On May 19th of this year, I was fortunate enough to fish Stellwagen Bank for Haddock and Cod with non-profit veteran organization, Rifles to Rods.
Our own Ryan Collins connected me with Rifles to Rod founder Ryan Puzzo, who allowed me to tag along on a ground fishing trip to the southwest corner of Stellwagen.
This particular Rifles to Rods trip was specifically for veterans over the age of 60, and my objective was to document the trip in photo and video. The night prior, I readied my camera gear, and prepared for an amazing day on the water with a wonderful group of people.
Casting Off From Plymouth, Aboard the Captain John
I arrived a half hour prior to our 6:30AM departure in order to meet the Rifles to Rods crew, and set up my gear. Many of the veterans were already at the dock ready to fish before 6AM! It was easy to feel the positive energy that seemed to be radiating from this group.
It was an absolutely gorgeous morning as we casted off at 6:30AM aboard a Captain John Boat out of Town Wharf in Plymouth.
The smooth ride over to Stellwagen was filled with great conversations, gorgeous scenery, and warm weather!
Before we knew it we could see Provincetown to our south, and we were ready to drop our lines over Stellwagen bank to entice some haddock and cod.
Catching Cod & Haddock With Fresh Clams
Quickly, everybody dropped their chunks of clam connected to 20oz sinkers straight to the bottom.
Once the bait reached the bottom, we simply drifted over the productive areas.
It didn't take long for the haddock and cod to respond. Immediately, the action turned red-hot and every veteran on board was hooking up!
The stringers were filling up fast, as these delicious fish were very willing to hit our baits.
After spending some time snapping photos, Ryan Puzzo told me to grab a rod and drop a line. I didn't have to be told twice. I quickly baited a hook, and plunged the clam and sinker to the bottom.
Almost immediately, I felt taps on the end of my line. I set the hook, and pulled up the first haddock of my own!
Drift Fishing Stellwagen
After about 30 minutes, the action began to taper off. Less cod and haddock were pulled on board, and sculpin had taken their place.
The captain instructed us to bring up our lines. He then indicated it was time to make a location adjustment to drift back over the productive fishing grounds.
No less than 10 minutes later, haddock began flying over the gunnel yet again!
Despite the move, no adjustments in technique were necessary. We simply dropped our bait, then hooked up!
By this point, some veteran anglers had already reached their haddock limit of 15 fish. It seemed like all of Stellwagen bank was covered with life.
I found myself fishing alongside Rifles to Rod co-founder Gerard McAllister. Together we marveled over the abundance of fish, and positive energy in the air.
Meanwhile, Ryan Puzzo was hauling in haddock after haddock, but Ryan really wanted was to catch his first-ever cod. After a few more awesome haddock, Ryan landed this beautiful cod!
All the cod had to be released by law, but they were certainly great sport. At this point, all the veterans on board were landing a pleasant mix of cod and haddock.
A few hours of action-filled fishing passed by, and the cooler began looking very full as many veterans reached their limit!
As a catch and release striped bass angler, this certainly looked like a lot of fish to me. However, the action was so continuous I imagine the ocean floor over Stellwagen must of been covered in haddock.
Eventually, it was time to bring in our lines. Once all the rods were stowed away, the group converged on the top deck. After an excellent day on the water, it was time for a group picture.
On our way back to Plymouth we shared excellent conversation as we all enjoyed the beautiful weather. It was evident that everyone was in great spirits; you could feel it in the air.
In addition, the Captain John crew did a wonderful job of filleting all the dinner-bound haddock. It seemed like everybody went home with a bag of these tasty fish.
The Rifles To Rods Veterans Organization
Rifles to Rods certainly achieves their mission to "put a rod in their hands and a smile on their face."
I was so fortunate to document an outing with this amazing organization, and a terrific group of veterans. Sharing good times and good fishing with America's bravest is an experience unlike any other.
If you, or anyone you know might be interested in an outing with Rifles to Rods, their contact information is on riflestorods.org. Getting a hold of them is easy, and they really do take care of everything!
To America's veteran's: Thank you for your service!
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