What’s not to love about the quintessential American holiday that combines equal measures of fun, food, family, friends and – fishing? Ok, maybe a little bit of football also, but if you’re looking to ward off tryptophan from too much turkey than substitute a few casts for a few hours on the couch.
Apparently some of you like tautog at least as much as turkey! What else would explain why a gang of 8 would rise at an ungodly hour on a 22 degree morning to jump aboard a center console to go fishing. Despite my deckmates aboard Captain Jason Colby’s Little Sister on Tuesday resembling Iditarod participants, not once did I hear anyone bemoaning the cold. It could be loosely based on thermodynamics; the cold seems to quickly give way to a hot bite. While we did find fish inshore in 40 feet of water, tautog are beginning to transition to deeper water so have a Buzzards Bay backup plan and be prepared to have jigs/sinkers heavy enough to handle 75 feet of water with current.
As for the rest of the saltwater suitors, you won’t need gear nearly that heavy! While there is always the possibility of picking off a procrastinating linesider off a beach or even hitting harbor holdover haunts, you’re probably better served giving our seven-striped crush a rest until next spring. Smelt, whiting and mackerel are more reliable options off piers/docks/marinas all across the Bay State.
Don’t sweat the lack of bait such as grass shrimp or seaworms. Like many types of fishing, bait matters – but not always. I can list numerous examples of this but as it pertains to smelt one anecdote really sticks out. Several years ago my friend Rick Paone kept his boat at a slip in a Winthrop Marina that was at the gateway to the Belle Isle Marsh in East Boston where smelt spawn. Early on, he saw the opportunity for smelt so he installed “fishing” lights on the pier next to his boat. Those lights acted like the proverbial moth to the flame attracting all kinds of critters to the glow including – smelt! The catching was great with the initial attempts solely based on nights with grass shrimp as bait. Believing the legend that smelt were one fussy fish we hedged out bets and went all in on how you are “supposed” to fish for smelt. But gradually we began loosening things up and still caught them. One swap was the more easily obtainable seaworms over the grass shrimp – and we still caught.
Then one afternoon we eschewed the strictly nights-only mantra and hit the pier while it was daylight and still caught smelt. In fact the bite was so good that I passed on the seaworm and it didn’t seen to matter as the fish were still smacking a naked sabiki! Certainly that is not always the case but should you not have access to bait don’t use that as an excuse not to go fishing. As for which sabiki to use for the smelt I’ve always been partial to those made of real fish skins believing the sharp-eyed smelt see the difference. Lit docks, wharves, piers, bridges and marinas which are near a river or estuary are good places to start for your smelt search. Hull, Hingham, Quincy, Charlestown, East Boston, Chelsea and Winthrop are all places to consider. You may wind up with just a chilly skunking but there’s always the possibility of you getting a handle on a new late fall/winter pastime!
While fishing at the Chu last week with my buddy, Billy Eicher, we ran into one of the Chu’s more accomplished anglers – Vinny Percuoco. If he’s reading this he’s no doubt railing at my description of Wachusett as the “Chu” as long-term fishers of this place strictly call it The Rez or The Rezy!
While he’s no stranger to trophies and other angling accolades what he’s most known for and proud of is the he’s the pops of Val Percuoco. Val is a pretty good fisher in her own right as well as being the world record white perch holder! When Vinny approached us I knew he was old school as he had a pack-basket strapped to his shoulders. Further proof that he was a throwback was when he began sharing pictures with me from his Olympus point-and-shoot camera. When I asked where his cell phone was, he proudly said that he didn’t have one. What he did have was pail of yellow perch as well as worms. Perch are an aphrodisiac for most everything which swims in Wachusett and a blown up crawler is just the thing for the outsized white perch which swim in the Chu – I mean the Rez! And according to Vinny, the fall is prime time for premium perch – and he told me that we were standing in the very spot where Val bested her beast. He also said to be on the lookout for smelt either in tightly packed schools or washed up escapees on the shoreline. It only makes sense that where you’ll find the bait you’ll find the predators. If your image of Wachusett is a hike worthy of Sir Edmund Hillary than take comfort that I met Vinny at one of the “close spots”! As to where to find perch, try the Stillwater River tributary. During two outings last month there for salmon I could not keep snack-sized, 4-inch perch fry off my hook. So next time you’re sweating it over nuances while deciding leader strength or Kastmaster color think of the dude with the pack-basket and no cell phone whooping those trophies!
Massachusetts Fishing Forecast
A thousand pardons please for a report as skinny as a picked-over turkey wishbone but believe it or not, info on a snowy/rainy Wednesday before Thanksgiving was a bit lacking. Looking forward, I’ve often been able to report on flash-frozen hardwater in the Connecticut Valley Region as well as the Berkshires in early December! The same can be said for Southern Maine which I also report on when “ice is in” there. Happy Thanksgiving readers/anglers and don’t leave the fresh air and exercise to just the athletes on the football field!