It’s been a busy week on the water. The bays and salt ponds are emptying out as schools of peanut bunker, spearing, bay anchovies and more make their exodus. Most of the bass will join them, following their forage south toward the spawning grounds from whence they came. However, some will remain, hunkered down in our little local rivers and salt ponds, chowing down on shellfish, killifish (mud minnows) and small crustaceans throughout the winter. We’re not there just yet, but we’re close. Boats are being pulled, gear is being stowed, and while many are packing it up for the season, or readying their trout gear, there are still opportunities for anglers who just keep grinding it out in the salt.
This past weekend, the fishing on the south side of Cape Cod was fantastic. In my 2 short years on Cape, I haven’t seen big bass on the south side like I did on Saturday and Sunday morning. Stripers to 20+ pounds were feeding aggressively on schools of 5- to 6-inch mullet, peanut bunker and silversides in the gusty south wind, and my buddy Ryan and I enjoyed hours of good fishing all to ourselves. Mullet and peanut bunker were pinned on a giant flat between two inlets, and with the ebb tide forcing bait out of the back bays, they were exiting straight into heavy onshore winds, which kept them pinned close to the beach. Even tighter to shore, were the schools of silversides that sought refuge among the jetty we casted from. We nabbed a bunch of fish from 25 inches to around 18 pounds on pencil poppers, and man were they fired up. When there are mullet around, bass go nuts. They were lunging at our plugs, dorsals exposed, inhaling the lures close to the rocks and even going airborne like bluefish after we hooked them. It was a morning to remember, but eventually, the bite died off. We made a move to another south-facing beach where Ryan tied into a couple 6- to 8-pound bluefish using a Deadly Dick. Those blues were spitting up peanut bunker.
There have been a ton of bluefish on the south side in Vineyard Sound, but not many gators. OTW’s editor Jimmy Fee dealt with small, nuisance blues while fishing eels in Vineyard Sound last week, as they picked away at the tails of his eels. The best way to enjoy bluefish in the 4- to 8-pound range is with a lightweight surf or inshore rod rated to around 2 ounces in the 8- to 9-foot foot range; maybe even 7′ 6″. Head to the beaches of Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds with assorted metals—like Kastmasters, Hopkins No Eql, Deadly Dicks, Crippled Herring or Krocodile spoons—to mimic the various types of forage in the surf and you’ll likely find some blues.
If mullet are to stick around, the bass fishing on the south side could remain good through the weekend too. I found that the best action is happening between first light and late morning, so if you have even an hour to spare, there’s potential for a nice topwater session. Birds will help you find the fish. Fish the areas in close proximity to inlets and river mouths for the best chance at getting bit, and if topwater doesn’t work, a basic swim shad from Tsunami, Storm or even a Z-Man HerculeZ will dupe a mullet-eating bass. As of Monday morning, there were plenty of stripers from 22 to 32 inches roaming along Vineyard Sound beaches, and with the amount of bait I was seeing, I doubt they’re going anywhere—especially with this unseasonably warm, sunny weather we’re experiencing as I write this.
On Sunday, while enjoying a pencil popper bite in Vineyard Sound, I got word from Connor Swartz and Bull from Red Top Sporting Goods that a massive group of albies had pushed through the Canal early that morning, with action from east end to west end. I can’t say for certain, but it sounds to me like the exodus of albies from Cape Cod Bay. They are much harder to come by these days, although Ryan and I had a solo albie crash through a school of spearing in about 18 inches of water along the jetty we fished from on Monday. If you’re out there fishing for bluefish with metals this week, it may be worth packing a few epoxy jigs too; you just may come across a few straggler albies.
As I left the office on Monday evening, I got a text from Connor Swartz that said he and his father, Rob, planned to head south of the Vineyard for a last-ditch bluefin tuna effort on Tuesday. Boy am I glad I joined them. After 2 tough outings with the father/son duo on Cape Cod Bay this summer, we finally connected with a quality bluefin on a jumbo live pogy. We were prepared for a jig and pop bite, but we wound up snagging some of the biggest bunker I have ever seen and sending one down to around 60 feet. After 10 minutes or so, Rob said we marked 4 fish around 60 feet, and right on cue, our bunker started to dance in a panic. The fish inhaled our offering and a couple decent runs ensued before we landed it after a 20-minute battle just after 11 a.m. Because they have their commercial license, and the commercial bluefin season is closed, we were unable to keep the fish. That was fine by me; watching my first-ever bluefin swim off after a brief revival made this a day to remember.
Connor also strayed from his usual dwellings on the rip-rap of the Cape Cod Canal to fish the south side this weekend, and he was handsomely rewarded with several fish pushing 40 inches and a few over.
If mullet stick around, we could be in for a great weekend of surf fishing. The weekend weather looks promising for the first time in, dare I say, months? The last sunny Saturday we had was in mid September, if I remember correctly. And while there are bass and blues in the surf of Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds, do not overlook the excellent tautog fishing going on in Buzzards Bay down to the Elizabeths right now. There may be some spots on the south side for tog, but the bulk of the keepers being caught are coming from Buzzards Bay. There have also been whispers of big bass chasing down schools of hickory shad in the surf around New Bedford. If true, those bass will be moving fast, as schools of shad don’t tend to stay put very long, but those bass will also be seriously fat. If I had to guess, they are likely the same big bass that were entertaining anglers at the East End of the Canal last week.
Speaking of the East End of the Canal, East End Eddie Doherty reports:
“The west tides get most of my attention at this stage of the season as migrating striped bass ride the current into Buzzards Bay to continue south, but it has been the east tide that has given up most of the large fish so far this fall. Tim “Hollywood” Petracca brought a 25-pound bass to the rocks on an east rising tide with an old-fashioned loaded Cotton Cordell. “Hollywood” followed that nice 35 inch catch with a 37-inch linesider the next day! Then, fishing slowed down in a hurry with the exception of some slots and slightly better reeled in by Scott Ewell with small pencils and Zak Baker with his trusty blue FishLab. The public restrooms are now closed for the season on the Canal, there are some portables available, but be sure to bring a clothespin for your nose!”
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Although I fished with him several times this week, I called Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay to get an idea of what their customers, and the Canal crowd, have been doing on the water this week. Connor said the east end is loaded with sub-slot to slot-size stripers taking topwater plugs around dawn before it transitions to a jig bite, but the west tides have been the better tides, assisting fish in their journey south. When I asked him about togging in Buzzards Bay, he said the action has still been very good out of Westport and New Bedford. One of their employees at the shop goes out several times a week and he’s gotten his limit every time. Tog fishing is the best thing going right now in Buzzards, and the action carries into Vineyard Sound along the rocky shorelines of the Elizabeth Islands, which have been packed with tog pushing double digits.
Captain Ross of Cape Cod Charter Guys in Bourne reports:
“We have been on the stripers steady and strong in Cape Cod Bay. The bluefish are still here with them, just not in the huge numbers like we had early in the season. When we were fishing for stripers with our typical bass gear, we got smoked by a huge bluefin tuna in less than 5 seconds. Only a few days left in the season and we want to than all the people that have supported us this year! We’re looking forward to finishing the season strong.”
Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth told me that early in the week, and late last week, the south side around Falmouth has had a lot of bluefish with some stripers mixed in, which is consistent with what I experienced out east. Evan said his customers are still catching stripers in the salt ponds, and noted that they’re primarily feeding on peanut bunker. He added that there are some decent sized bluefish—not quite gators, but not snappers— and some keeper bass in the area as well. Grab your surf rod and get down to the beaches this weekend!
Christian at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis reported lots of blues and bass blitzing on peanut bunker in Nantucket Sound this week. He said their customers have been doing well in the surf and that they’re selling a lot of large, white swimming plugs like SP Minnows and Hydro Minnows, which is likely due to that presence of mullet in certain areas of the south side surf. He’s anticipating a few more good weeks of fishing due to the amount of bait still around, and with the full moon coming, there may be another push of solid bass along the south side. Even though the south side has been hot, the Outer Cape beaches have remained relatively quiet though. It’s worth keeping an eye on that over the next couple of weeks. Christian also mentioned that Amy went out for tautog today in the Sound and caught lots of shorts and a handful of keepers at Collier Ledge. They’re selling a lot of green crabs at the shop, so call to make sure they have some before heading down.
Captain Cam Faria of Cambo Charters reported that there’s still some good tuna fishing south of the Vineyard, but he’s begun splitting his time going for tautog as well. He said the tog bite in Buzzards Bay has been the most reliable, especially fishing out of the Westport area where there have been easy limits, but the Elizabeths are also holding some good fish. He has a tog charter this Sunday, so if you’re looking to fill the cooler this coming week give him a shout.
Captain Elena Rice of Reel Deal Fishing Charters in Truro reported that fishing for striped bass, blues and tautog continues to offer some fantastic action despite colder, gusty conditions. They have done especially well on the tautog grounds with several nice-sized fish landed recently. Elena said their kids recently had an opportunity to enjoy the good weather on the water while celebrating their grandfather’s 77th birthday! Cape Cod family memories at their finest. For once this fall, there is a beautiful weekend forecast ahead and they will certainly be out taking advantage of the improved conditions after weeks of wind and unfavorable weather.
From Nantucket, Rick Ramos reports:
“I’d first like to highlight the annual ‘Last Albie’ and ‘Last Bass’ contest sponsored by Nantucket Tackle Center. This has been a fun event that keeps the fishing going to see who can catch the last one. Current leaders as of October 25th at 9AM are: Cody Peterson – last albie, and James Hatton – last bass. To keep this in perspective, last year’s last albie was caught on October 27th by Nick Whitbeck on FV Sea Hunt and the last bass was caught from the beach by Raf Osona on November 22nd. This weekend should be interesting as we are up against last year’s timing with still a decent amount of albies running through Nantucket waters.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been fishing this week although I’ve been on the beat, working my network to get the latest report. Nantucket has an awesome fishing scene with so many great anglers on good bites who are willing to share information. I first checked in with Greg Chotkowski, who has been consistently working the water’s edge on the rips and holes with his favorite technique, bucktailing.
Greg said: ‘Bass fishing has been great, especially at Point of Breakers (POB) because of the accessibility, and I find that there is always moving water being at the start of the Miacomet rip. It fishes well on all tides, but better around sunrise and then leading up to sunset. I’ve been having my best luck with 2- to 3-ounce bucktails depending on the strength of the current. The best color combination is white/chartreuse with a white or chartreuse trailer.’
Greg had one afternoon session at POB with John Robinson (AKA John from Maine) where they were on a steady bite of over slot fish.”
Rick also checked in with Raf Osona, who reported a steady bite at POB of bass, blues and even albies mixed in. He added “Raf has enjoyed the cocktail bluefish bite the most as he’s been running his smoker so much that we can smell the hickory from both ends of the island. Maybe next week we will share Raf’s smoked bluefish pâté recipe!”
“Working down the South Shore to Nobadeer Beach, Nate Skerrit has reported catching slot-size stripers on the SP Minnow as they are running along the edge of the skinny water wash. On the east side of the island, Bill ‘Tuna’ Tornovish reported catching gator blues and slot bass on a mid-water retrieve using a metal Shimano ColtSniper with a bucktail flag.
Surfcasting guide, Tammy King, has also been fishing the east side and Great Point. She reported albies busting close to the beach and hitting topwater IslandX Hellfire 180 in Electric Chicken. There were large bait balls just off of the north parking lot with blues and bass feeding. The action slowed down after the tide change but she was still able to hook into bass, blues and albies until the sun went down. Overall, a very exciting report with a ton of recent surf action. The weather looks good this weekend and there are a lot of fish around, so Nantucket surfcasters should have plenty of opportunities to get tight this weekend.”
Rick also shared an inshore report from Captain Corey Gammill of Bill Fisher Outfitters, who said that there are plenty of bass and blues around, but depending on the day, they are aggressive or spotty. He’s been fishing on the Western edges this week finding inconsistent patterns, with great action one day and the next day being surprisingly quiet. He was seeing a ton of albies on the south shore late last week, but it seems they’ve since dispersed, so the search is on. The skipper added that there was a solid bluefin tuna bite south of Nantucket last Thursday, and that most of the boats out there either hooked up or landed one. There are lots of fish at Great Point, Corey said, and there have been gannets crashing around Miacomet and Old Man’s shoal, indicating that there are certainly baitfish there, most likely herring, and that there should be some bass in the vicinity.
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Cape Cod Fishing Forecast
This weekend looks like mild winds, sunshine and 70-degree air temps… what a breath of fresh air! The best bets for some good action will be tautog fishing in Buzzards Bay, along the Elizabeths, or in select areas of Vineyard Sound. However, tog are still in shallow too. OTW’s Adam Eldridge caught a few just-barely-short tog from shore on his lunch break today and lost a good one to the rocks. If you’ve got access to 15- or 20-foot depths around rocky structure, you’ll likely find some tog chewing.
Stripers and blues are abundant across the south side still and with all the bait around, it doesn’t seem like they’re in any rush to leave yet. Sunrise and sunset will be the best times to throw topwater, but keep your eyes peeled for birds and blitzing fish during the late morning hours as well. Swim shads will imitate mullet and mid-sized peanuts, and metals and epoxies will mimic silversides and smaller peanuts, which will likely land you some cocktail blues in the surf.
With the calm, sunny forecast, tuna should still be accessible south of the Vineyard. Last I heard there are still schools of big bunker out there, and this may be the last temperate weather we see this fall. Make the most of it! There’s plenty of good fishing opportunities inshore and offshore, and you can bet on bass and trout being active in the ponds as juvenile herring have been making their way out of many of the herring run ponds.
Thanks for reading. Now, get out there and enjoy it!