Massachusetts Fishing Report – July 23, 2020

Marking the menhaden mob has been the modus operandi for some time now, but with surging water temperatures, finding bait along with cooler temperatures is proving every bit as important. While 70-degree water temperatures may not be ideal for stripers, the appearance of bluefish, black sea bass, fluke and even bonito are making the heat a lot more bearable.

Massachusetts South Shore and South Coast Fishing Report

I expect a multi-species report from Captain Mart Petitt of Fire Escape Charters, but what I was really hoping to hear of was fluke and he delivered! While not targeting these toothy flounder personally, he’s witnessing a lot of anglers drifting along the channels and edges of mudflats for fluke. Even better is that there is fluke buzz all the way into Plum Island! While overall the inshore fluke biomass is not what it was a decade ago, when water temperatures become almost tropical some still spin off from more southerly strongholds and push northward. Other than in the Three Bays, the other area catches appear to be accidental and are just begging for someone to give it a concerted effort. Regarding more expected quarry, there are just enough random packs of blues between Provincetown and Plymouth to relieve unprepared anglers of an SP Minnow or two. Best of all, Mark’s finally seeing stripers in the Three Bays big enough to rival Boston’s bass. With the skyrocketing water temperatures, offshore pelagic fishing on all fronts is really good.

According to Pete Belsan from Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate, linesider luck depends on who you talk to. You know what they say about 10% of the fishermen catching 90% of the fish? Those doing better are finding pods of pogies in cooler pockets of water and usually that’s happening in deep water east of Minot and out through Hull, with Harding’s Ledge catching fire. Pete said that the South Shore is loaded with tinker mackerel for bite-sized bass bait. Recently there was a bluefish blitz on possibly peanut bunker off Egypt Beach. Those fishing the rivers are increasingly coming up with fluke, including keepers (17” minimum).

Captain Mark Rowell of Legit Fish Charters said that the combination of close-to-port haddock and his new speedy Southport Center Console is allowing him to combine stripers and haddock into one charter trip! The haddock are on top of ledge in 185’ of water and not only is he achieving limits quickly but few fish are shorts. Better bass are in close now among the rocks and with all the tinker mackerel present procuring the proper bait is a cinch.

Captain Jason Colby
Captain Jason Colby got into the black sea bass recently while aboard his Little Sister.

Not to be outdone, Captain Jason Colby is offering and delivering charters aboard the Little Sister a bevy of black sea bass, blackfish, stripers and even cod! He’s sure he’s seeing bonito burning up Buzzards Bay between the mouth of the Westport River and Gooseberry Point but they’ve haven’t got a hook into them – yet!

Caroline Joyce
Caroline Joyce reeled in this beauty of a striper with her dad.

Greater Boston Fishing Report

Kevin Cheezer
Kevin Cheezer with a personal best bass caught while fishing with Boston Saltwater.

Captain Sam from Boston Saltwater could rename his boat “Personal Best” considering how often he’s putting patrons into their personal best striped bass! Angler Kevin Cheezer checked off that box recently with a 49-incher! Sam spotted a trend in that early the bite is best between Harding’s Ledge and the BG Buoy as the stripers push sea herring toward the surface. Later in the day a pogy on the hook is your best bet in closer. When the tide is cooking and the bait is on the move, weighing down the pogy has been paying off. All that bait is attracting some interesting characters including “Charlie”, one of which took the skipper deeply into his backing; he was about 20’ away from of being spooled before the hook mercifully popped out.

Get Tight Sportfishing
Captain Brian Coombs is covering a lot of water with his Get Tight Sportfishing center console but he’s still finding those cows!

Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing continues to put patrons into real pigs but as temperatures increase so does the work required. On a given day, Brian will burn petrol from Harding’s Ledge to Tinker’s Island and then finally find them 2 miles east of Egg Rock in 140’ of water. Of course pictures don’t lie and the photos keep coming of smiling anglers and big bass. Regarding pictures, Brian forwarded me a photo of a good sized bonito which was taken in the middle of a Boston bass feed.

Todd Ongaro
Todd Ongaro with a Boston bonito.

Something to consider when the same old thing is not working for you, specifically – try trolling bait around the outer islands. Captain Dennis DeCarney of Drop A Line showed me this technique years ago and it was eye-opening. Pogies or mackerel would work, but more often than not he’d just troll one of the ubiquitous pollock in tight to Green Island, Calf Island, Little Calf Island and the action for big bass was very impressive.

Jim Symon
Jim Symon with a 70 year old birthday bass taken aboard Reel Pursuit.

While most are capitalizing on the endless stream of pogies or mackerel, Captain Paul Diggins is sticking with Rapala trolling X-Raps and Mojo rigs while aboard Reel Pursuit Charters. While in the morning the fish seem to be in deeper water, later in the day they seem to move more solidly into Broad Sound. Flipp Rock and Nahant’s 2 Can still hold mackerel with the tinkers far outnumbering mediums.

Connor Hendry
Connor Hendry was fishing on Tuesday just outside of Boston harbor and pulled in his personal best bass.

Lisa from Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy said that increasingly anglers are targeting black sea bass successfully in the Hangman Island/Sunken Ledge area. Keeper fluke have been caught accidentally off Nantasket Beach. For more expected quarry, a kayaker customer, has been livelining pogies under the Fore River Bridge and catching cows in the shadows!

Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain for Massachusetts

Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report

Because the North Shore is so close to deep water, water temperatures fluctuate wildly. On recent trip aboard T Sea Charters with my friend Captain Tom Ciulla, in little more than a mile stretch, temperatures ran the gamut from 61 degrees to 71 degrees. Unfortunately the only place we found pogies was in the cauldron of Gloucester Harbor where, along with other forlorn anglers, we live lined the bait with no success. Had it not been the tail end of our trip, we would have been better served filling up the livewell with pogies and then slowly trolling them off Magnolia, the backshore of Gloucester or by Thatcher Island where water temperatures were more tolerable.

Sam from Tomo’s Tackle in Salem said that successful anglers are remaining on the lookout for pogy schools as well as cooler water temperatures off Nahant, Tinkers Island and Misery Island. Mackerel have become more prevalent and with a little effort can be found outside of Salem Sound and make for an alternative bait source to pogies. The North Shore is not immune to southern visitors and even Sam mentioned the presence of bonito. Perhaps we’ll see blitzing bonito this August like we did two years ago with the caveat being that so far these fish are far bigger.

Skip from Three Lantern Marine said that unless we get a nourishing east wind, harbors should be avoided with striper efforts confined to the open ocean. The most encouraging news at the moment is coming from Ipswich Bay which seems to have the highest concentration of pogies on the North Shore.

Martha from Surfland Bait and Tackle said that a few bait soakers off the ocean front have been catching fluke. If that’s the case, drifting a squid strip or Gulp Swimming Mullet through Plum Sound or the mouth of the Merrimack River on an outgoing tide might catch you a few fluke. Pogy schools have made it all the way upstream in the river up to the Chain Bridge and occasionally and especially on an incoming tide there have been stripers with them

Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain for Massachusetts

Massachusetts Fishing Forecast

Pack some steel leaders with you if you fish in Cape Cod Bay or be prepared to lose a few choice plugs when you least suspect it thanks to the occasional bluefish raids. Schoolies are a cinch in the Three Bays as well as Scituate Harbor. Topping off the livewell with tinkers is a good safety net in case you’re struggling to find pogies. A tinker drifted by Saquish Rip, High Pine Ledge or Fourth Cliff should not last long before being mugged by a bass. Pogies are plentiful near the Fore River Bridge in Quincy; hook one up and swim it just inside the shadow line where the linesiders lurk. Black sea bass in Quincy and fluke off Nantasket Beach make for interesting alternatives in the striper sweepstakes. Spiking water temperatures in the Harbor are keeping big stripers among the deep water humps by Harding’s Ledge, Graves Light and east of Broad Sound. Ipswich Bay on the North Shore has the right combination of cooler water temperatures and plenty of pogies, your job is to pick the right school!

12 on “Massachusetts Fishing Report – July 23, 2020

  1. Walleye

    Duxbury channel was hot for pogies and big bass underneath. There are so many pogies out in front of plymouth beach, you could walk on them! You have to get your bunker snags deep if you want it to pay off! Tight lines!

    1. Frank Cullerton

      Walleye – I like the name.
      I’m obsessed with walleye.
      That’s only one fish. Striper,Bluefin Musky, Cobia the list goes on of my obsessions.
      Where do you fish walleye in New England besides the Connecticut River.
      Thanks for posting the duxbury information.
      Frank

  2. Steve L

    I have been catching Stripers (13-29″) consistently for almost two months on the North Shore. Early mornings have been the best with Storm (blue or black back) and Creek Chub (green back) poppers yielding the most over the “Dirty Dick” jigs and soft rubber mid-sized herring. Yeah, the water has warmed and the bait not as copious, but there are still Stripers around and they have to eat no matter what the water temp is. This has been the best year for me (shore fisherman) in several years. Best results have been “slackish tides” and fishing around lots of muscle beds, but definitely early mornings . Well-wishes to all as I head out again this morning!

  3. michael

    so in, “Captain Brian Coombs” picture, there is a rod and reel in the foreground with an unweighted treble hook? Was he actually trying to cast it??? or is he just not using circle hooks like he’s supposed to? hmmmm….

    1. Captain Brian

      Hey Mike, charter guides and commercial are exempt from the circle hook regulations until the federal mandate takes in effect in 2021. Honestly i have been playing around with speed trolling live baits. It does require double trebles. The drag is in the locked position and all fish are hooked in the jaws. Im kind of torn about the circle hooks, i find they are still gut hooking quite a few fish. Bottom line im trying to kill less. Not looking for an online debate. If you want to talk feel free to call me. I truly want to have the smallest release mortality numbers possible.

      Thanks!
      Captain Brian Coombs

  4. CM

    As I have said in a few replies prior in other circle hook articles on the site the pressure to catch fish with clients in addition to the guide/charters being exempt from circle hooks leads to this happening every day. Past practice, could be current as well, was to use trebles in commercial fishing as as assist hook as well in live bait. Guides and Charters are “teaching” clients to catch big fish with trebles we know they work and work well, we all know that but we need to help out in any way we can and using circle hooks is the way to go. Id say guides need to be teaching the people that hire them.
    Id also say that picture you reference is the norm. Id say it deserves an explanation since the guide has a video on using circle hooks/bridle on the site.
    Its important to note even though fundamentally/in my opinion ethically wrong regarding circle hooks:
    ” This requirement does not apply in the following circumstances: 1) when a recreational angler is fishing aboard a for-hire vessel on a for-hire trip; “…

    I would say the vast majority of clients who leave the charter and fish again on their own are copying the guide they have hired. Just my opinion.

  5. Captain Brian

    Hey CM, charter guides and commercial are exempt from the circle hook regulations until the federal mandate takes in effect in 2021. Honestly i have been playing around with speed trolling live baits. It does require double trebles. The drag is in the locked position and all fish are hooked in the jaws. Im kind of torn about the circle hooks, i find they are still gut hooking quite a few fish. Way more than the speed trolled baits. Bottom line im trying to kill less. Not looking for an online debate. If you want to talk feel free to call me. I always like to hear people’s opinions, good or bad. I truly want to have the smallest release mortality numbers possible.

    Thanks!
    Captain Brian Coombs

  6. APEX

    Capt, I appreciate your commitment to reducing mortality which is more important than ever now that we have “slot fish” regulations. As to the debate over circle hooks, it has been over for a long time among fisheries biologists and finally regulators. It is time for those who find it hard to adapt to stop struggling and find better ways to fish.

  7. CM

    Thanks Captain Brian for the reply. Not sure how to call you I don’t have your number. Leave the fish in the water that are over 28 inches and you will have less of a mortality worry- That 20 second picture regardless of the help given to the fish from what I have read is often the nail in the coffin and dramatically reduces its chances of survival. Just a thought. I am as guilty as the rest of wanting/taking photos but I am really working on taking the approach taken with Tarpon in Fla. Over a certain size, leave them in the water.

  8. B

    All right either the water is too hot for shore fishing or we killed them all. The bite suddenly went dead as I’ve ever seen in my life over this last week. purely talking surfcasting there are zero fish within casting range from the beach now. i’m sure they might be thick as a cloud in 50 feet of water. But I can tell you that the shallows are dead. It’s too hot. My buddy was spearfishing about a quarter mile out from where I was casting and he said he didn’t even see a striper. You could see every single rock out until the lobster traps and water was so clear. I think they moved deeper. Could have to do with the EXTREME uptick in human activity in the shallows as well… From my experience Striper are notoriously unbothered by human activity, relatively speaking, but I do think it’s enough to push them just beyond casting distance. Idk. Maybe it’s just where I live but it’s grinded to a COMPLETE stop. The water feels like it’s in the mid-70s. I don’t have a thermometer but that’s pretty freaking hot. Tough time for the boatless diehards

  9. Jim Dangelo

    Hey Ron caught a nice 13 lb 6 oz. Laker up Wachusett Res. on a deadly dick lure. fishing been solid this summer, Hope to see you up there sometime Jim.”

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