Welcome to our new weekly fishing report, which we’ll be running each Friday through the fall, and starting up again in the spring. Hopefully it’ll provide you with some good locations to hit in the coming days.
By Zach Harvey
A few anonymous sources from Boston to Cape Ann provided the rundown on the last week’s activity in that stretch of prime water. Word from Gloucester and environs is that surfmen who know their way around Cape Ann’s endless rocks continue to chip away at a few schoolies and keeper-sized bass slinging tins or swimmers, suggesting that mackerel may still be around. Our sources were quick to point out that the catching has not been every tide.
Pete Santini of the shop Fishing FINatics in Everett said the big news over the past few days has been a good showing of larger bass, including a few fish in the 40-pound range, and more than a couple “screamers” that never so much as turned around to inspect the boats to which they’d briefly been tethered—around the islands of the outer harbor, including Long Island, Georges, Lovells, and Deer. The key to the action has been live mackerel that you can access with relative ease off Nahant, Martin’s Ledge, Three-and-a-Half-Fathom Ledge, and other hard pieces out front, with a quick bit of early-morning Sabiki work. Transport these livies—spike-size to full-blown jack mackerel—back toward the harbor then drift or slow-troll them during the stronger parts of the ebb tide. You’ll get a pretty good feel for whether anyone’s home in a given spot, but you may have to poke around a bit—one eye peeled for visible cues—before you find the right area.
Cod fishing, too, has been surprisingly good on the 60’ to 90’ spots—broken bottom, ideally, with some signs of bait on the fishfinder—where diamond jigs or bait rigs armed with fresh sea clam will get the job done. These close-range codfish are mainly of market size, 8 to 12 pounds or so, and if you stick with it, Santini noted that you could scrape up a decent showing of fillets for the table around the B Buoy or Graves Light.
Peter Belsan of Belsan’s Bait and Tackle in Scituate concurs on the cod fishery. In fact, he rates the cod activity around Collemore Ledge/Minot’s and some other pieces a bit closer to port as the best game in town right now. The bass fishing headed down the hawse-hole when the resident fish the locals had been working on most of the summer evacuated over a week ago. There are, he pointed out, a relative handful of quality linesides still coming in from the Cliff. There are mackerel out front—from 30′ on out to around 100’—but there’s not much life. Belsan said they had no real signs of school tuna activity this season, nor any bluefish to speak of. All hands are hoping there’s some striper life somewhere in the northward leg of the “fall-run” pipeline, but given the reality for our striper stocks here in 2013, not one of those hands is holding his/her breath.
Nevertheless, water temps are still hovering close to the 60-degree mark, so if you prescribe to the water-temp-as-migratory-predictor theory, there’s a whole lot of theoretical sand in the top half of the seasonal hourglass.
Another of my sources noted the giant bluefin tuna activity in Cape Cod Bay a week or more ago, with one or two fish taken around the Fishing Ledge. The action on Stellwagen has been scattered to nonexistent, presumably because there are film crews about trying to record a tuna season for reality television. The blue sharks are big and seemingly everywhere at this point, much to the delight of sport-minded toothy-critter fanciers, and the chagrin of the boats in the fleet accustomed to chunking/live-lining for fall giants.
After a wild flurry of false albacore action that went off about a week ago between (among other places) Nobska Point and Quicks Hole along the Elizabeths, the fishery took a nose-dive. Same seems to be the case for the striper fishing in and around the Cape Cod Canal. Then again, we are smack-dab in the middle of one of this planet’s great temperate-clime migrations, so circumstances might change in either of those fisheries by the time you lay eyes on this paragraph. After a bang-up season of striper-catching in the rips off Chatham, that action continues to be good for anglers who can get out. Tuna, too, have moved in closer to shore lately.
The Cape beaches have been seal-rich but striper-poor this fall, as has the Nantucket surf and most waters around Marthas Vineyard. The scup are heading for slightly deeper water across Buzzards Bay and the sea bass—fish from 3″ to 6 pounds—are somewhere between “thick” and “holy @#$%” abundance. The real trick is finding a wreck, ledge, or rockpile with the right ratio of keepers to micro-minis. Scattered schools of pogies in Buzzards Bay have also been yielding some big blues and bass, but there is no sign of the big bass and blue blitzes of yesteryear, despite an abundance of small bait. There has been no albie action to speak of in the bay. On the plus side, shallow-water tautog spots in the upper bay are producing right now, and the weather over the last few days has been ideal.
There have been sporadic pop-up blitzes of real, honest-to-god, migration-style striper and blue fishing from Monomoy all the way to Westport, including some wild big-fish events that surrendered bass into the 30-pound range, blues into the teens, and, at times, bonito or false albacore, all in a single acre of bait-clouded brine. The fishing—all of it—at this time of year favors the persistent. You’re better off fishing an hour every day than logging 12 consecutive hours every Saturday. The fish move, feed, and snap their mouths shut for extended periods of time for reasons none of us really understand. Point is, it’s easy to put off fishing ‘til some theoretical “tomorrow,” but in our present climatic patterns, the only fishable window you can rely on is the one unfolding as you make your call.
After scattered “fall-run” fishing scenarios across the entire territorial range of south-facing RI shoreline, the bulk of the life at press time seems to be concentrated (for the moment) in the western reaches of the state (though, in fairness, there has been sporadic activity along the Newport oceanfront, from the mouth of the Sakonnet to Sachuest westward all the way to Brenton Reef, as recently as Tuesday). The gang at the Saltwater Edge in Newport said there’s been all manner of bait scattershot across the oceanfront, most of it on the small side, and not all of it haunted by large concentrations of attendant game fish.
Scott from the shop took a 46″ bass while standing on some undisclosed stretch of stones earlier in the week. Small-boat guys had some absolute bail-jobs on bass from schoolie size to slobs all the way up until—3 of my sources agree on the cut-off—Tuesday. Again, this is fall-run fishing, so things can rear back up as fast as they crap out: Keep fishing as often as humanly possible until you start making ice with your moustache or the family calls you in to eat Thanksgiving dinner. Tautog are stirring in the shoreline stones up and down the line (my sources agree that 15′ to 30′ is a reasonable target range at this stage of the season), and the scup that were hugging the shoal water have, over the last week, begun to fill in on some of the deeper rockpiles, ridges, and wrecks off Newport, south of Jamestown, all along the South County beaches, and most notably over at Block Island, where the fishing went from zero to lock-and-load in the matter of just a few days. The fluke fishing looks to be just about cooked, barring an occasional deep-water encounter for someone targeting sea bass. Speaking of, the sea biscuits are either maddeningly abundant (to the extent that it’s hard to fish through the tiny ones to access keepers), or—for the folks whose logbooks contain decades worth of little-known hangs, humps, and mussel beds—pretty close to world-class at this point. Some of the deeper pieces (like those south or east of Block Island, or in the deep water south of Newport) have an occasional keeper codfish.
South County has witnessed some classic migration fishing over the last week, starting last Friday and through the weekend out in front of the Center Wall in Point Judith. There, folks were treated to the full autumn complement—bait balls, birds working, fish busting everywhere—and some those who were on the scene managed bass of all sizes, blues from three pounds to the high teens, false albacore, and possibly even a bonito or two. The intensity of that action diminished as the days wore on. From Monday through press time, that action (less the tunoids) continued in points west (roughly Green Hill to the Overlook or the Breachway in Weekapaug). Several of my contacts plugged up numbers of keeper-size and some larger bass during wild daytime blitzes from East Beach in Charlestown Fire District Beach west of Quonny.
The Block Island striper situation has run hot and cold, confirmed Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marina. He noted that there are still numbers of bluefish around the Island, but not in the concentrations they were—much to the relief of those who enjoy the daytime live-eeling off the SW Corner. That area, as well as the North Rip, have settled into the autumn pattern: Lights-out fishing one day, and a near-skunking the next, even without any apparent changes in the conditions.
Capt. Chris Willi of BI Fishworks had 3 fish into the 30-pound class Thursday, followed by a pile of blues, and predicts a world-class October.
Watch Hill Outfitters checked in a 50-pound, 12-ounce bass landed near Watch Hill Reef by—cringe—a spear fisherman who noted he also saw loads of other big fish in that area.
Matt Conti noted that a pair of big sharks crossed the marina scales over the last week or so, a 300-plus thresher for the crew of Hot Reels last week, then a 360-pound mako earlier this week—both big toothies boated in the general vicinity of the Gully. It’s a good time to look for a very large shark south of the Island. You may only get one bite for a day’s work, but when that comes, it’s not likely you’ll find a 150-pound blue dog on the business end of the line.
While the big-scup fishing continues to sizzle on the hard bottom around Fishers Sound, there’s increasing interest in the tautog fishing, which tends to reward those who start early, ahead of the staggering fishing pressure of late October or November. There are mixed bass and blues between the Watch Hill Reefs and Race Point on Fishers. The bass and bluefishing has fluctuated a bit in and around the Race, but one source is optimistic that sagging fishery will get a nice boost from a new shot of bait moving in from the east around Race Rock Light as of Thursday.
While the fluke fishing has finally fizzled out, the scup and sea bass fishing has gotten fast and furious around the many deeper reefs and rockpiles from outside the Thames to outside the Connecticut River, as well as out around Cerebus Shoal, Pigeon Rip, and other known hangs that tend to collect the larger specimens of both cellar-dwelling species in October. Chunkers working the lower reaches of the Connecticut River have had shots of blues and some occasional better bass around bunker schools.
One customer of River’s End Tackle encountered a major mixed blitz that included better bass and blues around the Railroad Bridge. There’s a lot of bait around, but the unseasonably settled weather has left the overall fishing scene teetering on the brink of what we normally imagine when we hear the phrase “fall run.” The one called “Q” at the aforementioned shop echoed a familiar sentiment when he suggested that what we probably need at this point is a good storm or two to shake things up and get them moving along.
Word from elsewhere is that there are some cooperative bass along the south side of Montauk as of press time, and that a few surfmen who got the timing just right absolutely clocked the bass one night earl-week over at Block Island. The growing consensus locally is that striper stocks are headed off the cliff once again.
While big scup and, more recently, the first fits and starts of shallow-water ‘tog, have kept small-boat fishermen occupied until the last week or so, the arrival of full-size bunker in large schools in several of the western harbors has set off some solid action on blues and some quality bass near the bait schools over the last 7 days.
Rick Mola at Fisherman’s World in Norwalk noted that, among other places, Norwalk Harbor, Black Rock Harbor, and Southport have witnessed major influxes of bunker, and in turn, some good sessions snagging and live-lining for bass and blues from small to the high teens, with some larger bass in the mix some places some tides. Mola expects that action to intensify as water temps continue south and the fish begin to move in earnest.