While striped bass effort has fallen off a cliff, some surprising saltwater alternatives have taken up the slack. Pollock are pounding jigs east of Stellwagen and there has even been rumblings of traditional fall favorites such as winter flounder and smelt. As for the fresh, trout are underscoring the “sweet” in sweetwater!
As much as black bass are a blast, historically New England has been trout town. In fact while meaning no disrespect towards “Sally” and “Larry” many of our predecessors divided freshwater fish into two categories – trout (and salmon) and junk. The significance of that isn’t obvious when Power Baiting for 12” truck bows but when a 20” rainbow engulfs a large shiner intended for a laker and it comes greyhounding out of the water it’s easy to get the trout thing. My buddy Billy Eicher and I had just such a peek into the perspective of our forebears last week while fishing Wachusett Reservoir. While most would be pleased with an outing which produced multiple 20” smallmouth bass, our outing took a leap forward thanks to the Chu’s incomparable rainbow trout. On a large shiner fished on the bottom with a 1/0 hook, Billy caught a beauty of a bow which jumped, pulled drag and wowed us before posing for a quick picture and release. A short while later it was my turn as the same scenario played out – well, almost. After a head-shaking fight complete with leaps I had a trophy trout but a rod length away when it shook off as I attempted to sweep her onto the shoreline. That fish was big and aglow with brilliant coloration of olive, pink and silver. While that rainbow obviously could have been hooked better, the same could not be said for us, we were – hooked! While the brown bass we caught earlier were a sight to see, compared to those trout we both agreed – they were pretty drab!
Massachusetts Freshwater Fishing Report
As much as my friend Captain Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics in Everett is equally at home fishing for tuna on Stellwagen or assorted pelagics during his yearly sojourns to San Cristobal, his first fishy loves will always be flounder and trout! As for best bets for local trout he picked Long Pond in Plymouth, Jamaica Pond, Walden Pond and Sluice Pond. Father out west looms South Pond. What separates these spots from many other designated trout ponds is their propensity for holding over trout and growing them large! If you’re looking for a big brown trout or rainbow uptick the size of your offering, especially since forage which was born in the spring has done some growing. Finnish-style swimmers up to 3”, 3/8 to 1/2 ounce casting spoons and soft plastic tubes more inclined for bass, should supplant the finesse stuff which was your first choice in the spring. And as my anecdote in the beginning proved – pinhead/small shiners should now take a backseat to medium to large bait. Skip on the trout worms/dillies as well and opt for a full size crawler for a shot at a holdover!
More than a few anglers who fish Wachusett or shore fish Quabbin, myself included, are long distance hikers who embark on treks that would have give Ferdinand Magellan pause. But then a story comes along that makes you wonder. Eddie of B&A Bait and Tackle Co. in West Boylston sent me a pic of a 24”, 6 pound, 6 ounce rainbow which was caught in the Quinapoxet River a mere stone throw from parking! The angler who caught the big bow – Trajan Sivakov – didn’t wrangle over shiner size or a particular color/weight Kastmaster, his only insistence was to choose “sherbet” Power Bait! Sometimes it just makes you think there’s no justice! My only relief is that the fish was caught miles away from where I lost my big fish!
The point is that right now it almost doesn’t matter where in Wachusett you’re fishing and for what species! Salmon have exited the Stillwater and Quinapoxet Rivers and after weeks of not eating will firmly have the feed bag strapped on! Salmon are speedsters and will carve up this massive waterbody and could be in casting distance of most anywhere along the 37 miles of shoreline! Expect those silver leapers to be nearer the surface so don’t neglect to occasionally work a 3/8th or 1/2 ounce orange/gold or blue/chrome Krocodile or Little Cleo within 10 feet of the surface. A medium shiner suspended under a float is an effective tool also!
Of course for many, trout fishing is best served on moving water! In Massachusetts we have quite the resources out west in the Swift and Deerfield Rivers and no shop is more in tune with those fisheries than the Deerfield Fly Shop in South Deerfield It’s been awhile since I spoke to anyone in that shop and I wasn’t under the impression that Brian is now at the helm. According to the shop now is a great time for streamer fishing for big, bad browns in the Deerfield. They fish articulated flies as big as four to six inches with a six weight fly rod. Specific patterns are Rich Strolis’ Headbanger, Masked Avenger, Ds, Mini Ds, Bank Robbers and Heisenbergs. Anyone who is a fan of the Breaking Bad TV series is sure to get a kick out of the last one. Bringing along a variety of colors to see what the fish are most interested in surely helps.
Bass fishing has definitely entered into cold weather mode out west. Deep and slow are generally going to be most productive with crawfish patterns and weighted baitfish. Though it can be tough, there are good bass still to be had. The fishing which will not get tougher is for pike which will be great right up until waters ice over. For those toothies the shop recommends large 9-12” streamers on a fast sinking line. This is not a numbers game in the conventional sense, other than the wow factor of seeing 36” of pike materializing out of nowhere behind your fly.
Regarding toothies just as I was wrapping this up I got word that the pike bite in the Merrimack River is improving! Captain Carl Vinning of Somerville tipped me off that his grandson Nick has been knocking off a few northerns upstream of the Lawrence Dam on silver/black X-Raps. And just like trout as water temperatures drop the toothy bite will only get better!
Massachusetts Saltwater Fishing Report
While the freshwater fishing was good news, salters should be more impressed with what Pete Santini had to say about the salt! Winter flounder are aptly named and while fishing for them in the modern era in the cooler months isn’t what it once was it’s encouraging that a few hardcore anglers are still finding a few fall flatties. Last week Lisa from Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy reported a flounder bite off the Nut Island Pier in Quincy and this week Mr. Santini told me that some were catching blackbacks off Deer Island and Long Island on clams! More good salty news is word that smelt continue to be caught off the public pier in Winthrop with anglers bringing their own lanterns having the most luck. Sabiki rigs with trout worms will work and when aggressive the smelt will hit a plain Sabiki! Apparently the pollock bite on the American Classic has been awesome by Wildcat Knoll!
Captain Jason Colby this week is wrapping up an incredible season aboard the Little Sister which started with haddock in April, moved onto flounder in May and then he moved his ride onto Westport where he put patrons into almost too many species to list. Fittingly he’s ending the season with arguably the most challenging species that exits in our waters – tautog. More often than not, charters are easily limiting out and double-digit fish are common. He’s already booking for Boston blackbacks next May, so hurry, hurry!
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
While salty options are getting as thin as what’s left on the bones of your Thanksgiving turkey there are still flounder and smelt in close as well as pollock in the deep. If you’re looking to work off the excess calories from too many fixings I have just the tonic for tryptophan – trout! Whether floating Power Bait in Jamaica Pond, casting the Chu’ or working a streamer by the Fife Brook Dam on the Deerfield River there’s a lot to love about trout. Here’s to you loving the Thanksgiving Holiday and hopefully getting in a little fishing when you are done!