Massachusetts Fishing Report – May 18, 2023

The reaction of the general public the last few days when stepping out of the house has been something like “brrrr, it’s cold”! Striper hounds have had a different take, ruminating that the high pressure has sunk the bass bite. Your outlook however should be decidedly more positive now as we lose the bluster and gain a new moon!

The night shift knows full well what a high pressure front does to the bite. We often see big bass within the shadows of the shoreline in the summer seemingly resting but still willing to feed. Short of a 30′ Center Console barging into the middle of the school nothing unnerves those fish quite like a high pressure front. At the onset of Alberta Clippers those bass beat a hasty retreat for deeper water and develop lockjaw. Once conditions normalize and we get a benevolent southern flow, the fish move back in and all is well again. If you’re paying attention to the weather forecast as well as the lunar schedule than you are aware that there is the ideal combo of southern winds/new moon that is upon us. I have a strong suspicion that there will be big bass caught this weekend!

Andy Nabreski flounder
Andy Nabreski with a fine CCB flattie take aboard the Little Sister.

Massachusetts South Shore/South Coast Fishing Report

Of course not all begins and ends with striped bass. OTW’s Andy Nabreski and myself seized the opportunity Sunday to jump aboard the Little Sister with Captain Jason Colby. Having fished for flounder for over half a century, the view from Sesuit Harbor out through Cape Cod Bay seemed all wrong. I thought, “Where are the islands, the rips, the upwellings, the obvious structure of any kind?”. The wrong quickly turned into right once we started loading up on blackbacks on the very first drift. If you have flounder fished before you get it, if you haven’t you have to give it a try, the feel required to “feather” the bite and other nuances which begat total satisfaction from turning a hesitant winter flounder to a fish flopping on the deck is like nothing else. What’s also incomparable is how sweet the fillets are.

Mike and Dan Little Sister flounder
Mike and Dan were part of a 7 man crew who limited out while fishing with Captain Jason Colby on Sunday.

The crew of 7, including the captain, limited out easily to the tune of 56 flounder! The bite included a nice tautog taken by Andy and we tossed back many keeper flounder that were under 14”. Having fished with Jason for flounder a gazillion times before it was odd not to set anchor once or chum as everything was on the drift. While much was different aboard the Little Sister compared to the skippers two-decade-stay in Boston Harbor the results were reminiscent of 10 years ago – a red hot flounder bite!

Word really does travel fast. No sooner did I hear from Captain Dave Panarello, who heard from Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing, about big Buzzards Bay blues. Word came in from many fronts as casters were chirping about choppers on the South Coast. I had to call up the man himself for confirmation to which Brian replied, “Oh yeah, gators up to 17 pounds!”. I’d say that qualifies for a big blue! The fish were pushing and pummeling pogies all the way over towards the Westport side of Buzzards Bay and it was described as – bedlam! Best of all, those big blues are in a sporting mode and ripe to be taken by big topwaters which in Brian’s case have been Heddon Super Spooks with the treble hooks swapped out for singles. He’s also steering clear of steel and instead opting for 50 pound fluorocarbons leaders and having no issues with chomp offs.

Get Tight Sportfishing bluefish
Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing has been giving patrons the blues.

Minutes into my conversation with Mark Rowell of Legit Fish Charters regarding a hot haddock bite on the South Shore he put the whereabouts of the fish in perspective when he said that I could catch these fish from my kayak – they are that close! The feeling among many is that when sea herring come inshore, they draw in predators such as cod and haddock. Right now all three species are hovering over irregular bottom from Plymouth through Cohasset in water as shallow as 75 feet. Clams are the key to catching them up in spite of fish being a forage for these gadoids. As for stripers, Captain Mark Rowell said that the South Shore is fishing as if it were June with blitzes and feeding bass par for the course outside of Green Harbor, Scituate Harbor and off area beaches.

Pete from Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate said that east of Stellwagen, big pollock are all the rage! If you’ve ever had 20 pound class pollock slamming jigs then you know full well how exciting “Boston bluefish” can be. He told me that Captain Rob Green from Elizabeth Marie Charters has found a nice load of mixed groundfish species towards Wildcat Knoll.

The shad run in the North River is in full swing and while we’re on the subject of rivers, Bill Hurley of Bill Hurley Lures has been putting his squid baits to good use on the South River and the last I heard his drag was screaming.

Greater Boston Fishing Report

I don’t often get a Boston report from Tomo of Tomo’s Tackle in Salem but as soon as he spoke I knew that this one has to be the lead-in. While recently jigging up mackerel from the BG Buoy Tomo along with other boaters found stripers on the move willing to whack their macks. In fact one guy, taken to live-lining a mackerel under a float, landed a 48” fish! Could this be the first, albeit early, wave of hot harbor hump fishing? It could also be due to an influx of adult greenback herring which when colliding with migrating bass can lead to explosive fishing between the NC Buoy, the BG Buoy and Graves Light. Once that happens, southern winds will often move them towards the shoreline lighting up area beaches from Winthrop through Revere. Surf casters, kayakers and boaters could do well this weekend spending some time in close and at night with Metal Lips, Magic Swimmers, Coltsnipers and Mag Darters. As for flounder, on all fronts it’s looking like a bounce back year for Boston’s beloved blackback!Dovetailing nicely with that is the rebirth of Fishing FINatics Zobo Flounder Tournament. After a pandemic fueled absence, this family friendly event is back! I’ve participated in a number of them and can attest to the positive vibe in this equal opportunity event. In the past even shore anglers have figured into the top categories. See Pete Santini or Denise at their shop in Everett for details. As for where the flounder are biting, Pete told me “all the old spots” have fish! Deer Island Flats, Long Island, Sculpin Ledge, Hospital Shoals, George’s Island – you name it, flounder are on the feed! As for stripers follow the river herring, that’s what a lot of stripers are doing.

Meagan Haley striped bass
Meagan Haley caught this harbor slot recently while aboard On The Rocks.

Lisa from Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy told me that surf fishers casting clams off Nantasket Beach, as well as Hull Gut, are catching mixed sizes of stripers up to 40”. There have been blitzes in the Neponset River as well as herring runs in the Weymouth Back, Charles and Mystic Rivers. Mackerel are in close just off Hull as well as the outer harbor islands. For flounder check out the Bumpkin Island Shoals, by the Coast Guard Station inside Hull and the Peddock Island coves. Squid are still in off Nut Island Pier and I’m even hearing of surfcasters hooking up to corker cephalopods while casting for stripers.

• Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain for Massachusetts

Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report

My buddy Dave Flaherty from Nahant wields a sabiki rig as if it was a divining rod as he searches out what bait is prevalent. Lately he’s finding pollock, including pan-sized foot long fish, mackerel, and maybe most importantly – sea herring! From groundfish to tuna to striped bass, fish crave sea herring and having them in abundance is a signal that solid striped bass will not be far behind. With the proper prey present, combined with a favorable air pressure and new moon, dusk to dawn should be on your agenda. According to Tomo from Tomo’s Tackle, the formula for finding the bass is simple: find the bait and you’ll find the fish. That “bait” consists of river herring, sea herring and mackerel. With sea herring and mackerel moving in close on the North Shore check out Dread Ledge, Tinker’s Island, Castle Rock, Halfway Rock and Misery Island. The Kernwood Bridge area has given up a few bass recently as well. Those fishing for flounder among the pilings of that bridge and others throughout the Danvers River may come tight to a tautog. As for river herring the Merrimack River is where it’s at with all stretches of the river producing stripers up to the mid-40” range!

John from Three Lantern Marine told me that anglers aren’t having to go far for the bait or the bass as both are present in Gloucester Harbor. Mackerel are in the harbor as are stripers and squid. Flounder can still be found among the inner coves and flats. The catching is good in other areas in Cape Ann such as Manchester-by-the-Sea, Magnolia, the Backshore, Halibut Point and Coffin’s Beach. Off the rocks, harbor pollock are plentiful with much bigger out by Jeffrey’s Ledge.

Liz from Surfland Bait and Tackle in Newburyport said that in spite of Parking Lot 1 and Sandy Point being the only spots open at the refuge, anglers are doing well with seaworms. Surfland patrons are living up to their billing and roaming the surf and catching well with Savage Sand Eels and other sand eel imitators. With low morning tides this weekend, the mouth of the Merrimack River should be good with 1/2 to 1 ounce jigs of all sorts accounting for a lot of fish on the outgoing. Liz also weighed in about the Merrimack River being the hotbed of action for big fish. Water levels have dropped making it less harrowing to cast expensive wares among tree branches. Apparently the river bank trees were decorated with Docs and all kinds of striper lures as anglers were hanging up trying to cast among the brush. Something tells me makers of those plugs never intended them to be worked among that kind of structure.The shop has a demo day planned this Saturday with plans for a host of major players to be present from a myriad of manufacturers, if your schedule is free check this one out.

Massachusetts Fishing Forecast

The combination of more bait, more bass, favorable air pressure and a new moon leads to one conclusion – you should be striper fishing this weekend! On the South Shore, the South and North Rivers hold herring and hungry striped bass. The arrival of sea herring and mackerel is spreading out the bite to include area beaches and spots just outside of harbors. If groundfishing is your gig than you won’t have to head far for haddock off Scituate or flounder in Cape Cod Bay. Regarding Buzzards Bay, big blues are bingeing on bunker and should the ball of bait/blues make it’s way through the canal, the Three Bays may get toothies to target. The arrival of sea herring pushing into the Boston Humps appears to be leading large linesiders towards inshore haunts possibly off Broad Sound Beaches. The North Shore has no shortage of bait either with sea herring, mackerel, squid, pollock and river herring all attracting stripers. For a shot at a May cow, consider the Merrimack River and while you’re at it take a look at the overhanging branches, you just might find your next lucky plug waiting for you!

13 on “Massachusetts Fishing Report – May 18, 2023

  1. Walleye

    Bluefish already hit the three bays as talented fly guy Jeff Mendell can attest too last Monday morn! Tight Lines.

  2. Ron

    I don’t know the dude but if Walleye vouches for him he’s gotta be good!

  3. Ron

    That’s dam good fishing H.T.! Did you get a feel for what they were feeding on?

  4. Walleye

    Ron, Jeff is a local legend on the south shore with fly guys, and has fought many species on my vessel , and around the country. By the way, there are some nice hickory shad showing up on the Duxbury flats mid tide. Tight lines.

  5. H.T

    Two beauties this morning at first light! A 42 inch and a 36 inch!

    Tight lines

    1. Ron

      !!!!! Nice H.T.! No sweeter sound than a screaming drag! What did you get ‘em with?

  6. Ron

    Those hickory shad are so much fun and when live-lined in the still of the night do not catch schoolies!

  7. Cape

    Section 6.17 – Shad and River Herring
    (1)Purpose. 322 CMR 6.17 is promulgated to conserve river herring and shad consistent with the Interstate Management Plan for Shad and River Herring, established by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The harvest of both shad and river herring is prohibited in Commonwealth waters, except when the Director determines that harvest from a particular run is sustainable. For river herring, a person may possess or land a batch of bait fish that comprises up to 5% of river herring, by count, if the bait fish is caught in federal waters.
    Batch means all fish in any separate container.

    Catch and Release means a method of angling whereby all catch is released immediately following capture to ensure survival.

    Container means any box, tote, bag, bucket or other receptacle containing loose fish which may be separated from the entire load or shipment.

    Land means to transfer or offload fish from a vessel onto any dock, pier, wharf or other artificial structure used for the purpose or receiving fish.

    Managing Entity means the municipality or other entity with the authority under with M.G.L. c. 130, § 94 to control and regulate a river herring spawning run.

  8. Cape

    Ron you should know this!!!
    You hack along with your goons!!!!!
    Illegal to keep or use Shad for bait in the state of MA.
    This is why I call this magazine “The Lying Mag.”
    Bunch of hacks who have other people tell them where to fish. How to fish, and remind the hacks of MA. Fishing Regs.
    Shame one you Ron for telling readers to use shad for bait!
    You speak of protecting fish but you have know idea of the fishing Regs.

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