Massachusetts Fishing Report – March 23, 2023

Captain Carl Vinning
Captain Carl Vining

While “normal” folks are pumped that it’s spring we have reasons to be especially cheerful and they are rainbows, brookies and brown trout. Toss in the occasional largemouth big enough to snack on a stockie and I’m wondering why you are reading the report rather than being a part of it!

I’m writing this forecast with a heavy heart this Thursday. My buddy Captain Carl Vining passed away suddenly this morning. A gentler, kinder more selfless person/angler never lived. So many of us learned invaluable lessons from him on not only fishing but how to be generous and kind to others. I was lucky enough to fish with him only two mornings ago and never could have imagined that I’d never see him again. If you knew Carl you would not be surprised at this anecdote. At our designated spot, Carl would ordinarily show up before daybreak but not on this morning because he knew I would be there and wanted to give me first crack at a fish. Who does that? Again, if you knew Carl you’re nodding, because that was who he was. He was generous with information as well as bait and gear. Countless times Carl would run into rookies who hadn’t a clue how to catch stripers and he would hand them a tube or two, a handful of seaworms and invaluable advice. Some of us would wince at such forthrightness because it took place at his holdover spots, but that was just Carl reveling in others catching fish. Carl would end conversations with those of us who he mentored with an uplifting, “Keep the faith!”. In fishing circles and beyond, thanks to Carl we always will.

Massachusetts Fishing Report

“Even brown trout!”, said Pete of Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate when I asked if his anglers are enjoying freshly stocked trout. North of the Cape the bullseye for variety and volume of trout is unquestionably Plymouth. If that’s not enough for you, wrap your mind around this one: we are about one month away from fresh striped bass! The environment is certainly changing and seas just don’t cool to what they used to be. About 20 years ago when I used to jump aboard Captain Jim Walsh’s American Classic out of Lynn for his “Snowball Cod” trips he would often find seas cooling to 37 degrees. Nowadays it never dips below 40, that is a seismic shift in our environment and is the main reason why striped bass begin their migration earlier and end their residency here later. Some however are not waiting and according to Pete a few are making clandestine offseason trips for holdover striped bass throughout the South and North Rivers. You won’t find these guys posting glory shots or patting themselves on the back, they are too busy fishing and are nothing if not secretive. It won’t be long before shad are surging through the North River and into the Indian Head River. The latter of which has been known to produce portly largemouth which pack on the pounds thanks to the ample herring forage.

Lisa from Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy told me that while trout are the top target, there are hawg hunters out there who are seeking out bigger game. A few Greater Boston through South Shore spots for a large Larry are Pope’s Pond, Ponkapoag Pond and even Houghton’s Pond. While the latter is noted as a designated trout pond it holds some impressive bass as well. One of the shop regulars – Irish Tyler – apparently is enjoying a good-luck bounce from St. Patrick’s Day and is finding stirring holdover stripers among Greater Boston rivers! Should you have a kayak or boat at the ready try a tube and worm which will allow you to cover a lot of water while looking for them. Shops are beginning to carry seaworms again although plain old crawlers and Gulp sandworms/bloodworms are adequate. As my friend Carl showed us, red tubes work best this time of the year and for full effect make sure that the tube is being trolled a tick or two above the bottom.

While on the subject of tubes, the master tube turner himself – Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics in Everett – is back on home turf. He said that it feels good to be back home as apparently he was tiring of 650 pound marlin, tuna and other pelagics. Regarding beasts of the sea, one of the highlights of Santini’s southern sojourn was spotting an albino whale shark, a very, very rare sight indeed! As for local fishing Pete recommends recently stocked Horn Pond for trout and just maybe next week for Jamaica Pond, Walden Pond and White Pond. The former is one definitely worth watching as annually authorities put on a media day with the governor and other dignitaries on hand. On that day the assortment of trout which are stocked there is breathtaking with broodstock brook trout, rainbows and brown trout part of the mix. Among recent highlights was a 12 pound rainbow trout that was caught on media day last year!

Jim from Bridge Road Bait and Tackle in Salisbury has had customers who have been having luck with trout at Stiles, Baldpate and Forest Lake. Larger Larry-sized shiners have been in demand for bass for Artichoke Reservoir and Chebacco Lake. Country Pond over the border in New Hampshire is the choice for crappie. Eric from Lunkers in Ashland had a less than spectacular maiden outing at Hopkinton Reservoir in the middle basin but by the looks of the splashes in front of a nearby angler some are fairing better! Those looking for bass are hitting Whitehall, Chauncy, Little Chauncy and Dug Pond.

The countdown to the Chu’ opening day (April 1st) continues and Eddie of B&A Bait and Tackle Co. in West Boylston has it down to the minute! Let’s hope conditions remain the same as right how while the water is high there is plenty of shoreline access. Meanwhile anglers are floating shiners throughout Lake Quinsigamond and Indian Lake for bass and pike.

It’s not every March that Rod from Flagg’s Fly and Tackle in Orange sees boats in tow in the Connecitut Valley Region! It’s equally unusual for hatcheries to stock trout locally but a truckload of rainbows are now swimming in Laurel Lake. Rod also talked up Swift River rainbows, native brookies and brown trout which have no reservation about eating those 4”-9” brookies. In fact Rod told me of a 9 pound class brown trout which was caught last fall after it ate a hooked brookie! If Rod had to pick one section of the Swift for most everything which swims in the river he’d choose by the boat ramp near the hatchery in Belchertown. I don’t know the area but he did mention where the road swings left past the hatchery, I hope that helps! Obviously if you’re yearning for a brown big enough to dispatch a brook trout you’ll want to go large and if you’re a fly fisher consider a Wooly Bugger – XL! While I have no word on the Miller River, the Fife Brook section of the Deerfield River has been fishing well. Farther out west junk ice is thwarting most attempts to fish but beginning next week we should have an open water report out there!

Massachusetts Fishing Forecast

Plymouth remains the pick of the state for trout with brown trout now joining the previously stocked brookies and rainbows. For some on the South Shore the spring striper run can’t come soon enough so they are poking around areas throughout the South and North Rivers for holdovers. As water temperatures rise the feeding window of bass is increasing making Ponkapoag Pond, Dug Pond and Whitehall Reservoir good bets. Farther north consider Country Pond for crappie as well as Chebacco Lake. The wait for Wachusett Reservoir is almost over and for many a week from Saturday can’t come soon enough. Quabbin also gets the green light soon with opening day scheduled for two weeks after the Chu! Meanwhile central Mass through the Connecticut Valley Region options are pike in Indian Lake as well as voracious brown trout in the Swift River. In closing I’d like to end with the oft-repeated wise words from my late friend Carl Vining, “Keep the faith”!

18 on “Massachusetts Fishing Report – March 23, 2023

  1. Joppa man

    Sorry for your loss Ron, always a difficult time when a good friend leaves us unexpectedly. It’s cool you got to fish with him one more time

    1. Ron

      Thanks JM, by the way I really appreciate your positive posts on this column through the years!

  2. Ed Shaw

    Dam it 😥Sorry to hear that Ron. Short story about Carl Before he went in to his knee surgery, I was talking to him and his best friend Dave down at the Mistics. They both were pulling they’re boat up the hill when all of a sudden Carl fell down and couldn’t get back up. That’s when I went over and picked him up off the ground. You’d think I handed him a million bucks he’s was so great full that I help him, always strike up a conversation with you, sweet man! RIP Carl 🎣

  3. Hyett

    Ron, I’m sorry for your loss. I think I used to see him by Spectacle Island in a yellow boat. Keep the faith.

  4. Bob L

    I grew up with Carl in Somerville. We started fishing at the Mystic Lakes on every opening day,the 3rd Sat. in April. We would get herring at the falls and lug them down to Lynn harbor to fish for stripers.We also fished,as kids off the rocks in Nahant. His brothers were big fishermen ,along with their father.I learned alot from them all. I have a lot of great memories of Carl, who was a very nice guy and a passionate fisherman. He will be greatly missed.

    1. Ron

      Thanks for sharing Bob! I was a lifeguard as a kid in East Boston when another fishing-obsessed guard who worked at Revere hurried over one day to fill me in on a guy slaying cows from the beach on live herring. I couldn’t fathom it. That guy ended up being Carl’s brother! Who would have guessed we’d be great fiends years later?

  5. paul cuzzupe

    Ron, this is so sad,we were all looking forward to fishing with Carl this season. A well written tribute to Carl and yes my head was nodding in agreement to all his attributes that you mentioned. He always encouraged me to “Paul, my boy,get down here with your clouser” I miss him already knowing that all the wonderful pictures he would send have ceased. He sent his final pic on tuesday at 8:49 . A picture i will always cherish!!!! I look forward to fishing with him again!!!!Love you Carl!!!!…. Paul Cuzzupe

    1. Ron

      You too Paul were part of Carl’s circle of friends and we’re all the better because of it. There was nothing he enjoyed more than to help others catch fish!

  6. Ron

    Hey Eddie, nice to hear from you we would often ask about you! I bet you’re chomping to get at the Chu with your swimbaits! I’ll never forget my Chessie, Dillon, swimming after your big plug at Spot! Thankfully you’re a faster retriever than he was!

  7. Steve

    Ron, Thank you for sharing
    such an accurate description of a kind and generous friend who we all loved and will miss. We will remember him every time we toss a line.

  8. Slappy

    So sad to hear about Carl. I enjoyed our early morning and post fishing chats. He was such a nice guy and he loved fishing so much! I’m glad I had the privilege of sharing the water with him.

    1. Ron

      Haddock indeed Walleye, one heck of a warmup for the season for sure! Looks like seriously good eats coming up for the Walleye household. I’m betting that we’re weeks away from a Three Bay fresh bass report from you!

      1. Walleye

        You bet Ron, can not say the stripers etc will be on the chew like off White Horse beach last season, but who knows as those juvenile hump backs sure did keep it interesting! Tight lines Ron.

  9. Brian Coombs

    I will truly miss Carl and our almost daily conversations. He was an unbelievable angler and an even better friend! Always kind and thoughtful. I hope he’s fishing in the clouds!
    (Keep the faith, kiddo!)

    Capt. Brian

  10. Brian Coombs

    I will truly miss Carl and our almost daily conversations. He was an unbelievable angler and an even better friend! Always kind and thoughtful. I hope he’s fishing in the clouds!
    (Keep the faith, kiddo!)

    Capt. Brian

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