It’s telling in a special way that for the fourth week in a row I have at my fingertips pictures of 30 to 40 pound striped bass that I get to use in this column. That does not happen every year! And just maybe it’s getting even better!
Greater Boston Fishing Report
Ordinarily I start south and end with the north, but the harbor is so darn good that it just can’t wait. Greater Boston has been raining birds, bait and bass and that has attracted no shortage of boats. In fact, Captain Brain Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing rough-counted 50 crammed in the middle of a blitz in the Hull area over the weekend. He also chuckled at a head-shaking Captain Jason Colby of Little Sister Charters who cruised through the melee and wore a look of derision that said it all – “I can’t be bothered with this”! On Tuesday, while out with Captain Colby we split the trip between stripers and flounder. Regarding the latter, we limited out and tossed back 14-inch fish! As for the stripers there was no “running of the bass” as most others do but rather a calm, cool, collective shadowing of marked schools of fish. Casting gave way to “squidding”, which is a neat, specialized version of vertical jigging. At it’s core, squidding involves rapidly free-spooling a jig to the bottom and then immediately ripping it off the bottom with as little pause as possible. Depending on where the fish are marked in the water column, the lure should be cranked up anywhere from 5 to 10 rotations before being dropped to the bottom again. Gamesters of all sorts can’t help themselves and impulsively strike what appears to be fleeing prey. On this day we caught all the 25” schoolies we could handle but larger avoided us. It’s not as if bigger bass weren’t there it’s just that in relatively shallow water those stealthy cows are reluctant to hit what they perceive as a fake. And during the day, older, savvy fish know the difference. The very next day in the fog, Jason went back to the same spot where he marked something bigger and put a patron onto 39 pounds of striped bass! Crippled Herrings, Butterfly Jigs and other vertical jigs will work and as for color – firetiger or something similarly gaudy has proved to be a killer! Boston blitzes have been routine throughout Quincy Bay, Hull and the inner harbor. Instead of chasing and casting, consider a more vertical presentation. Flounder are heading out of town now, so think in terms of the outer harbor islands – Green, the Brewsters and off Hull.
Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing on Wednesday passed on a charter and went with philanthropy. He gave of his own time to treat under-privileged inner-city kids from the Fishing Academy to a day of catching striped bass in Boston Harbor. His gut told him that with the onset of an east wind, adult sea herring would be blown back into the outer harbor. Trolling mackerel between Graves Light and the BG Buoy produced a steady pick of schoolies through small keeper sized fish when a monster struck. In spite of the depth of the water, the war was waged on top and the fish was huge! Brian has seen 50-pounders and this was bigger. Despite a valiant effort from the 10-year-old at the rod, the big bass came un-buttoned probably from the hook worming out of its hole, which can happen after a long battle. It’s definitely time for big bass gear and a big bass mindset.
There are pogies around but no reported huge schools. Some of the more successful commercial guys are skipping out on the mackerel and selecting pogies for the bigger bass. They’ve been finding “selling” fish out in deeper water between the BG and B Buoy. For the shore folks, stick to low light conditions and toss eels and big artificials off Nantasket Beach, Deer Island, Winthrop Beach, Short Beach and Revere Beach. Bigger fish do move within casting distance of the shoreline but will not remain if they don’t find adequate forage, it all comes down to timing! A kayak sure helps and big eels matter also. Last week while out with my friend Bill Eiker aboard out Hobies, it was definitely a case of size mattering. I brought along the serpents and offered Bill first choice. My friend being polite, chose the smaller and left bigger for me.The whip eels drew interest from nothing but schoolies while the 16” snakes accounted for 36-inch to 45-inch ‘yak draggers.
Captain Paul Diggins of Reel Pursuit Charters has been steaming out to the BG Buoy, loading up with mackerel and finding fish up to 41” which looked as if they haven’t missed a meal. Paul uses a bump-trolling technique which is unique and allows him to keep baits right in front of marked bass. For charters deciding action, even if not necessarily large fish, Paul is dialed into the bass blitzes between the Lower Middle, Castle Island and the short pier of the airport. Captain Anthony of Chasin’ Tail Charters said that pogies are occasionally making a random appearance near his slip in Marina Bay but it’s hardly lock-and-load. Anthony is a fan of vertical jigging as well and is finding 30” plus fish in the middle of surface feeds while most catch schoolies! He did tell of football tuna just beyond Graves Light, which has him considering chasing Charlie again! With all that bait out there, we’ll probably hear of the first bluefish attack over the next week!
Massachusetts South Shore Fishing Report
Captain Mark Rowell of Legit Fish Charters will be back in business this Friday from a brief hiatus. The timing is good since tuna are now being trolled up between 80” and 98” on Joe Shute Lures. Mark suggests that you troll the edges of Stellwagen Bank and make sure the tide is moving!
Captain Mark Petitt of Fire Escape Charters out of Plymouth said that bigger bass have moved into The Race but the action is hit-or-miss. For more reliable action, he’s heading out to Wellfleet. With summer finally feeling like it, the captain feels that stripers from Plymouth to Provincetown will settle into a more predictable pattern. The arrival of bluefish is expected soon! Meanwhile the “other blue”, bluefin tuna have arrived between the bank and the backside of the cape. The bait of choice will be whiting and mackerel which are most reliable in deep water.
Peter Belsan from Belsan of Belsan Bait in Scituate said that big bass and mackerel are a tough find inshore with both being a better bet out in deep ledges. He did weigh in a 36-pounder for 19-year-old Christian of Norwell who caught the fish east of Minot’s Ledge on mackerel. There are plenty of harbor pollock in close and they are a more reliable bait source than mackerel and can be almost as effective when finished among rockpiles. A balloon or float is essential to prevent the pollock from burying into the structure. Flounder are beginning to transition out to deeper water so try targeting them east of Scituate Harbor in 35-40’ of water. Some squid can be found by the NR Can.
Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report
Tomo of Tomo’s Tackle told me that there has been a pogy appearance in Nahant Bay but not much harassing them! A better bet might be to drop a few pogies into a live well and try them between Halfway Rock and Misery and Baker Islands. Or maybe steam out to Salem Harbor and Marblehead Harbor, where schoolie blitzes have become routine, and see if something larger is lurking under the smaller fish!
Increasingly fewer anglers are targeting flounder with so many succumbing to striped bass fever but reports are still good among most harbors from Lynn through Gloucester. Squid can be found off lit harbor docks at night but there are no reports of big numbers yet. Mackerel have become more reliable with chummers and trollers having the most luck. At last there are stripers in the Gloucester area big enough to write home about or at least snap a photo of prior to release!
Tina from Three Lantern Marine informed me of confirmed upper 30-pounders and a rumored 50! The uptick in fishy fortunes can probably be tied to all the bait, which consists of harbor pollock, mackerel, squid and pogies! A wild card is sea herring; should you see gulls come up with large bait, then it most likely is adult sea herring which seldom are inshore without schools of big bass lurking under them. From false dawn through daybreak don’t be afraid to pepper those feeds with a large topwater and once the sun is up transition to a soft plastic/jighead.
Liz from Surfland said that there are reports of pogies in Ipswich Bay and probably not mutually exclusive are reports of big commercial fish. Joppa has it’s usual big fish, cruising stealthily throughout the shallows, frustrating some and thrilling others. As always a good size eel during graveyard shift hours helps a lot. Plum Island Sound has mixed-size fish action as does the ocean front of the Parker River Wildlife Reservataion. For flounder your best bet is by boat at the mouth of the Merrimack River and at the effluence of the Essex River/Cranes Beach.
Fishing Forecast for Massachusetts
On the South Shore, schoolies throughout the Three Bays and through Scituate Harbor are no problem but for bigger, the offshore ledges with a live mackerel are still the best bet. Another option is a cruise through Cape Cod Bay over to The Race/Wood End although success is most often referred to as “spotty”. For Bostonians things are looking much more cheery! Shore anglers should consider the mouths of herring runs for both “fallback” adult blueback herring and alewife fry which is beginning to aggregate throughout herring run watersheds. Hull through Quincy has been hot for schoolie blitzes but a more vertical presentation may lead to a lunker! Deep water in the Graves Light, NC Buoy, BG Buoy and B Buoy has been holding big bass for weeks with the ever-present possibility of hooking a monster on a pogy or mackerel. The North Shore is swarming with bait and as a result there are now fish big enough to give a scale a workout. Be on the lookout for rushed pogies in Ipswich Bay and also large sea herring. The smaller herring will be fodder for schoolies but the 7” versions are what the cows crave!
Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain for Massachusetts