They’re back! Nothing inspires me more to crank out this forecast than when I can confirm that the stripers of summer are here again! While the appearance of old seven stripes in early May is not unusual, the size of many of these fish is! When I asked a buddy recently if he was enjoying the schoolies, he replied, “yeah, but I’m enjoying the “slots” more!”
Massachusetts Saltwater Fishing Report
The opening striper salvo has been launched with an interesting mix. We’re seeing sub-20” fish, low 20” fish as well as the real early surprise – 30” fish! And yes, those fish are sporting sea lice! If you’re planning on hitting your favorite early season spot with a combo more inline with freshwater fishing, you may want to reconsider! Actually it’s not that unusual for stripers capable of breeding to skip out on the spawn – witness holdovers – but the volume of those fish this early is noteworthy! What’s also interesting is that we already have pogies. In fact, in a recent outing just north of Boston I was torn between whooping it up with my friends as we were reveling in catching fresh striped bass or snagging a pogy – if for no other reason than the shock and awe affect!
It’s official, you no longer have to haunt the local tackle shop with the enquiry “are they running yet?”, because the answer is a resounding – yes!
Pete Belsan of Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate said that it’s a real “pick-em’” where the next schoolie feeds will occur! He’s hearing of fresh fish from random spots from the Three Bays to Scituate Harbor through the “Cliffs” as well as Peggotty Beach. Anecdotally anglers are experiencing the same size as we we’ve been seeing farther north but not any buzz about slots. The fish are feisty and even wiling to wallop a topwter! Shad have been hooked by the fly folks in the North River and finally it’s looking as if haddock have moved inshore. Divers braving the early season chill are spotting tautog in the Minot section and in the same area there has been news of the first South Shore flounder catches!
Lisa from Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy further confirmed the appearance of fresh striped bass in Quincy Bay and local rivers. Her picks are Webb Park, Bare Cove Park, Great Esker Park, Black Creek and the Neponset River. During a recent walk along the Town River, Lisa was greeted with the unmistakable whiff of feeding fish! When asked about haddock, she said that anglers are complaining that they can’t get their lines past the cod to find out! Increasingly flounder are figuring into the catch in Quincy Bay. Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics in Everett said that schoolie stripers are on the feed now throughout the harbor with the latest hot spots consisting of the mouth of the Charles River as well as the swath between the Schrafft’s Candy Complex and the Amelia Earhart Dam. There have also been schoolies taken near Winthrop’s Five Sisters.
Of course, it’s almost academic right now to point out where the fresh fish are because they are on the move and the ranks will be swelling by the tide. What I will emphasize is that after you get your schoolie fix, it’s really never too early to aspire for something bigger. Back in the day when we were able to use live river herring for bait, it was eye-opening how early we found big bass off the beaches. I recall during a sunny evening off Revere Beach on May 4th when we caught several 34”-37” fish on alewives! Some breeder class fish simply begin their northward trek early. If you can hit the pause button on all things striper, area ponds and lakes have been stocked with really awesome brook, brown and tiger trout!
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Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing has a few last groundfish trips on the agenda before be embarks on a Buzzards Bay and Boston bass bonanza! He’s been finding a mixed bag of good-sized haddock, cusk and redfish just north of Boston’s outer harbor. He’s hearing of schoolie to slot stripers now in Buzzards Bay and will be targeting them down there next until black sea bass season opens when he will be splitting his time between the two species. However with reports of good-sized stripers locally he’ll probably pepper in a few outings here as well. In spite of the fact that Captain Jason Colby’s Little Sister continues to wreak havoc on haddock schools he’ll also be flipping to switch to what is one of his main specialties – flounder fishing! May coincides with 50-degree water temperatures and that is the trigger for flatties to feed in earnest! I’ve already seen pictures of kayakers catching flounder off Deer Island Flats which should make the Deer Island Pier a good option. Expect Little Sister flounder reports by next week!
Tomo of Tomo’s Tackle in Salem also had reports of fresh striped bass on the North Shore! He knows of schoolies in Saugus, the Danvers River and he suspects inside Salem Harbor by Forest River. Haddock have moved in closer to shore negating the need for a haul to the offshore ledges. Not to be outdone, Three Lantern Marine confirmed the arrival of striped bass in the Cape Ann area! While they may be encountered in Gloucester Harbor for more consistency check out the Little/Annisquam Rivers. The area just off Route 128 by the Nichols Candy Store has long been an early-season favorite. Patrons of the shop are putting the fish at up to 26” long! Three Lantern Marine is moving a good amount of seaworms as flounder activity picks up in Manchester Harbor as well as Gloucester Harbor. It takes a lot to get Kevin from Surfland to put aside his swimbaits but with the arrival of migrant stripers to the Plum Island area he told me he’s ready to flip. Still, the pull of those pike and smallmouth bass in the Merrimack River is hard to ignore! Look for those post-spawn thin pike to begin packing on the weight now that the herring have arrived! Smallies up to 4 pounds have been fair game at the mouths of the Spicket and Shawsheen Rivers as well. Regarding stripers, the oceanfront, Plum Island Sound and the Merrimack River all are holding fish now! One enthusiastic angler claimed he did especially well on fish up to 26” by the chain bridge.
Massachusetts Freshwater Fishing Report
Now that linesiders are sweeping the coast, you can expect some of the pressure to come off heretofore hotly contested spots in Wachusett Reservoir. One spot worth a go is the Thomas Basin, which is at the upstream side of the causeway and features white perch right now. While I can’t say for sure, that might be where a 2-13 pound slab white perch was caught recently! The corner at the opposite side of the Stone Church fishes best according to Eddie of B&A Bait and Tackle Co. in West Boylston. Regarding the causeway, rainbows up to 3 1/2 pounds have been caught there lately and they are full of smelt! In fact, several anglers have seen fish pummeling smelt on the surface! Smallies are increasingly figuring into the catch and now are rivaling lakers in popularity. Smelt numbers are cyclical, and while Wachusett’s seem up, the Quabbin appears down!
Rodney Flagg of Flagg’s Fly and Tackle in Orange told me of a 26” salmon he weighed in that was an emaciated 3 pounds! The good news is that there are plenty of them and they remain close to the boat areas and up top. One mistake anglers make according to Rod when it comes to trolling streamers is that they troll to slow. Salmon have excellent vision and speed and the goal is to flash your offering by them to trigger an impulse strike. The last thing you want is for the salmon to really size up what is obviously fake prey! He put the ideal trolling speed at 2 1/2 mph. The other option is to troll spoons such as the DB Smelt, with orange/black spots the most popular color there.
Not all things are Quabbin in the Connecticut Valley Region as the hatchery folks have done it again and recently dumped a tank full of nice-size brook trout into Lake Mattawa. Donny from Merrimac Sports told me that the surefire indicator that herring are running in force in the Merrimack River is the difference in the girth of the pike downstream of the Lawrence Dam versus upstream. The herring downstream are filling out thanks to many a herring snack, while upstream they are much skinnier. The shad bite continues to be good with the exception being the normally reliable Rock’s Village, for some odd reason. Schoolie stripers have arrived throughout the Merrimack River as well as the Parker River. A few white perch in the latter are joining their striped cousins. Anglers are still catching white perch in the Squamscott River as well.
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
Striper fever is here and there is no cure so you might as well just go with it! Recent South Shore accounts put them from Plymouth through Peggotty Beach with schoolies even prone to taking a topwater! There are even a few slots mixed in with the schoolies so you may want to freshen up your leader. Spots to consider are the inside of Long Beach through the Eel River, Green Harbor, the South River, the North River and Cohasset Harbor. Boston blackback flounder are feeding more now that water temperatures flirt with 50 degrees with Peddock Island, Rainsford Island, and Deer Island good early season spots. Harbor hot spots for Boston bass are the Weymouth Back River, Wollaston Beach, the mouth of the Charles River, and the stretch between the Tobin Bridge and the Amelia Earhart Dam. Further north, the Saugus River, Danvers River, Little River, Essex River, Parker River, and Merrimack River all have recent reports of fresh fish! Haddock have moved in closer and in some cases can now be found in state waters! If you’re just dying to sample the surf you’re in luck because fresh stripers have also been found off the Plum Island Beach oceanfront!