One of my favorite topics when I was teaching high school English was the use of “semantic ambiguity” in poetry—and, yes, I realize the kids in my classes most likely weren’t as interested in the subject!
In any case, the best example I used concerned the words “and the skies are not cloudy all day,” a phrase you might be familiar with from the song, “Home On The Range.”
According to how you read them, they can either mean “the skies were clear with no clouds all day” or “the skies were cloudy, but not all day long.”
So before you think I have lost my mind completely by starting out a fishing column with a poetry and semantics lesson, let me try to delve into a connection between this concept and angling.
On Tuesday, I spoke with Evan Eastman over at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street in Falmouth and, as seems to be the case at the moment, his news primarily concerned funny fish, especially the albie biting along the south side.
That said, while the locals go nuts over albies, bonito, and the like, folks traveling from a distance to fish our waters most often are interested in catching stripers, so I made a point of asking Evan about what he heard regarding them.
In short, he pointed out that while he typically sells about 30 pounds of eels a week, this week that number had fallen to three to four pounds as of midweek.
Now, to make the connection to ambiguity, you can look at Evan’s statement three ways: 1) Nobody is using eels for bass; 2) There aren’t any bass to catch with eels; or 3) Nobody is fishing for bass.
From what I have seen on the water, the vast majority of boat and kayak anglers around these parts have gone all-in on funny fish and that can only mean one thing: it’s a mad, mad world out there.
Earlier in the year, Tommy over at Maco’s Bait & Tackle in Buzzards Bay and Monument Beach told me that I should write a column about how to act when fishing the Cape Cod Canal and I told him it would be a waste of time, given that the miscreants who should read and follow such a column’s message wouldn’t care.
Clearly, it’s the same on the water right now, as the run-and-gun lunacy is in full force, and I believe it has gotten even worse with the movement toward those monster center consoles that are so in vogue these days.
Anyway, the good news is that there are plenty of fish around, from Woods Hole down to the Elizabeths and Nobska to Waquoit. That’s why, despite my propensity toward frustration when confronted with funny fish inanity, I so respect folks like Jonathan Gitlin, with whom I was fishing near on Tuesday morning off Nobska. He later emailed to say, “Yes, way too many wild boats. We gave up on the chaos and went down to Naushon and found them up without so much pressure.”
In fact, despite the fact that the fish there were as picky as they have been in so many other locations—based on the numerous reports I have received—Jonathan did manage to help his best friend and his best man from 42 years ago catch his first albie.
The one thing that seems to be consistent so far about this albie season is that the fish have been very finicky, for the most part. Michael Beebe emailed me to say that he fished with Capt. Jaime Boyle and found fish all along the Elizabeths that were feeding on very small bait and they finally cracked the code when they started tossing one- to two-inch flies, while the folks tossing all kinds of lures went empty.
Gerry Fine and I experienced a frustrating day on Tuesday, no more so than when we had schools of happily feeding fish around Lackey’s that required six fly changes, two drops in tippet strength, and changes in fly line type to get a bite.
Now, the one thing that did work for at least one spin angler was a metal jig with the tail hook removed and a fluorocarbon leader attached with a trailing fly—in this case a peanut bunker pattern made of synthetic material matching the size and shine/coloration of a tiny baby menhaden.
Capt. Warren Marshall picked up his first albie of the season with Bob Lewis on Wednesday morning and he added that the fish were spitting up micro bait, most likely just hatched baby anchovies and the like.
With Labor Day weekend upon us, there will be plenty of folks out there hoping to take advantage of their one last long spell of fishing with school and fall weekend athletic events on the docket.
Along with the albie action, A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay said that there was a really good bonito biting off Wing’s Neck this week and they were also apparently thick on Tuesday off Scraggy Neck, with a friend of Jonathan Gitlin’s confirming the solid action.
There have been some Spanish mackerel taken between Craigville Beach and Hyannis, while king mackerel have been caught off West Falmouth, at Hedge Fence, and Horseshoe Shoal.
As good as the boat fishing has been for funnies, what’s really cool is when shore folks get into them. According to Shawn Powell at the Sports Port in Hyannis, that is a very real possibility around Dowses and Craigville, where he has caught both false albacore and bonito this week on the 5/8-ounce Hogy Epoxy Jig in the Electric Chicken coloration.
Folks fishing from the Waquoit and Great Pond jetties, the stone pier in the Hole and off Nobska have been getting good shots at them. Kevin Downs from Falmouth Bait & Tackle in Teaticket mentioned that the glow and green Epoxy Jigs have been working well.
Throughout the sounds and up in Buzzards Bay, there are schools of marauding small bluefish and the schoolie bite has been improving; in fact, Pat Rourke told me that he ran into a really solid bass feed inside Popponesset recently and there have been stripers feeding heavily inside Woods Hole and down the islands. In all cases, a number of these fish are in the 30-inch class.
And lest I lead you to believe that eels aren’t worth fishing with, Phil Stanton and other folks who fish our local archipelago faithfully continue to pick up some quality stripers on snakes. In fact, Phil sent me a photo of a wheelchair angler holding a nice fish, and he told Phil “he had the best day in his whole life,” so kudos to the good captain for making such a great time happen.
The Canal is kind of in a holding pattern this week, with both A.J. Coots and Jeff Miller at Canal Bait & Tackle in Sagamore anticipating that with a new set of breaking tides slated to start later this week, things could really go off this holiday weekend.
Jeff told me on Wednesday morning that folks were picking up good numbers of schoolie bass at both ends of the Big Ditch, with some bonito mixed in at the west end. These smaller fish are feeding primarily peanut bunker, which makes Epoxy Jigs and small metal jigs most productive.
Jeff did say that folks concentrating on jigging, especially with wacky mackerel-colored, sand eel soft plastic models, have been picking at some low- to mid-30-inch fish working the bottom. The night bite has been better, especially with the higher daytime water temperatures.
Although it’s Labor Day weekend, there are still good numbers of squid in the land cut, A.J. emphasized, which is kind of unheard of, and along with this big bait, there are plenty of mackerel, pogies, and even some small bonito, all of which should help draw in the big bass on those early morning, east-turning tides.
Jeff has heard that some schools of fish are starting to move south from the Boston area and there are some schools of bigger bass, up to the 30-pound class, being picked at from the Fingers to the Parking Lot on mustard- or red-colored tubes. The issue with this technique has been getting seaworms, which are in short supply. As an alternative, Jeff suggested trolling Hogy Perfect Squids or Mojo rigs, which can be trolled at higher speeds, allowing boaters to cover more water.
The size of the scup in the sounds and Buzzards Bay has dropped, and fluke fishing has become an afterthought for most ground fish anglers, other than up around the west entrance to the Canal. Recreational sea bass season closes on September 8, with most sizeable fish still in deeper water between Noman’s and Cuttyhunk, although Ruth Anderson continues to catch at least one big one each trip in the Hole on a Hogy Heavy Metal Jig.
The offshore bite remains solid, according to Kevin Downs, with one boat enjoying another solid trip on good-sized yellowfin at Hydrographer on a varied spread of Joe Shute’s, Beamish lures, and green machine bars. There are lots of skipjack out there as well and Kevin said one way to target the yellowfin that are holding below them is to vertical jig; in addition, targeting the surface-feeding skippies with plugs is fun in and of itself, with Kevin preferring to toss Hogy Charter Grade Sliders. As for mahi, the canyons are holding larger ones that are typically being caught on the troll, while south of the Vineyard, your best bet is to still target the high flyers and any flotsam you find.
Freshwater wise, Shawn Powell fished Big Cliff again earlier this week and managed a seven-pound largemouth trolling his faithful Savage 3-D Perch, a jointed, eight-inch plug that culls out the small fish. In Mashpee-Wakeby, he had a good trip, with several three- to four-pound bass trolling Yo-zuri Crystal Minnows.