Cape Cod Fishing Report
It has been a tough winter for fishing, that’s no secret. The pattern has been a week of ice, followed by a few days of open water, which has continued on and off for most of January. But today marks the start of February, which means we’ve got two more months of mostly winter weather before things really start to warm up. At this point, there’s no telling whether or not Cape Cod anglers will see safe ice this season; or at least safer ice than we did last week.
As the ponds thawed out late last week, a few of us at OTW developed a bad case of the fishing bug. So, on Friday, I joined Anthony DeiCicchi for a little lunch time largemouth bass fishing. The aim was just to get out there, find open water and make a few casts. The odds were immediately stacked against us, but I couldn’t have picked a better lunchtime bass fishing companion. Anthony tends to have absurd luck—if you call it luck—during lunch break outings, so we made our way to a pond neither of us had fished before to survey the bass scene.
A few minutes later, we found ourselves stomping through 1/2-inch thick ice, trying to clear a “path” to cast our lures. It was a bit shallow, so we bushwhacked to a less-icy shoreline, stomped around to give ourselves some space, and got to work. It only took 4 to 5 casts for Anthony to hook up. His rod tip bounced ever so slightly with what we thought would be a pickerel, or a lethargic little bass. Then it surfaced, and he scooped up a chunky winter largemouth.
Anthony’s luck didn’t stop there. He set the fish down on a piece of ice to grab his scale as I grabbed my camera, and the bass flopped into the water, dove beneath the ice (still hooked) and wrapped him around the tree. We proceeded to rummage through muddied ice water, snapping submerged branches and moving mini icebergs to free the fish before finally getting it on the scale. It weighed just over 4 pounds.
Talk about a great way to head into the weekend. Catching a four pounder after bushwhacking the shores of a semi-frozen, new-to-us pond got us jazzed up. During the winter months, it’s the small victories that carry anglers through the slow season.
The bass bite didn’t hold through the weekend, at least not for me. I skunked for largemouth at several ponds on two occasions with not even a pickerel to show for it, but in the cold, rainy weather we had on Cape, white perch were feeding heavily. They kept me busy on Saturday morning.
Sticking with last week’s plan to try a couple potential new perch spots didn’t go as expected. I hit two new salt ponds without a fish to show for it, but spot number 3 had a dense school of big white perch feeding tight to shore. It took some time to find the school, but once I did, they were biting on every cast.
White perch fishing is very tide dependent. With last week’s full moon, tides were exceptionally higher and stronger, and the perch responded by putting on the feed bag. They’re a tough fish to figure out, even when you have an idea of where or when the fish should be feeding. The incoming tide was the more productive window this week. There were even some familiar faces mixed in with the perch.
“Walnut” bunker, as Jimmy Fee called them, were swimming into my line as they filter fed on the incoming tide. They’re not quite peanuts, but they’re not fully grown adult menhaden either. It makes you wonder: “are there any holdover stripers in the area?”. Unfortunately, not this time around.
If you’re looking for white perch in your area, try to locate deeper pools in rivers where saltwater and freshwater meet. Or, try casting around your local brackish pond. On the south side of Cape Cod in particular, there are loads of small creeks and marshes that connect Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds to our freshwater ponds. Those ponds in close proximity to salt will get a rush of saltwater around the new and full moons, so they are great starting points in the search for perch, which feed on just about anything from micro baitfish to grass shrimp and worms. Employ some ultralight tackle to sense their subtle strikes and combat their line-shy nature. Most importantly, try fishing the ponds and creeks on different stages of the tide.
There are also plenty of white perch in some of the larger freshwater kettle lakes, like Mashpee-Wakeby Pond, Johns Pond, Cliff Pond and Wequaquet Lake. They’re a little different than the perch in brackish water in terms of color and size, but from a small boat or kayak, they are a blast to jig on light tackle—especially if you’re utilizing a fish finder to locate the school.
Trout fishing reports have been quiet since the ponds thawed, but browns and rainbows are some of the more reliable fish in our ponds this time of year. Even though they’re active in cold water, when temps dip below freezing, they can be more difficult to dupe. In many cases, that’s when PowerBait, nightcrawlers, or live shiners on a bottom rig will prevail over spoons, jerkbaits or small soft plastics and hair jigs. This weekend looks windy and cold again with a chance of rain, which, in my opinion, is bass weather. If the wind lays down, I’m hoping to get out and jig some smallmouth from my kayak. If the wind is stiff, the better bet will be casting suspending jerkbaits from shore for largemouth. All that being said, don’t hesitate to grab some bait, pick a shoreline, and set up a couple rods. One of my more memorable winter fishing excursions this winter was spent doing just that on an Outer Cape pond with my buddy Jack. I highly recommend spending Saturday or Sunday morning on a trout pond with a couple variations of bait. You never know what might pick up a shiner or a nightcrawler!
Connor at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay said this week has been particularly slow for business in the shop. The weather has been uncooperative between wind and rain and uncomfortably cold fishing conditions as a result, so participation has been way down. They’re hoping to see a turnaround over the next week with some more mild winter weather in the forecast, but for now, check out their new online store! Now you can order all your go-to gear for the Canal, the ponds, the surf or boat without having to run down to the shop, which is hugely helpful during the winter months especially. Many of our local tackle shops are closed or on winter hours, so rather than cutting out of work early to rush to the store, like me, take a peek on their new site and shop around.
Evan at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle said the shop just reopened this week after closing for the month of January. Evan spent the past month in Florida fishing for snook and jacks near Tampa, but the shop is open again on winter hours (Wednesday-Saturday) throughout February. Since he just got back to town, Evan is hoping to restock bait this weekend, and will definitely have shiners and nightcrawlers available by next weekend. Yesterday he had a young angler swing by and grab his remaining shiners before going trout fishing in some ponds around Falmouth, but he has yet to hear any results. Stop by this weekend to check for bait and pick up a few freshwater lures and/or shellfishing gear.
Lee at Riverview Bait and Tackle in South Yarmouth said they’ve had a handful of trout fishermen come in for bait this past week. They’re catching rainbows and browns in some of the kettle ponds nearby to keep busy, but that’s just about all that’s going right now. Stop in to re-up on bait or pick up any last-minute tackle needs before your next trout outing.
Amy at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis said the reports have been slow this week due to weather but one report she got from a customer stood out. Amy said he was fishing with a buddy at Nickerson State Park on the outer Cape and they caught a bunch of yellow perch by jigging the bottom with small soft plastics. They were jigging from a small hand-launched boat that allowed them to reach some of the deeper holes where yellow perch had schooled up and they had fast action for a few hours, which led to a nice little perch dinner. Sports Port has live bait, PowerBait and a wide selection of artificials from spinners and spoons to soft plastics to keep you on the perch, bass and trout all winter long.
Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain around Cape Cod and the Islands!
Cape Cod Fishing Forecast
The weekend weather doesn’t look promising, but as stated in many prior fishing reports, finding those weather windows is crucial to success in winter freshwater fishing. As this mild front moves in from the south, it may bring rain and a change in barometric pressure (which you can check using your iPhone weather app); any drop in pressure is likely to drive bass and pickerel to feed, so fishing the ponds prior to a rainstorm or a major shift in wind direction can often be the most productive window.
The best bets for the weekend and early next week will be fishing the trout ponds with live or artificial bait like PowerBait, or even corn—or, casting jerkbaits around the bass ponds. Using brief twitches of the rod, and long pauses between each twitch, is generally the best way to keep your bait in the strike zone to boost your odds of hooking into a big bass or gator pickerel.
Additionally, if conditions allow, launching a small boat or kayak in one of the Cape’s many kettle lakes can bring some solid jigging action for perch, trout, and smallmouth or largemouth bass. Fingers crossed the winds lays down on Saturday, because personally, I’m looking for a change of pace from shore casting and wading through ice water. It’s been too long since my kayak has taken a dip in the sweet water.
Wherever fishing finds you this week, use good judgement, respect the fish, respect the water and any anglers around you, and most importantly, have fun. Go catch ’em up. Thanks for reading.
(If you’d like to contribute to our weekly fishing reports this winter, email me at email@example.com with a brief report of your day on the water and what you caught, or message me on Instagram @matthaeffner.)