Schoolies galore, here-and-there bluefish, big scup all over, a solid tog bite, and the first rumblings of stripers over 40 inches. You gotta love mid-May on the Cape.
And it only gets better. Black sea bass opens in less than a week (and some have already been showing up for anglers targeting porgies and tog) and bluefin tuna aren’t too far off, and some giants have already been landed (a couple on spinning gear) off New Jersey.
The table is set, as far as baitfish are concerned. Bruce at Canal Bait and Tackle said mackerel and sea herring are showing up in the East End of the Canal. This biggest Canal bass he’s heard of so far (a 35
-incher) was caught among a schoolof sea herring. Off the other end of the Canal, in Buzzards Bay, Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing saw swarms of squid, with stripers in pursuit. He and his clients caught fish to 29 inches this week, and he noted that most of the action has been subsurface. He hasn’t seen much topwater activity so far this season.
Bunker are all over the Cape, though there haven’t been many fish big enough to eat them around just yet. That could change quickly, though, as there have been some reports of blues coming in. Brian Coombs caught his first of the season in Buzzards Bay on Thursday, though at 2 pounds, that fish isn’t going to be terrorizing any bunker just yet. Russ Stevens of Simrad Electronics caught a blue in Buzzards Bay on Thursday morning as well. Derek at Red Top reported another Buzzards Bay bluefish, and my friend Dave Ross caught one off the South Side of the Cape that was mixed in with a bunch of schoolie bass. While all the bluefish reports thus far seem to be one-off catches, it was around this time last year that some better schools moved in, providing some fast action. Last year, the bluefishing was good enough that Kevin Blinkoff and I were able to film an episode of OTW TV during the first week of June. I plan on making my first trips for blues over the next few days, and I’ll be bringing a mix of topwaters and metals.
Speaking of topwaters, in some of the South Side bays, schoolies have been all over small walk-the-dog lures and poppers reported Pat at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle. The water will be a little warmer in these salt ponds and harbors, which means the stripers there will be a little more aggressive than the fish in the Sound or in Buzzards Bay right now. There have also been worm “hatches” happening in the bays, providing some fun, but challenging, sight fishing for stripers.
But for anglers fishing soft plastics or swimming plugs that dive subsurface, there are bass to be caught all around the Cape said Amy at Sports Port Bait and Tackle, from the Cape Cod Bay Beaches, to the Outer Cape, to the Islands, where Nick from Grey Lady Tackle on Nantucket shared a photo of a striper caught on one of his Hellfire Pencil Poppers.
Most of the fish have been in the 20- to 22-inch range, but sounds like “slot size” fish, from 28 to 32 inches are around in growing numbers.
Captain Mel True of Fishnet Charters reported, “The striper action has picked up with some decent fish mixed in with the schoolies. The tog bite is very good and more sea bass entering the bay everyday. The scup bite as usual this time of the year is as good as it gets.”
And these scup tend to be the largest of the year, with some hubcap-sized specimens hitting the deck. The arrival of big scup usually coincides with the exodus of the squid from Nantucket Sound, and Amy at Sports Port confirmed that the fleet of boats targeting squid off the South Side seemed to be dwindling. Colliers Ledge is loaded with big scup, though, Amy said.
Tog fishing is great, by all accounts, and you don’t need a boat to get them. Bruce at Canal Bait and Tackle and Derek at Red Top Sporting Goods both reported good togging in the Canal. In Buzzards Bay, boats are catching keepers steadily. Amy at Sports Port hasn’t heard much from Bishops and Clerks, as most of her customers buying green crabs have been headed for Buzzards Bay.
Pat at Eastman’s said things are looking good for the sea bass opener Tuesday. There have been fish caught by tog and scup fishermen, and as the waters continue to warm, more fish will be moving into the Nantucket and Vineyard Sound structures as well as Buzzards Bay.
Fishing Forecast for Cape Cod
The new moon brought a good wave of smaller fish to the Canal, and the full moon should bring our first wave of big fish. But there are some big fish here already, including the 42-incher reported by Red Top Sporting Goods. These first large fish are more likely to be caught after dark, in proximity to big bait, whether it’s herring or bunker. This time of year, big stripers could turn up almost anywhere on the Cape as they swim through on their way North. The South Side is a good spot to find an early cow, especially around the mouths of the bays and salt ponds.
If you’re looking for blues, covering water will be your best bet. The perennial hotspots like South Cape Beach are worth a look, especially with a good southwest wind blowing, but look inside some of the harbors, especially if there are bunker around.
And, freshwater is still going strong. Many of the Cape’s ponds go unfished at the first report of the stripers – and trust me, I get it – but there is still excellent fishing to be had. The largemouth bass are spawning in most ponds by now, but the postspawn period is a great time to toss topwaters. Trout ponds are still at optimal temperatures for fast fishing with rainbows and browns, and with far less company than you had there in April.
For me though, I know the fish in the ponds will still be there in October, but May, and the incredible variety of saltwater fishing it brings is far too short. The next couple weeks offer some of the best mixed-bag fishing of the season. Get out there and enjoy it.