The most interesting thing about the weather during the 1995 season was that although the ocean was the calmest of any previous Bunny Clark season, the type of weather we did get was more conducive to fish biting than the two previous seasons. This unusual combination created a comfortable fishing environment with consistently good fish landings. The good weather also promoted the bait fishermen to new prominence and made 1995 our best bait fishing year. Even Bob Withee and Ken McLaughlin were seen fishing with a piece of clam or shrimp on occasion!
The warm winter produced warmer water for spring fishing which improved the bite early. Herring had shown up on most of the major banks a month before we started fishing. This brought an early run of school cod and got the resident or local populations of cod biting. We started catching haddock and wolffish during the first week of the season along with the cod. It was not long before haddock became an expected part of every catch. By the end of May we had already tripled our best previous yearís catch of haddock! We caught more whiting, wolffish and blue sharks than any previous season. This was also the year of the small fish with more sub-legals and more keeper sized fish (over 19Ē) than ever before. Even though we landed more legal fish than any other year, our seasonís total poundage was still 70,000 pounds less than our best year.
Our improvements to the boat in 1995 were few but significant in their impact. I introduced a new type of purple Mojo that proved to be our best haddock killer. This rubber shrimp was so effective that Fred" I will never fish bait" Kunz bought every one I had on the boat one day. We changed to Jinkai monofilament for leader material to use with the jig sticks. We found that Jinkai monofilament was thinner, stronger, more abrasion resistant and easier to tie knots than any of the other monofilaments we had used in the past. I designed three new jig sticks for use with Spectra line. Capt. Matt Fleisher with J.B.Tackle Co. in Niantic, CT built them for me. The rods turned out to be better than I expected, forgiving and light but tough. Matt is a wizard when it comes to building beautiful rods. That fact wasnít lost on Art Kemler who fell in love with the new rods and became one of my best fishermen while using them. I introduced the Mojo tube as a replacement for the treble hook skirts found on most jigs. Of the anglers that used these tubes, and Fred Kunz and Bernie Gage are probably the best examples, most were very successful in landing larger fish and catching haddock on a jig.
I plan to make various improvements for the 1996 fishing season. Most of the improvements will be unnoticeable as they pertain to improvements in boat performance and function, information gathering programs with a new computer and research for new areas of bottom. Of most concern will be the potential discovery of new fishable wrecks to supplement the landings of trophy fish in the future. I willbe including ten new boat/bait/jig rods based on a rototype we tested last season. Although these aods are basically my design, Cal Robinson of Saco Bay Tackle Co., who provided the original prototype, will be responsible for building the new rods. The custom equipment we provide for our anglers (Newell reels, custom graphite jig sticks, etc.) will be available again this season after they undergo the annual updating and maintenance procedures. the same Angerman flies, jigs and Mojos will also still be available. I am planning to complete the cod tagging studies I started on the Bunny Clark in 1983. I will be working with Bruce Joule at the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and we expect to publish a document from the data that I have collected. Some of you might remember Bruce. You may have met him aboard any of the party boats along the Maine coast measuring fish during the summer. He spearheads a project with the DMR designed to gather data on groundfish.
Bunny Clark operations will be slightly different this season. I plan to work as a captain on the boat three days a week. During the other days, I will be working at Barnacle Billyís restaurant in a managerial position or behind the scenes at Bunny Clark, Corp. I want to be able to be around my children more often and prepare my family and party boat business in case I become physically disabled. I donít ever expect to give up the boat completely but I do want to step back from it in order to become more versatile within the business and more established throughout. I am viewing this as a opportunity to provide you with a more stable environment in which to propel my type of deep sea fishing experience into the future. If it does not work out I will go back to spending more time on the boat. I have five excellent captains that I am considering for the position at the present time. No one will run that boat unless I am comfortable with their fishing capabilities, boat handling skills and personality. I plan to run the boat on all the marathons and other specific days and charters during the seven day week. I am looking forward to having my best man Satch back with me this season to help me with this endeavor. Howard Cutler will also be back as a relief captain but primarily to run the Petrel, commercial tuna fishing.
Angling success for the 1995 season measured in gross (round weight) poundage was about 15,000 pounds more than 1994. That makes 1995 our 5th best year overall. We fished fewer trips last season but we had more fishable days than any year. We completed 45 of our 48 scheduled marathons (12 hour, sometimes offshore trips) and all three of the ultra-marathons (16 plus hour offshore safaris). Even though Mike McKay missed the marathons, these were mostly excellent trips for landing the most fish per person and most of our trophy fish. Our best fishing day of the year was the third ultra-marathon in July where 12 anglers landed almost 2600 pounds of fish in the round, 5 trophy fish and several steakers. We had a bothersome problem with blue sharks on the fall marathons. Fortunately, we also had good fishing when the "bluedogs" were biting. We set a boat record on September 12 when we (mostly Andy Lapiersí group of anglers) lost 61 jigs to blue sharks!
Sixty-four trophy sized fish, 4, 222 haddock and 412 wolffish were landed last season. We caught a third less trophy fish than our worst year, over seven times more haddock than our best year and almost twice as many wolffish as our best fishing season. Over 1,434 individual haddock (about 34 %) were returned to the ocean alive and about 90% of those were sub-legal. Joel Wescott set a Bunny Clark record on the first day of the 1995 season by landing two wolffish on one line; an 18.25 and a 7 pounder, the first double ever. Also, I have a correction to make from the 1995 guestletter. Al Turner broke the boat record for most wolffish caught by a single angler in one day with 9 (not 8) fish in 1994. The previous record was held by Ray Hill with 8 wolffish (not 7) in 1984. Sorry for the mistake, Al!
The highlight of the 1995 season was witnessing the "return of the haddock" in quantities reminiscent of the old days. We found them in many of the traditional fishing areas during and after the opening week of our fishing schedule. Most of these fish were of legal size and full of spawn or milt leading one to believe that maybe this was the beginning of the formation of a resident inshore population of haddock. Most of our fishing guests were surprised to come back from a typical fishing trip with 20 to 60 haddock as part of the dayís catch. There were days where we didnít land a single haddock only because we were targeting other fish. However, this was the first season since I have been charter or party boat fishing (19 years!) that I could guarantee my anglers a quantity of haddock on any trip if I decided to target them. Indeed, I became so enamored by this fish and itís availability that on a given day, if I thought that I would be taking any chance at all by targeting other species or trophy fish, I would chase haddock as the primary species. This "fever" may have increased our landings of haddock but it decreased the amount of trophy fish landed. I believe the overall result attained was a much larger gain in customer satisfaction.
There were many new Bunny Clark haddock records broken last season. In May the Lighthouse Fishing Club out of Pittsfield, MA broke the record for most haddock in a single trip with 222 (146 keepers) haddock. That same day Paul "Chico" Astorino broke two boat records by catching the most haddock for an individual on a single trip and the most haddock caught while using bait on a single trip with 47 fish (29 keepers). Several weeks later, Mike Horwitz broke the boat record for most haddock caught by jig in a single trip with 18 fish. By the end of the year, Fred Kunz had caught 127 haddock beating the record for the most haddock caught by an angler in a season. Over Ninety percent of Fredís haddock were caught on a jig!
In August, two potential all-tackle world record game fish applications were submitted to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) in Pompano Beach, FL, the organization that records and awards world records. On August 8, Erik Callahan landed a whiting (Merluccius bilinearis) that weighed 4.51 pounds on a registered scale after we got back from the dayís fishing trip. By December, I was informed that Erik had broken the all-tackle world record previously held by John Boesenberg with a 2.25 pound whiting landed off Hicksville, NY on March 13, 1991. This world record becomes the 30th world record landed by anglers off the Bunny Clark since 1984. A second potential world record fish, a torpedo ray (Torpedo nobillana), was landed by Don Carignan on August 24. The torpedo ray is one of the few "electric" fish found in the world and is only rarely ever caught. We have landed only two torpedo rays in over 4,000 trips. When touched, the torpedo is capable of generating up to 220 volts of electricity and can knock an individual to the ground. We did not touch the fish directly but handled the fish contained in a fish tote. It weighed 35.3 pounds on a registered scale ashore and, if accepted by the IGFA, will be the first of itís species to be recognized in the list of world record game fishes. As of this writing, Donís application has been accepted for review by the recordís committee but a decision has not been made on itís status yet. Both fish were caught with a piece of local Maine shrimp on a hook.