New England Fishing Roundup 09.26.14

Our weekly roundup of the latest fishing action, from Maine to Connecticut.

Maine

Nick at Saco Bay Tackle was pleased to report continued striper activity, especially for folks drifting or soaking sand worms or clams at Pine Point, Old Orchard, Camp Ellis up inside the Saco River, and along Kennebunkport Beach. Nick also relayed word of a busy pick of giants averaging 500 to 800 pounds out in the vicinity of the Kettle. The standard drill in that fishery has been riding the anchor ball, chumming just enough to lure Fat Charlie up into the staggered hookbaits — mainly live sea herring at this stage. The dogfish that have been a nightmare on grounds to the south have remained mercifully scarce in points north. There has been virtually no word on bigger bass over the last few days. Bluefish appear to be gonzo for the season, but there is quite a bit of mackerel around. No recent word on any school-size tuna activity.

Massachusetts: North Shore

Joe at First Light Anglers said the recent easterlies seem to have put some fairly steady fall-run fishing scenarios on hold for the moment, but noted he’s still confident there will be plenty of memorable casting in the migratory pipeline for at least the immediate future. Up until the last few days, there had been reliable dawn and dusk surface feeds as schoolies and the occasional shot of better bass blew up in various clouds of small bait (peanut bunker, silversides, sand eels, etc.) around Cape Ann — Manchester, Magnolia, and Beverly among others. A bit farther up the coastal line, surfmen who’ve been putting in the necessary time have been sticking some solid bass — chiefly eeling the night shift — at Cranes and Pavilion Beaches among other traditional Month Nine haunts. The tuna grounds have seen massive recent influxes of bait in the form of sea herring, mackerel, sand eels and even some supersized loligo — squid tubes pushing 2’ in length. Stellwagen’s NW Corner, Middle Jeffreys, and the Flags (the latter in Ipswich Bay) have all seen steadier picking over the last week than at any other point in the season so far, with quite a few 300- to 700-pounders crossing the docks despite a full-blown pestilence of spiny dogfish that have all but eliminated the possibility of chumming. Joe added that the best tuna fishing has been in an area called the Kettle a modest jog east of Portland and a 60-mile shot, give or take, from Gloucester.

Massachusetts: Boston Harbor

My old friend, Pete Santini at Fishing Finatics in East Boston sent along the following quick blast for this week’s report: “Bass and blues were on fire this past week in and around Boston Harbor, with wild topwater action erupting from Deer Island to Hull Gut. These soon-to-be-migratory binge-feeders have been taking a wide array of offerings — swimmers, poppers, Santini Tubes — they’re hitting just about anything they can get into their faces. The fall bite is on!”

Massachusetts: South Shore

Peter at Belsan Bait observed that his area is definitely in migration mode at this point, with loads of school bass chowing down on peanut bunker and juvenile herring or bay anchovies out on the hard bottom, starting around Minots Ledge and running as far south as Scituate. The schoolies have been storming the local beaches most evenings, but with the exception of about one 35-pounder a week for night-shift eel-slingers (most recent of which came from the Glades), the bigger fish have yet to show up in any real numbers. There were still some blues around earlier in the week off Sand Hill, but the wind Thursday seemed to have sent those fish packing. A few shop regulars have confirmed a major uptick in the schoolie bluefin fishery outside Chatham’s Crab Ledge, but that fishing has yet to materialize closer to home in Cape Cod Bay. A couple guys are still out scratching red-bellied groundskeeper cod in Mass state waters, which, according to Belsan, has remained open with a nine-fish bag limit despite the federal-waters closure that came down the beginning of this month.

Massachusetts: Cape Cod & Islands

Paul at Blackbeard’s said things have slowed to a crawl, crowd-wise, over the last couple weeks. Thankfully, during that span the striper fishing along the beachfront has picked up a couple rungs — no wild blitzes of 40-pound bass storming the beaches, but at least some school bass and an occasional 30” to 36” for eelers or pluggers along P-Town’s west-facing beachfront, anywhere from Wood End to Herring Cove. Paul also weighed in a 20-pound bass taken from a top-secret Eastham beach, that fish duped with fresh bait, presumably sand eels, Paul thought. There’s a slow and scattered pick of some respectable bass for boat guys drilling away off Chatham. Speaking of, the school bluefin fishing has finally lit up — by several accounts lately — a bit east of famed Crab Ledge. With dredging in Rock Harbor’s very near future, every single boat is coming out of the water shortly, putting an early stop to another fishing season.

Fishing has been intermittently good in the Cape Cod Canal, proclaimed Stan at Red Top. The Ditch is lined (both sides) with an even coating of sand eels and peanut bunker, along with semi-cooperative schoolies at points. The last few days have witnessed a significant improvement, with a good showing of quality bass as large as 30 pounds for guys slinging Savages, SB Minnows, Sebiles or poppers Thursday morning. Per the age-old wisdom, “west is best” (west tide) as this goes to bed. One guy found a nice shot of blues early Thursday morning. Stan is a bit miffed, now that he’s finally running into some nice sea bass in spots he can hit from shore, that Mass has closed the season.

Coop’s Bait and Tackle said they’ve had some of the best bonito and false albacore fishing in a few years. “Albies are goin’ good,” said Coop. “We’ve got ‘em from one end to the other — from Menemsha out to Edgartown all the way to Chappy.” Bonito have been making regular appearances within casting distance of Tashmoo Beach; boat guys have been gaggled up around the Hooter finding good numbers of greenies. Bluefish have pulled a temporary disappearing act, though some guys got them around Hawes Shoal and off toward Nantucket. Bass fishing, meanwhile, remains labor-intensive — though Coop noted the guys willing to put the time in continue to stick some decent fish when the conditions align. After a very lean summer, locals have been encouraged by some recent nights when all four slots on the Derby’s daily-prize leader board have been held by fish north of 20 pounds. The top overall bass as this goes to layout is holding at 38 pounds. Largest albie so far is a 13.71, while the mark to beat on bonito is 9.17.

Rhode Island

Sam Toland at Sam’s Bait and Tackle in Middletown said quite a few of his regulars — and most of the local striper talent — have been taking full advantage of a substantial mass of adult pogies that have spent most of the last two weeks loitering somewhere between the Newport Bridge, Goat Island, the State Pier, and as far south as roughly Fort Adams. What has made this surprise bait pile-up so exciting is the sheer numbers of gorilla-sized bluefish from 15 to a legitimate 20 pounds, along with occasional cow bass into the 30s, that have stuck right with the feed bonanza. Toland noted he’s been ripping through tons of pogy snags for some lights-out snap-and-drop fishing. Mixed schools of albies, bonito, blues, and bass have been patrolling the lower East Passage—from the mouth of Newport Harbor down to Castle Hill and Hammersmith, as well as out front along Ocean Drive. The bite is still on — or was when last anyone went early-week — down in the Fishtails; the main body of yellowfins seems to have dropped back outside to around the 500-fathom line.

Matt at Snug Harbor Marina confirmed continued action out in the ‘Tails as of the last weather window early-week. Unfortunately, there’s no telling what impact the recent wind has had on the promise of our nearest canyon, but Matt expects that a good handful of boats will make that ride over the coming weekend. The Mud Hole has continued to turn out huge numbers of green bonito, some false albacore, and varying numbers of school bluefins, particularly on the daytime chunking bite. Last batch of guys who ventured off in search of some fall codfish chipped away at market fish around the SE Corner of Coxes among other south of Block grounds. The gamble in the latter two fisheries this time of year — especially on the heels of strong, sustained easterly winds, dirty water, and cooler air temps — is the growing threat that dogfish will overrun the grounds. Back inside, there have been fits and starts of fast tunoid action along the Gansett Rocks, outside the lighthouse, and down the beach as far as Carpenter’s Bar the last couple days. Striper results have bounced back a bit over the last week, though most of the catching is still contained to very precise tidal/conditions timing. “We’ve been getting about an hour-and-a-half of good fishing each day, surrounded by what I’ve heard described as a “dead man’s pick.” Largest fish through the week averaged somewhere between 35 and 45 pounds.

Mike Wade at Watch Hill Outfitters said the mighty Pawcatuck has tons of small bait and a bumper crop of snapper blues that have been growing at a nuclear mutant rate since early August, many of them now over a pound. Scup fishing is productive outside Watch Hill Light among many other hard-bottom pieces from Fishers Island Sound to Quonny. Rumors of some straggler fluke over at the island have been making the rounds, and the sea bass are still plentiful — albeit a bit smaller on the recent average. Albies and green bonito have been making regular — not daily — appearances anywhere from Weekapaug to the west end of Fishers Island. Tautog effort has yet to make its fall surge, presumably because water’s still quite warm and there are plenty of solid fishing options. Outside, the Mud Hole has had huge numbers of greenies and handfuls of school bluefins for folks in chunking/jigging mode.

Connecticut: Eastern Sound

Q at River’s End has been fighting off carp fishing withdrawals after a big summer in pursuit of those armored heavyweights in the Connecticut River. He said there are still numbers of schoolie bass and swarms of bluefish providing thrills for the light-tackle crowd. Asked about big blues, Q noted he hasn’t seen any real slammers to date, adding that there are tons of choppers in the 5- to 10-pound bracket. If you’ve been wondering what a really huge bluefish might look like, the shop actually has a replica mount of the 32-pound all-tackle record slammersaurus. That fish taped a jaw-dropping 48” total length. Black sea bassing is the best most folks around the Eastern Sound can recall, and the scup catches are still solid. The snapper blues are everywhere and they’re growing fast. Albies have been popping up willy-nilly along the south side of Fishers eastward all the way to Point Judith Light, but they’ve been a big no-show in the Sluiceway and Plum Gut thus far.

Connecticut: Western Sound

Rick Mola at Fisherman’s World said the bunker schools have been running into the western harbors — notably Norwalk, Westport, and Clinton — with blues from snapper size into the middle or high teens. Shop regulars have been sticking some hefty blues and an occasional teen- or low-20-pound bass, mainly chunking bunker in the harbors or on some of the deeper local reefs like Budds and 28C. Largest blue that made shop scales this week scaled over 16 pounds; the high-water mark on bass was set by one Adam Nestaco with a thick-waisted 37.5 cow he took on a fresh bunker chunk outside Compo Beach. There are big porgies and, to a lesser extent, some jumbo sea bass on most local humps, wrecks, and rockpiles. Mola has had confirmed word that the action is still on out in the Fishtails, though you may have to push a bit outside between the 500 and 1,000-fathoms to locate the main vein of yellows, albies, etc.