Thank god, we get to keep a cod! Regulators had us squirming all summer long as to their final verdict on whether we would be able to harvest a cod this fall but word went out Tuesday from both the feds and the state that from September 1st through October 7th – it’s a go! Some bass are beginning to stage as if they are prepping for a move, which they are! And anglers no longer have to put out an APB for mackerel, it appears that what was once lost has now been found.
Those agencies sure made me sweat when the September/October issue of On The Water magazine came out a few days ago. Back in February, the New England Fishery Management Council recommended a full month of fall cod fishing for the recreational angler and were just waiting for further approval. Now as much as I love stripers, after months of bass bombardment on all fronts, I’m in need of a break! For the current issue of the magazine I jumped into the prospects of cod from September through the beginning of October with both the lead paragraphs and featured photo and then – the sweating began! Although it was only a few days from the time the magazine hit the mailboxes until the regulations came out, it seemed like eternity. I wanted to eat cod, but I sure didn’t want to eat crow! Salvation came on Wednesday with the whole scale announcement that cod fishing would be allowed for over a month – amen!
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Massachusetts South Shore/South Coast Fishing Report
Finding a keeper cod (22” minimum) throughout Massbay should not be a problem. On the South Shore according to Pete Belsan’s of Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate most any ledge, rockpile or wreck once you clear the Three Bays, Green Harbor or Scituate Harbor has a high probability of holding cod. Live bottom just outside of The Gurnet past the Three Bays should hold cod. High Pine Ledge, just outside of Duxbury Beach, was always a close-to-shore cod favorite. Don’t discount Davis Ledge, Flatt Ledge, Minot Ledge, Harding’s Ledge and Strawberry Ledge. By now, you are probably getting it – cod like ledges!
Ironically charter captains such as Captain Mark Rowell of Legit Fish Charters have been trying to avoid cod and instead focused on haddock for obvious reasons. As anyone who has spent time on Stone Ledge or the eastern edge of Stellwagen Bank can attest, this has been easier said than done! Regarding Stone Ledge, according to the skipper, both haddock and cod can still be found there. As for Stellwagen the northern edge of the bank is holding haddock in 135-150’ of water and pollock between 150-300’!
Regarding deep water and groundfish, Captain Rob Green of Elizabeth Marie Charters sent me a few pictures of some amazing Arcadian redfish that he found. Many of the fish were in the upper teens with the top fish a remarkable 20 1/4”! A quick search for the world record redfish revealed that it was 2 pounds, 8 ounces! Captain Rob’s fish was not put to scale, but you can’t help but wonder!
Big blues along much of the South Shore are arguably more consistent that big striped bass! With the departure of pogies, the pile of big bass which were present for most of the summer appears to have followed the forage. Peanut bunker in the harbors as well Rexhame Beach and the North River are holding slot fish. As if cruising to catch mahi mahi from port wasn’t enough, Captain Jason Colby’s Little Sister is now putting patrons into peanut mahi only 6 or 7 miles from port! The mini mahi aren’t big, but full of fire and fight and not very fussy. It’s a simple case of spotting a lobster pot buoy or other flotsam and then finding the fish.
The banner Buzzards Bay black sea bass season is about to close on September 4th but you still have time to knock off a few knotheads which are feeding heavily among ledge, rockpiles. While it’s nowhere near Christmas, right now could be viewed as the “most wonderful time of the year” as just about anything could pop up for the casting, in preparation the skipper is packing gear for Spanish mackerel, bonito, false albacore, blues and stripers.
Greater Boston Fishing Report
Congratulations to Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing who placed first for the second year in a row for the Boston Bluefin and Striped Bass Classic! The crew used pogies and mackerel – yes mackerel! – to pluck some choice stripers out of a huge school which is staging “out front”. Brian feels that this is one leg of many during the fall run and these fish will probably exit the area as soon as the first big storm hits. But that’s then and not now and you can look for that mob to be moving back and forth between mackerel schools from Harding’s Ledge through Martin’s Ledge to Graves Light to Egg Rock.
Mackerel schools, at least for the moment have returned to historic haunts with 8-10” bonito a nice addition on the sabiki rig! As for cod, Lisa from Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy suggests anglers try as close as Toddy Rocks once water temperatures begin to cool but meanwhile stick to Ultonia Ledge, Thieves Ledge and Three-and-One-half-Fathom Ledge.
Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics in Everett said that the humps and lumps by the B Buoy as well as the Dumping Grounds are good bets for a cod. Later in the month and through early October some should come cruising into the North Channel and into President Roads. Peanut bunker are the sources of impressive surface feeds throughout Boston Harbor. As an alternative to running and gunning after the blitzes, pack a red or honey mustard Santini Tube! Trolling them tight to the islands – most any island – is a given to catch all kinds of stripers. Regarding cod and other groundfish, Pete told me that patrons who are jumping aboard the American Classic out of Lynn are boasting about the trips! Now that cod are added to the haddock and pollock haul, there is no better time than now to book a trip aboard Captain Walsh’s boat! Pogy schools are still present in Winthrop, by the ILS Pier, Lower Middle as well as the inner harbor through the Tobin Bridge. With peanut bunker cruising close to shore, surf casters are now catching better from Nantasket Beach, Wollaston Beach and Revere Beach.
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Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report
Tomo of Tomo’s Tackle in Salem told me that patrons are pumped to begin picking off a cod or two off of Tinker’s Island, Halfway Rock and Saturday Night Ledge. The other option is Cape Ann, especially off Magnolia. Mackerel have moved in and like Boston are occasionally joined by small bonito. Peanut bunker have been the fuel for surface feeds in Lynn Harbor, off Devereux Beach as well as Salem and Beverly Harbors.
While cod weren’t in the offing just yet, John from Three Lantern Marine in Gloucester still had a banner day groundfishing earlier in the week! The bite was south of Jeffrey’s Ledge and the action was aboard Captain Tom Ciulla’s T Sea Charters center console! In addition to haddock, the crew caught cusk and hake! Had that trip been now, undoubtedly a few cod would have been added to the cooler.
Peanut bunker are drawing blitzes in Manchester Harbor, Gloucester Harbor and just outside of the Dogbar Breakwater. Shad baits of all sorts, which mimic the size and shape of peanut bunker, are a slam dunk for action but not necessarily the best idea if you’re yearning for bigger. I would steer clear of the quick fix of the small lures and instead clip on a white/pearl 9” RonZ, Slug-Go or Bill Hurley. That choice will test your will when in the teeth of a full scale surface feed as you wont’ be getting the hits you’d expect! It can be mighty frustrating when the angler next to you is catching and you’re not, but the payoff for the patient is often the biggest bass in the school. There are often different degrees to obvious feeds, and unbeknownst to the angler, smaller predators like mackerel, shad, pollock, bonito, may be predating on the peanuts with big bass turning the tables on them!
Surfland Bait and Tackle said that there are three species which are being the most cooperative off the ocean front at the moment – blues, stripers and shad! Plum Island and the Merrimack River are often associated with American shad, but it appears to be hickory shad which are making an impact. Blues and bass caught from shore have been regurgitating peanut bunker! Blues continue to be the most common catch for boaters with some reporting that if you can get below the schools of blues there are big bass cleaning up after the carnage. A best bet for both species according to Martha is the mouth of the Merrimack at the turn of the tide through the first few hours of the flood! For Plum Island Sound, the tube-and-worm is working well while NTA Custom spooks – especially the Ballerina Minnow – are catching from Joppa Flats at dusk.
Massachusetts Freshwater Fishing Report
Fresh from what for most would be the fish of a lifetime – a 10 pound brown – Tom Nagle of Plymouth did it again and caught an 8 pound plus rainbow trout! Mr Nagle obviously saves himself from some serious travel expenses by catching Lake Ontario type trout in the Bay State! While the plump brown trout was full of white perch fry, the rainbow was packing it on thanks to nymphs!
Another freshwater option is the Housatonic River which according to Spenser from Berkshire Bass is sporting a mighty fine pike and black bass bite at the moment! Spinnerbaits are just what the toothy ordered at the moment are Whopper Ploppers. As the foliage turns next month the bite really turns on for all species. That’s an enviable combination if there ever was one: bass, pike and a view of brilliant foliage that would make a leap peeper jealous!
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
For those choosing the cod route on the South Shore, drop a jig or top/bottom rig loaded with clams onto ledge off Plymouth, Scituate or Hull. Farther east in deeper water haddock, pollock and impressive reds add a dash of color to those cod with are foraging out there. Regarding color, its hard to top the hues of mahi mahi and surging water temperatures have brought them within a few miles of the Westport shoreline! As for other southern visitors, baby bonito are now a fixture in the outer Boston Harbor. Don’t remain fixated on those speedsters alone as big schools of big bass can now be found staging just outside of the harbor. Pogy schools can still be found inside however and with them there are blues and bass. Farther north peanut bunker in Lynn Harbor, off Devereux Beach and through Cape Ann are the source of schoolie through slot surface feeds. Groundfishing towards Jeffrey’s Ledge has been good and now with the prospects of a cod added to the mix, it’s pretty close to a best bet!