April 21, 2011 CC & BB

Sean Belair pickerel

Sean Belair holds a 3.40-pound pickerel weighed in for the Hook-Up kids derby. Sean also caught a 5.70-pound pickerel and has earned 4 state pins this week!

There’s a classic OTW television commercial featuring our own “fishaholic” magazine designer Andy Nabreski, who admits that starting in the spring, he heads down to the beach every morning to make a few casts – because one day soon the stripers will return, and he doesn’t want to be a day late. Well, if you identify with Andy, I wouldn’t put off heading down to the salt for another day.

While there weren’t any solid reports of “fresh” migrating schoolie stripers showing up on the Cape and Islands just yet, that should almost certainly change by the end of next week. So far, every first-hand report we’ve heard from surfcasters looking for the first stripers of the season has been “nuthin’ yet,” even in perennial early-season spots on the southside like Cotuit and Popponesset. But stripers are being caught from a few rivers that are known to harbor “holdover” fish that have spent the winter rather than migrating south. The Westport River on the mainland side of Buzzards Bay is one such place, and Westport Bait and Tackle reported that the arrival of herring in the river has the holdovers in the river active and feeding, with fresh arrivals expected join in any day now. Sam at Bucko’s mentioned that anglers fishing Hix Bridge have found a few white perch, but no striper activity. A few fishermen have tried for tautog in the river, but reports were dismal. One 8.95-pound tautog was weighed in at Westport Bait and Tackle, but it couldn’t be confirmed of that beautiful blackfish came from inside the river or out in the Bay. The Agawam and Weweantic rivers are holding stripers as well, but reports have been hit-or-miss.

Canal Bait and Tackle reported river herring have arrived in good numbers, and predicted that bass should start chasing them around by the end of the month. Red Top in Buzzards Bay has been humming with anxious fishermen stocking up on last minute items for the season and anticipating the spring striper run.

Things are still quiet on the Vineyard, with no sign yet of migrating stripers, reports Larry’s shop in Edgartown. “Any day now,” was the refrain.

At Falmouth Bait and Tackle, Christian is selling bushels of green crabs to tautog fishermen, but the bite has been very slow so far, suggesting that the keeper tog have yet to arrive. Timing and water temps are just about right, so reports should perk up this week.

Chris at BadFish Outfitters said that things have been very busy at the new location on route 28 in Falmouth. Last weekend’s open house was a success, and more shoppers are stopping in to check out the new digs and stock up for the season. Chris confirmed the slow tautog bite, with mostly undersized fish being caught and very few keepers, yet. The freshwater bite is where it’s at right now, says Chris, with lots of parents bringing kids into the shop this week to pick up bait for a school-vacation-week outing.

Freshwater fishing has been a great option for adults and kids alike over school vacation week. MassWildlife came through in a big way this year, adding some beautiful tiger trout, brookies and rainbows to the Cape ponds. Grews in Falmouth, Mashpee Wakeby, and Peters in Sandwich have been producing. Shiners, worms and PowerBait are great options for bait. Small spoons, like Al’s Goldfish, Kastmasters, and Thomas Buoyant in gold or orange are a great way to cover water and find cruising fish. For fly fishermen, small streamers will pick up aggressive fish, but small black midge patterns will fool more fish during late-afternoon hatches. Sports Port in Hyannis said that good catches have come from Hamblin and Shubael. Check out the stocking schedule at the MassWildlife website for a list of stocked ponds and access maps.

The Hook-Up in Orleans has had a phenomenal Kids Derby this week, with over 45 state pins awarded for remarkable youth catches, including 5-pound largemouths and a 5.95-pound pickerel! The tournament ends Friday night with a banquet. Stop by the shop for shiners to get in on the great bite.

Finally, cod season opened on the 16th but the wind has been ruthless. A few boats were able to hit the cod grounds off Stellwagen when the wind let up on Tuesday. Capt Bobby Rice of Reel Deal Fishing Charters found cod in waters from 115 to 300 feet, with bigger fish in the deeper waters. Big tides necessitated the use of heavy 21-ounce jigs, but slower tides should allow for lighter jigs this week. Bobby reported tons of sand eels and herring on the Bank, along with plenty of whales, including hundreds of endangered right whales just off Provincetown. Boaters should beware, slow down, post a lookout, and heed the federal law that prevents any vessels from getting within 500 yards of the creatures.

Best Bets For the Weekend

With stripers on the way and tautog sure to load up on the rockpiles any day now, it’s tempting to get out and start the saltwater season this weekend. But if you want a better shot at action, check out the Cape’s overlooked freshwater fishing. The trout ponds have been loaded with a beautiful assortment of rainbows, brook trout, browns and tigers that are willing to strike small spoons, flies, and bait. Largemouth bass and pickerel have gotten very active and are hitting shiners and artificials worked slowly through the shallows. Finally, cool water and plenty of bait on Stellwagen Bank means the cod fishing should be excellent, and it looks like the wind might start to cooperate as early as Sunday.

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