Someone—and I wish I could remember who it was so I could give him credit—asked me an interesting question the other day concerning the reason why there is no stocking program to help species that have population issues, such as striped bass and winter flounder.
I really couldn’t offer an answer, but I did mention that other states have robust propagation and stocking programs. In fact, I took some time this week to look up some videos of what they do in Texas in terms of raising summer flounder, speckled trout, and redfish and then releasing the fry into backwater areas to help increase the numbers of these species that are produced “naturally.”
When I used to visit the Florida Keys on a regular basis, I promised myself that I would visit a facility that raised cobia and I hope that I can fulfill that desire at some point in the future.
The late Bob Pond, who was known as much for his interest in striped bass conservation as he was for creating the Atom line of striper plugs, raised bass in captivity and I recall reading somewhere that there was some stocking of juvenile stripers in the Chesapeake.
Of course, when people start encountering large numbers of schoolies, as they are at the moment, I imagine that garnering support to spend money on raising even more might be out of the question.
In fact, Tommy at Maco’s in Buzzards Bay said that Captain Chris of the Lady K, a party boat that operates out of Onset, told him that there are so many small bass in the bay that his customers are having a tough time getting their green crabs down to the tautog they are targeting.
With the opening of black sea bass season tomorrow, Tommy advised that there will a virtual armada of boats out in Buzzards Bay, and if this season is anything like last, the challenge for any tog specialist will be getting away from the hordes of BSB.
I suspect that some of the best tautog fishing might fall to shore anglers in spots where sea bass typically don’t venture, such as the Wareham Narrows and the Canal. In fact, Tommy reported that someone fishing from terra firma up inside Wareham caught a six-pound tautog.
Hayden Gallagher at Red Top in Buzzards Bay suggested that if someone has access to sections of rocky structure along the Cape shoreline of B-Bay, especially those that feature water in the 15- to 20-foot range, they have a chance at getting into some nice tog.
The word from Christian Giardini at Falmouth Bait & Tackle in the Falmouth village of Teaticket, across from McDonald’s, is the tautog fishing has been improving around Woods Hole and Nobska, as well as the numerous jetties that dot the Nantucket Sound shoreline.
Moving east, Collier’s Ledge is a tautog hotspot, noted Andy Little at The Powderhorn in Hyannis, and he emphasized that it probably won’t be possible not to catch sea bass as boaters have been catching plenty of nice-sized ones for at least a week when they have been targeting other species, including scup.
Small is the optimal word when it comes to stripers, although there have been a few larger fish in the mix and the general consensus is that a few sunny days should make a huge difference.
Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore knows of a 29-inch bass that was caught earlier this week around the east end of the Big Ditch on a “wacky mackerel” soft plastic. When stripers are feeding on mackerel, and I guess even when they’re not, typical plug colors include green, blue, pink, white, red, and yellow, with the “wacky” version a combination of pretty much all of these “flavors.” No matter which color you choose, pretty much every plugger will tell you that a plug used during a mackerel run has to feature the characteristic dark squiggly lines on its back and upper part of the sides.
There are definitely mackerel in Cape Cod Bay and Bruce reported that one boater tried live-lining a few down around the Barnstable Harbor area earlier this week, with the largest bass he landed just shy of the 28-inch minimum.
Once the mackerel move into the land cut, there is typically the first push of sizeable bass around the east end leading to some surface activity, Bruce explained, but right now the water is still too cold to bring the fish up on top. In Cape Cod Bay, the NOAA sea buoy registered a water temp of 48.6 on Wednesday, while in Woods Hole the reading was 52.5 on the same day.
If you’re a believer in numbers, then those measurements are probably one factor explaining why there is more bass activity in Buzzards Bay, as stripers typically become more active as the water reaches the low 50s.
Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street in Falmouth said that he spoke to a couple of anglers who have encountered worm hatches already, with one picking up a number of bass up to 30 inches inside Waquoit Bay and the other managing a couple of schoolies on the fly in another Falmouth backwater. I wish I could tell you what the former was using, but I don’t believe he fly fishes and Jim did offer that he typically does well at this time of year on plugs.
Along with telling Jim that he saw the first terns working over bait around one of the Falmouth salt pond inlets, John Waring spoke to a visiting angler who did well on some respectable schoolies fishing off one of the Great Pond jetties. He came into Eastman’s because while the fish were happy to hit his surface plug, a couple of anglers were doing better using white soft plastics from the other side and he grabbed a Hogy Pro Tail and a Joe Baggs in the preferred color.
From Popponesset to Craigville, the issue for most folks isn’t finding fish, according to Andy Little; rather, the problem has been the miserable weather. There is a smattering of bass to 30 inches in the bays and rivers to keep things interesting, but overall the reality is that schoolies between 16 and 24 inches make up the vast majority of seven-stripe fish being caught.
Some small bluefish have been caught from the Popponesset spit to Cotuit, yet there has been no rhyme or reason as to when someone has caught one. Surface plugs are typically favored when targeting blues, both for their ability to produce savage hits and their long distance casting qualities, yet Andy reminded me that when the water is cool as it is in the sound (52.0-degrees midweek), a subsurface offering such as a metal jig might be the way to go.
Water temperatures that are below their preferred range certainly will impact the number of bluefish that show in the sound, as well as how they feed, but another issue might be the so-so squid season so far. The general consensus is that the fishing has been best on Loligo to the east, say from Osterville to Hyannis, although Jim Young heard that some have been jigged up inside Woods Hole.
I have never come up with any reason to have my person or my boat splattered with squid ink, but from what I gather, there is definitely an acquired technique to the activity. What I can tell you is that there are many manufacturers of squid jigs, with a multitude of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some folks believe it is critical to carry a wide assortment of these lures, but as Christian Giardini said, you can’t go wrong with those made by Yo-zuri—and they even make five designs. As for colors, pink or orange, or some combination of these shades is a popular place to start, although I have had some hardcore squidders swear by purple, chartreuse, or some other gaudy creation.
Finally, although most anglers who fish the south side of the Cape have pretty much given up on winter flounder angling, Cape Cod Bay is another story. Bruce Miller gave me that little cackle he elicits when he holds something over me, but he finally gave up the ghost: there are some nice flatties being caught a mile or so outside Sesuit Harbor. As a kid, I did just fine on sea worms, but it seems that this species has become more refined, preferring shellfish such as clams and mussels.
Our fishing guru Captain Dave Peros can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org