Cape Cod Fishing Report- January 26, 2023

Reliable trout fishing continues, pickerel dominate the bite in the bass ponds and strange things happen in the Vineyard Sound surf.

This week around Cape Cod, Buzzards Bay and the Islands:

  • pickerel bite pops off (again)
  • largemouth bass fishing improves
  • good kettle pond trout fishing with live bait
  • holdover striper bite continues on the Vineyard
  • 2- to 3-pound fish rolling and birds working in Falmouth Harbor/Vineyard Sound?
  • Miscellaneous crab legs mysteriously wash up on Vineyard Sound beaches.

Strange happenings in the Vineyard Sound surf this week, as two separate reports were given to OTW’s Andy Nabreski regarding schools of surfacing fish and birds working. One report came from the Falmouth harbormaster, who reportedly saw schools of fish rolling, not blitzing, on the surface inside the harbor on the harbor video camera feed. Another report came in from a separate individual who told Andy that he saw the same thing off the Elizabeth Islands near Pasque Island. Here at the OTW office, we’ve all been speculating as to what they could have been, and some of the possibilities mentioned were whiting, mackerel, pollock and sea herring. If you have any guesses or speculations as to what they were, we’d appreciate your input!

On a semi-unrelated note, there have also been an odd amount of crab legs washing up on Vineyard Sound beaches in Falmouth. Andy Nabreski noticed birds gathered on the shore, feeding on what looked to be stone crab legs. I went down to the beach and found birds, but I found mostly blue crab legs. They were not molten crab shells either, which is why finding dozens of crab legs on the beach generated some more curiosity about what’s been happening in the Sound surf this week.

The beach I visited was strewn with blue crab claws all around this size.
Andy Nabreski took this photo of what he believes are stone crab claws on another local beach.
Possible ID: Stone Crab

In other fish-related news, our freshwater ponds came to life with active chain pickerel throughout the past week. It shut down for a bit, but after some more rain and mild temperatures, the bite was back in action.

On Sunday I caught nearly a dozen pickerel, all measuring around 20 inches, using the 1/4-ounce Kastmaster in a pond that gets a herring run. I lost a couple good ones at my feet due to some vicious head shakes that freed them of the treble hook. Most of the fish were barely hooked, or were pinned on the outside of the jaw after some lazy strikes. Despite only using 6-pound-test fluorocarbon and a trout rod, most of the fish came in without a problem, except for one fish that was fat and well over twenty inches which barely fit into my net.

This fish hit the spoon and ran, trying to break me off by swimming into some heavy, matted weeds nearby.

The bite didn’t stop there either. Later in the week I got out again at a different pond, and after casting float rigs and suspending jerkbaits without a touch, I took out a spoon and ran it painfully slow over vegetation. In short order I reeled in two little largemouth bass, and another quality chain pickerel.

This pond also gets a herring run and has large schools of common pond shiners, making the Kastmaster an effective lure.
Another lunch-break pickerel that fell to the Kastmaster and was nearly too long for the trout net.

Before the weather warmed up again, I went to a couple brackish ponds and used Jim Fee’s favorite float-and-fly method to target white perch. The bite was much slower than I anticipated, but when I saw the float drop for the second time, I could tell it was a better fish. It ended up being a solid 11-inch white perch, and after two more shorties to show for another 60 minutes of fishing, I packed it up.

This chunky white perch hit a green marabou hair jig beneath a Thill bobber.

With more above-freezing temperatures in the forecast, freshwater fishing for pickerel and trout should remain reliable. If you have a kayak or bass boat, it may even be worth a trip to the nearest kettle lake with smallmouth bass! Ned rigs, small craw imitators on lightweight jigs, and blade baits will be some of the top producers for smallies when fished around humps and drop offs.

For a few anglers though, the freshwater bass fishing just won’t cut it. There are bigger fish to fry (not literally). From Martha’s Vineyard, our friend Stavros Viglas has been chasing holdover stripers in the salt ponds all winter long, and he’s had plenty of success. With the recent rains and slightly warmer weather, the fishing could drastically improve. I’ll still be out there, trying my hand at finding a bass in the salt ponds and rivers around Falmouth. While I’ve yet to catch one, I always have an agenda when I hit the water: find deeper water, find moving water, fish around mussel beds, and fish in the wind if possible. The outgoing tide seems to be the ticket, but after wading the top of the incoming during recent outings, the water has felt surprisingly warm for late January.

Stavros Viglas caught this holdover striped bass from a Vineyard salt pond during a night shift outing last week. (@south_of_the_vineyard)

Trout fishing continues to entertain anglers on kettle ponds, where live shiners have been the key to catching some bigger rainbows and browns. I like catching trout, but when bass and pickerel are biting, that’s my go-to choice.

Here’s the run down from some of our local shops this week.

Tom Coots at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay reports:

“Not too much is happening on the saltwater front. There were a couple guys fishing the Canal right now, possibly targeting cod or pollock by drifting sea clams, which we haven’t seen many anglers pursue in about 10 to 15 years. It will be interesting to hear if they catch anything! In freshwater, trout fishing is still very good when conditions permit. A few customers caught some good trout stacked up on Cape Cod when they located pockets of water protected from wind. Bass fishing is pretty slow, but there’s a lot of guys catching pickerel on jerkbaits when they’re out there looking for bass.”

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

“As a reminder, we will be closed until Wedensday, February 1st. Apologies for any inconvenience. Before closing, there were some solid reports from guys that were bass fishing in the more shallow, less-pressured ponds on Cape. They were fishing from a small hand-launch boat with a trolling motor, and finding plenty of small largemouth bass willing to feed on jerkbaits, but they also scored a bunch of pickerel in the bycatch. A small jon boat or a kayak is hugely helpful in locating deeper, untouched pockets of water where fish stack up during the winter that are not always reachable from shore or by wading.”

Amy at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis reports:

“Glenn, one of our shop regulars, said he was fishing our local kettle ponds and had some consistent action catching trout on nightcrawlers. He also set out some live shiners and couldn’t get through the yellow perch, but they were all relatively good size. With all the rain recently, the ponds have been much higher making it harder to wade certain areas, so exercise caution on new waters. Other than trout, there should be some good pickerel fishing and hit or miss largemouth bass fishing in smaller ponds.”

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

Trout fishing will remain productive with temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s for much of the next week. The colder the water, the better. Spoons and spinners have been the most successful artificial lures, while bait fishermen using nightcrawlers are getting it done, along with the occasional shiner.

Largemouth bass and pickerel fishing should remain pretty active over the course of the week. Fish the ponds with herring runs if possible, as there will be a higher likelihood of small, abundant baitfish for the bass and pickerel to enjoy. Also, fishing live shiners under a bobber in some of these ponds can potentially land anglers a trophy largemouth bass or a gator pickerel.

The best bet this weekend will be trout or pickerel fishing. But may I recommend a crossover? Bring your trout rod to the pickerel pond, tie on a lightweight spoon and reel in very slowly, just enough for the spoon to swim and kick over snags and structure. You might occasionally reel in a plant or two, but by running it lower in the water column, bass and pickerel waiting among the weeds don’t have to exert nearly as much energy to take a swing at your seemingly low-risk offering. Otherwise, throw suspending jerkbaits, or exchange the fly on your float rig for a live shiner and enjoy the ride.

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

2 on “Cape Cod Fishing Report- January 26, 2023

  1. mike behot

    Those are jonah crabs also known as rock crabs so easy to mix up the name for stone crab

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