Massachusetts Fishing Report- March 21, 2024

largemouth bass
River herring have arrived and big bass have taken notice!

With one eye on the weather forecast it almost feels as if putting the hardwater gear away was a bit premature! While trout remain the primary antidote for angling angst pre-spawn bass make for an interesting drag-pulling alternative.

Massachusetts Fishing Report

While poking around among a Greater Boston River recently it was less what my friend Steve Langton saw, but what he smelled. An educated proboscis is an invaluable tool for fish-catching success and my buddy picked up the unmistakable aroma of – alewives! The first wave of river herring is often a wake up call for a number of species from holdover striped bass to pike to swim bait-sized Larrys big enough to make a snack out of an inattentive herring. As if on cue I’ve been hearing of and experiencing first hand an uptick in big bass catches!
For a take on what might interest a late March Larry it doesn’t hurt to ask someone whose business it is to put people into freshwater gamesters. I asked Josh from the Fishing Hole in South Hadley to weigh in on what’s working now. He’s been doing well with chatterbaits with small trailers. While some prefer pumpkin/olive colors, Josh’s pick is to go with black and blue both of which are my favorites as well. Low and slow should be your approach until temps spike. As for the ubiquitous stocked trout, peach Power Bait seems to be among the more consistent offerings. As for the main branches of rivers from the Connecticut to the Charles to the Mystic and out to the Merrimack the temporary wane in the flow should be short-lived with a 1-2” slug of rainfall predicted over the weekend so you had better get at your favorite river soon before it rages once again.

While on the subject of rivers and herring, Lisa from Fore River Fishing Tackle in Quincy told me of encouraging news regarding a vital watershed just south of Boston. A gentleman who frequents the shop, and has been around awhile, recently visited the site where two dams are being demolished in the Monatiquot River in Braintree. The Monatiquot is a tributary of the Weymouth Fore River which once held a thriving river herring run. The two dams, which no longer have a function, prohibit the upstream passage of the herring to spawn. Those who have witnessed herring practically bumping their heads against those dams in vain have descried it as heartbreaking. What is heartwarming is that federal, state and city officials have been observed assisting anadromous species to travel upstream to spawn and one of those is rainbow smelt. Far from a vestige few, the volume of smelt that was ushered on their way was described as “by the thousands”! American eels will also benefit from these upriver improvements. As much as we like to take shots at officials tasked with managing our fisheries, many of them take to their jobs with passion and dedication. Hopefully we’ll see a surge in the southern harbor smelt population which we can trace to this overture.

Connor Murphy rainbow trout
Trout, such as Connor Murphy’s nice rainbow, remain a bay state best bet.

We have a number of firsts quickly approaching with the dawning of April. One which some are looking to take advantage of is the opening of the haddock season in both the Gulf of Maine and Southern New England areas. Cod, at least in the Southern New England area, is also in play with a decision on the GOM not finalized yet. In past years, a limited recreational fishery was allowed for cod in April and an edict should come down regarding that soon. Regardless of that, in Southern New England both haddock and cod are currently listed as open to harvest, with haddock open as of April 1st. Pete from Belsan Bait and Tackle in Scituate told me that customers of his who frequent the American Classic out of Lynn have heard from the crew that Captain Jim Walsh is planning on setting sail for both species in Southern New England beginning in April! Meanwhile trout remain the primary target on the South Shore with many making the trip to the cape for more variety.

From Woods2Water Fishing Adventures:

“This fish was a manifestation of weeks of talking and preparing my girlfriend for catching her first walleye. After setting up her new pole we had about an hour to fish before my night shift at work, so we set out to one of my favorite spots on the Connecticut River in search of some pre-spawn walleye.
We got to the river and it was very high and had a lot of debris from the recent rains, but the water level had receded some and clarity was improving, which kept me hopeful. After just a few casts teaching Meg some techniques, I feel the small, unmistakable tick of a walleye grabbing my lure. The story ends with a very happy angler and a student of the game who will both forever remember the thrill of catching such an amazing fish!”

Trevor Woods with walleye
Trevor Woods

For a take on trout I consulted my buddy Rick Holbrook who has an insider’s perspective as a resident who lives not far from the Sandwich Hatchery. Cognizant that the hottest fishing often occurs where the water is warmest, he along with other regulars tote along thermometers and constantly check water temperatures looking for pockets of the warmest water possible. Habitat which often holds trout at this time of the year is shallow, dark-bottomed coves especially those which have received the benefit of a beating afternoon sun. Some of that habitat looks more in line with what one would think of if bass were on the agenda as well. Openings in withered Lilly pad beds are just such an example. That would be the antithesis of what you would look for later in the season but right now that is often where the warmest water is. A shallow inlet/tributary is often a trout attracter as well. Compounding both these elements makes for a must try spot. As for lures, he leans towards copper/red Thomas Buoyants and other similarly colored small spoons.

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

“Two weeks from this Saturday!”, was the word from Eddie of B&A Bait and Tackle Co. in West Boylston when we spoke! Being in West Boylston was a sure tip-off that he was alluding to opening day at Wachusett Reservoir which is scheduled for April 6th! As you’d imagine, his shop is spilling over with Kastmasters, steel sinkers, hooks and most anything else you could use in your Chu arsenal. Meanwhile anglers are spending their time catching trout in Lake Quinsigamond and Comet and pike in Indian Lake. While most will be spending their time in the main reservoir for lakers, salmon and smallies, a few will target white perch and crappie throughout the Thomas Basin. If you’re questioning the wisdom of fishing for panfish when there are all those salmonoids in the big water obviously you’ve never seen how big “panfish” in Wachusett can grow!. Gerry of Crack of Dawn Bait and Tackle in Phillipston said that anglers are beginning to feel the pull of Quabbin Reservoir which opens for fishing beginning on April 20th. Meanwhile the supporting cast of bass from Lake Rohunta and the Spectacle Ponds are keeping anglers busy. Brown trout are best found in South Pond and Forest Lake.

For more on the Quabbin, here’s the latest installment from the Turtleman, Dave Riley:
“My first fishing trips to Quabbin came in rental boats as well as fishing from shore. Two boats later I outfitted my current boat. With a bit of map research, exploration and effort, one can find quality fishing from Quabbin for both warm water species and cold water species from all perspectives. Each year during April and early May, I have witnessed some shore fisherman with very large lake trout and salmon. Live bait, shiners in particular, are most often deployed. The water is never too cold to fish for Quabbin bass, and early in the season is the best time to try from shore.

Shore fishing Quabbin begins with the hiking trail map. Many of the accessible gates lead to good fishing, but some can be a 3 to 5 mile hike to get to the water’s edge. Other gates are much closer, but still require a walk or hike to the water. All of the trails are very well marked, and most consist of old Quabbin roads and are relatively flat and easy to walk. Be sure to keep your eyes open for old structures, cellar holes, and other Old Quabbin sites! For those unable to or unwilling to hike to the water, the boat launch areas offer accessible parking and nearby shore fishing. Area 1 (gate 8) has very limited shore fishing areas due to the sheer cliffs that comprise most of the topography in that area. The most northern gates will lead to some open shore fishing areas, but the habitat available is not well suited to shore fishing. Area 2 (gate 31) has the most available shore fishing and allows shore anglers to really spread out with varied structure in the area to fish. There is a regulating pond that is fishable, though not connected directly to the reservoir. The “horseshoe dam” is the regulating dam for this pond, and creates a fertile environment in the Quabbin cove it feeds into. There is a narrow channel directly adjacent to the parking area that holds many stocked trout, and some very large bass trying to feed on them. The access gates beyond the fishing area (gate 31) also offer great shore fishing, with gates 33, 34 and 35 being among the best. Much of the same can be said for fishing area 3 (gate 41) including the same type of horseshoe dam regulating Pautapog pond from the reservoir proper.

Water craft of any sort is prohibited at Pautapoag and O’Laughlin Pond due to the finding of invasive weeds. Overall the shoreline is much shallower than area 2 and is much better suited to early season warm water species because of warmer water.

Of note to any shore fisherman who wants to really begin to know Quabbin, this year the water is very high and may be at full pool. In my experience this has happened only twice in 21 years. As water demands increase later in the season, more shoreline becomes exposed to where access is almost limitless, as are fishing opportunities!

In closing, please be a caretaker of this pristine place and never forget that it’s a privilege and not a right to fish among Massachusetts primary water source. Like most fishermen, my dad taught me how to fish. He couldn’t swim, so we always dug worms and fished from shore. I remember my first sunfish, and my first fish I caught by myself when I was 5 and it was as important to me as my personal best 6 pound smallmouth! We all learned fishing from shore. Many still today prefer it to the work and upkeep of boats. Shore fishing can be many things: relaxation, a tool for teaching younger fisherman, a chance to have a picnic with your family are just a few! This will be the last introduction to Quabbin, as it will open for fishing in just 30 days. My next report will not be about how the fishing CAN be, but how it IS! I can’t wait! Stay tuned, and for more detailed info about Quabbin the fishing spot, and Quabbin the accidental wilderness, Find me on Facebook @turtlemanfishing!”

Massachusetts Fishing Forecast

The ongoing stocking of ponds, lakes and rivers throughout the Bay State is preoccupying most of the time of anglers. While the main bodies of rivers are providing too much current to fish, quieter coves and oxbows will hold pike and bass. While not something you can fish for, herring are steadfastly cruising upstream of tidal rivers with big black bass and anglers targeting them taking notice.

7 on “Massachusetts Fishing Report- March 21, 2024

  1. Steve

    It’s almost TIME Ron.That was a very informative piece by Turtleman on Quabbin. Also Rick Holbrook’s idea of carrying a thermometer when shore fishing is a great idea.When we are on the water our electronics usually give us that info and we take that for granted.That’s a very important piece of early season fishing.

  2. richard mah

    white perch reports? when will we expect to see winter flounder ?

  3. Jeff

    Of wondering why there are always gaps in the main, New Hampshire, and Vermont fishing reports section. When you click on that for the fishing reports it comes up Massachusetts March 21st. Part of the subscription price I pay is for the weekly reports but for some reason Northern New England is frequently left out

    1. FairPoint

      Agree Jeff, it shouldn’t be as difficult as it seems to be for OTW

  4. Martin in Maine

    It seems to me, you guys don’t pay much attention to Maine. We start fishin’ when you do. Good or bad, fresh or salt, it would be helpful to keep us in the loop.

  5. Jeff

    Agreed. It’s been several weeks since a report. Not sure why you can get weekly and timely reports from other regions but not in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. If the people you get reports from aren’t checking in, why don’t you find new people to give you the reports. Tackle shops have not closed.

  6. David Dorr

    Why does Mass come up in the NH, Maine regional report ?

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