Picky, picky albies. That was my experience over Labor Day Weekend while trying to (safely) navigate the kayak through a maze of boats on the south side of Cape Cod. The opportunities were there, but even when I jumped aboard the Swartz family Steiger with Connor from Red Top, we found ourselves casting directly through brief, spooky feeds. Based on other reports from anglers and local tackle shops, it sounds like we were in the right spot at the wrong time of day. But, it would appear that since the long-weekend fishing pressure lifted, albies have put on the feed bag. We expected a struggle on Monday, but when our jigs, flies and Albie Snax were all rejected, that’s when the consolation bottom fishing began.
Surprisingly, there are some quality sea bass on the south side. I’ve pulled a few up over the course of the past week. However, the recreational sea bass season unfortunately closed today, September 7. Still, September is a month when bottom fishing for scup or fluke tends to yield surprise catches. While waiting for albies to pop up on Saturday morning, my friend, Ryan Henry, dropped his jig to the bottom and pulled up a jumbo northern kingfish. It was one of the largest I have ever seen, probably close to 20 inches. That’s seriously good eating. A few minutes later, I accidentally pulled up a sizable northern puffer on my jig, which I donated to Ryan. He had never tried one of the delectable little late-summer visitors. If you can manage to catch a few, I recommend a fish fry. They’re well worth it.
Over the weekend, OTW’s Anthony DeiCicchi and Jimmy Fee also reeled in a few “sugar toads”—a moniker that references their sweet meat and toad-like appearance when deflated.
To target them, thread some squid onto a couple of small Aberdeen hooks on a high-low rig and head down to your local marina or salt pond. If they’re there, they’ll be hugging hard structure like rock piles, reefs, pilings and mussel beds, and at times, the fishing can be as easy as drop and reel.
In other news, Spanish mackerel showed up in better numbers off of Cotuit this weekend. They give themselves away by jumping clear out of the water, revealing their unmistakable profile. Cast and retrieve your jigs slightly lower and slower in the water column when you see Spanish macks actively jumping, as they’re likely in pursuit of sub-surface bait schools. Mixed in with the Spanish macks and albies, of course, are snapper and cocktail-sized bluefish. If you’re in search of some larger blues, Race Point, the Cape Cod Canal, and the waters between Squibnocket and Nomans Island have been hosting populations of gator blues for weeks.
Meanwhile, striped bass activity is slowly, but surely improving. We had a solid stretch of cool, autumn-like weather prior to this heat wave that may have set things in motion a bit early. There are loads of schoolies in Cape Cod Bay, with scattered pods of fast-moving fish from Sandwich to the shores of Wellfleet, and they’re feeding primarily in the bays and harbors where baitfish are already stacked up. Places like Barnstable Harbor and Wellfleet Harbor saw blitzes from schoolie stripers over the past week, and to the west, the Cape Cod Canal has seen an improvement in both numbers and size of striped bass. To break down the bite on the Canal, East End Eddie Doherty reports:
“Two of the Boys of Summer, Tim “Hollywood” Petracca and Bill “On the Grill” Prodouz, each caught over 20 stripers on the morning of the super moon as the east tide produced non-stop fishing for over an hour at first light. Paulie “The Painter” Gravina wet his line much earlier and did well on the west tide, but Bill took high hook with his 35-inch linesider caught on a white Mystic Spellbinder glide bait. “Mashpee Mike” LaRaia jigged up several plus slot fish including a 33-inch bass, losing one to a hungry seal. Ed Parolin and Tom Lipinski both landed plus slots with pencils during some topwater action. Big blues, up to 12 pounds, and bass were keyed in on small bait including peanut bunker, butterfish, whiting and squid. Experienced angler Jim “Side Cast” Belcher got into a mix with 4 stripers and 2 bluefish, including a 34-inch yellow-eyed devil. Scott Ewell, an accomplished Canal Rat who I see almost every day, landed several blues & bass including a 34-inch linesider that fell for a green mack FishLab. It’s nice to have Bill Walsh back on the Ditch after his cataract removal surgery. He told me that prior to the eye operation he gave new meaning to the term ‘blind cast’!”
After we shared a tough day on the water Monday, I called Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay to see how the Canal bite has been from the shop’s perspective. Connor said the Ditch is fishing well with plenty of activity the past 3 or 4 mornings. He caught a couple of nice fish in the mid 20-pound range amid plenty of schoolies, some of which were only 15 or 16 inches. Connor described the bite as consisting of the usual fall run variety, with fish of all sizes gorging on peanut bunker. Big plugs won’t do it when they’re dialed in on peanuts. Instead, Connor opted for smaller metals and resin jigs, which were responsible for 20 pounders, slot fish and schoolies. He said the 4-ounce Gotcha Jigfish was the key to matching that peanut bunker profile.
While the fishing was tough for Connor and I on Monday, I felt a little better about my albie struggles when I spoke to Evan Eastman at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth. Evan said that on Monday, he left the shop midday and found albies around Robinson’s Hole, with massive feeds popping up later in the afternoon just south of Nobska Light. Evan described a flock of 30 to 40 birds working over a school of frothing albies around 4 p.m., and relayed that it was probably one of the best albie feeds he had ever seen in terms of numbers and longevity. Evan noted that the better activity is usually shortly before or after sunrise, but recently, the albies are popping up later in the morning and in the afternoon. Evan described the next day, Tuesday, as being very frustrating though, with tons of fish on “snot bait” like bay anchovies. He and his father were casting flies at the feeds and the fish wouldn’t touch anything, which was the complete opposite of what they experienced on Monday afternoon. Each day is different, and as frustrating as it can be when the albies don’t bite, that’s what makes these fish so much fun to catch.
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The first thing Christian from Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis mentioned on the phone was Wednesday morning’s wild albie blitz. He said there must have been a 400- to 500-yard-long foamer, but boats around it were struggling to catch. However, one customer came in and cleaned out their sinking, green mackerel SP minnows, which he used all morning to catch albies while other boats were unable to hook up. For whatever reason, SP minnows were the key. Christian said there are also lots of cocktail and snapper bluefish mixed in with the albie feeds, so if the albies aren’t picky, boost your leader strength by a few pounds. Meanwhile, anglers that are targeting scup are catching tons of dogfish this past week. Christian said they’ve had a lot of customers come in with pictures of doggos small and large, so if you’re fishing bait on bottom, be prepared to handle a few. He also said fluke fishing has seen steady action from lots of shorts, but not many keepers, and anglers jigging sabiki rigs are catching some hefty mackerel in the Sound over the weekend.
Captain Cam Faria of Cambo Charters also reported a great day on the inshore grounds with his charter on Saturday. He said they did limited out on scup before switching gears and sticking a few albies. Then, on Sunday, it was back to tuna. He decided to head east for giant bluefin on the re-opening day of commercial tuna season. There, Cam reported seeing 90- to 100-inch bluefin feeding on krill on the surface, and while they couldn’t connect, it was an interesting sight to see. On Monday, he gave himself a break and slept in, as one should do on Labor Day, before taking the boat up to Plymouth to get live pogies. Shortly after, the skipper headed out into Cape Cod Bay where he caught a 99-inch bluefin almost immediately after setting out those fresh baits.
Also capitalizing on the presence of giants in and around Cape Cod Bay, is the crew from Reel Deal Fishing Charters in Truro. Captain Elena Rice reported that bluefin tuna fishing activity has improved, although the size ratio is definitely favoring large fish. Captain Bobby brought in a 101-inch fish recently after doubling up on two giants during some intense moments aboard the Done Deal. There have been some recreational class fish mixed in, and they hope to see the size percentage shift in that direction as September progresses.
Macos Bait and Tackle reported that the Canal has some quality stripers right now feeding on mackerel in both the east and west ends, with fish in the 20-pound class taking both jigs and topwater plugs. And while there haven’t been a ton of reports of false albacore in Buzzards Bay just yet, the shop says they’re there, you’ve just got to find the birds. If you’re bottom fishing in the southern portions of Buzzards Bay this week, keep a rod rigged and ready for sporadic feeds from albies.
From Martha’s Vineyard, Captain Kurt Freund of Fishsticks Charters said that he had several half-day trips last week that mostly targeted sea bass. Friday morning, he was joined by Lee Vartan and his two sons, Luke, 10, and Aidan, 8. The boys had been fishing only twice before and had yet to catch their first fish, so their modest goal for the trip was to catch at least one fish each. Combined, they caught 20 scup, sea robins and sea bass including one big knothead over 3 pounds. Then, on Saturday, he headed to Squibnocket for a charter and found albies, bonito, bluefish and sea bass. On Wednesday, the skipper made a trip south of the Vineyard prepared to catch tuna, but willing to settle for mahi. With no success jigging, they ended up trolling up some big albies and fishing through dense schools of chicken mahi, filling the cooler with some fish during an otherwise picture-perfect day on the water.
Over on Nantucket, Rick Ramos shared what’s happening in the surf. Nantucket surfcasting guide, Tammy King, reported that big blues are hiding out on the east end of the island. They are a bit finicky though, as they are stuffed with sand eels. Rick also said stripers are still holding in the harbor, and there are some hearty ones in the mix. Look for structure and you’ll have success. Meanwhile, the west end has heated up, and the conditions have been excellent. Blues, albies, bass and bonito are being taken both by boat and from the shore. Hogy’s 2-ounce epoxy jigs are being crushed, as well as many Island X lures. Both of which are available at either of the islands tackle shops. Birds have been a clear indicator of where to work these lures on the open beaches.
Captain Corey Gammill of Bill Fisher Outfitters had much to say of the inshore bite off Nantucket. He said the Bonito Bar has heated up with tight schools of bonito racing the edges as they feed on sand eels. Look for the bird activity and start casting in the area. There are albies mixed in, which are also covering much of the west end. The west end of the island is starting to see more bass on the edges, not big, but they are starting to show in decent numbers. The south shore of the island is holding albies that are feeding more sporadically and in smaller schools, and Great Point continues to hold solid albie schools on the inside and outside with bonito mixed in.
Additionally, Rick said that the Nantucket Inshore Classic kicked off this week as the Angler’s Club premier fishing event open to all anglers, ending on October 7th. All anglers, both young and salty, are encouraged to sign up and wet a line at nantucketinshoreclassic.com. Good luck out there!
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Cape Cod Fishing Forecast
For the past couple weeks, we’ve been eyeing Buzzards Bay for any signs of albies and it sounds like they’re finally starting to trickle in. The weekend saw some incredible feeds around the Elizabeth Islands and Woods Hole, and it was only a matter of time before they pushed through to the other side. As stripers and blues begin to make their way south through the Canal, Buzzards Bay will come back to life. It’s one of my favorite places to fish from the kayak early in the morning during the fall run due to the abundance of rocky structure. Throwing topwater plugs and Albie Snax over submerged boulders is a fun way to stick a few bass and blues before work, and the albie fishing only gets better throughout the month.
In Cape Cod Bay, schools of stripers are holding closer to shore and have been moving in and out of harbors. Look for those fish inside or near the mouths of harbors feeding on small bait. They will likely start heading towards the Canal in the next week or two, where there’s already a smorgasbord of bait. The Outer Cape beaches should begin to fish well too. This week, schools of fish were seen breaking beneath flocks of birds just out of casting range off of beaches between Truro and Orleans. It’s unclear exactly what the bait was, but if the smaller birds like terns are any indication, it’s likely there were schools of sand eels falling victim to the bass (and blues?) below.
Bottom fishing is beginning to slow down for species like fluke, and with sea bass off the menu, scup are going to be the main target. Still, bottom fishing with small hooks and baited high-low rigs can bring some surprise late-summer visitors like northern kingfish and northern puffers. Highly recommend giving both of them a try if you manage to stick a few!
Tuna fishing is still good south of the Vineyard at places like The Dump, and plenty of chicken mahi have stuck around for anglers who left the grounds without their tuna. Those with a commercial license for bluefin tuna will find good fishing for giants in Cape Cod Bay from Race Point to the southern corners of Stellwagen.
For surfcasters looking for bass and big bluefish, the Canal will be the place to be over the next week. Keep an eye on those Outer Cape beaches and don’t hesitate to make a few trips out on the south side, or even in Buzzards Bay as those fish push through the ditch.
And lastly, don’t forget about the great freshwater fishing this time of year. Largemouth and smallmouth bass start to feed more actively at all hours as water temperatures cool, and in the middle of the month, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife begins stocking trout again.
Catch ’em up. Thanks for reading.