It’s certainly not the best time of year when the question that is posed to me most often is: “Is the season over?”
Frankly, I try to avoid anything that has to do with acknowledging that, if not right at the moment, the reality is that soon the finny critters we seek will become more scarce than spots in my yard that aren’t covered by leaves.
At the moment, however, I can say that even though this will be my final column for the season, there are still fish to be had, even if the daytime conditions are less inviting due to dropping temperatures and windy conditions.
There are certainly a couple of more trips down the Elizabeths for me, especially when Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street in Falmouth told me that he spoke to a local angler who picked up a couple of nice bass in the 30-pound class recently. I wasn’t the least surprised that those fish were caught while chunking, since I would argue that there is nothing that will get the attention of a big bass, especially one that is looking to pack on some protein before a long trip, than a fresh pogy.
That said, for some reason this time of year often produces some really nice bass on big plugs. Perhaps it’s a matter of a fish being hungry enough to take a swing at anything, but whatever the reason, I am of the mind that selecting the proper plug and presenting it with purpose and attention are a challenge like no other on our saltwater scene. I know that many sweetwater anglers will be offended at such a suggestion, but in my mind, it rivals presenting dry flies to highly selective trout.
As is always the case at this time of year, chasing reports can be especially frustrating since we are in the midst of the fall run, with fish migrating south and looking to feed. That’s why I was surprised when Jim Young reported that a local Falmouth Harbor charter captain came in to pick up some terminal tackle and said he was planning on making a trip to Monomoy.
Out in Cape Cod Bay, the biggest issue is the winds that have limited how often people can get out. Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore recommended using black tubes at the moment, with waters north of Scorton Ledge, where a number of people are focusing their efforts, with some big bluefish still around the Fairway.
For anyone limited to where he or she can place his or her feet, the Canal is still producing some quality fish. Bruce said there has been an early morning jig bite around the east end with traditional white bucktails with red pork rind the top producer. Some stripers in the mid-30-inch class have been caught, but these fish have skedaddled pretty quickly before the “little fish” take over, Bruce said. At that point, tossing Hogy Epoxy/Heavy Metal Jigs, Crippled Herrings, or Kastmasters is the way to go.
With mackerel and other larger bait around the east end, it appears that the fish that were hanging around the west end of the Big Ditch have moved east. Jacob Dionne from Red Top in Buzzards Bay said he hasn’t heard anything about the night eel bite around the west end, with not much to report beyond the Sagamore Bridge.
A friend of Amy Wrightson’s, owner of the Sports Port in Hyannis, fished the Canal earlier this week and his buddy caught a 25-pound bass on a live eel, while a sizeable fish straightened his hook.
The sand people have been doing okay from Sandy Neck back to the Spring Hill area, with an assortment of casting jigs most effective, and there are still fish being caught up around Scusset.
It would be fruitless to argue with anyone who simply focuses on big fish and has no use for schoolies, but at this time of year, happening upon mini-blitzes of small bass can make for a good trip.
Ken Shwartz told me that he and his son had a lot of fun with small fish up inside Woods Hole and between Lackey’s Bay and Tarpaulin Cove recently, while other folks have enjoyed similar light tackle and fly rod activity in the bays, harbors, salt ponds, and coves along both the Buzzards Bay and Nantucket Sound shoreline.
According to Amy Wrightson, the bait in some backwater spots is starting to thin out and beginning to move along the open beachfronts along the south side. Loop and Riley’s Beach in Cotuit; the Popponesset spit; Menauhant Beach, Bristol Beach, Falmouth Heights, and Surf Drive in Falmouth are popular spots for a fall session of plugging and walking.
Up in Buzzards Bay, the shoreline from Quissett to Monument Beach holds areas that see occasional spurts of activity, some of them lasting only a tide and others for a few days. If you do happen upon one, it can certainly provide some good memories to get you through a Cape Cod winter.
Barnstable Harbor is one of my favorite late fall locations and Andy Little confirmed that there are still a good number of small bass for light tackle and fly-flinging folks, especially in the early morning.
When it comes to table fare fishing, tautog are clearly at the head of the list, with black sea bass and fluke season closed and scup heading for deeper water.
While Amy said the tog fishing down her way has been slow and Christian Giardini from Falmouth Bait & Tackle in the Falmouth village of Teaticket echoed her sentiments about the bite from Mashpee to Falmouth, they did have good news about angling for these buck-toothed fish from other areas.
A regular told Amy that he caught an 18-inch tautog in the Canal and Bruce Miller added that a number of five-pound fish have been taken near the tanker cut and around the bridges.
It is not uncommon to find a number of folks soaking green crabs around the Mass Maritime Academy, Jacob Dionne reminded me, and he added that the bite out in upper stretches of Buzzards Bay has been consistent on quality fish.
One of Christian Giardini’s crew continues to do well a bit farther down Buzzards Bay off West Falmouth, with a recent trip filled with 5-plus-pounders.
Many folks continue to fish with traditional one or two-hook tautog bottom rigs, but others have made the move to jigs designed especially for this type of fishing, noted Bruce Miller. Joe Baggs and TidalTails are two well-known makers of tog jigs that have really caught on.
On the tuna front, the action is still keeping a lot of anglers happy. As Christian G. pointed out, where the fish are and whether they are happy, meaning they are willing to eat, can change from day to day or even within a single trip.
The waters a couple of miles off Nauset Inlet have a mix of bluefin between 40 and 70 inches, making them perfect targets for casting and jigging; speaking of which, Christian emphasized that carrying multiple outfits set up for different methods of fishing, including live bait and trolling, will increase your odds of success.
It is not uncommon for these schools to move out to the BB Buoy or Crab Ledge, which can require a change to using mackerel, herring, or even bottom fish such as whiting and hake.
Bluefish are another popular bluefin bait, but at this time of year, Christian said that checking out a spot or two for them is about all the time he spends on them, since other bait is typically easier to locate and catch.
Amy Wrightson had a good laugh when she mentioned that it wasn’t until she owned a tackle shop that she hoped for a cold winter with plenty of ice, but we can save talking about frozen water for some point down the road.
Right now, the trout fishing remains very good, with gold spoons such as Kastmasters and Thompson’s a popular choice. Christian said that while he typically only carries medium and large shiners in the summer since the smaller sizes die too easily, he will be bringing them in this week since some trout anglers prefer to relax and let these baitfish entice the rainbows, browns, brookies, and tiger trout that the state stocks.
The freshwater bass scene is still holding strong, said Jacob Dionne. He took some nice largemouth fishing a couple of Wareham ponds, and while he was using shiners, a couple of other anglers did well casting crankbaits. Any number of Cape ponds hold largemouth and smallmouth, and while I don’t partake in freshwater angling, I can assure you that if I did, I would much prefer to do so with the changing leaves and gentl(er) winds surrounding me as opposed to tromping through snow and having to cut holes in ice while old Jack Frost nips at my nose.
So having said that, I hope your present fishing season around these parts stretches right into November, and if you don’t have some angling scheduled for warmer climes this winter or you aren’t part of the ice-fishing clan, remember the good times from this year and look forward to a repeat in 2020.