It’s gut check time! Those wistful 70 degree days are but a distant memory now making any thoughts of off-the-couch and onto-the-field trips no longer a smart idea. Choices now no longer begin and end with “where, what and how” as warm clothing decisions are every bit as important. To put things further in perspective, I expect in less than a month to have a hold of my first ice fishing report from north of the border!
Massachusetts South Shore/South Coast Fishing Report
“Watch your step folks, everything is covered with ice so be careful!”. While the exact words may be different as well as the order, if I may paraphrase Captain Jason Colby this will pretty much be the message to his charters/guests until he pulls the Little Sister at the end of the month. When I think back of tog fishing on his boat, this is more in line with what I think of. Wool socks – check, stocking cap and gloves – check, warm layers and insulated jacket – check! And one more thing, warming up pretty darn quickly thanks to a red hot tog bite! Single-digit mornings are just an illusion to anglers who have gotten soft but double-digit tog are definitely a reality! The fish are feeding ferociously now but they are on the move and it helps to have a litany of Westport wreck waypoints to pick from. When found it’s been insane fishing with 12 pound tautog part of the equation!
Pete from Belsan’s Bait and Tackle in Scituate started our weekly conversation with talk about blitzes and just as I was about to ask the size of the stripers he pivoted and said – mackerel! Mackerel this time of the year can be the great impostor as they’ll push small herring, silversides and most any small prey and when combined with bird play looks for all the world as if it were a striper feed but it is often not. However, some of his customers are touting smelt pictures/accounts on social media in Winthrop Harbor! A few hardcore tog fishers are finding an occasional one off Cedar Point, Minot and the Glades. I’ve also heard of some coming from Manomet in the past. For a more reliable tight line you have to target freshwater with numerous ponds in Pembroke and Halifax getting the nod for largemouth bass, pickerel and panfish.
There’s some smelt scuttlebutt out there! Lisa from Fore River Bait and Tackle in Quincy said that a customer flashed some pictures of a cooler full of the tasty critters while in the shop recently. Word has it that the fish were caught off Summer Street! News continues to trickle in about Winthrop smelt as well. Bait acquisition is tough this time of the year as shops aren’t wont to carry seaworms because of lack of demand. Trout worms will work but grass shrimp are gold. Should you be fishing off a lit pier then bring along a dip net. Those lights will attract all kinds of critters including grass shrimp which cling to vegetation under and around the pier but will be drawn out in the open by the lights. There are times when we’ve been able to scoop up our bait on site! Anglers such as Charlie Murphy are still snapping up eels at Fore River which is a sure indication that stripers are still in residence. Mackerel are no problem from Nut Island Pier and I suspect the Castle Island and Deer Island piers. Trout are still being taken from Houghton’s Pond, Jamaica Pond and White Pond. Not all the fish are rainbows as there was an eclectic stocking this fall which included brook trout and brown trout. Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics in Everett told me that tautog are cooperating for one of his customers who targets them off a myriad of piers and wharves in and around Boston Harbor. Patrons are getting pollock off Jimmy Walsh’s American Classic out of Lynn who is finding them off Tillies Ledge. Horn Pond and Walden Pond continue to give up trout.
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Tomo Tomo’s Tackle in Salem said that he still has customers who are loading up on mackerel and big cunner – up to 16” – from Misery Channel. Not surprisingly there are cod shadowing the mackerel schools. A few days ago there was still news of schoolies off south facing stretches on the North Shore! Castle Rock, Devereux Beach and Phillips Beach were emphasized. TJ from Three Lantern Marine in Gloucester said that reports are still trickling in about schoolies moving quickly just outside of Gloucester, Magnolia and Manchester. The shop is still selling sabiki rigs, most likely for mackerel off the Dogbar Breakwater and possibly the Granite Pier in Rockport. With mackerel in close and recent news of squid, cod could possibly be caught (and released) with a casting spoon off the backshore, Eastern Point Lighthouse or Halibut Point.
While the fishing in Wachusett Reservoir can often be maddeningly slow, one of the draws is the surprise factor. Eddie of B&A Bait and Tackle in West Boylston told me of a young lady who while tossing a 1/4 ounce rainbow Kastmaster in the Quinapoxet River caught a 5 pound lake trout! Probable catches there usually run from rainbow trout to salmon with a laker of that size down a rung on the expectation scale. Regarding rainbows, anglers are catching beauties off Scar Hill Road as well as the Cellar Holes. Lakers up to 4 pounds are common as well but usually are following the bait which at this time of the year is often yellow perch fry! Rod from Flagg’s Fly and Tackle in Orange told me that the rainfall should have by now drawn landlocked salmon into the West Branch of the Swift River. As we spoke, an angler who was in the shop at the time mentioned that he had native brook trout action. Should you be yearning for one of these indigenous members of the char family, Rod knows a few local honey holes which hold natives up to 12” long! For a walk/wade on the wild side I’m fairly certain that if you picked up a few worms in the shop he’d point you in the right direction. Hint: one of those spots is in Wendell. Regarding wild trout, wild brook trout as well as brown trout can be caught from the Shelburne section of the Deerfield River! Rod is a master fly tier and he has just the pattern in stock that will work. While not wanting to put the cart in front of the horse, I could’t resist asking Spenser of Berkshire Bass when he expected to have safe ice to which he replied – early January! In addition to being a topnotch open water fisherman and guide, Spenser is right at home on hardwater and will be sharing his intel all winter long in this report. Meanwhile dropping water temperatures on the Housatonic River have pushed largemouth bass into deeper water and pulled smallies and pike in close! Look for blowdowns and any kind of “wood” for the pike and pockets of hard bottom among weedbeds for the smallies. He’s been catching with Megabass Jerkbaits and in spite of the fact that it’s November – topwater lures, still! The key with working on top now is to work the bait very slowly!
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
I’m almost ashamed not to have a single striper picture for this weeks report. I did get out on Wednesday and in spite of perfect overcast, rainy conditions the only striped critter I encountered was – the skunk! We always have reasons (excuses?) why our fishing efforts fall flat don’t we? Mine on this day was that I found no evidence of bait which was further verified when an eagle perched near me and after surveying the scene went on it’s way. When old eagle eyes doesn’t see much of interest it’s a safe bet there’s not a heck of a lot of fish around! While I was whistling Dixie, my mind drifted to the red hot tog bite in Buzzards Bay. While saltwater options are shriveling up like like frost-killed plants, freshwater alternatives remain good. Wachuset Reservoir is still holding salmon in the Stillwater and Quinapoxet Rivers but that run will be ending soon. The Quinapoxet is a more diverse river with the occasional brown trout, rainbow trout and even laker part of the catch! Lake trout will remain in close to the shoreline until the season closes at the end of November with really nice rainbows a viable option. If you’re lamenting the loss of landlockeds by Wachusett take a trip out to the West Branch of the Swift River where the run should still have legs. Farther out west the “Housy” is hot for pike and smallmouth bass in tight to the shoreline.