Cape Cod Fishing Report- August 31, 2023

More albies fill in Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds, stripers and blues chase peanuts and mackerel in the Canal, and bonito and sea bass are biting south of the Vineyard.

Here one day, gone the next. Knowing how fast albies are, I suppose I should have expected them to disappear after the wind direction shifted 180 degrees from southwest to northeast between Wednesday and Thursday. Such a significant change in conditions in such a short time typically stirs things up a bit.

Albies are finally beginning to fill in around Vineyard Sound, but so far, they have not made their way into Buzzards Bay. Anglers are catching them on casting jigs as far down as the Elizabeths and in Woods Hole, but they can be very picky at times. On Wednesday I witnessed some frothing feeds in the slop on the south side, but the fish refused just about everything I put in front of them. Meanwhile, other kayak anglers were hooking into fish no problem by using jigs in the “electric chicken” color combo of pink and chartreuse. I did manage to stick one on an Albie Snax, but that fish popped off the hook. Thankfully, I was able to boat my first kayak albie of the season earlier that morning before the madness ensued. It exploded on albie whore fly that I dragged behind a 1-ounce casting egg.

This fish took an albie whore that I used on the casting egg rig. Don’t tell Jimmy Fee, but the egg is far superior to the bubble.

Although the albies have been in for a couple weeks, it’s still pretty early. The fishing will only improve from here.

Small bluefish are sticking around on the south side between Craigville Beach and Nobska Light, but there are a few larger fish in the mix. I saw a couple wanna-be gators tail slapping the surface as they leapt through the chop in pursuit of bait earlier this week. They’re not quite snappers or cocktails, but not quite gator status either. These blues were that perfect eater size. You know, the type of bluefish that pysch you up thinking you’re pulling up to an albie blitz, only to have your jig bitten clean off.

There are some larger bluefish in the Canal this week, along with schoolie stripers and a few slot-size fish. But if you’re looking for consistent bluefish action, Squibnocket is the place to be according to Captain Kurt Freund of Fishsticks Charters on Martha’s Vineyard. Small craft advisories have kept them at the dock for a few days, but when the skipper has gotten out, his charters have had mixed results. Their half-day trips have focused on bottom fishing for sea bass and fluke, and they’ve had to pick through a lot of shorts to find a few keepers. Longer trips provide more time to travel, and they’ve been able to put together a better bite further from home. On Sunday, the skipper took Martin Levenglick and family out to check out the Hooter and Paradise, which, he said, was a ghost town. They pressed on into the Nantucket Sound shoals and finally found some fish on Shovelful Shoal. Small bluefish and big black sea bass saved the day and provided plenty of fllets for a family dinner. Then, on Monday and Tuesday, Kurt made it out to Squibnocket where Eric Gustafson put the first bonito of the season, a 6 pounder, in the boat. They also caught bluefish of all sizes, along with scup, sea bass, fluke and a few tautog. And while Tuesday’s weather wasn’t the best, by preparing for the conditions and keeping an eye on the radar/forecast, their group was able to fish comfortably in their rain gear. Upon returning to Squibnocket with another charter, Gardner Stock fulfilled a 6-year quest to catch his first bonito, which was joined by bluefish of all sizes and a hefty 12-pounder. They also managed to catch a handful of scup and sea bass that would later go into ceviche.

Eric Gustafson shows off the first 2023 bonito for Fishsticks Charters, a thick 6-pounder.

To the east, on Nantucket, Rick Ramos reports that the 1st Annual August Blues Tournament is coming to a close this week and final winners will be announced on September 1st. The week 4 winners for largest bluefish are:

  • Beach Division: Gray Malitsky – 36.5 inches
  • Boat Division: Noah Karberg – 35.75 inches
  • Junior Division: Duke Kiriluk – 20 inches

Following the Nantucket Blues Tournament, anglers have plenty more to look forward to. The 18th Annual Nantucket Inshore Classic, which is open to all local and visiting anglers with great opportunities to catch bluefish, striped bass, false albacore and bonito while supporting the Nantucket Angler’s Club Scholarship fund.

Rick reported that beach fishing is improving as albies continue to fill in, and with Great Point access now open due to the last of the piping plovers leaving, anglers have been able to connect with bonito and albies on the inside to the North Lot. Snapper blues also continue to swarm the area for surfcasters.

From the boat, Captain Corey Gammill of Bill Fisher Outfitters, reported that the East side of the island is loaded with bigger bluefish from Coskata down to Sankaty. Bonito fishing reported as better on the south shore with a consistent bite on the Miacomet Rip to Tom Nevers.  Albies and bonito are on the Bonito Bar and there are a lot of snapper blues to the west end of the island.

Rick also reported that there has been an abundance of brown sharks around Nantucket this season. Dan Holmes of ACK Surfcasting reported that shark fishing has been fantastic while giving opportunities to support shark tagging initiatives that provide scientists with important information on life histories, population sizes, movement and migratory patterns, all of which are important for shark conservation. Dan shared that there have been four reported sand tiger sharks caught on Nantucket this summer and he had the opportunity to tag a 110-inch tiger this past weekend.

Justin Arvedon landed this 110-inch sand tiger shark on a guided trip with Dan Holmes of ACK Surfcasting. This shark was tagged and will now provide scientists with important information for shark conservation.

Rick mentioned “As a friendly reminder to anyone interested in shark fishing, please be prepared with a good understanding of proper handling, hook removal, release and the right gear for the job.  Remember that all recreational shark anglers are required to use non-offset circle hooks.  If fishing from shore, be sure to check with state officials to make sure you follow all local laws.”

Back across the sound, Evan Eastman at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth said he went out on Monday for albies near Hedge Fence, but didn’t see too much besides marking some fish beneath the boat. So, he headed over to Nobska and it was overcrowded with boats and kayaks and a small school of pressured fish. After making a move, they found more albies stacked between Robinsons Hole and Quicks Hole. He also mentioned that the Cotuit area seems to have a good number of albies, although bluefish have been mixed in, which is consistent with what many anglers on the south side are experiencing. On top of the hardtails reports, Evan said a customer of his was catching some decent stripers in the backwaters around Bourne and Cataumet earlier this week. They weren’t anything to write home about, but it’s nice to hear of some bass being caught in Buzzards Bay an not just in the Cape Cod Canal.

And speaking of the Canal, Ditch veteran East End Eddie Doherty reports:

“Experienced surf rat Andrew Kuznarowis from Centerville had a very productive mid Canal outing, battling over 20 bass up to 35 inches with his green mack Savage. There were 2-hour blitzes on Saturday and Sunday that produced slots and bigger from the West End to the middle of the Canal. The powerful effects of the month-ending super moon will hopefully have rods bent up and down the Big Ditch. Harold Skelton is hosting another Family Fishing Tournament from September 15 -17 to benefit Fishing for the Mission 22 that assists veterans in distress. The event covers the Canal and all Massachusetts waters. There is a $75 entry fee for adults, including a t-shirt with a discount for kids. Kickoff parties are scheduled for September 14 at 4 locations including Stone Path Malt, Wareham.”

Staying true to Eddie’s report, Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay said the Canal is packed with bluefish, and with them are a fair amount of slot-size striped bass, with some under and some overs. They’re feeding on macks and peanut bunker, with topwater being the main producer of fish in the morning, and transitioning to a jig bite later in the day. Connor mentioned that the shop should be getting more FishLab soft macks restocked very soon, so for all you Canal regulars, get them while you can. In other news, Connor shared that albies were pushing west in Vineyard Sound earlier this week. He found some finicky schools around Nobska and Woods Hole, but they were very quick up and down. If the albies keep moving west, they should be in Buzzards Bay any day. And speaking of Buzzards Bay, there’s been an uptick in keeper fluke activity around the Mashnee Flats. Grab your Gulp and bucktails to put a few keepers on the table over the long weekend.

Also remaining hopeful for albies in Buzzards Bay were the guys at Macos Bait and Tackle. They said albies are being caught around the Islands with more consistency and now that there are more fish in Woods Hole, they should begin to peel out of the Sound and up into Buzzards, where there is a buffet of baitfish moving in and out of the harbors, just waiting to be gobbled down. The fishing in the Canal, they added, has been hit or miss at times, with the most reliable bite being stripers from schoolie to slot size taking topwaters in the West End most mornings around sunrise. Boost your leader to a higher breaking strength if you want to keep your plugs, because blues are mixed in with them.

Ben at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis also experienced the inconvenience of ravaged soft plastics on account of small bluefish mixing in with albie schools. He did say, however, that Tuesday was probably his best day of albie fishing ever, landing 14 fish in sloppy conditions. Ben said the albies were clearly eating bay anchovies, but they weren’t taking jigs; instead, they were all over the Albie Snax, while the jigs made them a bit more picky and indecisive. He did land two on jigs out of the 14, before discovering that Snax were the key. Unfortunately, some of those Snax were sacrificed to the bellies of cocktail blues. He also saw one angler next to him pull a Spanish mackerel from the albie schools, but the macks don’t seem to be in as thick as they have been in years past. Perhaps more will show in the coming weeks. On the striped bass front, Ben said Barnstable Harbor continues to produce some consistent striper reports, with the fish most actively feeding at night on plugs. Bottom fishing has been slow if you’re looking for a meal, but Ben said he was catching short sea bass every drop earlier this week, which, going into a holiday weekend, is a great way to entertain young ones and get them hooked on the sport.

When I spoke to Captain Cam Faria of Cambo Charters, he told me that sea bass fishing is lights out south of the Vineyard.  He is finding a ton of bluefish there too, and noted that the bluefish are getting smaller with lots of 3- and 4-pound fish, which he was happy to see because they’re the perfect size for bluefin tuna bait. Cam also reported finding good numbers of chicken mahi south of the Vineyard, and he even spotted some tuna while down there sea bassing. The commercial season reopens on Sunday, so he’s keeping an eye on the conditions and hoping to get out there in search of some giants, whether that be in Cape Cod Bay, south of the Islands, or out east.

From Cape Cod Bay and the Outer Cape, Captain Elena Rice of Reel Deal Fishing Charters in Truro reported that bluefin tuna have been crushing the RonZ this week, with the silver color producing hook-ups on good sized bluefin tuna when conditions seem otherwise not so great. Their 15 year-old son, Merrick, recently caught a 58-inch tuna on a RonZ. And while the silver RonZ has been bringing fish to the boat, Elena noted that they are still dealing with some inconsistency in the tuna bite, but it is improving and should continue to do so rolling into September. She said the Reel Deal boats have openings starting in early October for anyone looking to reserve a charter. The skipper also mentioned that striped bass and blues are still hitting well, although this time of year they tend to see bonito in the area too, which has not happened yet.

Merrick Rice hooked and landed this 58-inch bluefin on a RonZ this week.

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

This weekend, expect a fair amount of boat traffic. With Sunday being the only exception, the weekend wind and weather conditions look beautiful. Temperatures in the low 70’s with a slight breeze are prime inshore fishing conditions, and if I had to guess, there will be plenty of boats making the run south of the Vineyard again this weekend. It sounds like there have been some promising signs of life to the east as well, according to Captain Cam Faria.

The inshore scene has really exploded with more albies in Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds, bonito off the south side of the Vineyard, where anglers can also find bluefish of all sizes, and some good sea bass fishing as well. Bonito, bluefish and sea bass sounds like a pretty stellar day to me. Back between Cape and the Islands, albies are taking jigs, soft plastics and flies; if you’re like me, keep 2 or 3 rods rigged up with one of each of the aforementioned offerings to boost your odds at hooking up without having to constantly cut and retie. It makes more sense for kayak anglers, who are more spatially limited compared to boaters. You’ll waste less time fumbling around with pliers/line cutters and hooks with an extra rod or two. On my kayak, I keep a jig rod, an Albie Snax rod, and a casting egg-and-fly setup.

Scup are still biting on bottom in Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds, and if you are lucky, you may drop down into some keeper sea bass. They’re on the move. Out of boredom, I dropped my Exo Jig to the bottom on the past few albie trips and was able to bring a couple just-barely-keeper sea bass to hand. The sea bass season closes on September 7, so this time next week you’ll have to let ’em go. Of course, the season closing date will ironically coincide with the time of year when sea bass can be found blitzing on the surface with bluefish and hardtails—something I have only ever experienced around Cape Cod. Point being, enjoy catching keeper sea bass while you can!

Striper fishing remains at its best in the Canal, but in the next couple weeks as fish slowly begin to migrate south (if they haven’t already), the harbors and rivers will come back to life for a bit as baitfish continue to file out of the backwaters. Then, the fall run will be in full swing. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the dilemma of deciding whether to fish for bass in the dark, or rise bright and early to chase albies in the kayak. That’s a good problem to have.

This weekend, exercise a bit of extra caution on the water. It’s one of the last busy weekends of the season, and you can bet there will be a ton of boats and kayaks on the water. Especially when chasing around albies, keep your head on a swivel and be respectful to other anglers around you. And most importantly, remember to have fun.

I hope you all have a great Labor Day weekend. Thanks for reading, and may your lines be tight all weekend long.

2 on “Cape Cod Fishing Report- August 31, 2023

  1. William Laberis

    An albie whore, as you say in your first photo? Seriously? Ca’mon, guys. That’s sick.

    1. bluefish

      It’s one of the most productive Albie flies ever made. I don’t get what is “sick”?

      Try one out and you’ll see it is very effective in Albies/Bonito.

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