Some of the striper-obsessed remain undaunted and in spite of diminishing returns are content to catch the occasional schoolie – but not every fish is small! The cruel irony about groundfishing it that it is great, but so few still have their boats at the ready. You don’t need a boat, however, for many freshwater pursuits and there are plenty of options there.
Having been a successful contractor for a number of years, my friend Steve Langton is no stranger to a hammer. But I’m pretty sure that in his wildest dreams, he never could have imagined that he’d be using one to chip off ice in order to free his kayak from the bed of his truck! You can be forgiven if last weekend during the snow dump/back-end sub-freezing temperatures you weren’t entertaining thoughts of striped bass, but some of us were thinking just that. In the wee hours of Friday morning as the pelting rain turned to a driving snow my friend and I were joined by Slappy, who pens the Kayak Corner for On The Water and we all thought the same thing – a building storm is often the trigger to a bass bite, even when it is freezing! We caught well that morning but eventually fingers which had the dexterity of popsicles caused us to call it. While done for that day, we had some unfinished business. Steve and I had one thought as the white stuff began to pile up during the day – snow stripers! The next morning as the wind whipped and temperatures dropped into the mid-20s, we went in search of that snow striper. In addition to layered clothing, gloves and stocking hats, we came equipped with studded boots to navigate a launch which resembled a skating rink. And then of course, there was Steve’s hammer! The answer as to whether it was worth it, came on the very first cast as a hungry striper found my offering. A striper-propelled kayak is often referred to as a “sleigh ride” but never more so than when surrounded by 5” of the white stuff! There is no escaping the reality that the vast majority of striped bass have beat it out of town for more southerly haunts, but not all are gone. And if you want more good news, this weekend if you chase down a November cow you won’t have to worry about frostbite!
Massachusetts South Shore and South Coast Fishing Report
Buzzards Bay blackfish will soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief because Captain Jason Colby’s Little Sister’s reign of terror will end for the year on November 12th! Unquestionably it has been a stellar season for a plethora of species and fittingly it’s ending with a big blackfish bite! During many of the final outings, cod are cooperating as well. Should you have the wherewithal to shove off in Westport, you can reasonably expect to find tog and possibly cod hovering around the nearest rock pile or wreck into December!
Pete from Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate said that while most of the stripers being caught are small, there is still the occasional surprise, such as a recent 38-incher which was taken in the North River! That fish fell for a jig/Slug-Go combination. The Cliffs have been the best bet regarding schoolies. From a personal perspective, I’ve had good luck with small spooks for November schoolies off Shifting Lots Preserve in Plymouth.
Greater Boston Fishing Report
Schoolie to slot-size stripers are still sticking around thanks to warm water temperatures and herring fry moving out of natal watersheds such as the Weymouth Back, Charles and Mystic Rivers. I also know of a few young surf sharpies such as Steven DeVincent of Saugus who are toeing the wash at night, wielding Van Staals, tossing Magic Swimmers and most importantly – catching! Their mantra could be, “not until a steady skunk” and that hasn’t happened yet. Three places in Greater Boston where I’ve had memorable Novembers are Point Allerton, Wold’s End and Yirrell Beach. Several years ago I was privy to a picture of a 36” linesider that was off Revere Beach very close to Turkey Day!
If we reversed the clock we would find anglers simply switching gears this time of the year towards rainbow smelt. That species has been in a free-fall for years primarily because of loss of habitat – eel grass. There are ongoing efforts to resurrect eel grass sod banks and just maybe some of those efforts are paying dividends.
According to Lisa from Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy, anglers fishing for them in Hewitts Cove in Hingham are reporting that the smelt are “everywhere”! On the heels of solid reports from the Reserve Channel, perhaps there is hope. Anglers looking to catch something off Nut Island are finding mackerel. The hot haddock bite as close as the B Buoy remains.
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Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report
There is no quit from Sam of Tomo’s Tackle who is still catching stripers from his kayak, including the occasional drag-puller! He cautions anglers however who get stoked by surface feeds that the protagonist is not always striped bass! Mackerel, pollock and even the errant bonito have all been caught while pushing bait from Marblehead through Cape Ann!
Regarding drag-pullers and pollock, big pollock have moved into some areas off Jeffrey’s Ledge as is typical of November. Some of these fish are double-digit brutes and when hooked two-at-a-time they are quite the workout.
Captain Andy from Adventure & Catch Charters who keeps his boat just over the border in Great Bay Marina sent me pics of a pile of pollock that looked very impressive!
More encouraging reports continue to trickle in from the Surfland Bait and Tackle area as diehards are still finding striped bass in both the Merrimack River and off the “refuge”. Most successful fishermen are opting for bait, especially clams and they are fishing both the Salisbury and Newburyport side of the Merrimack.
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Massachusetts Freshwater Fishing Report
Unfortunately after a summer-long drought, recent rains haven’t made a dent in the low water of Wachusett’s tributaries. This matters because now is prime time for landlocked salmon to spawn in the Stillwater River and this is Massachusetts only self-sustaining fishery. According to Eddie of B&A in West Boylston salmon have been observed on redds in the Stillwater Basin and some have been seen in the Quinapoxet but upstream access is needed in the former to pull of a successful salmon spawn. When the current is cooking, the rainbow catch has been good close to the Oakdale Dam with “garden hackle” being the primary offering. There is interesting news by the causeway of the reservoir as swarms of 2” to 3” yellow perch fry have been observed. This uniquely fall forage is a magnet to lake trout, making this spot among the best current bets in the Chu’! Dovetailing nicely with this news is that B&A is stuffed to the rafters with metallic perch Kastmasters. I would stock up on 3/8 to 1/2 once versions of these spoons, the action of lighter Kastmasters in my opinion is more natural and results in more action.
The Berkshires remain a palette of vibrant color but the draw is no longer leaves but what swims in the rivers! Word from the Deerfield Fly Shop is that the rivers out west are full of life and fly fishing among many of them is special. Among the more special is the brook trout spawn in the Swift River, which is something that some simply ogle rather than fish. Should you wade the river be mindful of brookie redds, those native fish have it difficult as it is dealing with predatory rainbow trout as well as others. The lower Deerfield River has been fishing well for smallmouth bass with black streamers and crayfish patterns working well. Shelburne Falls and upstream areas have also been productive with streamers catching and the warm spell is expected to bring on a few hatches. Young of the year shad have been drawing fire from pike in the Connecticut River while for something different consider carp among the flats near Turner Falls. Your toughest decision just may be where to fish!
David from Merrimack Sports had news of 15 pounders when we spoke but the fish were not stripers but rather pike! Interest and success of this Merrimack River fishery has resulted in the shop carrying pike-sized bait. One of the better spots has been just upstream of the Lawrence Dam. Where the Merrimack meets up with the tributaries such as the Spicket and Shawsheen Rivers, are also traditionally good. When asked about smallies in the river, David said that while it’s been good he mentioned Lake Attitash as a sleeper smallie spot! Now that pike no longer dominate this water body, smaller predators such as bass have burgeoned.
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
If the bump in temperatures has you thinking of striped bass than you are not alone! There are still fish out there off area beaches as well as the mouths of rivers which support herring runs and not all are schoolies! Tog in Buzzards Bay have been joined by a supporting cast of cod just outside of the mouth of Westport River. Haddock remain as close as Stone Ledge and the B Buoy but if you can it might behoove you to take a farther ride east of Stellwagen where big pollock have pushed inshore. If you have bass on the brain just check expectations at the shoreline to avoid heartache because some of the surface feeds are the result of mackerel, pollock and even an occasional baby bonito! Reports from the surf in Newburyport and Salisbury are that anglers are still catching stripers on clams. However, in spite of the weather feeling more like September than November, fishing forward we have to begin thinking of cold water species and fortunately there are some awesome options out west!