Moving forward Lee might have other plans, but for now the bunker situation seems to be a case of better late than never! Strong striped bass fishing with spurts of solid blue fishing have been the reality for those finding those MVBs – most valuable baitfish. The catching of cod is nothing short of contagious and while few are focused on them – fluke fishing seems to be going out with a bang.
Massachusetts South Shore/South Coast Fishing Report
For years it’s been an ongoing gag between myself and Pete of Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate about smelt this time of the year. Sometimes I enquire and other times he mentions it, but the gist is all the same in the modern era – you’re more likely to find a unicorn than smelt. However, that just might be changing this year. It seems that a guy tossing a cast net into Scituate Harbor looking for bait came up with honest-to-goodness rainbow smelt! Fresh from a find in Hingham Harbor this has me quietly optimistic; it sure would be something to have shades of this historic fishery this fall/winter! I intend on finding out personally and will pass along my results.
Meanwhile blitzes are reigning down on much of the South Shore and South Coast. Peanut bunker, silversides, brit herring and river herring fry are drawing fire from bass and occasionally blues at the Three Bays, Green Harbor, Scituate Harbor, Sand Hill Beach, Egypt Beach and off Cohasset. In fact the Cohasset area has been so hot that some have theorized that a chunk of the cows crazing off Cape Ann have spun off and are taking up residence from Gunrock Beach through Black Rock Beach and out to Cohasset Harbor. As is usually the case in mid-September rivers have reawakened with the North River no exception. Tube-and-wormers have been doing well by the Cliffs. Chunkers have been catching slots and bigger bass on chunk among the boulders of the Fourth Cliff. A few less blues in the mix has resulted in better chances of catching inshore mackerel. As for inshore cod, Pete Belsan recommends Stone Ledge, Flatt Ledge and Scarlett Ledge (the Fingers). An 8-pound tautog was taken near the first Scituate Harbor marker.
Captain Mark of Legit Fish Charters said that bluefish have pushed mackerel inshore and up against ledge with tuna in tow! “Sea monsters” up to 110” have been following both species with some of those brutes as close as 4 miles out! While targeting tuna with RonZs, the Legit Fish crew got a surprise in cod up to 30 pounds! Close to rockpiles/ledge you’re likely to find rock cod, while white-bellies are more likely to be found in 80-90’ in open water. Along with haddock, “fun-sized” 2 – 3 pound pollock have been prevalent. The skipper usually cruises into port with mackerel in the livewell to treat patrons to some fast paced striper action right in Scituate Harbor! As Mark put it, the harbor is so stacked with stripers, you could “walk on them!”.
When conditions warrant, Captain Jason Colby points his Little Sister to Coxes Ledge and other spots near Rhode Island Sound and has been finding mahi mahi to go along with cod and increasing number of red hake. As succulent as cod filets are, some opine that hake are a heck of a lot tastier. Tautog will be the primary target until nearly December. On a recent solo excursion, it was child’s play for the captain as 18-21” tog made short work of his crab as soon as he hit the bottom. Best of all he found them at a waypoint a short distance from the Westport River.
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Greater Boston Fishing Report
Regarding Westport, I’ve had the pleasure of jumping aboard the Little Sister three times this season for fluke and while it’s been fun and productive, on Tuesday I had my best fluke outing of the season – in good old Boston! I guess there really is no place like home. Just like everything else swimming in these parts right now, fluke are feeding with urgency in estuaries, embayments and beaches as they transition outward to offshore wintering grounds. My best tip is to steer clear of gaudy jigs/Gulp and go with natural colors/bait right now. Those fish have been pounded all summer long and have been conditioned to steer clear of pink, chartreuse, orange and other ornate offerings. White, olive, brown and gray will catch better the rest of the year.
Everyone knows that serpents are “stupid” bait for striped bass but right now Pete Santini of Fishing FINatics in Everett advises against them in some areas, that is unless you are fond of “cigar eels”! With blues still in abundance from Crystal Cove through the Lower Middle out towards the Alford Street Bridge, an eel on the line is likely to come up looking markedly different compared to what went down. The venerable tube – such as the Santini tube – is built to withstand the abuse those toothies can put out and it does awfully well for bass. Some anglers live-lining pogies are feeling the frustration from slot to middle-30” stripers running with the bait but not dispatching it. If that happens a few times than try switching over to chunk. Some are skipping out on the bait thing entirely and catching solid stripers and blues with X-Raps and 9er Rigs by Castle Island and Deer Island. With pogies inside and drawing the attention of blues, macks have reappeared around the outer harbor with some reported at Flipp Rock and Graves Light. Faun Bar and Little Faun as well as the outer harbor islands and ledge are holding schools of big cunner which while largely disrespected are dinner-time delicious! In fact some regard them as better tasting than even their tog cousins.
Always one to toss out freshwater options, Pete told me of Robert Bartolini who has been finding impressive rainbow and brown trout in deeper sections of Walden Pond. Another trout option to consider is Horn Pond. This essential piece of the ongoing effort to restore river herring to the Mystic River Valley watershed is benefitting from more flow and cleaner water from tributaries. A bump in herring fry numbers equals bigger bass and trout! Brian who is Fore River Fishing Tackle’s favorite kayaker continues to have his way with on-average 36”/38” stripers which shadow pogy schools between the Fore River Bridge and King’s Cove Marina. Nantasket has been fantastic from just past Gunrock Beach through Point Allerton with the tube-and-worm doing the most damage. Chunkers fishing behind the Hull High School out through Hull Gut have been catching both stripers and blues. Surface feeds continue to be par for the course thanks to the ubiquitous peanut bunker.
Massachusetts North Shore Fishing Report
Tomo from Tomo’s Tackle in Salem told me that on recent mornings Lynn Harbor has “gone off” with most of the fish striped bass. Surface feeds were further confirmed by my friend Jan Flaherty who after seeing a promising post on Facebook about Dog Beach exhorted her hubby Dave with a “get out there” holler! The fish can be fussy however as they key in on silversides and peanut bunker. Salem/Beverly feeds have been frequent as well especially by Collins Cove. The section from Salem Willows through Juniper Cove continues to be hot as bass and blues pound peanuts. Umbrella rigs as well as trolling swimmers are working well but for bigger try live pollock or mackerel which can be found between Misery Island and Halfway Rock.
“Schoolies inside, bigger outside!”, suggested TJ from Three Lantern Marine when we spoke the other day. Mackerel occasionally make forays into Gloucester Harbor but for consistency, consider searching them out beyond the Dogbar Breakwater. Regarding that gateway to the harbor, this is one of the more consistent spots from which to cast a chunk for stripers and blues. Cod are cruising within a few miles of the shoreline enabling even kayakers to get in on the cod craze! Ipswich Bay has been best for trolling plugs for bass and blues.
Liz from Surfland Bait and Tackle in Newburyport said that anglers unfamiliar with the current shoreline should exercise caution before they take that first step. Incessant storms have rearranged the water’s edge creating a stronger than usual undertow which can be hazardous. Anglers chunking the jetty have been catching both blues and bass with the outgoing tide best. Incoming from the ocean front through the refuge has been productive for both inshore predators. Should you fish the refuge be mindful of reservation hours as rangers will close gates at the designated times. As typical of mid-September, upstream areas of the Essex River, Plum Island Sound and Merrimack River are holding more stripers than they were a few weeks ago. For cod, consider Speckled Apron, Hampton Shoals Ledge and the Isles of Shoals.
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Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
Blitzes fueled by peanut bunker on the South Shore should continue to be the rage in spite of Lee bringing on bad love. Cohasset may just have the cow market cornered in Massbay at least at the moment. If anything, dropping water temperatures triggered by offshore swells should be the impetus for Buzzards Bay blackfish to begin schooling up and feeding more regularly. The Harbor has been hottest where anglers have been finding pogy schools in Quincy Bay and Winthrop. Cod off Cape Ann have been in close but don’t get too close to the shoreline off Plum Island until you’re familiar with the undertow. There are those unheralded species worth considering such as fluke in Boston Harbor and cunner off Winthrop. While not likely to win any “best of” categories, cunner on the grill has converted many from foe to friend.