Cape Cod Fishing Report- March 9, 2023

Trout stocking begins around Cape Cod, largemouth bass compete with pickerel in the ponds, and white perch bite alongside holdover stripers.

Rejoice! Spring is finally starting to show itself.

The weather is still cold, but in southeastern Massachusetts around Plymouth, Cape Cod and the Islands, trout stocking is underway in the freshwater ponds. For some, it means a trout dinner is on the way, while for others, it means fast and consistent catch-and-release fishing. For many devout salties, trout stocking may not even excite you in the slightest, but if nothing else, it’s a sign that we’re inching closer to the return of migratory stripers.
Like the flip of a switch, spring is suddenly, well, springing. Just yesterday, my friend and coworker Ed Giordano pointed out an osprey that had landed on a telephone pole outside the OTW offices. I’ve never been so excited to see a bird in my life.

To me, the return of ospreys to the northeast is indicative of a new fishing season. With trout going into the kettle ponds and ospreys stalking them overhead, it’s only a matter of time before we begin seeing herring heading upstream in our local rivers. We’re officially on the edge of the vernal equinox.

It’s remarkable how ospreys have this circadian rhythm to time their annual migrations. Some fly as far south as South America, and each year they return on cue as their forage base becomes more abundant with trout and herring readily available to them in shallow water.

But an even greater indicator that we’ve almost officially reached spring is the heightened activity from largemouth bass. This winter, though less snowy, has been a colder one than last year, and the winter bass fishing wasn’t nearly as good. But now, with big baits entering the ponds and longer, warmer days of sunshine, ol’ Larry Largemouth will begin to feed under the cover of night. Wake baits, swimbaits and glidebaits can be used to effectively target big bass that will be patrolling the shallows for an easy meal.

I tested the waters this past week, hoping to find some active largemouth sunning themselves in shallower water. On March 5 of last year, big bass were already biting on swimbaits.

This largemouth bass inhaled a 3-inch Vudu Mullet— a saltwater swimbait popular among speckled trout fishermen in Florida— which happens to very closely imitate juvenile herring and common shiners. (March 5, 2022 / @hefftyfishing)

I’ve grown to really enjoy fishing with these swimbaits. They’re jointed, but the “joints” are actually a durable mesh material that generates a ridiculously realistic swimming motion.

Here’s a better view of the 20-inch, 3+ pound larry that crushed the Vudu Mullet last March 5.

Seriously, check these lures out for yourself. The only shop I know of that sells them in our neck of the woods is Goose Hummock Shops, otherwise, you can grab them online. They come in a few sizes and feature a single belly treble hook, and the bass are not the only ones that love them.

Saturday morning at the local pond was a pickerel slayfest. Not what I had planned for (I left my lip grips at home), but nonetheless, it was a fun way to start the day. Five plus pickerel bit the Vudu Mullet in less than an hour, and three of them were over 20 inches. I didn’t even get pictures of those fatties, as releasing them in good condition was more important to me. The big ones death rolled like alligators once I had them in the net, tying up the hooks in the process and leading to stressful tangles. I should have known better; this is right around the time of year they feed heavily as they prepare to spawn.

Pickerel number one was a shorty, but it set the trend for a shallow-water pickerel pounding on Saturday. Thankfully, it didn’t inhale the Vudu like the bigger ones that followed.

Swimbaits weren’t the only thing on the menu for pickerel last week. Using my favorite spring hard bait, the Rapala Shad Rap, I caught one of the biggest slime darts I had ever seen and didn’t even get a picture of it. This lure in particular has a history of catching me trophy ditch pickles of 25-inches or more. Years ago back on Long Island, it caught me a near 4-pound pickerel in my kayak.

The heavy vibrations emitted by the Shad Rap as it dives between 4 and 7 feet is what draws such violent strikes. Strikes frequently come on the pause as well, while the lure slowly floats toward the surface.

I took the above picture after catching that behemoth pickerel during lunch late last week. Note the bent out treble, two missing hook points, mangled split rings and twisted-up belly ring where the split rings hang. This pickerel was not happy about being hooked, and had I not had my pliers, it probably would have died. No lure in my tackle box has caught more slob pickerel than the yellow perch Shad Rap over the years; and this particular Shad Rap was brand new!

Anywhere that yellow perch and pickerel coexist, you can bet the pickerel will crush any yellow-perch colored hard bait— especially during the early spring when both species are entering their pre-spawn stages.

If mangled baits and bucketmouth bass are not your speed, that’s okay. Trout fishing has done a 180 with the spring stocking trucks having hit much of the Cape already. This weekend though, before the trucks made rounds, my buddy Jack caught a nice holdover brown trout on a live shiner. I have yet to catch a brown on Cape Cod, but it’s good to know we have some close to home!

Jack Renfrew caught this holdover brown trout on a live shiner on Sunday, right before the stocking trucks began to make their rounds. (@jack.renfrew.37)

The spring trout stocking provides a great opportunity to get young kids into fishing. A small Gamakatsu circle hook under a bobber, baited with nightcrawlers, is an easy rig that is bound to catch fish. PowerBait will be an efficient bait choice too; stocked trout were raised in hatcheries where they’ve fed on pellet food for most of their lives, so a round, scented pellet-like bait will draw their attention.

And if the stocked trout aren’t kind to you, there are still more fishing opportunities to be had. I tried to catch a couple stockies during my lunch break, and to my dismay, I was skunked! Nothing is more humbling than being unable to catch fish that were quite literally just dumped into the pond by the bucketful.

There’s good white perch fishing right now, too. This week one of our readers, Kyle Achee, was out fishing for white perch with his trout rod and landed this holdover striper on 4-pound line!

Kyle Achee with his accidental reward for white perch fishing. Nice one!

If that’s not enough to get you outside and on the water this weekend, here is the scoop on this weeks fishing from some of our local shops:

Amy at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis reports trout fishing is the name of the game right now. There has definitely been an uptick in anglers coming in for shiners and nightcrawlers, but spoons and spinners are also selling well. The first round of the trout stocking saw mostly rainbows put into the ponds around here, but there are some places with brook trout if you check the state trout stocking report. PowerBait is always popular during the trout stocking too, due to the similarities to their pellet feed at the hatchery.”

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

“Most people coming in are getting ready for saltwater fishing season, grabbing leader, line, terminal tackle and plugs. However, trout stocking started this week so there’s some good freshwater fishing on the horizon. The trout bite is usually hot in the morning around first light, and bass fishing is best at or around dusk when the water has been warming under the sun all day. Soon largemouth bass will be more inclined to track and follow a bait they’re interested in, which is always exciting. Swimbaits, jerkbaits and lipless cranks will perform well for those targeting bass, while spoons and PowerBait will do the job for trout fishermen.”

Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay reports:

“We have lots of people coming in and getting shiners for brook trout this week, surprisingly. Rainbows are being stocked too, but it’s been said that a lot of the anglers using shiners for brookies are being robbed by small- to mid-size largemouth bass. The bass bite will only get better from here, and as the state continues to stock trout, they’ll begin mixing in a couple of other species like brown and tiger trout to keep things interesting.”

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

Brook trout and rainbow trout have been stocked in ponds around Cape Cod. Spinners, spoons, PowerBait and nightcrawlers should all get bit, but small jerkbaits and tube jigs will get it done as well.

Largemouth bass activity will likely increase over the next week or so, and if they don’t cooperate, chain pickerel will be there as a consolation prize. They certainly put a smile on my face on Saturday, even if they’re slimy and difficult to de-hook at times.

White perch and holdover stripers are active in tidal waters and rivers. If you plan to target white perch, small hair jigs, spoons and curly-tail grubs will get eaten, but consider using slightly heavier line. I enjoy fishing with 2-pound-test line for white perch in places I know there won’t be stripers, but best boost that to somewhere in the ballpark of 5 and 8 pounds when they’re a possible bycatch.

Smallmouth bass are another option for kayak and boat fishermen. Target steep drop-offs and underwater humps in 20+ feet of water where smallies will congregate until water temperatures start to warm. In most places, they haven’t moved shallow enough to be targetable by shore yet, but as March carries on, wading fishermen may get their shot at smallies with jerkbaits, ned rigs and soft plastic paddletails before April 1.

If we don’t see you on the water this weekend, swing by the booth at the New England Saltwater Fishing Show hosted by RISAA in Providence, R.I.

Also, this Friday night there is a presentation by Dr. Greg Skomal called “Living with Sharks” in Duxbury.

Should be an interesting presentation! It’s worth checking out if you are in the area and enjoy fishing for sharks, or if you frequently deal with them as bycatch offshore.

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.

2 on “Cape Cod Fishing Report- March 9, 2023

  1. Cape

    Wow and actual hold over striper!! Nice fish!!! Congrats to the angler.
    I love the Osprey bird. Awesome rapture only one!
    Saw Bold eagle a week ago in Carver Ma. Sampson Pond.
    That pond is the pond that the State record large mouth bass was caught.
    Nice report!!!!

  2. mark

    Why not just use single hooks on the swim baits if you are concerned about catch and release? Fewer net tangles too..

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