Old School Boating with The Baymen

I was recently talking with a friend who lamented that he wasn’t catching many fish because he didn’t have a big, offshore boat. He had been seeing a lot of chatter about a few pods of big fish that were several miles offshore, and he was really down in the dumps. Part of me knew that he was really asking to come out on mine and so I invited him out for a weekend trip. And while we were on the water I mentioned to him that he should check out Captain David Bitters of The Baymen. Bitters and his group catch tons of fish, and big ones, too. The beauty is that none of them run fancy boats, so my pal could get up and running and whenever he hit the lottery he could upgrade as he saw fit.

The Baymen is a group of traditional fishermen and boaters who sail out of Duxbury, Massachusetts. Duxbury is located about a half hour south of Boston, and if you look at a nautical chart you’ll see that its a very interesting piece of water. Duxbury Beach looks like a backwards letter L and at the southern end is Plymouth Beach (final landing spot of the Pilgrims) that runs on just about a North-South tack. The net-net of those two natural boundaries is that it creates two bays, Duxbury and Plymouth Bays, with bars, channels, flats, and rips. In fishing and boating terms it’s a little slice of heaven.

According to Bitters, “our group was founded around a very old concept of life lived on the bay. Our Founding Fathers were the Pilgrims, and they fished and fouled in the intertidal zones. Like them, we keep our rich maritime history alive by focusing more on the way that life is lived as opposed the quantity in which it is lived. The Baymen keep things simple and focus on the shallow waters, knowledge of baitfish and predators, and how they all interrelate with nature and the environment. We spend every day on the water in some way, with most of our activities being fishing, boating and clamming, among others.”

The point I was making to my friend is that while a super expensive boat would be nice, a skiff would probably put him in the middle of great fishing. Bitters’ cohorts all sail out of simple vessels. Some Baymen run aluminum v-hulls while others favor fiberglass workboats. Lund Alaskans and Carolina Skiffs are two common examples, and they serve the Baymen well. These boats are seaworthy, they easily access shallow water, they are simple to launch and haul, and they are cost efficient to run.

We’ve had a tremendous amount of fun on our simple boats,” said Bitters. “We’ve enjoyed majestic sunrises, we’ve taught a lot of kids and adults to fish, and we have dug an enormous amount of hard and soft-shelled clams. In the winter we tied a lot of flies and then test them out during the season. One widely popular pattern is my Baymen Universal, which I developed on the water. The Baymen Universal imitates a juvenile menhaden, but it’s also a great all-around fly. Family and friends are the key components of Baymen life, and we involve them in all of our endeavors. Just like the Pilgrims did.

Check out life as a Baymen at www.baymencharters.com. And by the way, my friend decided to buy a used skiff. I’ll have to ask him to take me out sometime. I’m sure he will.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.