Who would have ever thought that schoolie striped bass would become such a big deal? Now that the latest striped bass stock assessment has been released, showing that not only is the spawning stock biomass overfished and that overfishing continues, there is some real talk about making major revisions in the striper management plan.
I read that raising the recreational limit to something in the vicinity of 35 inches might be necessary to simply stabilize the situation. Part of the discussion concerns protecting the strong 2015-year class, so that enough of its members add to the spawning population and thereby increase the odds of seeing more healthy year classes.
Matthew Beaton, the Massachusetts Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Protection, joined his cohorts from Connecticut and Virginia in penning a letter to the chairman of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission urging immediate action to “implement measures that will reduce striped bass harvests to sustainable levels as quickly as possible.”
It will be interesting to see what steps the Striped Bass Management Board takes. Historically, they have done everything possible to avoid taking action to protect striped bass, despite any and all scientific evidence.
The arrival of schoolies is a welcome harbinger of our fishing season up here on the Cape. For some of us, fishing for small bass is the start of our angling season since we enjoy seeking them out, while other fishermen don’t bother with them, instead seeing them as a sign that larger bass will soon be swimming in our local waters.
At the moment, schoolies are back in pretty much all of their early season haunts.
Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street in Falmouth has heard of schoolies being caught up inside Waquoit Bay. He spoke to an angler who was fishing around the Seapit Landing and saw a number of sizeable splashes, although he didn’t catch anything. At this time of year, there are typically schools of pogies up around the mooring fields in that area and a couple of warm, sunny days sometimes will bring some early arriving bluefish into this area, along with some of the first sizeable bass of the season.
The word from Christian Giardini at Falmouth Bait & Tackle in Teaticket is there are good numbers of small bass being caught in most of the salt ponds and rivers along the south side of town, as well as from the beaches. Christian emphasized that while there are numerous offerings that will catch small stripers, the venerable white bucktail jig is tough to beat, whether “naked” or tipped with some sort of attractor such as a soft plastic or one of the pork rind replacements that popped up once Uncle Josh decided to stop marketing pig skin strips.
Bruce Miller at Canal Bait & Tackle in Sagamore said schoolies are being caught around Osterville, along with a single bluefish from Dowses Beach.
The squid fishing in the sounds hasn’t really picked up yet, noted Elise Costa at The Powderhorn in Hyannis, but there are scattered numbers around, and their presence is typically followed by the blues, so the capture of a “scout” chopper is another sign that we are pretty much on schedule.
Up around Buzzards Bay, it sounds like everywhere you look, there are schoolies to be caught. Bruce told me that schoolies have moved all the way up to the herring run in the land cut, especially on the west tide that brings in warmer water from Cape Cod Bay, as well as what I assume is the attractive scent from the alewives staging around the entrance to the run.
Hayden Gallagher at Red Top in Buzzards Bay reported that despite April’s being one of the rainiest on record, folks have still been getting out and having success catching small bass both in upper and lower Buzzards Bay. Onset and Buttermilk Bay are goods spot to try as there are areas where you can get out of the wind and the waters warm up quickly.
The Weweantic and Agawam/Wareham rivers typically have some of the best early season activity on schoolies, as well as the first significant push of larger bass that have made their way up from the Chesapeake and Hudson. Small, single-hook jigs and soft plastics are hard to beat when it comes to schoolies and I have personally had great success in these rivers with larger soft plastics when sizeable bass show up.
It’s easy to associate tautog with boat fishing, but Hayden Gallagher emphasized that at this time of year they move into shallower water close to shore as part of their spawning activity. The waters around the west end of the Canal, especially by the maritime academy, are very popular for shorebound toggers, and these fish also move up into the Wareham River during spawning, providing opportunities to catch larger fish from shore. Green crabs are typically the number-one bait when targeting tautog, and while there are bottom rigs specifically designed for targeting tog, there are also a number of manufacturers such as Joe Baggs and TidalTails that produce specifically designed tautog jigs.
The latest state trout stocking report had Peters Pond receiving brook trout Tuesday,
April 30, and both brook and tiger on Monday, while Spectacle in Sandwich and Mashpee-Wakeby in Mashpee were stocked with tiger trout on Monday and Hamblin in Barnstable picked up more brook trout on Tuesday. This cool, wet spring typically keeps the fish in shallower water, which is certainly a positive development for shore anglers, but these conditions can also result in finicky fish at times.
The freshwater bass fishing remains excellent, with some of the largest fish caught in ponds where herring return to do their spawning thing, said Christian Giardini. In those scenarios, larger plugs are very popular, with blue or black back/silver sides a good color combination, while some folks also favor white.
Some of these big plugs are seven or eight inches long; as an alternative, Christian recommended the Yo-zuri 3DB Series Wakebait; although this offering is smaller, its design produces an extra-wide wobble that imitates a struggling baitfish on or near the surface, a target that bass can’t resist.