their engines and can service them like this company, no one! I will also be introducing the new 1997 line of Newell reels, specifically the model 440-3.6. I will be replacing some of the older Newell reels on our custom jigging sticks with these newer ones. The Carl W. Newell Fishing Tackle Company in Glendale, California continues to produce the finest casting/jigging reels known to man and now the new reels come with a five year warranty! We will still be offering the Angerman flies, Burket, Quinny and Angerman jigs and all the other equipment you have come to expect as part of the Bunny Clark experience.
The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) announced in their November-December newsletter, International Angler, that beginning in January 1, 1997, the IGFA will maintain world game fish records for junior anglers on an international basis. The IGFA is starting this program with four record divisions and will accept world record applications for over 10 species found in the Gulf of Maine area. The IGFA stated that "records will be maintained for males and females in a "small fry" division through age 10 and for "junior anglers" 11 through 16". The most significant difference between this program and the established world record program is that junior anglers may weigh their fish in a boat on certified scales in order to promote the conservation aspects of catch and release. I am strongly supporting this move by the IGFA and will be prepared to extend this program on the Bunny Clark to our qualifying young anglers by the time the season starts on March 29, 1997.
Last winter, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) took over the state’s marine trophy program from the Maine Sportsman magazine, our premier hunting and fishing periodical. The DMR’s resident biologist, Bruce Joule, spearheaded the project and, with a little help from industry representatives, (myself included), enhanced our saltwater trophy program. The best thing that came out of this was a coast wide recognition that such a program exists. Bruce’s tireless work was responsible for the production of attractive posters with photographs placed in strategic locations throughout the state promoting the project, decals and certificates to the lucky award winners and a general revamping of the structure and consistency of the program. The most salient difference for us between the previous program and DMR’s program was the difference in qualifying size. Trophy size for a cod now is 20 pounds, pollock becomes a trophy at 20 pounds, wolffish at 15 pounds, cusk at 12 pounds, haddock at 7 pounds, white hake at 15 pounds and mackerel becomes a trophy fish at 2 pounds. This decrease in trophy size increased our trophy fish landings and provided more incentive to our anglers. Any mention of trophies in the following text will relate directly to these new sizes.
The angling successes last season were greater than the two seasons before. The full day trips were consistently good with some exceptions, the afternoon half day trips were more successful and, except for a couple of the early inshore trips, the marathons (our 12 hour, sometimes offshore trips) had some of the best fishing we have seen for years. We completed only 43 of the scheduled 54 marathon trips due to weather related cancellations and enjoyed the only ultra-marathon trip (July 23rd) that I had planned for the 1996 season. Dave Gray (CT), one of my top regular anglers, completed 12 marathon trips last season and enjoyed perfect weather and excellent fishing on each one. This has got to be some kind of boat record. Our best trip of the year for quantity was the marathon trip with Rick Dubuque (great mate) and I on June 10 where 18 anglers landed 2800 pounds of groundfish in the round. Our best marathon trip for trophies occurred on October 28 where Satch and I helped 18 anglers land 21 cod between 20 and 62.5 pounds and four cusk between 12.5 to 19 pounds. Satch and I ran the May 30 marathon where we landed the most legal groundfish for a single trip with a total of 580 keepers. I might add that Captain Dan Ahern and Rick completed a regular day trip in October where the boat landed just a little more that 100 keepers less than our best marathon trip! Marathon landings for the season averaged 12.7 full fish boxes of fish in the round per trip.
There were 143 trophy sized fish, more than 1586 haddock and 255 wolffish landed during the 1996 season. Although we landed some great fish, had qualifying trophy sizes been the same as last season, this would have been the year with the smallest number of fish over thirty pounds. However, we seemed to have more cod with weights in the teens than many years and, had the season been extended a couple of weeks, trophy landings would have dramatically increased. Captain Dan Ahern and Satch ran the best haddock trip of the season on September 1 (a full day trip) with 61 haddock landed for the trip. Even with the federal size limit increase on July 1, there was a larger percentage of sub legal haddock than last year. We released 708 sub legal haddock. On the April 4 marathon, we broke a Bunny Clark record for the most wolffish caught during a single trip with 35 wolffish landed. The previous record was 29 wolffish caught during an early spring marathon in 1994. Bernie Gage (VT) landed the most wolffish for an angler on a single trip with 7 fish. The Bunny Clark record is held by Al Turner (NY) on a trip in 1994 where he landed 9 wolffish.
We had some standouts in the trophy world last season. On the July 18, 1996 half day trip, Jared Laing, an 11 year old boy from New York, landed the third largest wolffish that has ever been landed on the Bunny Clark, a 29 pounder. On the first official day of the season, March 31, Chris Desmarais (NH) landed a 26.5 pound wolffish, the fifth largest wolffish ever caught on the Bunny Clark and the longest at 46.5 inches. During an August 15 half day trip, an 8 year old girl from Quebec, Michele Roy, landed a 20.5 pound wolffish, our sixth largest wolffish of the 1996 season. Bill MacWilliam (CT) landed a 24 pound cusk on November 3 (the last official day of the season), the largest cusk we have seen in three years. Fred Kunz’s (NH) 62.5 pound cod caught on October 28, is the first cod we have seen over sixty pounds in two years. Jim Budness landed a 10 pound haddock on July 23, the largest haddock caught on the Bunny Clark since the 1994 season.