At my part-time job at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street, Falmouth, I have recently noticed that more and more folks who fish in Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds keep asking me where they can catch striped bass. Now, I’m not hearing them mention “big” or “keeper”-sized fish, but I imagine that they would like to do so.
Frankly, the options right now are limited and in some cases require trips that are daunting for many boaters, especially those with smaller boats.
Monomoy is perhaps the closest area that is holding a dependable population of bass, but how big they are is pretty much a matter of whom you talk to.
Jim Young at Eastman’s told me that the word he got was that a school of larger fish moved into the rips off Monomoy recently.
On the other hand, far more folks have told me that while there are good numbers of fish there feeding on squid, sand eels and other baitfish, schoolies from 24 to just shy of the 28-inch legal minimum far outnumber larger fish this week. For fly and light tackle anglers, that makes for great fishing, especially since there are enough low to mid-30-inch class stripers around to keep things challenging.
Closer to home, the Gordon boys went out at night along the Elizabeths with live eels, Jim said, and had a good trip with a bass between the low and mid-30-inch range. Of course, Mark Gordon’s sons are hardly boys any more, with successful careers and families, but since I had the good fortune of fishing with them when they were just tall enough to fish successfully on their dad’s boat, that’s how I will always remember them.
On the other hand, unlike the Gordons, who chose the best conditions for finding big bass down along our local archipelago, Phil Stanton called me recently to say he went out on the wrong tide in the middle of the day on flat calm seas because his guests had a very limited opportunity to fish and they managed a half dozen nice bass on snakes. Go figure.
Todd Benedict at Falmouth Bait & Tackle in Teaticket said one of the summer help at the shop had a good morning livelining in Woods Hole recently. He didn’t know what bait he was using, but odds are that it was pogies.
There are schools of small bass and blues along the islands as well, but honestly the best fishery might be for black sea bass, especially as you go farther west and especially out towards Noman’s.
Shawn Powell from the Sports Port in Hyannis said there are schools of bluefish throughout the sounds and dusk has been the time to look for them along beaches such as Popponesset, Oregon and Dowses. The blues at Horseshoe Shoal have been larger than those around spots such as Hedge Fence, Middle Ground, and Succonnesset.
Meanwhile, the fluke action is inconsistent and in most cases disappointing. For example, while Kyle “The Great Ragu” Rigazio had a good trip down along the north shore of the Vineyard, Jim went out last weekend to the same waters, but caught “nada, zero” summer flatties, with only a few sea bass that he threw back.
On Tuesday, as I was coming back into Falmouth Harbor after my morning trip, I caught up with Chuck and Debbie Eastman and they found their favorite hole on Middle Ground devoid of fluke as a dragger had gone through the area and scooped everything up.
In upper Buzzards Bay, the numbers of fluke are better, reported Jeff Hopwood at Maco’s in Buzzards Bay. The edges on both sides of the Canal, including the Mashnee Flats, have fish, but you are going to have to pick through a good number of throwbacks to catch legal fish. Folks aren’t catching their limits, but there are some quality fish being caught, like the eight-pounder that Jeff caught himself last weekend outside Onset.
If you can get local squid, which some shops like Maco’s and Falmouth Bait & Tackle carry, you have a leg up, but Jeff said he is carrying frozen smelts, sand eels, and silversides that also make effective baits for big flatties when made into a “fluke sandwich” with larger squid strips and the six-inch Gulp! Swimming’ Mullets.
Boats fishing from the Maritime Academy out to Stony Point Dike have been picking up some quality bass on the last couple hours of the west tide and the turn to the east, Jeff added, but once the incoming water gets going, the stripers follow the bait back into the Canal. There are mackerel, pogies, and even squid around to keep the fish happy.
Those three baits were driving a really good bite in the Canal as of midweek, noted Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. The fishing was very good at both ends of the Canal, with surface activity during the dying west tide and turn to the east. The effectiveness of white and a wide variety of mackerel pattern pencil poppers and other topwater plugs has become a redundant refrain whenever I talk about the Canal, but Bruce made sure to let me know that yellow has been the hot ticket if there are pogies around. That said, Bruce emphasized that no matter what you were throwing during the topwater activity, you needed to get your offering out towards the middle of the Canal.
A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay heard of a number of 40-pound bass being caught in the Big Ditch this week, with the action starting well before first light at the east turn, which will be closer to first light when this hits the newsstands (I always wanted to say that!). Along with surface plugs, folks were buying plenty of Sebiles and paddletail jigs, with the Savage Sand Eel still holding top spot in the hearts of many.
Cape Cod Bay is all over the place, with larger bass towards the Canal and schoolies far more abundant from Barnstable to Billingsgate. Bruce said that while some folks are livelining pogies from the east entrance of the Canal up to Plymouth, the boats that are dragging red tubes around the Parking Lot have been catching larger bass on a more consistent basis.
While the water in the Canal was all dirtied up late last week due to the crazy storms we had, shore anglers fishing chunk pogies along Sandy Neck at night caught some really nice stripers, explained Jeff Miller. Odds are that these are the same fish that moved into the Canal this week, but there might be enough bass hanging around to make it worthwhile soaking some bait or even tossing eels along this stretch of sand.
Todd Benedict from Falmouth Bait & Tackle reported that the offshore bite was still going strong; he hadn’t heard from Christian Giardini, who was returning from the canyons on Wednesday with Jay Miller, but Veatch, Hydrographer and Oceanographer have all been holding a mix of yellowfin and bigeye, along with some billfish and plenty of mahi, and odds are that they had a good trip. They have been selling plenty of offshore baits, which they specialize in, with a customer picking up several flats of ballyhoo as we were talking.
The smaller offshore boats that typically limit their trips to spots south of the Vineyard have had a tough season again, but Jim Young told me that some of the warmer water out at the canyons has dispersed and moving towards the Dump. There has also been some talk of white marlin and wahoo being caught in this area and at least one Vineyard boat was poking around the high flyers looking for mahi.
As is the case with the saltwater scene at this time of year, in freshwater it is not uncommon for some species of fish to move into deeper, cooler water. Shawn Powell said that a tube jig worked for him when he was seeking trout this week, while crankbaits such as the Yo-zuri Crystal 3-D Minnow in Fire Tiger or Silver, in the 3.5-inch length, was a good choice for freshwater bass. The perch and sunfish have moved off their beds and are holding nearby in water anywhere from ten to twenty feet, with wacky rigged worms and small jigs effective options.