The humid summer heat hasn’t given anglers much of a break in recent weeks, but as our inshore waters warm beneath the baking sun, more tiny baitfish file into our beaches and back bays. Just off of the south-facing beaches, there have been cocktail bluefish chasing them around at sunrise, leaping from the water in pursuit. Meanwhile, in the inlets to bays, harbors and salt ponds, fluke stage along channel edges and utilize changing bottom contour to take advantage of the schools moving in and out with the tide.
And you know it’s officially peak summer when juvenile black sea bass have fully inundated jetties, fishing piers and near-shore reefs. Joined by surprisingly elusive northern puffers and overly-aggressive scup, these tiny sea bass are nipping the tails off of Gulp intended for fluke. It’s been challenging to get through them at times. Even so, early morning wet wading has helped to keep the skunk away, which is fine by me for the middle of summer.
Stripers haven’t been as willing to take the small metals that cocktail bluefish are willing to grab in the morning, but that’s fine. The larger stripers are hunkered down deep in many of those larger inlets and river mouths where fluke can be found. I caught a few small bass on jigs locally during the nights I’ve been out. But, when the locals won’t cooperate there’s always the Outer Cape beaches, Cape Cod Bay and of course, the Canal—all of which have cooler water temps than Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds. Schoolie bass (and a few larger fish) are still sitting in the rips off of Monomoy, taking Albie Snax and walk-the-dog style topwaters from boat anglers. They’re the perfect size stripers for fly fishing too. You’ll know if they’re there immediately, as you can see the schoolies cruising in the waves in pursuit of prey. Further north around Provincetown and Race Point, the bluefish remain, but so do some quality bass. There have been plenty of mackerel and squid for them to feed on there. This has been a stellar year for bluefish coast-wide.
Boat fishermen are still finding large bluefish in open water by trolling minnow plugs and deep-divers on the south side of Martha’s Vineyard, where there are whispers of sizable bonito already hitting the deck for some high-speed trollers. On bottom, sea bass continue to hold deep around heavy structure in Vineyard Sound and southern Buzzards Bay, with most of the action reserved to 80-foot depths between Westport and the Elizabeth Islands, as well as on the south side of the Vineyard. Scup are with them too, but boat fishermen are more likely to find concentrations of scup in slightly shallower water, where chumming is an effective technique to help build a bite.
The Canal bite has been spotty, with certain portions of the ditch seeing explosive topwater feeds every morning, and other stretches being dead quiet. There’s still plenty of mackerel around to generate a good bite, but I’ve been on a Canal hiatus since the weekend. So, to give you a better idea of the day-to-day activity down there, Canal regular East End Eddie Doherty reports:
“The 5-day lull just turned around as the Canal came back to life with striped bass chasing whiting and tinker macks. “Breakin’ Bob” Weir had 19 fish to his credit on Friday with several 20 to 25 pounders that fell for his white FishLab. Legendary surfcaster Kenny Nevens brought dozens of stripers to the rocks including a 44-inch, 30 pounder that attacked his bone-colored Yo Zuri twitch bait. Zak Baker was reeling in above slots like they were trying to find the hook on his white FishLab, including a fat 42-inch linesider. Tim “Hollywood” Petracca caught fish all morning, including a 46-incher on the east tide, and Bill “On the Grill” Prodouz was next to him reeling in stripers of all sizes; he later landed a 35-pounder on a green mack colored swimmer that measured out to 45 inches. Bill caught so many fish he lost track, but I could see he was busy by the calluses, cuts and bass mouth scratches on his rod hand!
July 27 is the free Family Fishing Night at the CCC Visitor Center, 60 Ed Moffit Drive, Sandwich from 5-8pm. Hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers, there will be a limited number of rods & bait provided for kids under 16, as well as instruction by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. No pre-registration is required, 508-833-9678.”
Dom at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay reports:
“The Canal has been great still, with a lot of fish biting toward the east end on the west tide, which is sort of weird. Guys are catching them on everything from jigs to topwater plugs to loaded pencils. There’s a ton of mackerel still around. In Buzzard’s Bay, fluke and sea bass are the main event, but sea bass are pretty deep right now so it takes a little bit more work to find a god pile of them. We’ve also heard that there are a couple bonito starting to move in down around the Elizabeth Islands!”
Grady at Macos Bait and Tackle in Buzzards Bay reports:
“Canal bite has been really good this week throughout most of the Ditch. All of the fish are on mackerel and they’re biting topwaters, but subsurface plugs seem to be pulling some of the larger fish. Most of the bigger fish we’ve seen caught have been on SP Minnows, Magic Swimmers, jigs and loaded pencils. Out in the bay has been slow for stripers, but there are a ton of bluefish around so people are beating them up in the bay. The fluke fishing has also picked up in Buzzards Bay, with some larger fish hitting the deck while sea bass have been more challenging to find as they pack into deeper water.”
Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth reports:
“I trolled up a bunch of bonito on Tuesday morning which was pretty great, but I must say, it was sad to see so many commercial draggers out there. We headed south even though we hadn’t heard of anything in the way of hardtails, but we got out there, set up to troll and caught eight small bonito in the 2-pound range.
There were also a ton of bluefish out by Gay Head, one of which was my personal best, a 38-inch blue that must have been pushing 20 pounds. They were blitzing on the surface with ferocity like albies and boats were chasing them around as they crashed on pods of small bait. It felt like the fall run. Our buddy boat caught a half dozen stripers early on, and then it turned into the bluefish show as the morning progressed. Back around Falmouth, there are some quality bass eating eels locally, with several customers doing well on Al Gag’s Whip-It Eels at night, and one customer of ours saying he caught a near 50-incher on a live eel.”
Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain around Cape Cod and the Islands!
Captain Ross of Cape Cod Charter Guys in Bourne reports:
“We’re still getting stripers and blues 7 days a week, although we do have to travel for them a bit. There are tons of big bluefish spitting up full-size pogies when we get them boat side, and we’re even finding some slot bass which has been refreshing to see with that new slot window. However, we have also found a handful of 40-pound class stripers mixed in with some of those jumbo bluefish, gorging on pogies. The other main source of forage has been sand eels, with most of them being in the 3- to 5-inch range.”
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Captain Kurt Freund of Fishsticks Charters on Martha’s Vineyard reports:
“This week has been a real mixed bag. Here are some of the highlights. We went south of the Vineyard with Richard Chambers and his uncle Arthur on Monday and caught two beautiful yellowfin tuna on trolled Green Machine spreader bars. Many thanks to Bret Benway and son Mitchell, who came along as deckhands and whose experience and expertise were invaluable and much appreciated. High fives all around for a successful trip!
I continue to play hide-and-seek with the bluefish, and while it’s not nearly as good as it was a few weeks ago, I am finding some fish. Todd Collins and I caught a few on swimming plugs and glide baits while Jim Brinkley made a valiant attempt with the fly rod that yielded some nice black sea bass but no bluefish. Del Powell and friends, Nick and Wes caught some bluefish and black sea bass while educating me on some Philly slang. That jawn was hot and better than a package of Tastykakes.
Meanwhile, I have been hearing reports of excellent bluefishing, but beyond the range of my half-day trips. In late July and August, when all the close spots have been fished hard for close to 10 weeks, we often need more than a 4-hour trip to find the fish. There is excellent fishing to be had, but you have to be willing to put in the time and burn some more fuel to get there. That’s why I’m urging my guests to book at least a 6-hour trip in August.”
Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis reports:
“There’s a lot of bait around on the south side right now, and locally we’ve been seeing small bluefish caught from the beaches. It sounds like points further south, as well as up in Cape Cod Bay have been holding the larger bluefish for the past few weeks, and they’re taking just about anything you can get in front of them from topwaters to sand-eel imitating soft plastics like a RonZ. Bottom fishing has been decent for fluke recently with some larger 20+ inch keepers caught in Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds, but the bass fishing has been slow overall. There are some bass biting soft plastic jigs in the rivers at night, but most of them are very small and have overzealous appetites.”
Captain Cam of Cambo Charters reports:
“We’ve been striper fishing all week on eels a little further north past Boston, finding good fish up there at night. I went sea bassing on Sunday south of the Vineyard and limited out, which was great since it’s been a challenging sea bass season otherwise. Bluefish are everywhere down there too, there’s just so much bait around you can’t escape the blues at times. We’ve got a charter this week and keeping our eyes on the conditions so we can get back offshore for tuna when the wind dies down.”
Captain Elena Rice of Reel Deal Fishing Charters in Truro reports:
“Striped bass are hitting the jigs very well even later in the day, although their behavioral patterns with the tide are changing a bit – keeping our Captains agile for sure. Here’s a quick video from a recent trip with 6 tight lines on jigged up stripers: https://fb.watch/m2k1Eg4REO/.
The bluefin tuna hold their reputation as elusive, appearing well one day and then gone the next. Although it is still July, we look forward to them settling into more consistency as we enter August. Despite this, Captains Bobby and Ian still managed to recently put forked tails on the deck! Here’s a video of our team doubled up on tuna: https://fb.watch/m2j-SM-yeV/.”
Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain around Cape Cod and the Islands!
Cape Cod Fishing Forecast
Rain bait everywhere, bonito biting on the troll, big black sea bass hitting surface flies, stripers taking eels in sharky territory… it is starting to sound like the early Fall Run out there! July has flown by, water temperatures are super warm, the bait is here, and mid-summer fishing is unfolding just as it should. Bonito are in, and although they may be small, that is a great sign for the remainder of the summer and early fall. Last year, we hardly had bonito on the south side of Cape Cod; it seemed like the only concentration of them was the micro-bonito that anglers were catching with their mackerel at the east end of the Canal.
There’s no shortage of gator bluefish around Cape Cod, so pull out the heavy-duty topwaters and minnow plugs. They’re hitting minnow plugs on the troll, poppers and walk-the-dog plugs when bait is pinned to the surface, and soft plastics when they’re down deep. Depending on where you find them, you may tie into a few bass, which is more likely for anglers fishing in Cape Cod Bay.
The south side continues to flood with small baitfish like silversides, setting the stage for albies, Spanish mackerel and hopefully, more bonito, to come in shallow soon. Until then, schoolie bass will be slurping up the surface spearing and fluke will pick off stragglers from the deeper-dwelling schools. For the best chances at fluke, fish Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound. Conditions look a bit gusty for boating this weekend, so if the winds keep you at the dock, try your local sandy beach with a lightweight high-lo rig or bucktail/teaser rig tipped with Gulp.
Shark fishing should be good this weekend, although currents will be stronger on account of the approaching full moon, so opt for heavier sinkers in areas of heavy sweep to keep your bait stationary. The high winds from the west/southwest should push some bait in close and keep the bugs off of anglers on the beaches at night.
And of course, there’s always the option of searching for summer “exotics” by New England standards, like Northern kingfish and grey triggerfish. Small squid- or clam-baited hooks above a lightweight bank sinker will be the best bet for those trying to find a few bottom fish for the table— just be prepared to pick through small sea bass and scup.
Wherever fishing finds you this week, enjoy your time on the water, respect each other, be safe and fish hard.