No surprise here – we now have a pogy problem! Enabled by fishery managers, the fleet effortlessly reached their menhaden quota, and what seemed like an inexhaustible resource two weeks ago, has been reduced to small, random schools. Ironically, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries sent out an email on Wednesday alerting all that they managed to free up still more quota. When I read it, I felt as if I was watching a distasteful black comedy: I knew I shouldn’t laugh, but I just couldn’t help it!
Thankfully, even though the folks tasked with protecting our fisheries do not seem to have our backs, apparently the God of the Sea – Neptune – does! Because, mackerel have moved in, in force and big striped bass have noticed!
Massachusetts South Shore/South Coast Fishing Report
The commercial striped bass season began last Sunday as the clock struck midnight. While my point is not to weigh in on the merits of that endeavor, I do pay attention as to where that fleet is gathering. Those folks are master networkers and are nothing if not adept at catching big striped bass. Thus far in the infancy of the commercial season, the big fish bite has been on the South Shore through Cape Cod Bay and in deep water – 80-100’ – with mackerel the magic bullet. I also heard that two trailers of stripers left the fish broker down there and there wasn’t much room for daylight among the loads! However, striped bass are still in the throes of their migration and a hot bite somewhere one day does not necessarily translate to success there the next day so expect a slug of big fish to continue moving northward.
According to Pete from Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate, much of the South Shore is feeling like “tinker town!”. That bite-sized bait has become ubiquitous and anglers are finding them as soon as they clear South Shore harbors and sometimes even in the harbors! Some of the better spots to troll or live-line a mackerel are Smith Rocks, Egypt Beach, Minot and the mouth of the North River. For aficionados who lean towards artificials, X-Raps are working just fine!
Captain Legit Fish Charters said that he encountered mixed sizes of migrating striped bass at the edge of state waters which looked as if they were ready to bust a move in closer to our coast.
Ordinarily splash-in trips are heavy on exploration and light on actual catching but the first attempts by Captain Jason Colby’s Little Sister out of Westport were anything but. It didn’t take him long to find slot and plus size stripers, limits of black sea bass and even tautog – although the latter were on the small side. That “small side” description certainly did not apply to the black sea bass with several charters achieving their PBs! Next on the agenda will be Noman’s Island fluke and Coxes Ledge cod. Should surface temperatures top 70 degrees on Coxes, the captain will be targeting mahi mahi by highliner lobster pot buoys as well as random flotsam. I’ve been on a number of those trips and the sight of mahi mahi and cod in the same cooler is something to behold!
Greater Boston Fishing Report
If you took a two week reprieve from fishing Boston Harbor and just returned than you wouldn’t recognize the place, the pogies have been netted into oblivion. On Wednesday morning Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing told me that all he could find in the harbor were a handful of small schools which weren’t even worth targeting. That’s the bad news, the good news is that he’s finding plenty of mackerel just outside of the harbor and there are some big bass working them! The fly/lure bite has been good also with jigs/soft stick baits working during the day and topwater plugs at low light. The inner harbor still has all kinds of schoolie blitzes off Thompson Island, Spectacle Island and out through the airport.
My buddy Carl Vinning usually manages to wrench out a few slots among the smaller fish by working a SPRO jig below the melee, it’s no wives tail – the bigger fish do prowl below the smaller fish! Regarding “bigger” fish, Captain Coombs and crew spotted an estimated 10’ Great White meandering around the bait just inshore of the BG Buoy on Tuesday! Who ever would have imagined that such a creature would be lurking among Boston’s outer harbor?
According to Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics in Everett, with the sudden lack of bait in the harbor many have been turning to the Santini tube (and seaworm) and are still catching. While red, honey mustard and orange will always be the big sellers, the harbor has seen a bump in squid numbers which might explain why some are swearing that the pink tube is king! Flounder limits are still attainable at Sculpin Ledge with chumming a necessity!
Lisa from Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy agreed that it is a good year for squid! The essential factors for a calamari catch are a lit pier or dock and a night tide. While pogy numbers are not what they once were, Lisa did say that a small school has been frequenting the Fore River area and kayakers fishing nearby have been going for sleigh rides! On the south side of the harbor, mackerel have been found off Martin’s Ledge. All is not lost for the flounder faithful as anglers still are catching close to the Quincy Yacht Club, between Nut Island Pier and Wollaston Beach and Georges Island. Don’t discount Point Allerton to Boston Light as water temperatures rise and winter flounder migrate towards offshore.
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Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report
Tomo of Tomo’s Tackle in Salem said that some of the better bass are being caught by shore jockeys donning wetsuits from Revere through Marblehead and fishing at night! Go-to wares have been Gravity Tackle Eels, Slug-Gos, Yo-Zuri LC Minnows and SP Minnows. It’s been a good year for squid as anglers are catching off piers in Swampscott, Beverly and Cape Ann. Mackerel have moved in also and in addition to boats getting them they are also being caught off piers. Tomo doesn’t often talk of tautog often but he did say that an unusually large amount have been caught around the Danvers River. Noteworthy spots for tog there are the Kernwood Bridge as well as the Beverly Pier. Tautog are fond of bridge pilings so I would target them most anywhere you find bridges.
Matt from Three Lantern Marine in Gloucester told me that while schoolie-to-slot stripers are omnipresent in Cape Ann, the word from commercial anglers is that bigger bass are an uncommon commodity! That very likely will change sooner than later as breeder bass in middle of their migration offshore begin to settle into their summer haunts closer to Cape Ann. The good news is that when those fish are available, bait will not be a problem since mackerel have now become easy to catch off Manchester-by-the-Sea as well as just past the Groaner. Haddock as well as a mixed bag of groundfish – from redfish to cusk – are foraging around Tillies Ledge and Jeffrey’s Ledge. Martha from Surfland doesn’t need antidotes from anglers to know when mackerel are available – her suppliers let her know and right now they are coming in with coolers full! Check out Breaking Rocks, Hampton Shoal Ledge and the Speckled Apron to stack a mack supply in your favor. The pattern that works for stripers is an outgoing tide to low from the rivers and incoming to high tide on the flats as well as the ocean front!
Massachusetts Freshwater Fishing Report
Not all begins and ends with the salt, even in late June! According to Spenser from Berkshire Bass, now is prime time for pike on the Housatonic River. The topwater bite has been terrific with Whopper Ploppers accounting for explosive strikes. The river also has a nice population of smallmouth bass with early morning topwaters working and jig and Ned Rigs in heavy timber working during daylight. For some, among the most exciting angling is ripping a frog bait over Lilly Pads and for them it’s nirvana since the frog bite is on, especially when pitching the Megabass Big Gabot Frog. If all that looks like too much information and leaves you confused than chill – Spenser and his pals offer guiding services!
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Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
The timing of the return of the mackerel mob could not be better with pogy numbers waning. Deep water from the South Shore through the harbor humps with a live mackerel is one of the better bets for a late June big bass. Inshore from the Three Bays to Thompson Island in the harbor remains hot for schoolie to slot stripers. Surf fishers on the North Shore who don’t mind slipping on a wet suit are catching cows with big soft plastic stick baits ruling. Squid from Swampscott through Cape Ann are an interesting alternative with the question often asked: for bait or dinner! Plum Island is producing a lot of action as well especially now that the North Shore has seen a surge in mackerel numbers as well. If you had to circle a stage of the tide it would be outgoing to low in the rivers while higher tides rule on the flats and the ocean front!