New England Fishing Roundup: 10.3.14
October 5, 2014
Our weekly roundup of local fishing action from Maine to Connecticut.
Ken at Saco Bay Tackle noted that there are still bass around in decent numbers, anywhere from Pine Point in Scarborough southward to the Biddeford Pool—fish from 18” to the high-30” range. Folks drifting sand worms have been doing most of the recent catching, said Ken.
Naturally, here at the tail end of a pretty rotten week of weather, the actual catching has been intermittent at best, and all hands are cautiously optimistic that there will still be some stripers around once all this easterly wind drops out and the water cleans up a bit.
In offshore news, the giant bluefin bite was on in the vicinity of the Kettle before the NE wind came on, but we won’t know what impact the unsettled conditions have had on that fishery until some boats can get away from the dock.
Derek at First Light Anglers was not exactly thrilled about this week’s Nor’eastravaganza, though he did mention that there’s been some excellent striper fishing right through the wind and rain. Specifically, folks fishing up inside Plum Island Sound in front of Cranes Beach and around the mouths of the Parker and Rowley Rivers have born witness to some wild surface feeds, with bass of all sizes slurping down superabundant silversides and other goodies. The fish have represented a range of year classes, with swarms of 20” to 26” schoolies around, some keepers into the low and mid-teens, and scattered pods of larger fish in the 20- to 30-pound bracket. Speaking of the bigger girls, the guys drifting eels on the night shift, especially off Cranes, have been making steady contact with heavy fish. The Manchester-Beverly side of the world has been in a shutdown—more or less—since the wind swung NE.
Giant fishing has been off-limits thanks to sustained easterly winds up past 30 knots at points—perfect weather to head out and lose a boat. To Derek’s knowledge, there has been no school tuna activity within normal striking distance, and the loss of the fall cod fishery is having devastating effects on the charter fleet from Cape Cod north.
Peter at Belsan Bait in Scituate confirmed what we all know entirely too well: Especially in the east-facing ports from Plymouth all the way to Canada, several days of 15- to 30-plus-knot wind straight down the pike have rendered conditions in most or all local inlets somewhere between “nerve-wracking” and “assisted suicide.” What fishing has been underway has been confined to outback areas like the North, South or Herring Rivers, all of which have been turning out schoolie bass and occasional 15-pounders. Before the weather, there were squid, bonito, and halfbeaks on patrol outside Plymouth/Scituate in Cape Cod Bay; the latter pelagic baitfish actually had scattered shots of school bluefin tuna in tow—the first real sign of such activity so far this season. Unfortunately, we will all have to keep our fingers crossed that the fishing on multiple fronts will bounce right back once this interminable NE finally drops out and boats can finally shed their docklines.
Tom at Red Top said that most of the last week’s fishing highlights related to the guys chasing bass up and down the Canal, casting with their feet on terra firma. He said there are still good numbers of bass—large schoolies/small keepers all the way up into the mid-20-pound class—but not much to report in the heavyweight bracket of late. These fish are definitely schooled up in big numbers as they tend to do during migratory periods, and Tom advised that success in the Big Ditch relates closely to an angler’s willingness to work in stick-and-move mode, covering as much ground as it takes to find the spots where fish have piled up on a given tide. “When these schools are on the feed,” said Tom, “it’s not hard to catch ‘em.” He was quick to add that if your plan is to marry one spot, plant your feet and cast for 3 hours waiting for the fish to come to you, brace yourself for a whole lot of plug-rinsing and not much rod-bending. There’s been some decent eeling at night the last 4 or 5 days, but the predawn/daybreak bite—usually the odds-on favorite this time of year—has been notably slow. Contrary to years of prevailing wisdom, the better fishing this week has been during banker’s hours, from 8:00, say to 10:00 a.m. Before the wind came up, boat guys were finding good numbers of bass between the Parking Lot and Plymouth Harbor, drifting eels at night or deep-trolling with umbrellas or tube-and-worm rigs. There were scattered reports of mixed green bonito and false albacore from the Falmouth area, but there’s no telling what has become of these fast-moving tunoids in the wake of all the recent wind and rain.
Massachusetts—Buzzards Bay & Islands
Cooper Gilkes of Coop’s Bait and Tackle had the skeptical tone all real fishermen have when fish-writer types like me call for current fishing reports during week-long stretches of unfishable meteorological horror shows like the one we’ve all been riding out for the better part of a week at this point. He did offer that there are still mixed albies and some green bonito scattered all around the island, though not in any real numbers in any one spot. Bonito made a few appearances within casting distance of East Beach early-week, and albies showed off Edgartown, Menemsha, and Tashmoo at intervals. Striper action has been awful, and bluefish have also thinned a bit mover the last couple weeks. Then again, it’s exactly this type of unsettled autumn weather that tends to shake things up, spur migratory schools of bass, blues, and everything else onward—kick things into gear one way or the other (even if we can only see such weather’s value in hindsight). Cooper Gilkes, a guy who has seen more than a few low pressure systems roll through, summed it up thus: “Sometimes ya just gotta wait it out….” Here’s hoping for a good showing of fish on the other side of all these gray skies and gale warnings.
In Buzzards Bay, albies continue to pop up sporadically along the western shoreline from Wareham to New Bedford, where huge bait balls are in evidence. Some days and tides have produced epic feeds, while other days yield only frustration. At this stage of the season, a strong north or northwest wind seems to get the fish active. We’ll see what happens when this wind finally dies down.
Bottom fishing has also been consistent for those able to brace the winds. Tautog are biting on green crabs fished over the usual structure spots in 10’ to 20’ of water.
Stripers and bluefish are around in some of the local harbors, feeding on schools of menhaden. No sign yet of any fall blitz action, although there’s no shortage of bait.
Sam Toland at Sam’s Bait and Tackle in Middletown talked to a couple of crews who made the trek down to the Fishtails last Sunday. Word has it the yellows and a sprinkling of bigeyes are still in that general vicinity, but out off the edge a ways, between the 500 and the 1,000 fathom curves, out in longline country.
Meanwhile, there are still bunker, blues and bass in and out and around Newport Harbor southward to Castle Hill and northward about as far as the bridge. Toland noted that he’s been pouring a mind-boggling number of snag hooks for guys hitting that fishery hard, and he’s struggling to meet the demand. Scup and sea bass are thick on most of the hard pieces out front, and the tautog are still way up in the stones. There have been isolated blitzes—school bass and some blues, mostly—along the oceanfront beaches, but the numbers of fish still seem to be up inside the mouth of the Bay.
Matt at Snug Harbor Marina said the last guys who ran out to the ‘Tails had a couple fish or none; that fishery is probably headed toward cooked after a very long run.
The bass fishing over at Block Island seems to have been best for most guys between 5:00 p.m. and dark, though that may well change on the other side of all this rotten weather. The Mud Hole still had the greenies last time anyone could make it that far, but the school bluefins had thinned out quite dramatically. There are still plenty of black sea bass and scup on hard pieces just about everywhere. Blackfish are still up in tight, but should be starting to fill in on some of the 20’ to 30’ spots over the next couple weeks.
Albie action has been hot and cold, as usual, but there was one report of a massive albert in the mid-teens taken off Point Jude this week. The fish are around; it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time or tide.
Mike Wade at Watch Hill Outfitters said some of his regulars with small boats have been taking advantage of light fishing pressure and some solid angling action up in the lee of the South County beaches, where fishing continues unmolested through all but the most powerful nor’east gales. Contrary to the general wisdom about these storms and their tendency to wipe out the fishing, there have been continued bonito and albie encounters right through the week, most recently at Weekapaug on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, when bonito came well inside casting range between the Breachway and the Overlook with the flood tide. Scup and sea bass are still stacked inshore, especially on the wrecks and rockpiles less traveled. Sharper stripermen—the bunker specialists in particular—continue to work the pinpoint structures between Fishers and Watch Hill during tidal “sweet spots,” returning to the dock with 30s and 40s day in, day out. The Charlestown Breachway went haywire on Wednesday night, when folks slinging Danny swimmers in the rotation stuck numbers of bass in the 15- to 25-pound range.
Joe at River’s End noted the bonito and false albacore made appearances all around the eastern Sound early-week; the Watch Hill Reefs, the Golf Course on Fishers, the rip off Race Rock Light, Plum Gut, and other areas offered sporadic shots at rolling fish. Striper fishing remains poor locally, but surfmen have reported strong showings of some better bass in the Rhody breachways as recently as Wednesday night. There are still loads of blues, including some true slammers to 15 pounds and up, patrolling the lower reaches of the Connecticut River.
Sea bass are still open with an 8-fish bag limit; by all accounts, this has been the best season in recent memory for big sea biscuits. Scup are big and reasonably plentiful on the local reefs and rockpiles. No recent intel from Block Island or Montauk.
Word from the Norwalk is that false albacore have arrived around the Norwalk Islands. Also, the bunker schools off Norwalk and Westport have been producing big bluefish to 15 pounds. Anglers fishing deep-water spots (60’) in the Sound with bunker chunks are also scoring with monster bluefish and bass to 20 pounds. Sea bass and porgy fishing has also remained consistent over hard-bottom areas in the Sound.