Massachusetts Fishing Report- February 8, 2024

Western MA pike
West still rules with the Oxbow, Cheshire and Onota all producing pike!

Anglers doing their due diligence are finding plenty of hardwater opportunities but if ever there was a year not to take that next step for granted this is it. Fortunately those yearning for more options can’t help but be encouraged by next week’s frigid forecast. All the more encouraging is big news about a little fish which for generations was an offseason saltwater staple.

Massachusetts Fishing Report

Odds are that if you’ve read the current “Bass” edition of On The Water you’re pretty pumped about prospects in the spring for Larry and his cousin Sally. Moreover if you watched the OTW TV episode about bass fishing the Quabbin with Dave “Turtleman” Riley you’re also appreciating another chapter to the Bay State’s premier cold water fishery. Moving forward we are privileged to be able to include invaluable insight on Quabbin Reservoir. Obviously that will not be in the cards until sometime in April when the Q is open for fishing but for an appetizer we’re going to include a prelude from the Turtleman of what to expect and things to consider!
From Dave: “My first report is going to be an easy one. Quabbin is closed. The official opening day this year will be (weather permitting) April 20th, 2024. Closing day will be October 19th, 2024. That doesn’t mean it’s not time to start thinking about fishing here at Quabbin. Included in this report are links to the many rules and regulations in place here to protect the watershed, and ultimately, the drinking water for millions of people in the Boston region and beyond. Of particular interest to some will be the private boating rules. These are very specific, and if you wish to launch your own boat here, you should study them carefully – once your boat has a Quabbin seal, it becomes very important to keep it until you believe your Quabbin season is done. Also included is a fishing map. It shows any out of bounds areas, contains a well marked trail system, and will show the separation of this large body of water into 3 smaller, more manageable sizes. There is the northern section which is bounded by the most northern shorelines to the North Dana area to the west, and Mt Russ to the east. The Dana/Area 3 is mid-section of Quabbin beginning around the North Dana area and extending to the barrels on the westernmost side of Mt.Zion, as well as the water in it’s entirety on the Eastern side of Mt.Zion. Lastly there is the Gate 8, Area 1 section – the Canyon which is essentially its own body of water and is not accessible from the other areas by boundary barrels. These barrels protect approximately 10,000 acres of off limits water and the dam in Belchertown. All of the same rules apply here, and it is the premiere place to fish for Quabbin’s cold water species. There are some very large bass of both species here also although they are not nearly as abundant as in the northern sections”.

Quabbin Reservoir
While you can’t touch Quabbin yet, It’s never too early to prepare!

Useful Quabbin Reservoir Information:

In future installments the Turtleman will dive into specific locations and techniques with the hope that his tips will enable a few of you to take advantage of this one-of-a-kind place!

It’s unusual to hear smelt scuttlebutt in February but there is some real buzz about this fish from Quincy to Winthrop. Without the option of preferred bait – grass shrimp and seaworms – anglers are employing Sabiki’s spiced with grubs, worms and shiner strips and catching smelt. The misnomer is that these fish are only active at night. Nights are advantageous because lights from piers, bridges and docks constrict the bait as well as the smelt, but should you know their whereabouts, you’re just as likely to catch during the day. I did give it a shot Thursday morning off a Winthrop Marina dock but the fish were simply not there. Stay tuned for what will hopefully be a more productive outing. Other anglers have been faring better at Hewitts Cove, Nut Island and the Winthrop Pubic Landing. I suspect any lit pier in the Charlestown/East Boston area may hold smelt. What would help is a spate of unseasonably warm weather this weekend to assist in the search, but little chance of that ever happening – or is there?

Billy Eicher with largemouth bass caught through the ice.
Billy Eicher found good ice and good bass about 20 miles nothing of Boston.

Two buddies, Batista and his sidekick Billy Eicher, did find 6” of ice and a decent bass, perch, pickerel and crappie bite about 20 miles north of Boston, and while the shorelines will be suspect in the teeth of the predicted thaw, doubtless smaller ponds in that area will lock up again by the end of next week! Meanwhile the news from Central Mass is that Comet, Maple Springs, South Meadows and Brigham all held very happy hardwater enthusiasts recently. According to Eddie of B&A Bait and Tackle Co. in West Boylston there were also a few pulling pike out of Newton Pond as well as a sheltered area or two of Indian Lake. Unless you’re familiar with any of these water bodies don’t give it a go until the big chill locks things up next week.

• Want to get in on the bite? Find an OTW-approved Charter Fishing Captain for Massachusetts

A safer alternative is once again to head out west. Joe from Granby Bait told me that he’s been fishing the multi-specie Oxbow off the Connecticut River where they’ve been on 6/7” of ice! Guys have been having action at North Pond, Forest Pond, Greenwater Pond and at both Upper and Lower Highland Lake at the D.A.R State Forest. You could do worse than to hang with Josh from the Fishing Hole in South Hadley! Week after week he sends my way tantalizing pictures of freshwater gamesters and this week was no exception. On Monday he and buds pulled a sun-up to sun-down excursion and kept busy with pike, pickerel and a stellar panfish bite on waxies. The ‘gills/perch hit during the first few hours of the morning while it was a mid-morning bite for the pike! Golden shiners were the ticket for the pike. Meanwhile Martin Farrell of B&R Bait on the northern basin of Cheshire Reservoir is welcoming allot of new faces looking for frozen water fun and are they ever finding it! Latest reports are putting a lot of pike action for fish in the 8-10 pound slot at the Second Basin of Cheshire possibly because this was the last to lock up. Martin himself took a busman’s holiday and hit Onota but it was slow, the A few folks have been out on Pontoosuc as well with a few good pike purportedly coming out of there.

Massachusetts Fishing Forecast

If we are to believe next week’s weather forecast, handwringing for those looking for good ice will give way to hand-warmers as ponds in the eastern portion of the state lock up. Meanwhile pickerel among nondescript ponds and pike among select water are responsible for much of the action. Since pressure has been minimal, lucking into a nice largemouth is always a possibility and your chances should improve should we get ice closer to the coast. Over in the salt, there’s the small-fish/big-smiles option as smelt reports off lit piers and docks throughout Greater Boston make for a salty alternative that is sweet at supper time.

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