April 4, 2013 Ron Powers
Forecast: Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine
Trout Fishing Excellent
Flounder and Holdover Stripers Stirring
While I have little allegiance to the food pyramid, I’d say it’s high time we had a little salt to go with the sweetwater in our diets! With that said, Boston Harbor striper holdovers are waking up, big time! There’s a little bait shop in Salem that has put its seaworm diggers on an increased schedule because a certain flatfish that we are fond of has put the feedbag on. And if you have a hankering for haddock, there is a headboat option that may give you your fix!
Even an ichthyologist would admit there’s a lot that goes on in the fishy world that remains a mystery. One of them is the enigmatic subject of striped bass migration. Obviously we do know about major migrations, such as the pilgrimage to and from the Hudson River and the Chesapeake Bay each spring, but what about the possibility of local populations of spawning stripers? This subject came up after my friends Dave Panarello and Carl Vinning put up 87 stripers over a recent three-morning stretch with some keeper-sized and some a mere 11 inches! And in the past, they’ve taken them smaller still. What wakes these guys before the break of dawn and motivates them to crash their tin boat through skim ice is not the possibility of catching white perch-sized stripers – they’re looking for 20-pound-plus specimens. But you can’t help but wonder about the origins of a striper that is 11 inches or less! You have to love the mysteries of the harbor.
The Dave and Carl method is to troll a tube-and-worm rig throughout the inner harbor and poke around some river systems in their striper quest. They prefer the smallish red-tubes that Kay from Surfland in Plum Island makes at the shop, and they’re finding their seaworms at Dart Bridge Street Bait and Tackle in Salem. Upon a recent visit, Dave noticed that there was a bee-hive of activity as diggers were dropping off their seaworm bounty to Noel in the shop. Dave had to ask what was up with the demand for seaworms, and the great news is that anglers are catching flounder with them! I’ve been a firm doubter about labeling our blackback flounder resurgence as a recovery since so little shore success has been apparent… but if we are on the precipice of a flounder-from-shore return, then I’ll call it a recovery!
Noel told me that the blackback bite is hardly superb, but folks are scratching together a few on an incoming tide from the shore of Lynn Harbor as well as Swampscott Harbor. He suspects you may be able to catch a few from Salem Willows, but construction limits access. The same applies to the Beverly Pier which is in a state of flux, but if you had a boat or kayak or whatever at the ready, you might be able to score some flounder there. A favorite area of Noel’s in the past has been the Gloucester area, where there is no shortage of parks from which to launch a Scotchman-type rig full of seaworm. You may find flounder off the Dogbar Breakwater or Stage Fort Park. In the past, Kay from Surfland has suggested Plum Island River and anywhere you can access the sound.
You may catch a few at the Lynn Pier or from the Point of Pines Beach. Other flounder favorites of the past were at the Sugar Bowl in South Boston and the mouth of the Neponset River. Actually, the entire stretch of the Harborwalk has miles of good access and faces historically healthy flounder water. On the South Shore, you may catch a few fish from Cedar Point, which is the gateway to Scituate Harbor, or even the Green Harbor Jetty. Duxbury Beach used to be a solid bet when brown bombers were within reach of the surf fisherman, but nowadays if its flounder you want, you’ll fare better casting in the direction of Duxbury Bay. Flounder are the piscatorial version of a bloodhound and will heed the call of a chum pot. Drop one full of clams from a pier or bridge and bait up with a lively seaworm and your chances improve considerably.
If you’re yearning for a deeper-water groundfish experience, the Yankee Fleet out of Gloucester is setting sail each day that they have enough patrons and decent weather. The trips are long in duration at 7-4 scheduling and short on cash at only $68 for an adult. The first fledgling two days revealed willing redfish and cusk but no haddock. They did get into a pile of cod, but considering that open season for cod does not start until April 16th, all were released. You can be that they’re hoping that those fish stick around!
Of course there are still freshwater opportunities, and on the 13th two big ones become available – Wachusett and Quabbin Reservoirs. It’s not often that these two open up the same day, but ice conditions on the ‘Chu delayed it by a week. Eddie of B&A told me that his shop is brimming with new tackle, including unique Kastmaster colors that he never had in stock before! For those who simply can’t wait, the Stillwater Basin is wide open and anyone who knows the Wachusett watershed will agree that big fish swim into this tributary.
It may not be summer, but with both flounder and stripers in the forecast, it almost seems like it. With water temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, it often takes bait, particularly seaworms, to get the bass and the blackbacks to respond. Target the mudflats at the mouths of rivers after a sunny day and you may find a few stripers and flounder. Soak some worms along the Harborwalk from the JFK Library to Carson Beach. On the South Shore, there is Green Harbor and the sprawling North River and maybe the harbors of Scitutate, Cohasset and Hingham. Up north, Gloucester Harbor and Plum Island Sound are worth a shot. You may jump aboard the Yankee Fleet Headboat; they haven’t found the haddock yet, but maybe next time! And if you’re bored with stocked trout but still want a sweetwater treat, circle April 13th when both the Q’ and the ‘Chu are open for business.