Another week of the fall run is in the books, and for striped bass anglers of Cape Cod and the Islands, there’s still much to look forward to.
Points north around Boston and certain areas of the south shore are holding gator bluefish, bunker and bass that should be heading for the Cape Cod Canal (and hopefully the outer Cape) any day now. The weekend weather forecast looks less than ideal once again—for boaters especially—but with the new moon this Saturday the 14th, and winds shifting to north/northeast going into Sunday, all the pieces are falling into place for a strong push of some larger pogy-poundin’ bass down the coast.
This past weekend, heavy southwest winds found me wading the salt ponds on the south side of Cape Cod and briefly exploring Cape Cod Bay. Even with the buffer of nearby homes and forested shoreline, the wind created some decent chop in the protected backwaters on the south side. It was the perfect time to throw some topwater. Sunday morning I located schools of nervous peanut bunker pushing out of a river and being pinned to the surface as they passed through a narrow choke point into open water. The Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow was all it took to bring six or seven schoolies to hand before the peanuts, and the bass beneath them, moved out of casting range. The fish were low 20-inch class at best, but plenty of fun with a 7-foot rod.
Monday morning, a salt pond closer to home gave up another 5 schoolies that were cruising the edge of a protruding sandy flat. I would have continued on to deeper water had I not seen dozens upon dozens of needlefish piled into less than 2 feet of water. Their presence is usually indicative of tiny baitfish in the area, and I could see schools of small peanuts glimmering in the reflection of the rising sun along the edge of the flat. But, with yet another choppy morning, the Jumpin’ Minnow wasn’t able to “walk” properly. So I swapped it out for a small Xorus Patchinko to generate a splashier surface action, which sealed the deal before the bite shut down as the sun emerged from behind the clouds.
While there have been plenty of schoolies around, the south side has also seen an influx of over-slot bass over the past 10 days. Prior to the weekend winds, those larger fish were staging outside the salt ponds and inlets, where drifting live eels, swimming bucktails or swinging plugs through channels of outgoing current proved most effective. There’s still plenty of baitfish up in those bays, harbors, rivers and salt ponds, and they will continue to file out over the next couple of weeks as water temperatures drop. With the north/northeast winds and new moon tides this weekend, the likelihood of bigger bass staging outside those hotspots should drastically increase.
It’s also worth spending some time targeting tautog this week. The bite in Buzzards Bay started off hit or miss last week, with most of the keeper action reserved to the western side of the bay from Mattapoisett to New Bedford. The good news is that there probably hasn’t been much fishing pressure on the tog this past week with wind and inclement weather creating some challenging, unfavorable conditions. I’m hoping to take the kayak out for tautog this week before the water temps get uncomfortably cold.
I’d like to fish all weekend long, but with my cousin’s wedding and girlfriend’s birthday, it’s going to be tough to sneak away unless in the wee hours of the night—or, as Alberto Knie would say, “the non-human hours”. Depending on the tides, it may work out in my favor. There may even be a middle-of-the-night trip to the Canal in the cards. It’s a good thing we’ve got reliable eyes on the ditch, thanks to East End Eddie Doherty. Eddie reports:
“The migration continues, as Canal fishing is now usually better later in the day. Scott Ewell had his green mack FishLab dancing on the bottom to hook up with several bluefish and stripers, including a 43-inch heavy linesider! Bell Road was on fire a couple of weeks ago, but that tremendous action has died down to a hit or miss surfcasting adventure. Legendary anglers Charlie Murphy and Bill “On the Grill” Prodouz picked off some slots with a variety of lures, Bill Walsh brought a 34 incher to the rocks, and Joe “The Reel” McCoy lived up to his name with several plus slot fish, including a 40-inch bass on his white Savage. Most fishermen are scoring with soft plastic jigs like the Bill Hurley Canal Killer and swimmers like the Ocean Born Wideback Minnow, which have been more effective lately during the fall run than topwater pencils. I intercepted a few plus slots on their journey south, including a vigorous fighter that measured out to 38 inches, all in the middle of the water column on my Striper Gear wacky mack Rocket. Work progresses on the Bourne Bridge with a single lane open in each direction, so keep that in mind when planning a trip to the ditch!”
When I spoke to Ian Lumsden at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay, he told me that the canal went off last night into this morning with fish to 30 pounds. Figures that the Canal bite goes off as I write this from Long Island; that’s just my luck. Ian relayed that it was pretty much strictly jigs doing the heavy lifting, but a few smaller bass were caught on top around first light. He added that with the wave of stripers in the Canal this morning, there’s now a fair amount of fish that pushed into Buzzards Bay. Most of the local rivers are loaded with bass and bait as well. As for tautog, there’s some quality fish to be had in the Canal and in Buzzards Bay, although there are still a lot of shorts around. Along with tautog and stripers, there are also still albies in the Canal, and some remain in both Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay.
Jay at Macos Bait and Tackle in Buzzards Bay said there are bonito mixed in with the albie schools that are still roaming Buzzards Bay, and that tautog fishing action has really picked up across most of the bay, even if a lot of them are shorts. He added that the Canal went off this morning with bass blitzing on peanut bunker and schools of mackerel moving through. Both the east and west ends saw action, with some brief schoolie blitzes on peanuts and the larger fish hitting mackerel colored jigs. Tautog fishing should only get better from here, and they’ve got green crabs to spare so swing by the shop.
Captain Ross of Cape Cod Charter Guys in Bourne told me they’re running around a bit but finding some great fishing for keeper-size stripers and releasing plenty of over-slot fish with them. In Cape Cod Bay, they’re finding big bluefish mixed in with the bass, which they’ve been catching both on topwater plugs and by vertically diamond jigging. He said that the albies have been more finicky and that the larger pods have really thinned out, making it harder to approach the fast-moving surface feeds they’re seeing, but they’re still getting their shots at them. The skipper added that tautog fishing has improved since they started, but their charters are working through a lot of smaller fish to get through to keepers this week.
Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain around Cape Cod and the Islands!
Evan at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth reports a slower week on the albie front. After a couple good days of albie fishing around Vineyard Sound and the Islands last week, he surveyed the scene in Buzzards Bay earlier this week and marked a ton of albies around Cleveland’s Ledge, but didn’t see a single feed or breaking fish. He went back out Wednesday and saw more of the same—tons of marks beneath bait balls on the surface, but no surface activity. According to Evan, it’s almost time to shift into tautog and striper mode entirely, but he’s hoping for one or two more shots at them before calling it quits. Striper fishing on the other hand, has been good. He’s had lots of local customers catching them in the salt ponds on topwater lures, soft plastics and eels. He also said there are quite a few bass in the 28- to 31-inch slot range hanging in tight to the beaches in Buzzards Bay. While he hasn’t gone out for tautog just yet, the shop does have green crabs for all your togging needs.
Christian at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis shared that albies have become slightly scattered on the south side but they’re still hearing of a few schools popping up in Vineyard Sound outside of harbors from Cotuit and Osterville west. There have been a ton of bluefish around too. He pointed out that there are some blues on the south side, but while fishing the harbors in Cape Cod Bay, 4- to 5-pound blues were rampant and intercepted their Rebel Jumpin’ Minnows and tins before the bass could get to them. He also added that there was a solid school of blitzing bonito in the 5-pound range a couple miles offshore in Cape Cod Bay heading toward the Canal earlier today. With albies still popping up here and there in the ditch, a push of chunky bonito would be a nice change of pace for Canal regulars.
Captain Elena Rice of Reel Deal Fishing Charters in Truro reported that the fishing for striped bass and bluefish continues to be absolutely lights out in their area. They’ve had very consistent light tackle action for over-slot stripers and gator blues on topwater plugs and while vertically jigging. The skipper said they are pretty amazed the fishing is still this good! Bluefin tuna fishing, she said, is still spotty and requiring travel time on the days which allow for it.
From Martha’s Vineyard, Captain Kurt Freund of Fishsticks Charters told me that he was able to squeeze in a couple of trips late last week before the wind came roaring in again over the weekend. On Thursday of last week, he and his MV Derby teammate, Hans Riis, had a productive day; they each weighed in a bluefish heavier than their previous best, and the skipper had a 4th place daily bonito, all of which boosted their standing in the team competition. He and Hans are aiming for a qualifying albie and a bonito on Friday to potentially break into one of the top 10, or even top 5 spots.
Last Friday, Kurt took Mike Biviano and Catherine Busey out for their first-ever false albacore. They had several albies on the day, a couple of bonito and a few bluefish to top things off. They later stopped to investigate some marks on the fish finder and jigged up a bunch of scup, sea bass (which were all released) and even an 18-inch tautog on diamond jigs. He was surprised to find a tog on the other end of the line, with this being only the sixth one he’s ever seen landed on a diamond jig.
Earlier this week, the small craft advisory forced Fishsticks to remain docked and a few trips were cancelled, but Kurt will be providing charters (mainly for tautog) until mid-November. Tomorrow, he is heading south of the Vineyard for tuna first thing, and is closing out the day with a final MV Derby trip with their team, Fishsticks with Charter Sauce.
From Nantucket, Rick Ramos provided a wrap-up of the 18th annual Nantucket Inshore Classic and filled me in on the surf fishing scene this week. A big congrats to the following category winners for total inches across the four species!
- All Tackle Boat: Shawn Bristow
- All Tackle Beach: Raf Osona
- Fly Boat: Kris Prerez
- Fly Beach: Michael Howard
- Junior Boat: Fisher Sullivan
- Fly Beach: Fisher Sullivan.
The Nantucket Anglers Club also shared the species data for the catch-and-release tournament. There were a total of 141 striped bass, 201 bluefish, 160 bonito and 202 false albacore caught during the course of the competition.
In the Nantucket surf, Rick reported: “The weekend bite was hotter than ever, with striped bass fishing picking up nicely. I was on a solid night bite on the west end of the island landing 14 bass and a few 34- to 36-inch fish. A pink sluggo was the trick. The daytime bass bite has also been solid if you can find moving water, such as on the south shore or the east and west end rips. Fish have been holding in deeper water, so make a presentation with an SP Minnow or bucktail.”
Rick also checked in with local surf fishing guide, Tammy King, who said that stripers are hitting swimmers at night, but the bass bite tends to shut off in the mornings as bluefish fill in to feed. Tammy said albies are also still mixed in with the blues, so don’t hesitate to toss a Deadly Dick or your favorite epoxy jig out there for the chance at a couple more speedsters. She also reported that Nantucket Harbor has produced bass up to 35 inches this week with walk-the-dog style topwater plugs responsible for some quality fish.
Captain Corey Gammill of Bill Fisher Outfitters reports some better bass fishing in the rips with most of the fish in the slot size range, and some larger bluefish in the mix while the smaller ones have filtered out. He got into a steady mixed bag of bass and blues out by Monomoy earlier in the week and heard much of the same about the rips off of Great Point. There are still a few small pods of albies kicking around the island, but they’ve thinned out a bit since last week when they were everywhere but had a case of lockjaw. Gammill thinks that while the hardtail bite is slowing down, he noted that Nantucket still hasn’t seen the big wave of larger stripers that are anticipated over the coming weeks. The water temperatures are still very warm, he said, so it feels like the tail end of the bluefish schools are in, as are the final schools of albies, before the big shift toward stripers in the final weeks of the fall run.
Finally, the Nantucket Anglers Club also completed the annual Cranny Beach Bluefish Tournament this past weekend. A big thanks goes out to the weigh masters, as the club positions weigh stations at all the top bluefish spots on the island to weigh fish quickly and maintain this as a catch and release tournament. And congratulations to tourney winners Ross Kessler and Matt Fitzpatrick with 6 blues weighing a whopping 72.31 pounds!
Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain around Cape Cod and the Islands!
Cape Cod Fishing Forecast
Surfcasters on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard might have some stellar striper action on the beaches this weekend with the new moon and a north/northeast wind in the forecast. Ditto for surfcasters fishing in Cape Cod Bay, where it sounds like sand eels are still the prominent forage fish. With all the bait still crammed into the rivers, harbors and salt ponds, it’s wise to fish the beaches adjacent to their inlets on a falling tide to pick away at stripers taking advantage of bait moving with the strong new moon tides. Otherwise, fish the incoming tides further up into the rivers and backwaters and seek out channels, holes and funnel points where there’s some significant depth change to find stripers ambushing schools of bait in skinny water.
There are still albies in Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay. The harbor mouths are the best places to scout the scene around first light and the hour or two following. In Buzzards Bay, albie/tog trips are now feasible for those boaters and kayak fishermen equipped to chase both. Stripers and bluefish will be in the area too, and who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and happen upon a school of bonito. If you’re looking for an albie from shore, the Canal is still your best bet.
The southwest corner of Buzzards Bay has proven the most reliable place to find keeper tautog in recent weeks, but the Elizabeth Islands, rocky stretches of the Cape coastline in Buzzards Bay, and even the west end of the Canal are all proving to be productive areas for keeper tog.
And don’t forget, if worst comes to worst, there are plenty of freshly stocked rainbow trout for the taking in the Cape kettle ponds.