Cape Cod Fishing Report- November 22, 2023

Tautog are chewing in 60- to 70-foot depths, and freshwater fishing for trout and bass picks up steam as striper activity dwindles.

Cape Cod Fishing Report

As I write this, the wind is honking outside the OTW offices. It’s cold, gusty and rainy, and while conditions are definitely not ideal for fishing now, the ponds and rivers were in need of some rainfall. The good news is, the forecast for Saturday and Sunday looks great despite some temperatures in the low 30s, and the ponds have been fishing well all week, so the stage is set for some solid post-storm trout or bass fishing.

Striped bass fishing has dropped off since the last wave of migrators, along with some giant bluefish, pushed through the Canal earlier this week. There may be a few blues and schoolies left in the west end, otherwise, the best opportunities to hook into a couple November stripers remain in the rivers and salt ponds. Our resident holdovers are staging in these areas and while the fish are not large or abundant, they’re still chewing to fatten up before the long winter ahead.

If you’ve still got a boat in the water, tautog fishing should be pretty reliable over the weekend. Harvey Russell of My Brother Charters out of Martha’s Vineyard and Falmouth has been on a solid blackfish bite, fishing standard rigs in around 70 feet of water and consistently pulling up tog from 3 to 8 pounds. Green crabs and the occasional large spider crab have been the preferred baits. Areas of hard structure off the Bay or Sound sides of the Elizabeth Islands are producing reliable action.

Harvey Russell Jr. hoists a chunky tog that took his crab-baited rig in around 70 feet of water this week.

If you can’t get out for tautog though, grab a light spinning combo, pick up some spoons, suspending jerkbaits and small soft plastics like ned rigs or tube jigs to fish for smallmouth and largemouth bass, trout and chain pickerel in the freshwater ponds. Earlier this week, I was able to net a few trout using Kastmasters on a kettle lake in Mashpee, where big schools of tiny juvenile herring were still hugging the shoreline to avoid becoming a meal for trout or smallies. The only other angler on the pond was catching smallmouth bass and rainbow trout one after another using nightcrawlers on a lightweight bottom rig.

Worms and shiners are your best friend this time of year, as bass and trout will often turn their noses up at artificial offerings. If spoons, jerkbaits and soft plastics aren’t getting it done, there’s no shame in picking up a bucket of a couple dozen live shiners at your local shop and fishing them beneath a float in your favorite pond. I did just that with Connor Swartz of Red Top Sporting Goods over the weekend during a drop in barometric pressure that had largemouth bass putting on the feed bag.

Largemouth bass were active in the ponds all week. This one inhaled a live shiner that I rigged about 12 inches beneath a bobber, allowing it to swim just above any shallow vegetation and entice bass lingering among the weeds and grasses.

I stuck a couple bass that were hanging along a deep weed line with 3-inch Vudu Mullet swimbaits before making the switch to live bait.

When fished low and slow, bass were just as willing to take artificial lures as they were a live bait.

The action was fast and our shiners typically lasted only a minute out there. Finally, after releasing dozens of 1 to 2-pound bass, Connor stuck a 5 pounder, which, if it had a full belly, could have easily weighed over 6.5 pounds.

Connor Swartz caught and released this fat largemouth bass that gulped down his shiner and made a run for cover after realizing it was hooked.

And while the bass were plentiful, they were not the only ones willing to take our live shiners. Yellow perch have been active, and some bigger ones too; when you get on a school of them, they provide consistent action that can be a lot of fun with an ultralight rod, especially for young kids.

Yellow perch joined the party and in some cases, they beat the bass to our baits.

Thanksgiving weekend is always a busy one, and if you can’t find time to fish during the day, don’t hesitate to throw some shiners beneath a lighted float at night. Jack Renfrew of East Falmouth has been pond hopping with jointed Rapalas and live shiners under the cover of darkness in search of big brown trout. His efforts this week yielded a quality 3- to 4-pound largemouth, a couple of hefty rainbow trout and a sizable brown trout.

While on the hunt for big browns at night, Jack Renfrew caught this rainbow trout on a live shiner.

The weather outside is grim for now, but don’t let a little wind and rain, or fewer hours of daylight, stop you from wetting a line, or doing some shellfishing this holiday weekend. Here’s what a few of our local shops have to say about the fishing this week:

Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay told me that the east end of the Canal blew up on Sunday with some quality slot-size bass and gator bluefish. The action has been hit or miss since then, but anyone who is thinking of hitting the ditch this week should focus their efforts on the west end as those fish push through. Despite the uptick in activity in the Canal though, he said his focus is shifting to freshwater for bass and trout, and most of their customers are beginning to do the same. One of their employees, George, had a decent day of togging in Buzzards Bay over the weekend, but the boat did not get their limit as they have in weeks past, which could be a result of tautog transitioning into even deeper water. If you’ve got a boat in the water, grab some crabs at the shop and focus your efforts on deep, hard structure. Otherwise, the best bet for bending a rod this week will be in sweet water. The shop just got in a big shipment of Berkley jerkbaits and crankbaits, and they have nightcrawlers, trout worms and shiners available for anyone looking to fish for bass or trout with live bait.

Evan at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth reported that most of his customers this week were coming for shellfishing gear like waders, rakes and baskets. I picked up a bucket of shiners from Evan on Saturday afternoon and planned to use them for trout, but when the trout weren’t chewing, I decided to move spots and try a bass pond instead. There, the bass fishing was lock and load with a few yellow perch in the mix. Evan said the shop is carrying shiners, nightcrawlers and plenty of artificials for your trout and bass fishing needs this holiday weekend.

Christian at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis said the focus from their customers has shifted almost entirely to freshwater, with the exception being a spike in shellfishing interest from locals. Everyone is gearing up to harvest oysters, clams and bay scallops (which just opened), so they’ve seen an uptick in sales for waders and rakes as well. The shop is stocked with freshwater gear and they have live bait (shiners and nightcrawlers) as well as PowerBait for anyone interested in targeting trout, bass and perch this week.

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

Among the dozens of things to be thankful for this year, I’m especially thankful for the great freshwater fishing we have on Cape Cod that allows us to extend our season into the winter. It’s a tough transition from chasing riled-up stripers and albies to the quiet solitude of wading a kettle pond, but those who really love the sport, regardless of the target species, can find good fishing on Cape even as the days get shorter and the conditions get cold and gloomy.

On the note of “things to be thankful for”, my bass fishing is yet to be plagued by pickerel, which will become more active over the next few weeks. Even though they’re a pain to handle, any fish that puts up a solid fight on an ultralight setup in 30-degree weather is worth fishing for in my book.

This week, take some live bait down to your local honey hole and see what’s biting for the best bet at bending a rod. And if freshwater really isn’t your cup of tea, you can still spend some quality time on the water with family or friends raking for clams or scallops. Just make sure you have your shellfishing license!

Have a happy Thanksgiving and thanks for reading along. Stay safe out there!

If you’d like to contribute to our weekly fishing reports this winter, email me (mhaeffner@onthewater.com) with a brief report of your day on the water and what you caught, or message me on Instagram @matthaeffner.

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