The designated Grand Marshall at NASCAR races famously begins the event with the chant “Gentlemen start your engines”! I almost feel we should have a GM to kick off the September 1st cod season as the recreational community has gone cod crazy! From the Westport River to Wingaersheek Beach, shops are fielding questions about how to catch cod and charter captains have never been busier! As we turn the page into September, striped bass are increasingly feeding with purpose but are razor focused on specific forage. If you’re not offering them something similar to what’s on the menu you may be in for a frustrating day of fishing.
If you’re new to the game and in the middle of a bass-on-small bait blitz you may be finding that the fishing is heavy on frustration and light on fun. We are in the initial stages of the much hyped “fall run” and despite the need for striped bass to feed they can afford to be fussy. Peanut bunker, sand eels, herring fry and other types of small forage are abundant and easy pickings for striped bass and if you’re not very closely matching what they are munching on you’re going to be miserable. That will all change in a few weeks as we step firmly into September and dropping water temperatures along with other natural stimuli will compel those bass to chomp down on most anything thrown their way.
Nights will always shift the odds in your favor with everything from eels to needlefish plugs doing the trick, during daylight hours right now 4” on-average shads/paddletails, bucktail jigs, soft plastic stick baits and wide-profile casting spoons should result in less aggravation and more action. Again, give it a few weeks when the feeding window of striped bass will be substantially wider and a larger lure fished among the smaller forage will often pluck out bigger bass than what is apparent. Some theorize that it’s a case of the larger striped bass turning the tables on smaller predators such as herring, shad, mackerel and harbor pollock. But that is then and not now, when smaller is often better than bigger!
Massachusetts South Shore/South Coast Fishing Report
It’s amazing what a few cod will do! Beginning on Friday September 1st, anglers fishing George’s Bank as well as the Southern New England area of Massachusetts will be able to keep five cod at a minimum of 23” until May 31st of next year. Also beginning on Friday, anglers fishing the Gulf of Maine along with adjacent state waters get to keep one cod of a minimum of 22” with a season that doesn’t end until October 31st. Just that little opportunity to keep cod, has anglers all in and is a reminder of why for generations cod were the Bay State’s favorite fish.
According to Captain Mark Rowell of Legit Fish Charters, your keeper cod awaits you on the South Shore among most any interesting bottom structure in 75’ of water. On a recent haddock trip to Stone Ledge the crew had to cull through about 100 cod to catch a half dozen haddock! The patrons also put the pedal to an impressive porbeagle which was released after giving an upper state New York bunch an experience they never get up there. Stripers from schoolie to beyond slot are chasing peanuts in the Three Bays, Green Harbor, Scituate Harbor and among embayments all along the South Shore.
Pete from Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate recommends Stellwagen Ledge, the Shags, off Egypt Beach and Cowan Rock as convenient cod honey holes. Blues are still hanging in there scattering mackerel towards offshore but a few small schools of pogies have filled the big bait need nicely. Most blitzes are the result of bass chasing down peanut bunker so be equipped with artificials which match that forage. A few fluke can still be found in Duxbury Bay but they will be on their way offshore soon.
Captain Jason Colby of Little Sister Charters has a dizzying array of waypoints for black sea bass, tautog and – cod! Many of them are not mutually exclusive and with one week to go in the waning days of the black sea bass season – it’s possible he may be putting all three species in the “box”. Jason’s experience is that tog are beginning to aggregate now and are moving between rockpiles/wrecks making it important not to stay put too long over a favorite waypoint if it is slow.
Greater Boston Fishing Report
Having been in the business as long as he has, Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics in Everett knows a thing or two about cod and can practically gauge their movements in his sleep. With water temperatures still above 60 degrees your best chance of catching a brown bomber at the moment is at the humps beyond Boston’s B Buoy. As temperatures drop into the 50s expect them to migrate in through the North and South Channels as well as Nantasket Roads. By the end of October, President Roads often holds cod, in fact I’ve had the good fortune of hooking those cod by the latter channel while fishing with Captain Joe D’Orsi of Boston Fish Tales. In preparation, Pete is readying proven cod gear/rigs such as his famous pelican green teasers as well as pelican pink teasers. Of course, it’s still striper time and an influx of pogies between the Tobin Bridge and the Alford Street Bridge has brought on some big bass! Santini tube-and-wormers have been catching that same class of bass from there all the way into the casino. Surface feeds have been common between the Amelia Earhart Dam and Alford Street as initial waves of herring fry are welcomed by hungry stripers. There have also been some blues in close. I’ve caught big blues there while wading/casting topwaters in the wee hours of the morning and the ensuing mayhem is incomparable. This is “small” water and when a 10 pound blue slams a plug and jumps repeatedly on a calm night it is something you’re not likely to forget.
Lisa fromFore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy said that big bass and blues have been pushing pogies up against the Navy Cruiser – the USS Salem – in the Fore River. Frank Hogan pulled a 50” cow out of the bedlam! Peanut bunker have been drawing fire from mixed sizes of stripers throughout Quincy Bay/Hingham Harbor. Recent reports put action at World’s End, Bumpkin Island and Grape Island. Black sea bass continue to cooperate between Hull Gut and Bumpkin but expect a lot of shorts to go along with a few keepers (16 1/2” minimum). The tube-and-worm continues to crush it near Sunken Ledge and Hangman Island.
Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report
Tomo Tomo’s Tackle in Salem said that it’s all about the bunker in both peanut and pogy proportions! A few adults are still milling around among moorings in Salem Harbor with big bass, as well as the occasional blue, in tow. While some are live-lining, Tomo’s sticking with trolling Nomad and Rapala swimmers and catching well, especially near Children’s Island. The latter produced heartbreak for Tomo as a monster took him deeply into the rocks and scrubbed him off. Albie Snax have been the go-to offering in the midst of the peanut bunker surface feeds. Surf jockeys fishing at low light off Bass Rocks and other Cape Ann spots have been catching bass and blues on Strike King and 247 Lures needlefish. After hearing the glowing report of bass and blues off the rocks, I just had to nudge my buddy Dave The Dude” Flaherty out onto those Nahant Rocks to give it a go. I soon learned however that it was old news as he had already been engaged in trysts with toothies! While a few Al Gag’s blue/green Whip-it-Fish were donated to the fish gods, some found their mark on gators. His better half Jan, inspired him to get out there after swearing she could smell feeding fish. This is the time of the year when a keen olfactory sense pays off handsomely.
TJ from Three Lantern Marine in Gloucester told me that schools of peanut bunker have appeared in Manchester and Gloucester Harbors eliciting surface feeds from stripers and blues. As for all the cod interest, he said that anglers should have an easy time getting all the cod they want off Magnolia, the Salvages and Halibut Point.
Martha from Surfland Bait and Tackle in Newburyport told me that clouds of peanuts are the big news in the Plum Island area with the shop’s favorite spoon/jig – the Charlie Graves Tin Squid – flying off the shelves as a result! She said that while those things catch as well as paddletails they cast farther and can withstand the punishment that a blue dishes out. Don’t worry about them running out, Martha sent me a picture of the shop’s display and the walls are lined with them. Joppa is jammed with fish once again and so is the Parker River Wildlife Refuge which most recently was all open for parking except for lot 6. As for cod chatter the timing was perfect as one of the Eastman’s of Eastman’s Fleet in Seabrook N.H. just happened to be in the shop when I called. He suggested that if anglers have a rugged enough ride, take the trip out to southern Jeffrey’s where in addition to cod, pollock have been plentiful along with an improved haddock bite!
In closing, tragically we lost a young fishing brother who left us way too early at the tender age of 18. Ty Moughan of North Andover loved to fish and especially for stripers off of Plum Island. He will be very much missed by his friends and family and his passing is a reminder for us all to never miss the opportunity to take a kid fishing! Tight lines Ty!
• Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain for Massachusetts
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
It’s comeuppance time for all those cod which have been such a “nuisance” as anglers were intent on harvesting a few haddock for the cooler! Coxes Ledge and The Trench along the South Coast should have willing cod. On the South Shore don’t discount The Gurnet, High Pine Ledge, Stellwagen Ledge and the smattering of rocks/wrecks off the Scituate/Cohasset coast in 75’ of water. The hottest harbor honey holes should be between the humps by the B Buoy and the Hull ledges. Apparently there were just enough pogies present to produce enough of their progeny – peanut bunker – to light up the surface in the Three Bays, Scituate Harbor and Hingham Harbor. Adult pogies can be found by the Fore River and among inner Boston Harbor and both blues and stripers have taken notice. Blues and bass have also been belting plugs and shredding soft plastics from Nahant through Salem with pogy schools at the latter holding some impressive bass. Bass Rocks off Cape Ann has had striper action during low light while the Paker River Wildlife Refuge has been among the best for those who like to chuck clams and seaworms into the horizon and wait for a hit. Cod can be found just off Magnolia, Gloucester and Rockport but for a more impressive cooler heed the call of Jeffrey’s Ledge where big pollock are on the prowl as well.