Cape Cod Fishing Report- February 16, 2023

Trout are biting well on bait over artificial lures, largemouth bass give us a taste of spring, and white perch activity increases in the ponds.

Mother Nature just can’t make up her mind, huh?

After last week’s deep freeze, the fishing report was very dull and almost completely void of, well, fishing. This week, though, there’s been an uptick in activity in the freshwater ponds. White perch have been chewing well, and mild air temperatures with lower wind speeds have made shellfishing more bearable. Some anglers are spending their time targeting winter holdover striped bass here and there, as 40- and 50-degree days bring reminders of early spring fishing conditions. However, the most reliable action remains in the ponds with largemouth bass, chain pickerel and white perch leading the slow march into spring.

Miniature lipless crankbaits have been a surprisingly useful tool during warm-weather days when bass are being picky. Along with ned rigs and micro-paddletails, keep a couple of these in your tackle box as we approach the better half of wintertime bass fishing.

Trout fishing, in my own experience, has fallen off a bit. My last few outings—despite being longer and more focused than the typical lunch-break effort— have fallen short of my expectations. Rainbow trout have been tougher to find, which I’m attributing to warmer temperatures. After wading a couple ponds with my friend Jack this weekend, we had only two or three bites through several hours of casting spoons, spinners and jerkbaits around the perimeter of a pond in Falmouth. The one fish I hooked into popped off a few feet from shore, and we each received a violent strike from an aggressive trout that just couldn’t find our hooks. By late morning, we were off to a bass pond.

Bass fishing was great on Saturday. The sun shown itself for the entire morning, warming up the shallows and leading us to a lipless crankbait bite. I hooked a couple of pickerel with a Kastmaster, but meanwhile, Jack reeled in a pair of largemouth bass that took a liking to his small, lipless Rapala. A few weeks ago I hooked a couple of bass on a lipless crank in similar (almost vernal) conditions, but it didn’t last long. It was refreshing to see a few largemouth biting lures that are notoriously successful in March and April, especially after last week’s brisk wind and weather.

Eventually, the bite window shut off for us. Despite some violent swipes at my spoon from a couple more pickerel, their interest in feeding had clearly waned; these were reaction strikes resulting from a faster retrieve on account of my own impatience. Satisfied with a few fish under our belt, we had no interest in catching small pickerel for the rest of the day and instead opted for a drive to investigate a white perch spot.

The perch cooperated almost immediately. They were enjoying 1/8- and 1/16th-ounce marabou and bucktail hair jigs in light green or chartreuse at first.

White, pink, green and gold/yellow colors seem to work best on the white perch. Personally, I have never caught one on a blue, orange or red hair jig before.

Then there was a noticeable shift in the action. The green hair jigs weren’t getting noticed anymore, and if they were, the perch were turning their noses up at my lures. Jack and I decided to dig around my tackle bag of wonderment for something new, and we landed on Berkley PowerBait tube jigs— a popular lure for trout during the winter months.

The two colors of tube jig that I had were white and “perch”, which was a blended yellow/green with black speckles. I tied on the white and Jack used the perch color. After only a few casts, Jack hooked into a white perch, then another, and a third. I would like to say that it was the infused PowerBait scent that drove them to chew, but I came up empty handed. Clearly, the green color of Jack’s tube jig prevailed due to the color, combined with the scent. As fishermen, we all speculate as to whether our target species responds to color differences, and while I’m on the fence, it was evident that the perch has chosen green over white.

Jack Renfrew caught this white perch with a perch-colored Berkley PowerBait tube jig.
We released all of our perch, but they are delicious table fare in the winter when fresh fish is hard to come by.

I seldom fish with tube jigs, but this instance goes to show that messing around with different colors and scented baits can sometimes keep the action going even when it seems like the bite window may have died, or the fish have moved or lost interest.

For pickerel fishing, continue to throw loud and flashy lures around the bass ponds; they’re almost bound to strike out of aggression if not out of sheer hunger.

During a lunch break outing later in the week, I bumped into a gentleman who had caught a few healthy trout on shiners. He fished the shiners under a bobber in a wind-blown corner of this pond, and was on his way home to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He told me he had been out for hours and only had a few trout to show for it, but I reassured him that it was better than I’d done with artificial recently. This man caught several more trout in a few hours than I’ve caught while soaking shiners all winter; I have not caught a single one (yet)! But that’s going to change this week. I can feel it.

I wish there was more of a report to share other than some decent freshwater action from the usual suspects, but that’s the way the winters are. Just hold on, because in a month (which will likely fly by), we’ll be more than halfway through March, and more, bigger largemouth bass will be coming out to play at night. That’s when things begin to shift toward more exciting fishing, as opposed to fishing that just gets us by until the saltwater season picks up steam.

Personally, I can’t wait until early April when stripers slowly start showing up in our backwaters, and tautog fishing from shore or kayak becomes feasible again. I’d like to do more of that this year. But, tautog fishing will have to wait. Let’s inquire about the bite this week with reports from our local bait and tackle shops.

Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay reports:

“The past 2 or 3 days we’ve had such great weather for February, and guys have been capitalizing on fishing in these mild temperatures. A lot of people are out fishing with shiners. We’re selling a ton of them, but PowerBait has been a close runner-up to the most popular baits this week. Our customers are going to Upper Cape and Central Cape trout ponds, and we’re getting reports that they’re just killing it with bait over artificial recently. For anglers looking to fish artificial lures, you’re best off fishing for largemouth bass, which have been more active with the warmer weather (although we haven’t had nearly as many bass reports as we have trout).”

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

“Most anglers are trout fishing with PowerBait and nightcrawlers right now. These baits seem to be out-producing artificial lures, which has been the trend in recent weeks even during mild-weather. Largemouth bass are on the move again, but from what I can tell, there’s not many people targeting them compared to the trout crowds at the kettle ponds.”

Amy at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis reports:

“Trout fishing is what our customers have been doing this past week. We had a few guys in here who were catching rainbows while using orange-red curly tail grubs, along with Kastmasters and spoons. They managed a few decent stocks and one 18-inch rainbow. Although they found a good bite on artificials, we are selling a ton of bait recently. We had one group in here the other day and they picked up 6 dozen shiners! It’s very apparent that bait fishing— whether with shiners, worms or PowerBait nuggets— seems to be key to producing a consistent trout bite in most of the local ponds right now.”

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

Grab your bait buckets and get some shiners while you can, because they’re going fast! Six dozen shiners is a lot of bait, so I hope those guys had a banner day on the trout pond. If you can’t get your hands on shiners, PowerBait nuggets and nightcrawlers will be the next best thing.

While it may be 60 degrees outside as I write this, it doesn’t seem like it will last; and it shouldn’t. It’s still February, and we’ve been spoiled with a lot of 40+ degree days since that painful deep freeze. With temperatures dropping back into the 40’s with consistency, trout activity should continue, and hopefully the colder conditions will reignite their interest in artificial lures. I’m glad that so many people are finding success with bait, because I am stubborn and I enjoy my artificials; that being said, I am not above setting out some shiners at night and waiting for my glowing bobber to disappear beneath the surface.

When the sun is shining, it could be worth a trip to your favorite bass pond. If the lipless crankbait bite from this weekend is any indication of what spring bass fishing has in store, I am very excited. The bass were small, but it’s good to see them active already in mid-February. Soon bass fishing will pick up steam and the “hot” bite will shift to largemouth, smallmouth and pickerel until the spring trout stocking begins.

On a semi-related note: Going into this 2023 saltwater season, we want to hear more from you! If you’d like to contribute to our weekly reports, send me your name, your pictures and a few words summarizing your outing and the fishing experience. I can be reached at or via Instagram @hefftyfishing. I’m looking forward to your fishing report contributions.

2 on “Cape Cod Fishing Report- February 16, 2023

  1. Kyle

    Are you guys getting any white perch in brackish areas of rivers or just in the ponds ?

    1. Matt Haeffner

      There’s a few brackish ponds that have been productive for me, but I’d imagine the tidal sections of some of our rivers are holding white perch as well. Look for freshwater bodies near the beaches that are flooded with saltwater on full/new moon high tides.

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