As herring runs wither, the front line has shifted from rivers to embayments and harbors. Herring still matter greatly, however, as stripers hunt them down as they fall back to the sea.
Anglers looking for linesider love can almost draw a line from rivers where bass have been hot on herring to downstream areas where the spent alewives and bluebacks are migrating back to the sea. Should you find a spot where two such herring runs converge, such as is the case in Boston, then spend some serious time there. In addition to greenbacks, bluebacks, alewives and pogies, there’s another “herring” drawing interest – hickory shad – from both anglers and seriously large stripers.
Massachusetts South Shore/South Coast Fishing Report
While you’ll still find striped bass around herring runs such as the Town River, South River and North River, the feed has followed the forage farther out. I wasn’t surprised to hear Captain Mark Rowell of Legit Fish Charters tell me that Scituate Harbor has woken up and stripers now can be found all throughout it. Tinker macks just outside the harbor as well as outside of The Gurnet are a snack too tempting to pass up for stripers still sniffing around for river herring. Mark also talked about tautog in the 5 to 6 pound category which are mostly finished with spawning in estuaries and have now taken up residence among rockpiles, wrecks and ledges as close as a 1/2 mile off the coast of the South Shore. In order to buy live crabs you’ll have to travel to a cape shop, but a loaded crab trap placed near marinas or bridges most anywhere along the South Shore should find its mark in short order. Seaworms and clams, while not as effective as crabs, make for adequate bait also. Many of that same inshore structure holds cod as well, but for haddock, count on steaming to the “mud” on Stellwagen or east of it. What you won’t have to work too hard to catch is those darn sea ravens which seem to be everywhere.
Pete Belsan of Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate told me that deep water trollers using mackerel for bait are catching stripers up to the mid-30 pound category. Seventy feet of water seems to be the sweet spot for the action. The upstream action in the North River has transitioned outward towards Fourth Cliff and The Spit. Mackerel inshore are hit or miss but what anglers are easily finding among structure is cod. That information made a nice segue to South Shore tautog. For those, Pete picked Farnham Rock, Cowan Rock, the “sisters” off Egypt Beach and Beadles Rocks.
Regarding tautog, Buzzards Bay tog should be worried as Captain Jason Colby is picking up his Little Sister from Sesuit Harbor this week and dumping it into Westport for the duration of the season until nearly December! Black sea bass will be the primary target initially but so will fluke and tautog. Striped bass, bluefish, cod, bonito, false albacore and even mahi mahi will all be on play when available. It’s a safe bet that if it swims in Buzzards Bay, it will be on the agenda for Captain Colby beginning next week.
Greater Boston Fishing Report
I’ve known for quite a while that Captain Brian Coombs has a knack for getting striped bass to feed but I never thought he’d be adept at “spoon feeding” them! Get Tight Sportfishing is all in on flutter spoons, which when worked properly, mimic the herring under siege by Boston bass – big time! River herring are exiting the Mystic River and Charles River en masse and slot size and larger stripers are focusing in on that preferred prey. The other option that has been effective is tossing/trolling a live mackerel into the fray. Captain Brian has been finding macks at all the usual haunts some of which are worth considering are Flip Rock, the 2 Can, BG Buoy and Graves Light. The other bait option is harbor pollock which can be found off Nahant, Roaring Bulls as well as the outer islands. Captain Dave Panarello aboard his Cast Right Lund has been clobbering the same harbor stripers on the hunt for herring with SP Minnows.
Not all is in the harbor or nothing according to Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics in Everett. Herring held up by the inlet leading to the casino are holding nice bass which are taking topwater plugs and swimmers. Johnny “Plankton” Hoffman has been trolling the Santini tube-and-worm by Spectacle Island, Long Island and Lovells Island and catching well. Pete said the he’s seen some of the pictures of Johnny hefting those fish and they looked huge! Flounder continue to be caught from the shoreline/piers of Deer Island and Lynn Harbor.
Lisa from Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy said that one of the shop sharpies has been chunking up all kinds of stripers off World’s End in Hingham. Anglers trolling the tube and worm by Jackknife Ledge, Veezie Rocks, Seal Rock and Sunken Ledge are all reporting a steady striper bite.
Not only can fine flounder fishing be found among the coves of Peddock Island, but for those targeting tautog it’s terrific! I sure didn’t see that last one coming, but evidentially Captain Roger Brousseau, previously of the iconic Midnight Charters, has found a pile of them there!
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Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report
Parts of the North Shore, as well as northern Greater Boston, are experiencing a spike in hickory shad. My buddy Joe Holey has been catching them up on Clousers and other flies in the Lynn area. Right around the same time, I got wind of those hickorys in the Saugus River from Tomo of Tomo’s Tackle. These bombastic members of the herring family are sporting in their own right, grow to 18”, and will strike all manner of lures/flies that emulate silversides or other small prey they feed on. They also leap repeatedly when hooked. Nighttime is the best time to target them when they can be found near docks, piers and bridge pilings. Moving current matters as well, when they will stage downstream of the structure. They also make for excellent bait for monster bass! Tomo told me that the stretch from Marblehead Harbor to Salem Harbor has been productive for him, especially when mackerel are deployed. Flounder fishing continues to have its fans with Swampscott and Beverly among the better blackback bets. Mackerel can be found near Tinker’s Island.
According to TJ from Three Lantern Marine, the action has transitioned from rivers and harbors towards the open ocean. Pogy schools, along with prowling striped bass, have been found off Magnolia, the Dogbar Breakwater, Thatcher Island and Halibut Point. Mackerel are always an effective bait worked among the bunker bait balls and those can be jigged up from the Groaner out to the Salvages. Tuna are moving into Jeffrey’s Ledge where a mixed groundfish bite is on.
If ever there was an apt title for a tackle shop, Surfland Bait and Tackle in Newburyport would be it. The crew and it’s patrons are as dialed into wading the rollers as any you’ll find in the Bay State. While the winds were whipping and seas booming, there was a contingent of diehards beaching big bass! One of them was Kevin who works in the shop. He told me that he knew of 40 pounders that were caught off the ocean front and he should know, since he was toe-to-toe with some of those guys. While he didn’t get any that big, his consolation prize was 30 pounders. Beachmaster and 247 Lures needlefish plugs, which track true and work great when the surf is up, have been most effective. In fact Kevin told me that 247 Lures turns out a signature Surfland color needle exclusively for the shop, the color of which is black/blood red. Anyone familiar with the Canal knows full well how historically hot Slug-Gos in that color have always been. While you can’t buy a Slug-Go in that color anymore, you can get a Surfland Needlefish in it. Continuing with the theme of stripers moving away from herring runs, upstream areas of the Parker and Merrimack Rivers have grown cold while Plum Island Sound and Joppa are jumping.
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
Rivers are yesterday’s news while bays and harbors are booming with bass now. Look for a bass/bird show in the Three Bays, Green Harbor and Scituate Harbor on the South Shore. The fish are feeding on river herring so opt for big offerings. You’ll have to work for your mackerel but once found make for a perfect snack as the stripers chase the herring. Not far offshore tautog gather around structure as do catch-and-release cod. Flounder are flourishing off Peddock Island and can even be found from Deer Island Pier and the Lynn Harbor shoreline. The swath of the harbor from the Hyatt Hotel through the “blue roof” building by the Reserve Channel are holding stripers on the hunt for herring as well as scattered schools of pogies. Up your chances of scoring by using flutter spoons, SP Minnows or mackerel. Odds are that if hickory shad are in the Saugus River/Lynn Harbor area they have to be the bays/marinas of the harbor. But don’t bother looking for them during the day, they are nocturnal hunters. Mackerel can be found off of Tinkers Island with a trip from Marblehead Harbor through Salem Harbor proving productive. While most are licking their chops that the seas are settling, Surfland sharpies are licking their wounds from handling so many cows among the combers!