I hope everyone had a happy Fourth yesterday and that those folks looking to get some fishing in had a successful day as well.
Now that I have gotten the platitudes out of the way, let me get back to my grumpy ways and register a complaint about a question that has left me having a season-long headache: “Where are the big bass?”
And my answer is basically that they’re in the ocean, but there aren’t enough of them to satisfy everyone’s desire to catch a big striper.
I will go on record saying that one of the last decent-sized aggregations is now in the Cape Cod Canal and was the same school that was out in Cape Cod Bay that got hammered for several weeks.
A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay told me that on Monday the largest striper they weighed in was a 48-pounder caught in the Big Ditch, while a boater livelining a mackerel around the east entrance brought in one that tipped the scales at 42 pounds.
According to A.J., the waters between the mid-point of the land cut and the west end continue to fish well, with what looks like the remnants of the big bass that moved in from Buzzards Bay last week and pushed squid right up onto the rocks still around.
There has been some brief topwater activity, most likely a result of the combination of a new moon and early morning dying west/turning east.
While tossing surface plugs and the resulting takes on top are hard to beat, but A.J. pointed out that subsurface plugs such as Stick Shadds and Magic Swimmers, along with paddletail soft plastic/leadheads, typically produce more fish.
The word from Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore is the east end also had an eruption of activity this week as big bass followed a combination of mackerel and squid into the Ditch on the latter stages of the west current.
Pink was a productive plug color, whether it was the dominant shade or part of a collection of colors, such as in the wacky mackerel collaboration. Canal Specials, pencil poppers, and bomb/ten pin styles all were working, with white, green mack, and blue mack all other colors that are typically found in the plug bags of Canal sharpies.
Unlike the regulars who typically concentrate on surface activity, folks who are only interested in catching would do well to follow Bruce’s advice to switch over to jigs when things seem to go quiet, as the bass will often drop down in the water column when the current really picks up.
There can be little doubt that the Canal will be inundated with crowds right through this weekend, leading to more and more folks electing to fish at night. In the annals of Big Ditch history, eelskinning was a time-honored nighttime technique, but Jeff Hopwood at Maco’s in Buzzards Bay and Monument Beach told me that they have seen an uptick in live eel sales, a pretty good sign that some folks are doing well with snakes in the dark.
Inconsistent is the best way to describe the bass fishing in both Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay. Billingsgate will have a school of small bass on top as large as a pond one day and then nothing the next. Realistically, folks jigging wire or dragging tubes will have the best shot at a large fish or two, although Pat Rourke told me that he fished out of Sesuit last weekend with friends and they had bass up to the low-30-inch class on plugs around dusk only 100 feet or so from the shoreline between Dennis and Brewster.
Boaters managing to get pogies or other live bait have been picking at larger fish around the west entrance to the Canal, while Docs and other large surface plugs continue to raise something other than schoolies at times.
Along the Elizabeths, anything of bragging size is tough to come by, according to Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street in Falmouth. In many cases, a wire line jigging trip down our local archipelago is lucky to produce a half dozen bass, with perhaps one in the mid-30-inch range.
Then again, I spoke with Nat Chalkley who said that after a decent first day, even live pogies haven’t been producing a sellable fish or two since. In fact, he came in on Sunday to buy some eels in hopes that they might turn something on.
News from Falmouth Bait & Tackle in Falmouth is that schoolies continue to dominate the shore scene, said Kevin Downs. The occasional legal (28-inches and over) striper has been taken on popping plugs at dusk and dawn from the beaches and rocky structure along Surf Drive to Nobska, but live eels or soft plastics in the dark is typically an even better option.
It might not be good news to bass fanatics, but there has been a really solid push of bluefish into the sounds recently. Pretty much all the shoals are holding choppers between five and eight pounds. My buddy Captain Warren Marshall’s customer on Tuesday had a lot of fun with a mix of blues and small bass at Hedge Fence and Middle Ground.
And, yes, the emphasis should be on “small” and “fun.” Like so many of us, Warren suggested that they next time they fished together, if there were still larger bass around Chatham, they would go there instead. But the key is this angler was perfectly happy with the action he had and there is a lesson in there somewhere.
Andy Little at The Powderhorn in Hyannis said that along the boat bluefish action, there has been really good fishing for them along the beaches between Cotuit with some bass mixed in. The backwaters are still cool enough that good numbers of bass are being caught there, from Falmouth to Hyannis.
On the fluke front, folks are reporting some larger fish locally, although nothing like the trip that A.J. took to the Nantucket Shoals, courtesy of Shimano. He called the size and quality of the fish amazing, with a 20-inch summer flattie really small, with many, many between six and eight-pounds and even some double-digit doormats.
Jim Young managed a trio of 20-plus-inch fluke fishing in the deep water between Succonnesset and Horseshoe, with some three to four-pound flatties coming from the waters of Vineyard Sound.
Sea bass and scup angling is hard to beat, while at the other end of the spectrum, Kevin Downs said the boat he fishes on managed three giants up at Stellwagen on live mackerel, while Jim Young heard of a boat being covered up by a wolf pack of bigeye at Hudson Canyon, with three out of five fish landed. Larry Backman and crew fished the canyons and caught yellowfin, bigeye and some billfish, while small bluefin have been reported around the Shipping Lanes south of the Vineyard.
Our fishing guru Captain Dave Peros can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org