Cape Cod Fishing Report- September 14, 2023

Albies flood Buzzards Bay and make their way into the Canal, stripers and blues gorge on peanut bunker in the salt ponds, and bonito make a good showing in the Nantucket surf.

With Hurricane Lee fast-approaching New England, and a new moon tonight, there’s no telling what the fishing will be like on the back end the weekend. It’s safe to say bottom fishing for scup and fluke will fall off as a result of churned-up seas. But, for other predatory fish like albies, stripers and bluefish that often utilize sloppy conditions to take advantage of small baitfish, the fishing could be stellar. One thing is for sure, Saturday seems like it’ll be blown out, with winds reaching 42 mph in some parts of Cape. Thankfully, the fishing leading up to the weekend has been great for both inshore and offshore anglers.

Albies finally flooded Buzzards Bay last week, and with them are plenty of bluefish and some scattered schools of Spanish mackerel. While fishing in Buzzards Bay earlier this week, OTW’s Zack Zeytoonjian and I joined Ryan Henry on a kayak albie expedition in Buzzards Bay and found some of the longest-lasting feeds I’ve seen all season. Again, the fish were very picky, ignoring all types of jigs and casting-egg-and-fly offerings before we finally managed to fool them later in the morning.

OTW’s Zack Zeytoonjian caught this albie from a foaming feed after several frustrating attempts to hook one of the finicky hardtails. (Photo by Ryan Henry)

From Martha’s Vineyard, Captain Kurt Freund of Fishsticks Chartersreported that having the time to travel was critical to finding good fishing this week. However, on Thursday morning, as he told a charter group that it would likely be difficult to find fish close to home, he hooked a bonito on a demonstration cast right in Vineyard Haven Harbor! He made it a point to mention that it doesn’t happen often, so it was a welcome surprise for both he and the guests. They later searched for bonito and albies over at Nobska, where a few fish were breaking and they hooked and lost an albie.

On Friday, he fished a full day with Alex Martin, Jack Hager and Tucker Martin as part of a 4-boat charter and tournament organized by Henry McVey. They ended up with the highest point total of the four boats, and Jack had the highest individual score that day. The skipper described it as an epic day of fishing, with albies, bonito and bluefish. They looked for albies close to home, because the tournament included points for the first fish of the day, but ultimately found the best fishing along the north shore of Chilmark and Aquinnah. Saturday was an encore with Lorenzo Tillman, Jon Pumphery and Lelio Marino. They found some picky, picky albies on the Elizabeths, and even landed one, but later found the albies, bonito and bluefish to be much more cooperative at Gay Head.
Hans Riis carries on the Fishsticks with Charter Sauce tradition with an albie on the first day of the MV Derby.

Sunday was the first day of the MV Derby, and Kurt’s crew, Fishsticks with Charter Sauce, caught albies, bonito, bluefish, and some sea bass, which are now out of season and were all carefully released. And as much as he enjoys the Derby, Captain Kurt is most looking forward to togging; he has already set out green crab traps to collect bait for upcoming tautog trips. Give him a call to book!

On Wednesday, I received a message from one of our readers, Kevin Granfield, asking if we could help him ID a unique-looking fish he caught while pot hopping for mahi south of the Vineyard. There are tons of jacks, rudder fish and other late-summer visitors hanging around floating structure out there.

Kevin Granfield sent in this photo of a mystery fish that he caught while pot-hopping for mahi south of Martha’s Vineyard. It’s got us stumped at the OTW offices. Can you ID this fish? (Photo by Kevin Granfield)

This appears for be a jack of some sort, but we were unable to positively identify which species. Any input or educated guesses are appreciated!

From Nantucket, Rick Ramos claims 2023 to be the year of the bonito! Rick said:

“Week one of the Nantucket Inshore Classic is in the books and the Grey Lady is buzzing with many anglers hitting the bonito bonanza. In fact, bonito leads the species count with 108 entries ahead of all other contest species with albies at 102, blues 102, followed by bass at 27.”

He caught up with long-time Nantucket surfcaster, Raf Osona, to reflect on the presence of bonito in Nantucket’s waters during the Inshore Classic.  According to Rick, “Raf stated that in 2018, there were only 21 total bonito entries.  In 2019, anglers experienced a large, sustained run of bonito with 96 total registered catches. And those who fished the last few years felt the cyclical “fall-off” and tournament catch data trends point to a 4-year cycle of a one year high followed by a steep 3-year decline in catches.  In fact, last year, the bonito was a unicorn catch for many anglers with only 34 bonito entered in 2022.” So, with the 2023 bonito bite being the hottest we’ve seen in years, now is the time to sign up at and get that Slam for a shot at winning Nantucket’s most coveted angling competition.

From the surf, local guide Steve “Tuna” Tornovish reported that fishing has been hit or miss recently.  Labor Day was lights out at Great Point, the south shore and Smith’s Point.  More recently, small blues have swarmed the south shore and bigger blues were caught on the inside at Great Point.  There is no shortage of bonito at Great Point with many anglers landing multiple bones in a single outing.  The early morning bite has been the ticket for most of the successful fishers.  Albies continue to get anglers fired up, while the plague of fish-stealing seals frustratingly cool things off, particularly at Great Point.  Beach striper fishing could certainly benefit from a dose of fall weather to cool down the inshore waters.  With Hurricane Lee percolating in the southern Atlantic, the deck is about to get shuffled for the last few weeks of the Inshore Classic, creating new opportunities for those ready to embrace the fall weather.

Rick Ramos connected with his first ever beach Bonito entry in Nantucket’s Inshore Classic. This 25” beauty fell for the Hogy epoxy that he punched through strong winds to make the perfect presentation. (@fishingwithrick)

From the boat, inshore fishing guide Tyler Shulz of ACK Fish reported that the East end of the island near the Bluff and Sesachacha pond is proving to be a great in-between for those traveling to Old Man Shoals.  About a quarter mile off the beach, large schools of bluefish are being caught on the outgoing tide.  Striper fishing has been slow as the water is still a bit too warm. The midday albie and bonito bite is awesome!  You don’t have to run too far as it’s active between the first and third point in the harbor. It’s worth checking out before burning fuel going to Great Point.  The Terns are your best guide if you’re unsure of where to look. Throw green or pink 1.5oz epoxy jigs or the Island X Stinger Minnow to get tight on those hard tales.

Back across the pond, East End Eddie Doherty reports on the fishing in the Cape Cod Canal:

“Bluefish invaded the Big Ditch and outnumbered striped bass for a while, but linesiders now patrol every level of the water column. The yellow-eyed devils were biting soft-plastic jigs in half at a record pace, but Ara Yessayan from Canton brought a fat 35-inch blue to the edge of the rip rap stone bank that had eaten his blue Savage on the bottom. Andre “Pepere” Chauvin, a great guy who is a member of the prestigious Canal Sportsman’s Club, landed a couple of nice sized bluefish with his yellow PK pencil. Expert lure maker Joe Paiva fooled a 12-pound bluefish with one of his 3T pencils, and his cousin Steve landed a 10 pounder with the same plug.

Experienced Canal Rat Jimmy Kelly had a productive morning toward the tail end of the west tide with 39- and 41-inch stripers to his credit on his wacky mack FishLab. Expert surfcaster Doug Freeman continued his epic season by getting a 39-inch striper to fall for his Happy as a Clam mini cruiser during a west tide topwater bite. One more inch and Doug would have added to his impressive total of 40 inch plus fish, which now stands at 46! 14-year-old Matt Sadr has always been an avid angler, but this is his first year on the Canal and the polite young man is extremely grateful that his mother provides his transportation to the Big Ditch. Matt was jigging the west tide around supper time when the dinner bell rang for some bass! He held on tight and reeled in a 32-pound striper that had swallowed his blue FishLab, and the very next day around the same place, same time, Matt guided a 36 pounder to the rocks with the same lure!”

Matt Sadr caught this hefty linesider while jigging the ditch earlier this week. (Photo by Chuck Frank)

Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay said there are loads of bass and blues at both the east and west ends of the Canal. This morning they had guys come into the shop that said they were getting albies in the east end from the fishing pier. Even more surprising, they were catching on heavy striper lures like 5-ounce Savage Gear sand eels, and 3-ounce pencil poppers. Connor and I were out tuna fishing on Cape Cod Bay on Sunday, and the water is as warm as 73 degrees in some places; with peanut bunker, butterfish and squid in the Canal, you have to wonder if the albies will stick around, or push through into CCB and hug the shoreline towards Plymouth. As far as I know, that has never happened before. Keep an eye out, and maybe pack an albie rod on your next tuna or bass fishing trip in the Bay.

Captain Ross of Cape Cod Charter Guys in Bourne reports seeing some small chicken mahi in Buzzards Bay. They’ve found some intense feeds from albies in Buzzards Bay this week, and when they’re not chasing albies, they’re putting their clients on bass and blues. The skipper said they’ve been smoking some quality over-slot bass with the bluefish when the conditions cooperate, and they’re hitting everything from topwater plugs to soft plastics, albie jigs and diamond jigs. Message them or give them a call to book a trip!

Evan at Eastman’s Sport and Tacklein Falmouth reports he went out Tuesday afternoon just south of Cleveland’s Ledge and landed 4 or 5 albies in a couple hours of fishing. There’s lots of bait in Buzzards Bay, from peanuts to spearing and bay anchovies. Back on the south side, Evan said one of his customers was fishing the salt ponds and saw tons of peanut bunker with schoolies and cocktail blues on them. Evan is hopeful that when those peanut bunker move out into Vineyard Sound that they’ll bring the albies back in. He also said he’s selling green crabs to those who are focused on tog already. That should start picking up as the water temperatures begin to cool over the next couple of weeks.

Christian at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis said the hardtail fishing kind of quieted down this past week due to a lack of bait on the south side. He did say, however, that there are loads of bluefish of all sizes, providing good fun for the surfcasting crowd. He went out for fluke around Middle Ground and bounced around on the south side near Falmouth and Cotuit, but found nothing but short fluke with not a single keeper in the mix. Fortunately though, there are lots of stripers on the north side in Cape Cod Bay. Barnstable Harbor continues to produce some smaller fish as it has over the past several weeks, but this hurricane could push the bass in the bay much closer to shore. Christian also mentioned hearing of weakfish being caught on the south side recently, but nothing consistent, just a few surprises here and there. They’re hoping to see more albies, bonito and Spanish mackerel pop up again after the storm blows through this weekend.

Join us in Falmouth, MA on Saturday, 9/23 for our annual StriperFest! Live music, free boat rides with Yamaha, hourly prizes and more! Click here for event details.

Captain Cam Faria of Cambo Charters reports that he went out Sunday in Cape Cod Bay, but it was slow, which was the shared experience among most boats on the bay that day. However, he mentioned that the bite has since picked up steam. He is hoping to get out for tuna on Sunday because it’s the final day of the commercial season. He is going to begin tog fishing shortly after the end of commercial bluefin season and plans to do some bass fishing charters this fall as well. Cam added that he’s hoping the storm doesn’t blow out the yellowfin south of the Vineyard, which has been a reliable area for consistent tuna and mahi action this season.

Up in Cape Cod Bay, Captain Elena Rice of Reel Deal Fishing Charters in Truro said it was another week of wrestling giant bluefin tuna aboard the Reel Deal boats. They’ve had a ton of fun catching jumbos on mostly live bait, with a few recreational size fish in the mix, although the ratio is still favoring the bigger class. The skipper is unsure of the impact this storm may have on the bite going into next week, but they do have availability on Thursday, 9/21. Message them to book a trip!

This recreational-class tuna was jigged up during a recent trip with Captain Bobby Rice. (@fishreeldeal)

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

I’m no weatherman, but with the new moon occurring tonight into Friday, I’d like to assume that the moon tides—combined with the arrival of Hurricane Lee will officially set the fall run in motion. There’s no question that the bass fishing has improved in our local fish highway, the Canal, over the past week. In the days following the storm, look for southbound stripers pushing through the ditch, chasing mackerel and peanut bunker as they go.

The hardtail fishing in Buzzards Bay should pick up right where it left off after the storm. Albies and bluefish are chasing silversides and bay anchovies in open water, and up in the harbors and rivers, stripers are pounding peanut bunker around sunrise. For bass, the best action has been in the early morning before and during sunrise. With cooler fall temperatures forecasted next week, the striper fishing should only improve.

There are still plenty of scup around, but fluke fishing is getting tough. There are short fluke gorging on peanuts and rain bait beneath the stripers in the harbors and marinas, but we’ll have to wait until after the storm passes to see if any keepers stick around locally as the season closer approaches on 9/29.

The commercial bluefin quota is still open, so we’ll see where the CCB giant tuna bite stands after the storm.

This weekend, and especially on Saturday, use extreme caution if you plan to do any inshore fishing. As the storm swell and moon tides pass, it might be a good time to hit the surf on the Outer Cape to survey the bite. Otherwise, err on the side of caution and spend some time performing tackle maintenance with the fall run around the corner; switch to inline single hooks when you can, swap out split rings, or if you’re like me, clean out the backseat of the truck from loose plugs, bucktails and miscellaneous kayak fishing items.

Remember, next weekend from 12-6 p.m. on 9/23 is On The Water’s annual StriperFest in Falmouth. Click here to learn more about the event and attendance. We hope to see you down there! Thanks for reading. Go catch ’em up!

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