For those early birds who have their boats in the water and a hunger for groundfishing, this Sunday, April 15 is special since it’s opening day for the Gulf of Maine haddock season. The trout-or-bust zealots got a major boost over the weekend as Wachusett Reservoir kicked off the season in fine fashion.
Massachusetts South Shore Fishing Report
Seasoned skipper Rich Antonio of Black Rose Charters has his sights on haddock beginning on Sunday, provided that the wind lies down. “Scouts” that he’s friendly with are reporting massive schools of haddock in skinny water right on top of Stellwagen Bank. No doubt mixed in with those haddock are their larger gadoid cousins, cod, which of course must be released in the GOM. Rich’s ride is a screamer, capable of 47 mph, so he needs but a short weather window to hit the haddock, tuck his charters back into the cabin, and be in port before you know it. This is a good thing as blustery old man winter refuses to finally take a nap. This is one of the few times when groundfishing is a light-tackle affair with “bass-sized” conventional outfits at the ready and jigs/teaser/bait combinations all under 10 ounces!
Captain Mark Rowell of Legit Fish Charters does not expect to be hitting it until the 15th of May, when the bass and mackerel are back.
Meanwhile according to Pete of Belsan’s Bait in Scituate, in spite of mid-to-upper 40-degree temperatures, some of his patrons have been pulling plenty of crappie out of Pembroke ponds. Elsewhere, the target is trout with increasing interest in brookies in rivers such as the Indian Head River, Plymouth River and Weir River.
Greater Boston Fishing Report
I asked Greater Boston’s unofficial ambassador to all things fishy in the Hub, Pete Santini, to weigh in why “we” caught flounder at this time of the year back in the day and hardly anyone seems to pull that off nowadays. His sound reasoning is a simple case of numbers. Back in the halcyon days of the Harbor, it was often said that the bottom of Quincy and Boston was carpeted with blackbacks. From the perspective of those who lived it, that’s not much of an exaggeration. With less competition, there is less feeding when water temperatures are below their comfort zone, the baseline of which is about 48 degrees. Currently the harbor is stuck in the low 40s. Regarding “old school” stuff, Pete is putting on an Boston Old School Bass seminar/dinner on April 26th. The list of speakers and expected attendees is impressive; if you’re looking to learn home-grown information from some of Boston’s best about all things striper than you’d be hard pressed to top this event.
Mark from Monahan’s Marine in Weymouth has been killing it with Plymouth trout! He’s been having his way with rainbows and browns as well as the errant black bass. His secret is “live-lining” shiners with tiny split shot sinkers or in some cases skipping out on the weight. Mark’s accounts reminded me of a corker largemouth I landed at Walden Pond years ago. I was casting and free-lining shiners hoping for a big old brownie when a huge largemouth inhaled the bait and gave me quite the surprise.
Captain Jason Colby of Little Sister Charters has but a few more tweaks to his new boat and then he’ll be setting sail for flounder and haddock!
Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report
The wait is officially on. And for patrons of Merrimack Sports and Surfland, three species worth waiting for should arrive in the following chronological order: shad, white perch and (of course) striped bass! Once the shad bite is on, preferred darts and wobblers will be in short supply, but not now. Stock up on selects while you can. Usually the first shad is taken around mid-month, which should make the first hooked leaper imminent. As usual, the first should be taken in the West Newbury stretch. As for white perch, the destinations are the Parker River, Merrimack/Shawsheen confluence and the Squamscott/Exeter Rivers. Old salts used to tell me that when the first blooms are on apple trees, the white perch are running. The rub nowadays however is that there aren’t as many apple trees around as there once was. As for stripers, last year the march of the micros began on the North Shore by the end of April, but with water temperatures remaining frosty, expect that drop date not to happen until early May. Meanwhile, for most, trout rule in such ponds such as Sluice in Lynn. Just try telling that ruling thing to someone who caught a 4-pound largemouth in nearby Flax.
Central through Western Massachusetts Fishing Report
First week results from Wachusett speak of good shoreline access and healthy lake trout. Eddie of B&A reported patrons catching plenty of forktails up to 8 pounds and a fair amount of salmon up to 22 inches. No word on smelt numbers yet but the girth of the gamesters is a sign that the most valuable forage may still be plentiful. Good action has been reported by the Cellar Holes as well as beneath the Power Lines. Stocked trout are being taken in the Quinapoxet River but still nothing on the white perch or smallie front.
Patrick Barone of Charter the Berkshires Outfitters has been doing more “hunting” than fishing. The reason is that fluctuating water levels in the North Hampton/Hadley stretch of the Connecticut River keep the walleye moving and anglers guessing as to where they will be next. Fortunately for charters who fish with Patrick he’s fishing this place daily (nightly!) so he has a unique feel for walleye movements. It’s worth the effort, on the slide I was shown a clandestine photo of one which was so big it looked more like something out of Lake Champlain or the Great Lakes. If nights spook you, rising water temperatures are resulting in more active largemouth and smallmouth bass in coves and setbacks of the Connecticut by day.
Mike Didonna of the Deerfield Fly Shop said that not surprisingly warmer water temperatures have resulted in hotter fishing on the Deerfield. There has been good current and good wading conditions below the Fife Brook Dam. Wooly Buggers, Sculpin Bunnies, Headbangers and Golden Fly Nymphs are among the flies that the shop carries which are catching trout. Just be careful, the rocks are slippery making felt soles a necessity. Below the Buckland Dam can be very rewarding but challenging due to shifting flow rates. To gauge flow rates, stop in the shop, Mike will link you up to the ultimate URLs for the river.
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
Slowly but surely, SALT is becoming part of the local angler’s lexicon. Should you find a break in the blow, you should have no problem achieving your limit of haddock on Stellwagen Bank. While the first shad should be coursing the North and Merrimack rivers soon, there are plenty of other species which are cooperating in rivers. Try the Indian Head River for brook trout or the Quinapoxet River for rainbows and browns. While you’re in the Wachusett area, drop a Kastmaster into one of the Cellar Holes to see if a few lakers are on the prowl.