Cape Cod Fishing Report- March 16, 2023

Largemouth bass activity increased with herring sightings around the Cape, and recently stocked trout provide reliable fishing with live baits and PowerBait.

Sometimes, it’s best to stick to what you know.

After a couple of fruitless outings targeting stocked trout, I grew tired of the pursuit. As successful a method it may be, I personally do not have the patience to bait-and-wait with PowerBait for 10- to 12-inch stocker trout. We know the trout are pellet fed, so that’s most likely what they seek in the first few days after stocking, but it can be slow, slooowwww fishing at times. It’s different than bait-and-wait fishing with live shiners, which is slightly more active and suspenseful since you can watch your panicked bait take off with the bobber when a hungry trout or bass is near. Even so, my buddies who fished with live shiners this past weekend were brutally skunked. So I decided to pick up the bass rod and pursue some late-winter/early-spring largemouth with artificials.

If you read last week’s Cape report, we talked about using small- to mid-sized swimbaits to target early season largemouth bass. The picture below (from March 2022) was included for reference.

This chunky bass inhaled a Vudu Mullet swimbait on March 5, 2022.

Almost exactly a year and one week later, I spent last Sunday spot hopping ponds around Falmouth, Mashpee and Upper Cape searching for a bass bite. I used curly-tail grubs, Ned rigs, and jerkbaits to no avail and decided to try out the trusty old Vudu Mullet. After all, this time last year it was working like a charm for bass and pickerel (although March 2022 was particularly mild from what I remember). Sunday was very windy, so I sought out shorelines where the wind was at my back in order to cast further, and cover more, and deeper water.

At spot number 3, I finally got into a few small largemouth bass with the Vudu Mullet. These baits are so versatile. They look incredibly realistic on a steady retrieve, and they sink relatively slowly to imitate a dying baitfish falling through the water column. I played around with the retrieve to draw strikes after finding a pile of 1-pounders suspended over a grass bed at the end of a drop-off. Some fish wanted the steady swim, but most of them hit the bait on a slow “reel-and-pause…reel-and-pause” cadence. It was fun for a bit until I grew tired of catching little bass. It turned out to be perfect timing, as two otters had caught wind of my successful catch-and-release fishing, and began inching closer to investigate. I opted to stop fishing to avoid sacrificing bass to the otters upon release. It felt oddly similar to releasing stripers down the beach in an effort to save them from lingering seals.

Goal number one was accomplished: eliminate the skunk. It turned out that moving to another bass pond was the right move after all. I hiked into my spot, made two casts, and on the second one I got whacked. There was a brief pause, and when I set the hook my line didn’t budge. This fish had a delayed reaction and rocketed toward deep vegetation a few seconds later, pulling a bit of drag on my Tatula 3000. When it surfaced, I thought it was a huge pickerel until the bucket mouth was revealed as it attempted a couple vicious headshakes. I guided the bass into my net and let out an echoing “WOO!” that was probably audible to anyone within a half-mile radius.

This bass inhaled the Vudu Mullet on Sunday (3/12/23). Side by side with the previous picture from March 2022, it’s an almost identical eat.
Front view of my first swimbait-caught largemouth of 2023.

Notice the red coloration on the lips of both bass. The water is still cold in March, but shallower ponds with a maximum depth of 10- to 12-feet are already coming to life and are noticeably warmer than the kettle lakes I had been wading in search of stocked trout.

I’m more of a bass guy, but I know plenty of people who prefer to catch trout. The reason I prefer to target bass is the greater potential for a trophy fish; stocked trout only grow so big, and while there are some large holdover rainbow and brown trout in many of our kettle ponds, it is my belief that there are far more big bass than there are trophy trout. That’s not to knock trout fishing by any means, but this is the time of year that big bass begin to feed on those small stockers, along with the herring that are beginning to run our creeks.

My friend and co-worker Ed Giordano took note of herring making their way upstream in the Mashpee River this past week. Right on schedule. Ed was also the one to point out an osprey outside the OTW offices last week, which typically arrive around the same time as the herring. As Ms. Penny Lane would say, “It’s all happening”.

In March, white perch activity also increases in the rivers and brackish ponds. I went out for some white perch last week, and with the incoming tide on my side, I was almost certain they’d be stacked up within casting range. To my surprise, nothing I threw at them was getting touched. Finally, a few small taps came here and there, but the strikes were not familiar. The water was cloudy and murky, so to get a better idea of what was happening beneath the surface, I whipped out the GoPro extendo-stick and investigated the muddy bottom. When I pulled up the camera to see what I had recorded, a massive school of bunker popped up on my screen, filter feeding as they glided back and forth with the current.

These bunker were taking advantage of the incoming tide and a stiff northwest wind that worked together to stir up all sorts of forage for them to feed on. (Sorry for the poor image resolution.)

The video of these bunker is on my Instagram page (@hefftyfishing) as well as the On The Water Instagram page (@onthewatermagazine).

It is my thinking that the bunker are residents; it is highly unlikely these fish came into this pond on an incoming tide in mid-March. In this same pond, I’ve seen white perch blitzing on peanut bunker that got trapped after swimming through the culvert in the late fall. Pretty cool stuff, just like a mini-striper blitz. I’m hypothesizing, but I think that those peanut bunker stick around and grow into adult bunker in that pond. Last February, I saw a gull eating a full-sized pogy on the ice.

This photo (2/10/2022) reinforced my thinking that this pond holds a year-round resident population of bunker. I have yet to discover if there are any striped bass in the pond, but if there are, their growth is likely stunted. The brackish pond freezes over quickly, sometimes faster than freshwater ponds of the same size, which leads me to believe it’s only a few feet at its deepest— not exactly ideal habitat for winter holdover stripers.

The good news is that active bunker is yet another sign of spring fishing activity ramping up. Trout stockings continue across the state, bass fishing is improving, herring are running the creeks, and ospreys are back. The light at the end of the tunnel is visible, everyone. We’ve almost made it through the winter, and soon enough, dandelions will sprout, signifying the official start to saltwater fishing season with shallow-water tautog on April 1.

Let’s check in with some of our local shops to get the scoop on what else is happening around Cape this week:

Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay reports:

“Bass fishing has been great recently, and it still seems early for steady largemouth activity compared to years past. Most anglers are catching on small 3- to 4-inch swimbaits and soft plastics. On the kettle ponds, our customers are still catching good trout with live shiners and nightcrawlers. Some of our Canal regulars during the high season are getting antsy, and they’re coming by to get baits and trout setups to get in on the action. Herring should be arriving any day in our local rivers, and their early presence might actually bring more activity from resident stripers. If they spawn earlier this year, they leave the ponds earlier, and we might see some particularly good early spring striper fishing in the rivers as a result.”

Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth reports:

“Trout have garnered most of the attention from the anglers I’ve spoken to over the past week. The brookies that were stocked have been slightly finicky due to high winds, but some of the ponds in Falmouth gave up small brook trout on PowerBait, weighted down with a light dipsey sinker. One of my buddies also got into rainbow trout using PowerBait at the larger kettle lakes in Mashpee. Your best bet is to fish from wind-protected shorelines with PowerBait or nightcrawlers on bottom. Other than trout fishing, it’s been pretty quiet this spring— although I did get a report of some birds working over bait in the Canal this week. The guy who shared it with me said he wasn’t seeing any larger fish boil on the bait, and although he couldn’t see the baitfish clearly, it’s safe to assume they were schools of herring, which could be a recipe for good early spring striper fishing.”

Christian at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis reports:

“After the recent trout stocking we’re still selling mostly worms, shiners and trout lures like spinners and spoons. The conditions haven’t been too great for fishing, we’re just waiting for this crummy, windy weather to break for spring fishing conditions to really explode. Conditions should be good this weekend with a bit of warmer weather in the forecast. Other than that, we actually had a few guys come in a short while ago to buy a bunch of squid; they are targeting cod in the Canal! No results reported just yet, but we’ll see what happens.”

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

Herring are on the move. We saw them weeks ago on the herring run monitor in Middleborough, MA, so that’s a good indicator of their presence in the area. Like the shops said, if the herring get into the ponds earlier than usual, there’s potential for their offspring to create good early spring striper fishing in the rivers, and of course, favorable freshwater bass fishing.

Trout fishing is pretty reliable if you have the patience to bait and wait, which gets easier when it’s not so cold that you have to do calisthenics to keep warm. That bite should improve as the fish adjust to their new environments and these gusty conditions (hopefully) die down while water temperatures slowly increase.

Largemouth bass fishing, though hit or miss at the moment, has noticeably improved. Sunday was a tough outing, and I’m glad I was rewarded with a bigger bass for my efforts. I think that as pickerel prepare to spawn in the coming weeks, largemouth will become more active not only due to warming water temperatures, but because they no longer have to compete with those slimy, toothy speedsters. Start readying your swimbaits, wakebaits and glidebaits!

I’m excited to hear if the Canal Cod fishermen catch anything. From what I’ve read and heard, cod used to be a feasible Canal target during the winter months, but that’s not so much the case these days. We’ll see what happens!

If you’d like to contribute to our fishing reports, reach out to me via email ( or via Instagram (@hefftyfishing)with a sentence or two reporting your experience on the water, along with any fish photos related to your report.

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