I happened to be talking to a friend on Tuesday afternoon, July 21, who works for one of the big wireless providers, and he mentioned that there was a huge surge of calls and data usage coming from the area around the canal. Apparently, other providers experienced the same thing, and he asked me if I had any idea what was going on.
I could only smile because I knew what was up.
After talking with Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore on Tuesday afternoon, I knew the scoop and could only imagine what was flying through the cellphone network.
If you can imagine that, say, 100 individuals fishing the Big Ditch call one person, and then he or she drops a line to another individual, this eventually creates the kind of stampede that has become quite common over the past three years or so.
You see, the canal experienced its first bona fide surface push this week due to the new moon on Monday, July 20, and the stronger currents it produces, along with early-morning east-turning tides.
Bruce said there is plenty of bait in the canal, including mackerel, squid and pogies, but most likely it was the macks that the big fish followed into the east end and through the land cut on the dying west current.
Once the current flipped, the low tide allowed the bass to herd the mackerel and go to town, following them back through the Ditch and into Cape Cod Bay.
Bruce said it didn’t really make a difference what people were throwing in terms of color, with white, yellow and pink mackerel and wacky mack typically quite popular.
Given these “breaking tides,” as they were labeled a long time ago, topwater plugging is high on the list of what people are throwing.
Then again, you will often find plenty of Magic Swimmers in the water, and some folks just have to use their Savage Sand Eels or other heavy plastic paddletails even when there is pandemonium on top.
Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street in Falmouth told me that before this week that, when he asked folks he knows fish the canal how it’s been, the litany of complaints was extra-long.
We’re talking fish in the 20-to-25-pound class not even getting a glance, with 30s a bit ho-hum and 40s finally getting the regulars jazzed up.
With the new slot limit and the ban on commercial fishing in the canal, none of these big bass legally left on a piece of rope or a bike basket.
Elise Costa at the Powderhorn in Hyannis heard that the Barnstable area was fishing well earlier this week, while Bruce said this school of fish is moving around and that is why many folks are trolling bunker spoons, the tube-and-worm, and Rapala X-Raps as a way of covering more water and locating where the bass are hanging out from off Scorton Creek to the north of Billingsgate.
Shore anglers fishing from the Sandwich creeks to Barnstable have been doing best chunking mackerel, while sand eel imitations, whether they are soft plastics, flies or metal jigs, are popular with anglers who prefer to go the artificial route.
Buzzards Bay’s protected waters are still holding schoolies, with action best when the sun isn’t out boiling the water.
Boaters are finding schools of smaller bluefish, but they are definitely an annoyance for the few dedicated funny fish folks who are already out trolling for king or Spanish mackerel, or perhaps even the first bonito of 2020.
Rory Edwards at Falmouth Bait & Tackle in Falmouth said he has heard of one king mackerel, but there is apparently plenty of small bait such as silversides, sand eels and what some folks are saying is peanut bunker but is most likely juvenile sea herring or perhaps even river herring. And the water temperatures are rising into funny fish territory.
A few folks have been out trolling the Hooter for bonito, noted Jim Young, but there have been no confirmed catches. The slashing fish people are seeing are most likely schools of tailor blues that are raising havoc in the sounds.
While bluefish will often feed heavily right through slack tide, if you are fishing a wide open body of water like Horseshoe Shoal, which looks pretty featureless at times, you need moving water to set up the rips and provide likely-looking spots—that is, unless you prefer to troll around aimlessly.
Monomoy once again provided an important lesson in current direction and water temperature over last weekend, as the water temperatures spiked to the mid-60s through mid-morning and created bluefish central.
In the Osterville Anglers’ Club annual Ladies Shoal Troll on July 18, sisters Sophie and Laine Jansen swept the board, with the former catching the largest bluefish (11.5 pounds) and the latter a 7.3-pound bass, which proved to be the only legal-size striper weighed in. These youngsters proved that age carries no weight when it comes to fishing.
I didn’t stick around to see what would occur on the “colder” tide, but odds are that some bass moved in from deeper, cooler water to feed on the squid and sand eels that are the main food source around the shoals this time of year.
For Rory Edwards, versatility is the name of the game, and while he has been flyrodding the salt ponds in Falmouth at night, I was especially interested in the big brown or sandbar shark that he and his buddy caught recently.
The small bass have been quite finicky as they are feeding on small grass shrimp, Rory admitted, and you can hear them popping, especially around the marsh edges.
But beach sharking is about big baits, and Rory’s friend, Joe, had a bluefish that they used for bait. Some use eels, but Rory explained that you need big eels when targeting big shark; otherwise, the dogfish will drive you nuts snapping up the shoestrings you are using.
Some folks make the mistake of presuming that sharks prefer rancid flesh, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The chunks or fillets from a recently caught blue are effective because they are oily and produce plenty of scent, which many sharks use primarily when looking for food.
When chunking, many folks consider the heads less desirable baits, but Rory reminded me that a pogy head is often what catches the biggest bass, and the bluefish head is what the seven-foot brown shark ate.
If you want to pull on a big fish from the beach, then sharking after dark is the way to go. Even a 50-to-60-pound specimen will put you and your tackle to the test, but the one that Rory landed, which they estimated at about 120 pounds, almost had him questioning the wisdom of what he was doing.
Obviously, fishing from the beach means you can’t chase down a really big fish, but that doesn’t lessen the challenges faced by offshore anglers, like those on the 41 boats that participated in last week’s Oak Bluffs Bluewater Classic.
The largest tuna caught was a 288-pound bigeye, and Rory said there were a few more bigeyes over 200 pounds and no lack of fish topping out over 100 pounds. Yellowfin and longfin albacore are other tunas that were caught, along with blue marlin and swordfish and a 60-pound wahoo.
Many boats headed out to the “edge,” which is where the farthest canyons cab be found, but others stayed closer to home and had good tournaments as well.
The giant bluefin bite is still going strong out east of Chatham and in Cape Cod Bay, but with one of my goals this season being a small bluefin on the fly, I perked up when I heard that school fish are being reported just south of Nomans and down to the Claw.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to put that 14-weight Sage and Tibor Pacific I slipped into my tackle room a number of years ago and has yet to tangle with any kind of fish yet.
Not to be forgotten, the groundfish crew continues to fill up their coolers. Captain Warren Marshall took out a few members of his family on Sunday, July 19, and they limited out on sea bass and caught some nice fluke, with daughter Lisa leading the way with a real doormat. They were fishing the deeper part of Succonnesset Shoal, another example of how the edges and holes in the southside shoals are worth scoping out.
The north shore of the Vineyard is fishing well, as well are the shoals stretching from the west end of Middle Ground down to the sound side of Quicks Hole. In Buzzards Bay, the summer flattie bite is a matter of culling through plenty of sublegals for a few to take home for dinner. And remember, the best flukers are typically the most attentive and have that rod moving all the time, making their jigs and baits to attract the most attention.