Massachusetts Fishing Report- September 07, 2023

Vanessa striped bass
Clearer water in the Merrimack has brought in big stripers such as this one caught by Vanessa.

The current cod craze has created quite the conundrum! With a loosening of regulations, many are revisiting their love affair with Massachusetts’s state fish. Where things get complicated is that with bass, blues and tuna fishing at it’s peak, the decision as to “where” and “for what” is not getting easy.

Massachusetts South Shore/South Coast Fishing Report

It really did feel like the “good old days”! On Tuesday Captain Jason Colby put all of us fortunate enough to be aboard the Little Sister into a groundfish bite reminiscent of a bygone era. The snapshot that best crystallizes our trip was the five-fish-drop that three of us pulled off simultaneously. The particulars was that while I had on one double-digit cod, just astern of me my two deck mates were doubled up – at the same time! The skipper bringing along three nets proved to be a prophetic move. In a 100’ of water 30 miles from port in the Westport River six of us achieved limits of cod (5 fish, 23” minimum) up to 30 pounds, caught red hake, gator blues, black sea bass, scup and toyed with an unforeseen shark which didn’t seem the least bit fazed that it was hooked. Further stimulant was provided by Mother Nature in the form of a dolphin show and we spotted a number of sea turtles including one that was estimated to be about 500 pounds. Right up there with what we caught was what we didn’t, namely – dogfish. I literally felt bad for the Gulf of Maine groundfish gang, who at that very moment I knew we’re being plagued by those spiny pests.

Mark with 30lb cod
Mark ruled the day with this 30-pound cod boated on the Little Sister.
Ron and John with cod triple
The author and his friend John with three cod from a five fish drop while fishing with Captain Colby.
Chris Adkerson cod
Chris Adkerson with proof that the North Shore is not immune to the cod craze.
Joe with cod
Joe with proof that the cod craze is on aboard the Little Sister and throughout the Bay State.

What we didn’t have time for was a concerted effort for chicken mahi which I learned from Captain Brian Coombs of Get Tight Sportfishing were swarming among high-liner lobster pots within view of Cuttyhunk! Of course Captain Colby could hardly be faulted for not having the time for that, 2 1/2 hours of filleting fish takes a big bite out of a six hour trip. In addition to those colorful, acrobatic pelagics Captain Coombs has been putting patrons into a mixed bag of bonito, false albacore and spanish mackerel. To think that the South Coast area is holding everything from cod to bonito to mahi to Spanish mackerel right now is simply amazing.

Get Tight Sportfishing medley
The medley available to patrons of Get Tight Sportfishing includes bonito, false albacore, Spanish mackerel and mahi mahi.

Of course something can be said for the Gulf of Maine, especially if you’re Captain Mark Rowell of Legit Fish Charters. Bass and blues aren’t the only species packing on the protein right now; from the Southwest Corner of Stellwagen all the way to Scantum tuna are on a tear. Slack tide at the edge of drop-offs with a bluefish on the line is the trick according to Captain Rowell. Some of these fish are pushing bait on the surface as close as five miles out from Scituate Harbor and when breaching the surface look like “school buses.” As for cod, the skipper has been catching 10-15 pound “white bellies” in 90-114’ of water. The edges of different structure, especially where hard bottom abuts mud, is where you’ll find more forage as well as opportunistic feeders such as cod. Small green teasers are a good option to match the ubiquitous spike mackerel. Bunker in both big and small versions can be found from Plymouth to Point Allerton and are holding both bass and blues. You’ll have to search for mackerel but once found will not last long among rocky outcroppings of the South Shore.

Greater Boston Fishing Report

Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics in Everett told me that shore and kayak anglers are finding big blues and bass close in wherever they can find access from the inner harbor through East Boston, Chelsea and Winthrop. A bump in bunker numbers in lockstep with an increase in feeding urgency has led to better fishing. Topwater plugs of all sorts are working as has honey mustard, orange and red Santini tubes. Those craving cod should set their sights on the humps, bumps and clumps from Graves Light to the B Bouy. It doesn’t necessarily take a screaming drag to make angler’s happy, just ask smelt fans.

This week’s report from Lisa of Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy sounded like an anecdote from yesteryear when that shop was the hub of all things smelt. A guy who after netting his own grass shrimp in Black Creek then hit Hewitts Cove and caught smelt! If it seems a tad early for that don’t be fooled, now is the time when angles would start fishing for them in earnest. Usually the bite would begin off piers in Hull, Charlestown and Winthrop and as the season progressed the smelt would move closer to natal rivers, streams, creeks and brooks where they would eventually spawn upstream. The Town River is still holding pogies as well as bass and bluefish. Small boaters, kayakers and shore anglers are doing well with smaller offerings at the parks at the Weymouth Back River: the key is to match peanut bunker and river herring fry. Nantasket Beach, Point Allerton, Webb Park and Hull Gut have all been good for both boaters and booters.

Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report

Not one to miss out on an opportunity, Tomo of Tomo’s Tackle in Salem has hit the cod grounds and now feels like he has a bead on their movements. While working slow-pitch jigs he found plenty of cod at Hill 101 but on this tide, they were all short. Better luck for bigger fish awaited him at Saturday Night Ledge and Kettle Ledge where fish up to 25 1/2” were cooperating. Not surprisingly the sweet spot for the cod was at the edge of of the ledge where it dropped off between 60’ and 90’. Stripers and blues are acting true to plan now that it’s September as the feeds are prolonged and are often extended all the way into mid-day as shuteye and tight lines no longer have to be mutually exclusive. Peanut bunker are the fuel for the fall run with the best bite most recently between Winter Island Park, Juniper Point and Salem Willows. The tube-and-worm has been effective there as has mackerel which in spite of the presence of bluefish can still be found with a bit of searching.

John Stanchfield striper
John Stanchfield has been finding macks and over-slots in Salem Sound.

TJ from Three Lantern Marine said that those looking to scratch the cod itch are getting a quick brown bomber fix over most any nondescript hump once they clear Manchester, Magnolia, Gloucester or Rockport. He heard of Halibut Point holding cod as well as bluefish for anglers on the troll. Mackerel have moved in and with peanut bunker schools there is no shortage of bait or bass. The tuna bite is intense with some anglers finding the trek to Scantum especially worth the effort.

Paul Cape Ann bass
Paul used a Redfin for this nice Cape Ann bass

Kevin from Surfland Bait and Tackle in Newburyport told me that inshore areas which had been roiled with all the rain have cleaned up and the bass have moved back in force. Mackerel drifted throughout the Merrimack River has been especially deadly. With the refuge completely open many are enjoying a “spike it and then catch it” bite with clams and worms working well on the bottom. Boaters are cleaning up with the tube-and-worm by Sandy Point. Bluefish remain a factor with trollers dragging plugs catching them most consistently. Many are in on catching cod but most are hauling out to offshore ledges such as Tillies and Jeffrey’s where they are adding pollock, redfish and haddock to the cooler of cod.

• Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain for Massachusetts

Massachusetts Fishing Forecast

Despite the time of the year and the urgency that striped bass and bluefish are feeding, many are exploring other options. If that’s not proof of how good we have it, I’m not sure what is! Cod, at least temporarily, seem to be occupying the top spot in the hearts of Bay State anglers. On the South Coast double-digit cod are scoffing down clams and crushing jigs. Don’t discount a cast or two among highliners, you just might find yourself tied to something exotic. More exotics can be found inshore in Buzzards Bay as bonito, Spanish mackerel and false albacore are in binge mode. On the South Shore look for bottom transitions between gravel and mud and you’ll find cod. As for bass, stripers and their yellow-eyed rivals are making short work of peanut bunker from the Three Bays through Cohasset. The harbor has been hot with shore anglers even getting in on the fun as bass and blues push bunker in tight near the Weymouth Back River, Charlestown, Chelsea and Winthrop. For cod, the humps by the B Buoy are a Boston best bet. On the North Shore, anglers have been having luck by Saturday Night Ledge for cod while the swath between Abott Rock, Juniper Point and Salem Willows has been stellar for mackerel trollers as well as the tube-and-worm. Cleaner water in the Plum Island area has drawn big bass into the Merrimack looking for a mack snack!

4 on “Massachusetts Fishing Report- September 07, 2023

  1. Pam wilson

    I sure hope all those illegal over the slot striped bass were released unharmed as required by law but I doubt it.

    1. J.J.

      Pam the Scam – what’s with the negativity. Harness your anger and go out there find the people doing what you’re suggesting is happening – and call it in. Your sass online does nothing for the fish.

  2. Steve

    My experience among striped guys this year has been positive regarding taking care reviving and releasing the big girls.Fall is such a fun time of year to fish the salt. You are so right Ron about the many species you are able to catch in one outing.

  3. Cape

    That does not look like a 30 lbs Cod!
    I have caught a lot of Cod fish in my life time.
    Stop trying to sell tickets for Jason Colby. How about you learn to find fish yourself?

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