Cape Cod Fishing Report- February 2, 2023

Bass, pickerel, perch and holdover stripers provide pre-freeze action to anglers prying the fresh and saltwater ponds this week.

Wet a line while you can, folks. As my friends in New York would say of the incoming weather, “It’s gonna be brick outside this weekend.” Why brick is used to describe cold temperatures, I still am not sure; but I like it.

There’s a deep freeze coming that is sure to lock up most of our freshwater ponds for a day or two. That being said, it won’t last long, so use extreme caution if you plan to attempt any ice fishing.

Freshwater fishing has been good this week, although the action was slow for the most part. White perch are biting, but they’ve been picky as of late. But during the sunny, mild days this week, largemouth bass and chain pickerel have been on the prowl in relatively shallow water. It’s tough to find good fishing when it’s near 50 degrees one day and snowing the next, but the changing barometric pressure and prolonged sunshine is what has been driving largemouth bass and pickerel to feed. The feeding windows are usually short, but I tossed a couple spoons around one of my favorite bass ponds and hooked into a few large pickerel during my lunch break this week. One of the most productive techniques I’ve found is to slowly twitch a spoon low in the water column along the edges of weed lines. The pickerel tend to sit in or along the vegetation and use it to their advantage. Recently the pickerel bite has been good, but typically, they lightly tap the lure; despite cold water temperatures from snowmelt this week, these couple of pickerel slugged the spoon.

A couple of chunky pickerel like this one put up a good fight on 6-pound fluorocarbon and a trout rod.
It’s not everyday that you have a freshwater fish break a treble hook. The pickerel above released itself with a flashy new lip piercing.

Admittedly, spoons don’t always get the job done, despite their ability to match the size, profile and action of juvenile herring and shiners in many of our Cape ponds. Earlier in the week, micro-plastics like Ned Rigs, 2-inch paddletails and curly-tail grubs were the hot baits. Areas with minimal vegetation or plant life that was less likely to snag on small, lightweight jigs proved to hold a few fish. OTW’s Anthony DeiCicchi picked up his ultralight combo and got after some smallmouth bass and yellow perch that were stacked in about 30 feet of water. He fished with Kyle Geggatt, a skilled northeast bass fisherman who brought Anthony out on the bass boat to fish for smallmouth bass, which required some finesse. They caught a good mess of fish, with several smallies up to 2-pounds by using a handful of new micro-baits from Z-Man Fishing.

Anthony DeiCicchi caught this healthy smalljaw in 30 feet of water on a Z-Man finesse soft plastic. (@cheech232323)

A couple days later while fishing from shore, Anthony hooked a quality yellow perch on the Z-Man Finesse TRD— an ultralight Ned Rig.

Anthony DeiCicchi reeled in this nice yellow perch that hit the Z-Man Finesse TRD. Notice the lack of vegetation and good water clarity in this pond, both of which make it easier for bass and panfish to find locate small baits like this Ned Rig on the bottom.

Soft plastics like the Ned Rig mimic forage such as worms and crayfish, but there are plenty of soft plastics out there that closely resemble other food sources for larger predators. Killies, shiners and juvenile sunfish are primary food sources for bass scouring the bottom, and when water temperatures dip into the 40’s and high-30’s, you almost can’t go small enough.

While fishing a deep grass bed in a nearby pond during lunch this week, I managed to trick a few largemouth bass into biting. Casting and retrieving the spoon wasn’t getting it done, so I rigged up a 2-inch Jawbone paddletail on a 1/16th-ounce jighead and bounced it, with long pauses, across the whispy, matted grasses. The bass came in short order. I hooked 3 and landed two, both of which were probably around the 1-pound mark.

This was the second bass I landed on the Jawbone paddletail. Take note of the size of the jig and lure next to my thumb.

Then, out of curiosity I pitched a cast beneath a dilapidated, overhanging concrete structure on the shoreline that had clearly been out of use for years. I didn’t know what it was used for, but it looked fishy, and based on what I know about bass, they like to hang tight to hard submerged structure like concrete, rock piles and timber. The water beneath it was deep—at least 6 or 7 feet—and my high angle allowed me to see any activity below. With two twitches of the same Jawbone paddletail, I felt some slight tension and set the hook on a whim into what felt like a tree branch. Nothing budged until I gave the rod a second swing in an effort to free the “snag”, and that’s when I saw a large shadow move away from the wall. Before I could react, two massive (seemingly slow-motion) head shakes came from what I estimated was a 5- or 6-pound largemouth bass. That’s all it took to bend out the hook on this tiny jig head.

Needless to say, I didn’t land this fish. However, it’s good to know that fish of that caliber were willing to eat such a minuscule offering.

Next time I fish this spot, I’ll be sure to carry some stronger jigs with slightly larger hooks.

While there was likely some action for anglers targeting trout and holdover striped bass on Martha’s Vineyard this week, the few anglers fishing the salt ponds on Nantucket were also blessed with some quality holdover action. From Nantucket, OTW reader Nick Lombardi reported a good holdover striper bite in the salt ponds.

Nick Lombardi caught a few quality winter holdover striped bass last week, one of which surpassed the 36-inch mark. (@nhlombardi)

Nick said that the warmer weather and recent precipitation created ideal fishing conditions for targeting holdover striped bass, and he managed to find a few good ones in the high slot range, including one fish measuring over 36 inches. The approaching cold snap will hinder the bite, but when temperatures are back up in the 40’s next week, Nick is confident that the stripers will become active again.

Speaking of the big freeze this weekend, which will see temperatures dip into the negatives around Cape Cod and the Islands, it might be a good time to take on some off-season projects. Changing hooks and split rings, placing tackle orders, and organizing lures, plugs and gear are a few productive ways to spend the weekend indoors. Personally, I’ll be using the time on the couch to tie more bucktails and teasers for this upcoming saltwater season.

Last week, my creative juices were flowing after seeing a cool Instagram post of a public-exchange fly box. You know, sort of like those little wooden public book-exchange “libraries” you see around some beaches, park benches and ponds. I took that idea and ran with it. I purchased some plexiglass at the local hardware store, and they charged me a small fee to have it cut into the size/shape I needed. I also purchased a small door hinge, some screws and gorilla glue, and promptly got to work. The plan was to transform an unused bird feeder into my own fly-box to hang at the OTW office for convenient last-minute grabs when my co-workers and fellow fishermen needed something to toss during lunch breaks or after work. After a couple hours spent measuring, drilling, gluing and tying, “The Flybrary” was born.

It ain’t much, but it gets the job done. Lightweight hair jigs and flies are frequently used by our team, and even if I’m the only one to use The Flybrary, it was a fun project.

These types of off-season projects/creations are a good way to turn forced time indoors into productive time that helps us—in one way or another—advance as anglers and keep the mind and skills sharp. Throw on Jaws in the background—or any other movie you’ve seen 1,000 times—crack open a grown-up soda and enjoy some time tweaking terminal tackle, washing plugs, or building a fly/jig box of your own. If you do build one, I bet it will come out nicer than mine did!

But, before we all hunker down through the cold this weekend, let’s check on this week’s fishing reports from some of our local tackle shops.

Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay reports:

“We’ve had customers coming in to get trout setups pretty regularly. For baits they’re picking up a healthy mix of live shiners and PowerBait. One of our customers hits the Upper Cape kettle ponds almost daily and does well with rainbow trout in the middle of the day, even though he’s usually only fishing for two hours at a time. Artificial lures like spoons will catch best under sunny skies, along with spinners. Up here, around Buzzards Bay up to Plymouth, the stocked trout ponds are fishing just as well as Cape ponds. We’ll see what the deep freeze does to the fishing conditions this weekend!”

Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth reports:

“We were closed this past week but there have been plenty of local trout fishing reports. I had one gentleman in here this week who got into a mess of good-sized trout at a pond in Mashpee that is notorious for big rainbow trout. He was getting the fish to bite on PowerBait and night crawlers. Artificials are working too, but sometimes when the fish are picky you need a live or scented bait to get them fired up. We’ve got plenty of new inventory, saltwater and freshwater, so drop by on your way out! Sunday looks like it could be a good day to fish after a couple days of being shut-in with the frigid temperatures.”

Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis reports:

“The trout bite is going strong out here, we’re selling lots of shiner and nightcrawlers today. Holdover browns and fall-stocked rainbows are pretty much the most reliable fishing there is right now, and we even have some customers getting a little excited over the possibility of ice fishing this weekend. We had one guy come in and buy 2-dozen shiners; I think people are just ready for a change of pace! On top of the freshwater fishing, we’re still selling a ton of shellfishing gear since it has been outstanding this winter. If you go out in search of safe ice this weekend, err on the side of extreme caution and fish in pairs!”

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

Brick cold temperatures this weekend will keep most of us indoors, but anglers with ice fishing on the mind will likely be the first to explore the soon-to-be short lived tundra. Use extreme caution around the ponds if you’re considering ice fishing. Remember, 4-inches of ice is generally safe, and it’s unlikely for such thick ice to form between Thursday evening and Saturday. In the event that safe ice does form, use these two links as guides to safe navigating and fishing this weekend.

As the weather warms up again next week, look for bass, chain pickerel, white perch and trout actively feeding. It’s not uncommon to find some good action on the back end of a deep freeze like this. Keep in mind, finesse fishing with ultralight tackle and soft plastic micro-jigs before and after a cold snap can lead to some good fun and fast action for shore and wading fishermen. Yellow perch should also remain within casting range along with the aforementioned usual suspects. Take advantage of the sunshine before wind gusts pick up and shut down ultralight fishing for the next few days.

Wherever fishing finds you this coming week, respect each other, respect the fish, be safe and fish hard. And stay warm! Catch you next week.

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