Massachusetts Fishing Report
There was once a time when opening day loomed as large to the angler as Christmas does for the kiddies. While freshwater opening day went out the window many years ago, we still have a few opening days to look forward to and in the not-too-distant future a few loom large.
While the date is hardly ideal, it is official: during the first two weeks of April we get to keep a cod! More specifically, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has announced that recreational anglers can keep one cod per person of a minimum of 21” in the Gulf of Maine from April 1st to April 14th; the same goes for September 15th to September 30th. Last fall the for-hire-fleet was also able to take advantage of the same cod regulation from September 8th to October 7th but that has yet to be ironed out. Additionally, fishery managers have advanced the haddock opening day to April 1st with the bag limit 15 fish at a minimum of 17”! If you throw in the possibility of hooking everything from an Acadian redfish to an Atlantic Halibut, you’re left with one inescapable conclusion – there’s a lot to love about groundfishing!
Late last fall and into early winter, hardcore kayak anglers were finding plenty of cod on the north shore in close and in water as shallow as 50’! Historically, April echoed the fall cod bite with similar volumes in close and if anything it was better. The caveat to fishing for cod in the fall through winter from such shore spots as Castle Island is that it was more productive at night. During the spring however the day bite was every bit as good!
Pete from Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate said that a few hardy souls have their rides at the ready expecting to find South Shore cod in close, hopefully along with some haddock. Seconds into perusing the websites of many of New England’s headboats it became pretty obvious that they are excited about the early April cod/haddock combo as well, in fact for just about all the outfits it was their headline!
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Another opening day worth considering is Wachusett Reservoir, which is slated to open on April 3rd! Prospects are good for plenty of access along the 37 miles of pristine shoreline there as water levels are low according to Eddie of B&A Bait and Tackle Co. in West Boylston. A potential dark cloud would be if Quabbin was high enough to necessitate pumping excess water downstream into the Chu’ but this does not appear to be the case. Of course should we get a spate of downpours all bets are off! Eddie did tell me that a few are grabbing shiners and a few choice Kastmasters from the shops huge selection and looking for an early season laker in the Stillwater River where upstream of the Waushacum Brook fishing is allowed all year round.
Opening Day on Quabbin Reservoir is in a class by itself. You can’t fish this place without inadvertently mouthing the word “wow”, the aesthetics are that awesome. What just might top the environment however might be the fishing with salmon numbers and size definitely on an upswing. While there has been no official word on boat rentals in the three designated areas, increasingly it’s looking as if it will be a go! As anyone who has done it will attest, if you want to secure a boat you had better be prepared to sleep-in your vehicle the night before – those boats will go fast. And it all comes together on April 17th!
As for catching in the present, all the Masswildlife’s regions now have trout! However the only area which has diverse stockings is the Southeast Region, the rest of the areas have only been stocked with rainbows. For a chance at a freshly stocked brookie or brown trout, Plymouth through the Cape are your best bet.
As for bass, water bodies – even in Greater Boston – are just now shaking free of the last vestiges of ice. Be that as it may, water temperatures are still cold, resulting in largemouth which are lethargic at best. At about the time you’ve scratched that trout itch, pre-spawn black bass should be in much more of a feeding mood.
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
We are one week away from being able to keep a cod along more than enough haddock. A headboat trip is the surest way to getting you into the thick of groundfishing but if you check in with a few of the OTW-approved Charter Captains, they might be able to take you out there too. As for shore spots where you may catch a cod, the best bet is to reverse the hands of time as to where they used to be caught. The High Pine Ledge section of Duxbury Beach was one, as was Hull Gut and Nut Island Pier. Castle Island of course was a historic cod-from-shore spot as was Deer Island, making the new pier there just about perfect. Farther north, Red Rock, Chandler Hovey Park/the Marblehead Lighthouse, the Dogbar Breakwater and Plum Island were north shore picks. I know I’m stretching in the hopes of putting people into a cod or three but the results of that fall kayak crew gives hope!
Of course your best bet of hooking something remains trout and odds are that you shouldn’t have to travel far for a chance at a freshly stocked rainbow trout. The cape however remains the odds-on-favorite for variety!
The other option worth considering all year long is holdover stripers which reside in a number of Massachusetts estuaries. A few days ago I found myself at the Charles River locks and while I did not see any herring, I could sure smell them. That hunch was confirmed by a few diving cormorants. Further and much more fortuitous proof came from my friend Captain Carl Vinning who Thursday morning in another local estuary saw what looked like anvils being dropped into the water. It looks as if some sizeable holdovers are introducing themselves to the recently arrived herring!