To my way of thinking, if there is one thing that you can count on in fishing it’s that you can’t count on anything.
If you are out on the water one day and the fish are almost literally jumping in the boat and you visit the same area the next day expecting similar action, there is a very good chance that you will find nothing. Nada. Zip.
That’s just the way it is.
And this can apply to individual species as well. Such was the case last weekend for Bob Lewis and me in Montauk.
Bob has been making the trek to “The End,” as it is called locally, for a number of years now and he has seen it all, from massive bass blitzes to albies charging bait as far as the eye can see.
The last few falls, however, have seen very few pushes of bass. In fact, Jim Levison, a well-known Montauk light tackle captain and photographer, wrote an article for the September/October issue of Tail Fly Fishing Magazine entitled, “The New Norm For Montauk’s Legendary Fall Run – False Albacore.”
His opening paragraph points out that “When the 2013 fall season in Montauk ended for me with barely a striped bass blitz to be had, I merely wrote it off as nature doing its thing. When it again happened in 2014, I thought this might be an anomaly. Let’s wait until next season before I start to worry. Well, it’s now 2019, and let me say I’m worried.”
The remainder of the article points out how albies have taken over as the species that most flyrodders are targeting in Montauk. Of course, this piece was clearly written before this fall because I can tell you that Bob and I enjoyed some of the most incredible bass feeds we have seen in this area, with not a single albie to be seen, never mind caught.
Speaking to the local guides, the general consensus was the albie fishing was sporadic at best so far this fall, in many ways mirroring what it was like here on the Cape and islands. I’m not saying that the albie season here was bad, but it was unpredictable and seemed to taper off pretty quickly.
Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore reported that there is still plenty of small bait in the Canal and in upper Buzzards Bay, but the funny fish reports are starting to thin out both from shore and boat.
The word from Hayden Flanagan at Red Top in Buzzards Bay is there were still some albies reported around the west entrance to the Canal, but what remains of them after this blow ends is anybody’s guess.
Among all the funny fish reports, the best one I received came courtesy of Ken Shwartz, who made the wise move to go west from his home bass of Mattapoisett and found good sized schools of false albacore around the Dartmouth and Westport area that he called “not too finicky.”
According to Steve Morris at Dick’s Bait & Tackle in Oak Bluffs, one of his employees, Doug Asselin, saw someone catch a couple of albies up inside Vineyard Haven on Wednesday morning and the occasional bonito, albeit small ones, continue to be weighed in the Derby from shore and boat.
Meanwhile, the last albie that Amy Wrightson at the Sports Port in Hyannis had heard of was caught last weekend off of Osterville, but overall most folks have been catching bass and bluefish along the southside.
In fact, Evan Eastman from Eastman’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street in Falmouth said that the striper fishing has been the best it has been this year. He said that a 44-inch bass was caught on a live eel inside Great Point and another angler told him that he caught a number of legal fish tossing pencil poppers off of Falmouth Heights. The Chapoquoit area has had a mix of bass and bluefish, while Evan himself caught a bass that was just shy of legal inside West Falmouth on a Hogy Charter Grade Popper.
Stephen Pietruska, a longtime Derby competitor who hails from the Fairhaven area and is known for his prowess with live pogies around the Elizabeths, weighed in another 35-pounder last Saturday and Evan added that a 30-pound fish was reportedly caught in Woods Hole recently.
The Canal is still producing quality bass, but as Hayden Flanagan noted, “There probably won’t be many people willing to deal with the rain later this week.” The full moon is this Sunday and the east turning tides progress more toward sunrise early next week.
Bruce Miller emphasized that the bigger fish around the west end of the Big Ditch have been feeding for a brief time around the turn of the tide; few fish have been caught on plugs, but broader profile paddletail jigs have been most effective. Some folks are also sticking with live eel fishing at night and they continue to be rewarded.
The daytime hours have also seen plenty of smaller bass on top throughout the Canal, with topwater plugs and a variety of jigs, including classic bucktails, working well.
Hopefully this week’s storm will help with the dissolved oxygen and water temperature issue in Cape Cod Bay; I haven’t heard of any bass or bluefish being killed off of Sandwich, where the problem was concentrated and there had been a decent tube-and-worm bite around the parking lot and Scorton Ledge.
Amy Wrightson spoke to one boater who found some big bluefish between Sandwich and Barnstable, while a shore angler reported catching a number of smaller blues off of Sandy Neck. There are still good numbers of schoolies inside Barnstable and typically a northeaster this time of year will get things cooking off the bayside beaches.
The bluefish bite has also been solid from Cotuit to Craigville, as well as up inside the Three Bays, where there are also a good number of schoolies. Amy spoke to a happy angler who was new to the saltwater game and managed a 34-inch bass on a soft plastic fishing this same area from shore.
Cooling water temperatures have also improved the tautog fishing. Amy said that someone came into her shop on Friday and bought a bunch of crabs, which produced tog in the 18- to 22-inch range in Buzzards Bay. Folks are also doing well around Collier’s and other pieces of hard bottom structure in the sounds.
It wouldn’t be far fetched to say that the best action right now is on bluefin. Hayden pointed out that the giant fishing around Stellwagen and east of Chatham has been so good that pretty much anyone looking for a tuna has been catching one. Bait fishing remains the best option, with plenty of mackerel around, and there are still some smaller, school sized fish from the Golf Ball down to Nauset that will make casters very happy.
The state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is in the midst of its stocking program, with Mashpee-Wakeby, Peters, Spectacle, and Hamblin already received two “deliveries,” while John’s, Shubael, Ashumet, and Grews have had one visit.
Amy Wrightson told me that one young angler managed seven rainbows from Shubael while the shop’s resident fishing fanatic, Shawn Powell, caught two nice holdover ‘bows from one of his favorite ponds in Nickerson Park.