Massachusetts Fishing Report – February 16, 2023

Rivers are a Bay State best bet for action as well as something special such as this big pickerel.

If you’re a died-in-the-wool ice fisher this is not your preferred version of mid-February fun, but not all are in misery mode. Anglers are taking advantage of a rare open water opportunity and less you think it’s all “dinking and dunking”, there are some real corkers cooperating out there. For those looking to add a dash of salt to their efforts, we have a bit of that too.

Massachusetts Fishing Report

“Fishbrain” never goes into complete remission. In season, there’s nothing unusual for my friend Dave Flaherty to be distracted during his morning walks along his neighborhood in Nahant. With sweeping views of such a fishy location, he can be forgiven if occasionally he’s not totally engaged in the conversation with his walking companions. That’s not supposed to happen in mid-February, but there it was the other day – a honest-to-goodness feed going off right among the wash of 40 Steps Beach. I have a feeling that the pace of his walk inadvertently picked up considerably as Dave began wondering just what the heck was going down there.

Shortly after saying goodbye to his partner, he sped off to the shoreline and sure enough there were swirls up tight, feeding birds and one – hyperventilating angler with fishbrain overload! Still flopping on the shoreline were small whiting (silver hake) with plenty of its schoolmates not far out. That begged the question as to just what was pushing in those small gadoids? With no obvious predation, one could only speculate. Historically cod would have been the only species moving in that close at this time of the year; there just might be a catch-and-release cod fishery out there right now. Hopefully I’ll have an answer soon since the last time I heard from my buddy he was mumbling something about a sabiki rig! I wonder what would happen if one of those baby whiting were livelined out there? In the past, we’ve had live pollock crushed by cod in the same vicinity!

Elsewhere the Bite Me II co-captains Dave Panarello of Wilmington and his sidekick Carl Vinning of Somerville have been enjoying “Larry” luck with some of those bass five-pound bucket-mouths! Carl has been spending his time working Rapala swimmers among Greater Boston rivers while Dave is hitting smaller ponds a little farther north. When asked for specifics Dave said false dawn through dawn has been the sweet spot and he also said something about Harold Parker Reservation. That’s one, big varied place with 11 water bodies where everything from trout to pickerel swim.

Dave’s been picking up his shiners from Rennie at Bridge Road Bait and Tackle in Salisbury and when asked for a tip for a potential hot spot, the owner of that shop told me of Country Pond in Newton/Kingston. He’s not the first one who has mentioned that spot; it’s been known to give up slab crappie. Nick DiPhillipo has been plucking pike out the Merrimack River on jerk baits. Fish are not always found in the first drop so he’s keeping on the move throughout the Haverhill section.

As for Nick’s grandpa, Captain Carl, he’s faring best early in the morning with the bite shutting off soon after sunup. He’s partial to rivers where a tributary mixes in with the main river. Most tributaries are shallow and muddy and now that upstream areas are free of ice those tributaries are bringing in warmer water. In mid-February, any uptick in water temperatures is like a magnet to warm water species. My conversation with Carl begat me asking Eric from Lunkers in Ashland if he had anything similar out there. He mentioned the Sudbury River section in Framingham by Route 9 where Foss Reservoir, along with two lesser reservoirs, empty into the river. While I don’t know that area, it sounds like it has potential.

Eddie of B&A Bait and Tackle Co. in West Boylston did a recon for me on Wednesday and checked out the Stillwater River. He said that as of that evening, there was thin ice up to about 50 yards upstream of Waushacum Brook but it was open after that. While it was in the fall, Ive caught salmon in that open stretch and it is legal to fish there now. While it’s highly unlikely a landlocked would be cruising there in winter, you never know when a rainbow, brown or laker is prowling that place. Eddie also checked out Comet Pond in Hubbardston which has plenty of open water. Eddie was incentivized after seeing a 4-1 brown trout which was caught there on a crawler by Vinny Percuoco. He threw a few unsuccessful casts by the boat ramp but one angler did report catching a rainbow by the nearby outlet. There is always something special to those outlets/tributaries anytime of the year but especially now.

It’s not every year that Rodney of Flagg’s Fly and Tackle in Orange has an angler walk through the door clutching his fishing rod in mid-February! This guy was intent on casting and hopefully catching from the Miller River in Orange. While that river is famed for trout, the summer before last, a guy pulled a 48”, 29-pound pike out of there! The fish was so big that Rod didn’t have a scale big enough to weigh it. Mattawa and Rohunta have frustrating combinations of open water and ice, making conditions unsafe, at least until the expected freeze of next week settles in. A better bet continues to be in Warwick where Moores, Clubhouse and Richard’s Reservoir all have good ice.

And then of course, there’s the ice belt out west where I found Martin Farrell of B&R Bait and Tackle standing on thick ice on Onota Lake. The bite hadn’t kicked in yet when we spoke but others have tallied numerous 17-20 pound pike there this year! The smelt action has also been good just off the boat ramp. Pontoosuc has been productive for pike as has Cheshire Resevoir. While most of the attention continues to revolve around those big water bodies some good trout continue to be taken out of Plainfield Pond, Windsor Pond and Goose Pond.

Massachusetts Fishing Forecast

Reports from rivers are looking as if they just might be the best bet for mid-winter casting action. The Indian Head River, Sudbury, Charles, Mystic, Merrimack and Miller all have the potential for not only a catch but a possible corker. In Central Mass, Comet has been given up rainbows as well as big brown trout with the area by the outlet productive. The winner for those looking to target a toothy remains the western part of the state however where Onota, Pontoosuc and Cheshire have all delivered double-digit pike. However, if you’re starting to forget what the ocean even looks like, watch the north shore for signs of beached whiting; there could be cod just a cast away.

3 on “Massachusetts Fishing Report – February 16, 2023

  1. Steve

    Ron, I love the Nahant story. That local guy Dave knows his ROCK and this was obviously a surprising treat at this time of year. We’ll be holding our breath waiting for his report.It looks like you and the other two gentlemen have been putting in your time and it has paid off.Although it is hard to write off the hardware season around here, I am encouraged to see this quality of fish being taken from open water in Mid February.

  2. Lorenzo

    I’ve seen pictures of stipers in the Taunton River as of a week ago….

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