Cape Cod Fishing Report- March 21, 2024

Largemouth bass and brown, rainbow and brook trout are the main draw in the freshwater ponds, while some anglers take to the rivers for holdover stripers.

Cape Cod Fishing Report

We made it. Spring is officially here, folks. With each passing day, we’re taking small steps toward warmer weather, better fishing and, more specifically, striped bass season. In less than a month, the first migratory stripers of the year will reach the surf on the south side of Martha’s Vineyard. Until then, there’s plenty of good fishing to be had on and around Cape Cod, whether you’re wading for bass and trout, or plying the rivers and salt ponds for white perch and holdover stripers.

Last week, herring were arriving in places like Wareham and New Bedford in surprisingly large numbers. Finding schools of scout herring this early in the season is typical, but some of the schools have been massive. Earlier this week, large schools of adult river herring were seen piling into creeks from Orleans to Cotuit, and I even spotted a small school in one of the estuaries in Falmouth while I was fishing for holdovers on Tuesday night. You can count on largemouth bass fishing heating up as those herring continue upstream to the freshwater ponds to spawn, and there will be plenty more herring on the way as we head into April. Get your big soft-plastic swimbaits and glide baits ready!


Herring aren’t the only bait I noticed in the backwaters this week. The muddy bottom was littered with grass shrimp and a fair amount of glass eels, which are just tiny juvenile American eels that are swimming upstream in our rivers after spawning in the Sargasso Sea. In the weeks to come, we’ll start to see schools of silversides, or spearing, joining the grass shrimp and herring in our shallow estuaries. The stage is set for a good spring run of striped bass. But until then, largemouth bass and stocked trout will keep our lines tight and rods bent.

One night late last week, Connor Swartz and I made a last-minute decision to fish wakebaits for largemouth bass in some of the shallow ponds around Falmouth. I met Connor at a kettle pond where he was soaking shiners for whatever would bite, and he managed to stick a solid largemouth just before I arrived. He said the moment his shiner plopped down, it began panicked runs across the surface as the chunky bass was in hot pursuit.

Connor Swartz landed this hefty largemouth on a live shiner in a Falmouth kettle pond last week.

The action was slow otherwise, so we went through the rest of our shiners and decided to move out to a smaller, warmer body of water nearby.

I’m glad we made the switch, because the kettle ponds are still pretty ice cold. We’ve had air temperatures all over the map during the last 7 days, so the deeper ponds still have quite a bit of warming up to do before bass activity picks up. When we arrived to the second spot, fishing started off slow. Connor and I casted back to back for over 30 minutes with no signs of life. Connor was using a Fish Lab Bio Shad wakebait, and I used a wakebait from Black Dog Bait Co. We covered lots of water without so much as a swipe, so I decided that if we swapped spots, maybe putting a different wakebait in front of them would be enough to draw a strike. And that is exactly what happened.

I told Connor to place a cast on the edge of a deep trough that is lined with thick mats of grass, and as his wakebait approached the shoreline, his lure got smoked. When I saw his rod doubled over I knew it was a good fish. Moments later, we had a 5-pound-plus largemouth darting around our feet, jumping and head-shaking as it tried to spit the hook. Luckily, Connor had securely pinned this fish right on the top of the head. We had no scale and no tape measure, but it was the right kind, and it reinforced our decision to fish smaller, warmer water.

Connor Swartz stuck this pig of a largemouth on a Fish Lab Bio Shad wakebait late last week.
When herring start trickling into the rivers and ponds, largemouth bass start looking for big, easy meals.

The bass bite tends to be best in the late afternoon, or the hours around dusk or after dark after the shallows have baked under the sun all day. With the days getting longer, the ponds receive a couple extra hours of sunlight, so plan for your outings to be later in the day.

If fishing in the morning is more your speed, or you can only manage a lunch-break outing, cast around some spinners, spoons and small jerkbaits for stocked trout. There are freshly-stocked brown, brook and rainbow trout in most of the kettle ponds, with some tiger trout peppered in (depending on your location). I haven’t done any trout fishing since the ponds were stocked, but it sounds like gold spoons and spinners have been outproducing most other lures no matter where you’re trout fishing.

To check out what’s been stocked in your local pond(s), use the link below.

» Trout Stocking Report: Click here to check out which ponds have been stocked in your area

Connor Swartz at Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay said a lot of guys are coming in for trout and bass gear this week, which seems to be the main draw. Their customers are doing well in the ponds around Plymouth with shiners, spoons, spinners and soft plastics. Meanwhile, the diehard saltwater crowd is getting antsy. Lucky for them, there are stripers to be caught around Buzzards Bay. Connor said to start the search by scouting areas that are likely to hold herring, which have been running the Buzzards Bay tribs for the past two weeks now. On Monday, Connor took the afternoon to ply the backwaters for a few holdovers and he ended up tying into a bunch of schoolies using a 5/8-ounce JoeBaggs Sandeel. The fish weren’t much bigger than 16 inches, but with a light 7-foot rod, they’re a ton of fun. Look for shallow, muddy flats, choke points and, of utmost importance, moving water. He said the outgoing tide has been the key to success.

Evan at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth told me he’s been selling a lot shiners. He’s got customers buying smalls for trout, and bigger ones for largemouth bass. Evan said his buddy caught a bunch of solid brown trout in one of the Falmouth kettle ponds using shiners the other day, and he’s getting a big delivery of shiners today or tomorrow to restock for the weekend. He’s also had a handful of customers getting trout on spoons. The OTW boss man, Chris Megan, called Evan last week and asked him to order some perch-patterned Kastmasters, which yielded him a bunch of brown trout locally last Thursday evening. A few kids also stopped in for shiners this week and went out for largemouth bass at Jenkins Pond, where there are some quality bass. However, shore access is minimal, so a kayak or Jon boat is necessary to fish the pond well. On top of all that, Evan is still selling a ton of shellfish gear between servicing rods and reels. Stop by for your freshwater fishing need or to get your saltwater gear tuned up for the season ahead!

Lee at Riverview Bait and Tackle in South Yarmouth said that there is very good trout fishing in the kettle ponds on a mix of spoons, spinners and shiners. That’s been the main draw for business this week, but there are a few people getting their saltwater gear prepped as well. We talked briefly about holdover stripers, and he mentioned that a couple weeks back, there was a nice 32 incher landed in one of the rivers near the shop, which is a quality fish for this time of year. With herring numbers increasing over the next several weeks, the bass fishing, and holdover striper fishing, will improve.

Amy at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis said there were a lot of people getting out last weekend, but this weekend’s forecast doesn’t look quite as nice. Amy said the ponds in Sandwich and Marstons Mills have been fishing very well for trout with gold spoons in particular. We couldn’t quite figure out why gold is so productive, but it may have something to do with the timing of the yellow perch spawn. Keep an eye out for schools of juvenile yellow perch in shallow water as you wade the kettle ponds for trout. She also mentioned a few people have been using PowerBait, but the spoons seem to be outproducing bait on bottom rigs. They’ve also had a couple guys going for holdover stripers at night locally, and they’ve been doing pretty well. One of her friends has been catching them exclusively after dark on small soft plastics crawled slowly along the bottom.

Captain Cam Faria of Cambo Charters reported that the boat is in the shop having tons of work done before the season starts for him in April. The T-top is off and being welded and recanvassed and the boat is at a fiberglass shop having some work done. He plans to get out a couple times during the first week or two of April, but realistically, the charter season begins in the last two weeks of April for squid. He’s already booking up trips in the month of May, when he’ll be sailing for stripers, squid, scup, tautog, sea bass and haddock. Give Cam a call to book your dates before he fills up the calendar in May!

Captain Ross of Cape Cod Charter Guys in Bourne reported that they’ll be splashing the boat early to make sure everything is running smooth before starting their charter season on May 1 for striped bass. They still have a fair amount of openings in May, chasing stripers on squid in the rips, but by the end of May they hope to be catching sea bass, tautog and even some bluefish. Give Captain Ross a call to inquire about available openings in May and June, as he’d love to fill up the schedule. On that note, he also mentioned that they’re hoping and anticipating that bluefin tuna will come around in early in June like they did last year, so if you’re looking to book an early-season tuna trip, give them a holler.

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

Well, the weekend looks like it may be a wash, with wind and rain forecasted for both Saturday and Sunday, and that crummy weather seems like it’s going to carry into next week. The silver lining is that this cold snap will be dead and gone, and temps will have climbed back into the upper 40s and low 50s. By the end of next week though, conditions should settle, which would hold true to the saying “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”. Seeing that it’s going to be windy and raining, I’m not sure there will be much opportunity to wade for bass at night with wakebaits, so early-morning trout missions may be in order just to keep the rod bent.

Yellow perch are fattened up with eggs and ready to spawn, so the next week or two could hold some great fishing for trout and bass when conditions allow. It’s not uncommon to tie into a few jumbo perch when you’re bass fishing this time of year—or trout fishing for that matter. When they’re fired up and feeding, they’ll hit just about anything.

If you’re looking for a challenge, check out some of your neighborhood spots around the rivers and salt ponds to scout for holdover stripers. If nothing else, it’s a good way to know what’s happening locally in the salt as we anxiously await striper season. And of course, we can’t forget the new tautog season that starts on April 1. When they move in shallow, you can catch them on rigs or jigs in less than 10 feet of water around docks, bridge pilings and shallow boulders near river mouths and in the harbors.

This week, your best bet at a bent rod still lies within the freshwater ponds. Start thinking about throwing big baits for largemouth bass in the afternoons and evenings when possible, or cast around some gold spoons and spinners for trout in the kettle lakes.

Best of luck on the water this week. Be safe out there, respect other anglers, respect your surroundings, and fish hard. Thanks for reading.

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

2 on “Cape Cod Fishing Report- March 21, 2024

  1. patrick casey

    Why the hell did the striper cup entry gift pack eliminate the pins?I have been collecting them for 13 years.Dumb asses.

    1. Nick C.

      Starting May 1st, you can buy the pins online at Store.OnTheWater.com or in-store at one of our Falmouth & Plymouth locations. We made the difficult decision to remove them from the entry-package to avoid raising the price of admission further.

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