This months article comes from the archives of Dick Pinney's "Guide Lines". The original article was written on December 19th 2015. If you know Dick, you know of his passion for fishing and the outdoors. If you don't know Dick, you're about to feel his passion through this article. For a fish that most of us use as bait or dog food, Dick makes it seem like you have just hooked the biggest fish of your life. A great read from a great writer, my arms hurt just thinking about speed jigging off the coast of New Hampshire in the winter. Enjoy!
From Dick Pinney...
IF YOU are lucky enough to be able to find a party boat that is still fishing the offshore ledges, this is an tough but very productive time to jump on that boat for a whack at some of the best fighting and mighty good eating big pollock.
To the best of my knowledge, Eastman's Fishing Boats in Seabrook are usually the last ones to pull their boats for the winter and their boats are great for late-season fishing as the heated side rails go a long way in keeping your hands working and also your upper body warm.
What I like about pollock wouldn't all fit in this column, but here's a few examples. This time of year it's possible to catch one that will push 30 pounds, and fish in their teens are normal. Pollock will take both real and artificial baits. And once in a while if you're fishing with a cod jig and teasers, it's not that unusual to hook two or maybe even three of these jumbo fish at a time.
When you have multiple fish on the hook, it's a game of real patience to get them up from the deep and up into the boat, usually done with the help of one of the deck hands and a long handled gaff. Even using heavy line and leaders in the 50-pound test range, we've had break-offs when fighting the double whammy of fish, and we mean line break-offs where your jig and teasers are gone for good!
We've never had the line break unless it had been caught by someone else's jig or teaser when playing the fish but leader break-offs are pretty common.
Pollock are known to hit a jig and teasers on the drop so it's important that you keep an eye on your line that bellies out when you're dropping your jig down toward bottom. If it all of a sudden loosens its belly, you need to reel like crazy to take out the belly. Wwhen you feel the fish, a sweep of your rod should set the hook better.
The up-and down jig stroke, with the down going all the way to bottom, works a lot but there's another technique called speed jigging that can sometimes make the difference with the number of pollock you go home with. It's called speed jigging and it involves dropping (free falling) the jig to bottom and then reeling like crazy for about 20 cranks on your reel and then doing it again, over and over. Believe me, all kinds of jigging with a cod jig that can weigh up to a pound is hard work but when it does work it's a real hoot and the fish you end up bringing home is a great reward.
Unless you like cruel and unusual punishment, it's best to have the crew fillet your fish. It's usually done by the honor system, where you tip them with whatever you feel they deserve. With me I tend to be on the generous side as they depend on the tips for their wages and also they put in a very hard day's work, especially if the fish are really biting.
My favorite way to cook pollock is to leave the skin on the fillet. Take a large cookie sheet and lay a sheet of foil on it and spray the foil with Pam. Then I take a pasty brush and paint on a pretty thick layer of mayonnaise on the fillet laid out on the foil. I like a few shakes of garlic powder and celery seed on the mayo.
I put a big handful of Ritz crackers along with about a quarter as many Cheez its in a plastic bag and with a pie crust roller break them down into a not-too fine a crust when sprinkled on the mayo. Add a few pads of real butter, depending on your liking. Cover with foil and set oven at 350-400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Lift the foil to check if the crust has started to bubble and then pull the foil, turn on the broiler until a few brown specks start to show and then you're done.
I like to sprinkle a little vinegar on my fish, it doesn't matter what flavor.
Thanks to the fish gods and your party boat crew.