“It’s on!” exclaimed AJ Coots at Red Top Sporting Goods when I called Thursday morning. What do you want to catch? Stripers? Sea bass? Tog? Bluefish? Big scup? Pick your poison this weekend, because the saltwater season is approaching full swing here on the Cape.
Schoolies still have the Cape surrounded, reported Amy at Sports Port Bait and Tackle. Fish into the slot size (28 to 35 inches) are being caught among the schooles on the South Side according to Pat at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle, while fish up to about 28 inches are crusing the surf line on the Outer Beaches all the way up to Race Point. Cape Cod Bay has plenty of schoolies and some bigger fish, with bass even feeding on the surface there.
Buzzards Bay has had some surface feeds, but not as many as usual for this time of year, reported Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing. He found some stripers under birds in the bay on Thursday morning, but reported the stripers were on super small baitfish, requiring him to scale down to 3- and 4-inch soft plastics to get bites.
The Canal has bass from schoolie size to 20 pounds and up reported AJ at Red Top. The bass are hitting paddletails and occasionally topwaters in the ditch.
With water temperatures warmed up into the ideal range for stripers, topwaters are working great for the schoolies. Walk the dog baits are catching very well. Soft plastics, especially paddletails, are catching when the fish aren’t showing on top. On the South Side, and in Buzzards Bay, I like 1/4 to 1/2 ounce jigheads with 4- to 5-inch soft baits, either paddle tail or fluke tail. White will work almost all the time, but I throw a lot of pink this year, hoping I might tempt a weakfish.
Speaking of weakfish, there have been a handful around. OTW Editor in Chief was targeting schoolies on Thursday night and watched an angler catch a good-sized weakfish. He made sure to take a photo of the fish to send to me, as he knew I was targeting weakfish, without success, elsewhere.
Big schools of bunker have attracted some larger stripers to the Cape, and some fishermen have been finding larger stripers around the bunker over the past week, fish into the 20-pound range. It’s looking like another big year for bunker around Cape Cod. Fishermen have been seeing schools in Buzzards Bay, off the South Side, in most of the harbors, in Cape Cod Bay, and even off the Outer Cape. There is no shortage of big baitfish here for when more big stripers migrate through.
Bluefish have arrived in good numbers. My friend Jonah Olsen found some blues mixed in with feeding stripers under a birdplay in Buzzards Bay Thursday morning. There have been reports of blues in the Canal and along the South Side as well. Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing put his sports on a couple of dozen bluefish on Thursday morning, tossing topwaters. Amy at Sports Port said fishermen casting from the South Side Beaches have been catching blues as well, but that mung has been an issue in recent days. OTW’s Andrew Burke caught his first blue of the season Wednesday night off the South Side, but said seals and mung made the fishing difficult.
Sea bass season opened Tuesday, and AJ from Red Top got out and caught a limit fishing off the South Side. Many fishermen fought Tuesday’s wind for sea bass, and the season appears to be off to a solid start. When Brian Coombs and I spoke late Thursday morning, he was coaching his clients toward a sea bass limit in Buzzards Bay.
You can’t go wrong with Buzzards Bay or Vineyard Sound if a sea bass limit is your goal. There are super-sized scup around as well, with several 2-pound plus fish being checked in over the past week.
According to sea bass and tog specialist, Captain Mel True of Fishnet Charters, “the BIG push of BIG black sea bass hasn’t happened yet.” Mel expects the fishing to improve next week, though this week, he still caught plenty of sea bass, and scup in Buzzards Bay. Mel did say the sea bass have been interfering with his efforts to catch keeper tog though.
You can still catch the bottom fish trifecta in Buzzards Bay, as the tog fishing is still good reported Tommy at Maco’s Bait and Tackle, so it’s still worth bringing a quart on your sea bass and striper missions in the bay.
The female tog are just about to drop their eggs though, so if you catch a gravid female tog, consider giving it a stay of execution. Male tog have a more prominent white chin and are a solid grayish brown (sometimes with a splash of rusty orange) while the females have a mottled, camo pattern and a less pronounced chin, and, this time of year, a belly bulging with eggs.
Bishops and Clerks in Nantucket Sound is also producing tog reported Amy at Sports Port, while Colliers is loaded with good-size scup.
The haddock bite just north of the Cape is also very good right now, and fishermen have been catching some winter flounder in Cape Cod Bay. In fact, Chris Megan and Andy Nabreski filmed an episode of winter flounder fishing with Bad Dog Sportfishing on Tuesday, and had a great day catching big, delicious winter flounder.
Fishing Forecast for Cape Cod
Seven species to choose from (not including the weakfish wild card and freshwater) and only two weekend days to target them.With the wind not forecast to crank up until Sunday, boat fishing is in play, and is the perfect platform for a combo trip. Start the morning casting topwaters at bluefish and stripers, and when the sun gets high, switch over to sea bass, scup, or tautog. Break out the bass and bluefish gear when the sun gets low again. This is a viable option for the South Side and Buzzards Bay. I haven’t heard a report of stripers blasting squid in the Vineyard Sound Shoals yet, but that should happen soon. Until then, harbor mouths and flats are the best bet for topwater striper action.
If you want a bigger bass, find the bunker. There are so many schools of bunker around right now, that not every school will have bass harassing them. Don’t spend too much time on any one school – keep moving until you find some bass. If you will be livelining bunker, remember you’ll need to use a circle hook, per the new striped bass regulations. “Snagging and dropping” with a weighted treble is prohibited. You can still snag bunker, just retrieve the bait immediately and re-deploy it on a circle hook.
For sea bass, jigs can often cull larger fish out of the pack, but you’ll be picking through some shorts no matter what you throw. For scup, squid or clams on a high low will fill the box, and for tog, green crabs are best.