Cape Cod Fishing Report- January 19, 2023

Chain pickerel, bass and trout entertain anglers fishing the freshwater ponds, while some anglers prefer to chase holdover striped bass.

Frigid. That is the only way to describe the water in the back of the salt pond on Saturday morning. After a skunking in heavy wind at our first location that morning, my buddy Hunter and I salt-pond hopped to another spot on the south side of Cape Cod. We located some deeper holes near a popular shellfishing area and got to work, slinging soft plastic jigs and small swimming plugs as far as the northerly winds allowed. We were surprised with the water’s chill factor, as it was already halfway through an outgoing tide in the back corner of the pond. It should have felt warmer, and as we scoured the pond, wading slightly more than waist deep to reach the more promising areas, it became apparent that we were fishing “dead” water. We didn’t see a single baitfish (granted, there was some heavy chop) so we decided to make a move toward the front of the pond and fish through the wavy, turbid water.

The temperature difference between the water up front and in the back corner was remarkably different; oddly enough, the water up front was much warmer, which is strange being that the tide was going out. Our only remaining hope was to locate some bait moving with the tide towards the inlet, however, the wind had kicked up so much that it was becoming impossible to keep contact with our lures due to the bow in the line. Frustrated, cold and wet on account of the newfound hole in my waders, Hunter and I hung it up after another long morning of searching for holdover striped bass.

Shortly afterwards, I hopped in the car to head down to Long Island for Striper Day VI, an annual fishing show hosted by Surfcaster’s Journal at Ward Melville High School. The school has a great fishing club program that gets students on the water with local boats, and donations from the show equip them with the tools they need to hit the water. I’m happy to have seen so many familiar faces there! Even some of our New Englanders made the trip down. But after a quick 6-hour show, I turned around and headed back to Cape Cod with a plan to fish the day away on Monday.

I returned to Cape Cod and found a couple inches of snow on the ground. The snow showed no sign of stopping, but it wasn’t accumulating either, which meant it was still warm enough to wade the ponds without having to break away any skim ice. I texted Jimmy Fee and asked the important question of the day: “trout or pickerel?”, half knowing what I really wanted to do.

Around this time last year, we received a snow storm with similar conditions that saw minimal accumulation and heavy flakes. I love to fish in the snow, and as much as rainbow trout would’ve been likely to cooperate, it felt like a chain pickerel type of day. We set up a plan to hit a wind-protected shore at a nearby bass and pickerel pond for a couple hours, which turned out to be right decision.

Based on past success at this lake, which receives a herring run, I tied on… you guessed it, a silver 1/4-ounce Kastmaster. If you read these reports each week, you probably think I fish with nothing else. The truth is, during the winter when larger fish are more likely to eat a small, slow-moving baitfish, this little tin excels. It matches the forage in any water where there are juvenile herring, and even on a slow retrieve, the lure flutters and kicks over most vegetation. While bass fishing in the winter, I’ve found the sweet spot is actually when the lure swims low enough that it barely bumps the top of weeds and grasses, as it alerts any fish that are lingering in the vegetation to its presence and provides a short-range, low-risk feeding opportunity.

Jimmy opted for his go-to wintertime rig, the float and fly. This ultra-finesse bobber rig seems to champion any other offering, whether it’s being fished for bass, pickerel, trout or panfish like white perch.  After a slow start, we waded down a shallow flat and found some fish. Jimmy’s float dropped first and he reeled in a decent pickerel that would’ve measured somewhere in the high-teens in inches. A few minutes later, another pickerel came on Jimmy’s float rig as I dragged in the occasional aquatic plant. There was clearly a bite window going on, but with the snow coming down harder, there was no telling how long it’d last. I slowed my retrieve a bit more and adjusted to a lower rod angle instead of keeping the tip high. This must have gotten the Kastmaster a bit closer to some feeding fish, because I reeled in a pickerel next. It was small, but I enjoyed the fight on my trout setup, which is spooled with 6-pound fluorocarbon line.

Jimmy was lucky to pin this healthy pickerel right in the corner of the mouth, which kept his leader free of those sharp little teeth.

A few minutes passed and suddenly Jimmy’s float dropped, only this time, line peeled off the reel in a few short bursts and the rod keeled over. As much fun as pickerel fishing is, I think we both hoped this would be a substantial largemouth bass. However, after a minute of the fish darting around us, Jimmy landed a super fat chain pickerel with a massive mouth. This fish was eating well.

A stout specimen, this pickerel was not the longest, but it was indeed thicc.

After that, the bite window kind of died off. We began to move back toward our put-in spot when I felt a gentle bump on my lure and set the hook. After a short fight and some little headshakes, I was happy to see a largemouth bass squirming its way across the water toward me. By no means was it a sizable bass, but a multi-species outing in the snow was a blessing.

If you look closely, you’ll see the blue/silver Kastmaster dangling from the bottom lip of this little bass.

Content with the return for 70 minutes of fishing, we parted ways to enjoy the rest of the snow from the warmth of home. Although, I actually snuck over to my favorite trout pond for an hour or so and didn’t do squat. Sometimes it’s worth quitting while you’re ahead.

Generally, the fishing around Cape Cod this week has been challenging due to sustained, high-speed winds and temperature fluctuations. Even so, anglers are cutting out time to stay on the water. From Martha’s Vineyard, our buddy Stavros Viglas has the fishing report covered once again! Stavros fishes just about any chance he gets and has been dialed on holdover striped bass in Vineyard salt ponds.

“This past week on Martha’s Vineyard we had some typical New England weather; temperatures in the 50’s one day and snow the next. The fluctuations in temperatures will have some anglers running to the trout streams or ponds where the fish will be warming themselves and looking for any bugs that may have come out in the warm air. Meanwhile some fishermen will brave the cold and search for holdover striped bass. Reeling Slug-Gos very slowly at night is a good tactic when targeting the big bass sitting on the bottom.”

Stavros shared this picture of a beautiful brookie he caught in a Vineyard stream. (@south_of_the_vineyard)
Creeping around the salt ponds at night is a proven technique for Stavros when targeting winter holdover stripers. (@south_of_the_vineyard)

Well, looks like the next time I go out for holdover stripers is going to be at night! Stavros knows those waters like the back of his hand, but such an awesome fish in the winter months is also a product of perseverance.

Back on Cape, here’s what some of our local shops have to report this week:

Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay reports:

“Trout fishermen are still doing well around here, but that’s the number one target. It’s been unseasonably warm some days, and other days we get snow flurries, so it’s good to see people still getting out there fishing. We’re still selling a good amount of shiners, too, which means that there’s some solid fishing to be had at the trout and bass ponds nearby.”

Evan at  Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth reports:

“A couple guys have been coming in looking for PowerBait this week. They’re fishing for trout at local ponds and doing well on rainbows mostly. A few other customers are targeting largemouth bass too, but most of the interest right now is in trout fishing, which is just a more reliable bite than largemouth fishing. Holdover striped bass have been biting too, although the spots are highly guarded by the anglers catching them; still, it might be worth turning your attention to stripers on occasion. We’re still selling plenty of shellfishing gear too, which has been immensely popular this winter.”

Amy at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis reports:

“I talked to a few guys doing well trout fishing in bigger ponds around the Outer Cape area this week. They were jigging from a boat and caught several good sized rainbows on an older blade bait known as the Silver Buddy; one of the blades was gold and the other silver, although the trout didn’t seem to have a preference. We also had a few shop regulars hit the local ponds where they are catching quality rainbow and brown trout from shore while using live shiners under a bobber.”

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

Going into the weekend, trout, pickerel and freshwater bass are most likely to bring a bend in the rod. White perch fishing has been slightly challenging recently, and holdover stripers are picky even if you know where to find them. It sounds like lightweight jigs and soft plastics ranging from 4 to 7 inches fished slowly on bottom are most likely to give up a fish or two. Locate some moving water, and try your local salt pond at night on the outgoing tide to avoid the influx of colder water that floods the ponds on the incoming tides.

If you’re looking to try something new, employ the float and fly rig on your next freshwater fishing trip. It consists of nothing more than a bobber, a lightweight hair jig or fly, and a long leader. Otherwise, whip out a few spoons and try out the topwater trout technique I’ve covered in past weeks. Skimming that spoon across the surface at a reasonable speed is enough to drive trout to give chase, especially in ponds that receive herring runs.

Wherever fishing finds you this week, respect each other, respect the water, be safe and fish hard. Catch you next week.

1 thought on “Cape Cod Fishing Report- January 19, 2023

  1. Cape

    LOL!!!!!!!!!! Hahaha!!!
    Fish tails!! What a fish story!!
    Hold over striper of that size.
    I don’t believe it. Looks like a mid-Spring Early- Fall night to me.
    Wearing light clothing and summer hat. Bare skin fingers exposed while wading in sea water middle of the winter? I don’t think so.
    Can’t fool this guy! May be a hippy or a child.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *