New England Fishing Roundup: 9.5.14

New England Fishing Roundup: 9.5.14

Our weekly look at the local fishing scene, from Maine to Connecticut.


The folks at Saco Bay Tackle posted the following report from southern Maine, where the striper and bluefish action has been picking up:

“Bluefish, stripers, mackerel and the occasional black sea bass are here for the taking. Even though beach fishing for stripers (at Ferry, Goosefare Brook, Higgins, Kennebunk) has been good, don’t ignore the lower rivers (eg., Scarborough, Saco, Mousam) and estuaries. Pink or purple tubes coupled with a sandworm continue to catch fish in the rivers (outgoing tide), while chunking macs (fresh or frozen) and clams from the beaches have done the trick. Spinners working Cotton Cordell surface pencil poppers, Calcutta baits, rubber shads, as well as the old standby Kastmaster jigs, have also been hooking fish. Fly fishermen casting peanut bunker or herring-pattern flies tell of good catches.

Sea bass are available all over t he Cape and Islands, as well as Buzzards Bay
Sea bass are available all over the Cape and Islands, as well as in Buzzards Bay.

Bluefish are being caught around Saco Bay, Richmond Island and Pine Point. For those not using bait, work deep diving orange Rapala lures or bright-colored poppers.

There are striped bass of all sizes throughout this area as well. Fish can be found in the lower portions of the rivers (New Meadows, Royal Harraseeket, Presumpscot, etc.), the flats off Mackworth, Back Cove and along the Cape shore. Mackerel and sandworms are the preferred baits. Anglers who want to fish artificials should use 4” to 6” white Slug-Gos, 3.5” Gag’s Schoolie poppers, Yo-Zuri Mambo Minnows and bucktail jigs.

Massachusetts—Boston & North Shore

Nat at First Light Anglers noted that things have remained relatively stable on the North Shore, with school bass still making regular a.m. and dusk appearances in front of Cranes Beach and Plum Island, where sand eels and silversides are around in force. Bigger fish have been a night shift for folks drifting eels or live-lining bait that’s been tougher to get inside. Action has been scattered around a bunch of areas, although Gloucester and Marblehead have been steadier than other stretches. Charter guys are righteously indignant that they’ve been sealed out of not just the ecologically questionable cod fishery, but the pursuit of supposedly abundant haddock, since September first. There have been some 2- and 3-day picks of giant tuna up and down the line, but still no sustained feeds or reasonably concentrated bodies of fish thus far. But Moody has been encouraged by recent word of some more organized school tuna activity down the outer Cape to Chatham and points east. The blues in the inshore waters have demolished or driven out most self-respecting mackerel, but you can still make all kinds of bait outside a ways.

Massachusetts—South Shore

Pete at Belsans said the blues have been thick along the beachfront the last couple days: Wednesday off Brant Rock and Thursday around Humarock. A few folks are scratching out some bass down around Plymouth Harbor, but it’s been quiet out front for bigger bass.

There are rumblings of school tuna outside Chatham, but nothing doing out in Cape Cod Bay at this point. Cod are now a no-go, though the state is still considering a very limited state-waters sport fishery, according to one of Belsan’s sources. Stay tuned, but brace for the worst.

Cape Cod


You never know what you'll catch around the lobster pots south of the Vineyard
You never know what you’ll catch around the lobster pots south of the Vineyard.

Paul at Blackbeard’s was chomping at the bit to get out and enjoy some of the crisp, warm, and suddenly uncrowded Cape air when I called to harangue him Thursday afternoon. He said the striped bass bite has picked up a bit on Handkerchief Shoal off Chatham, with fish to around the 30-pound mark taken over the last few days. There have been blues on the prowl in Cape Cod Bay, sometimes just a short jog from the Eastham shoreline, and the bass bite—schoolies and a few more keepers now—on the edges of Billingsgate. A few more folks have been out sampling the local beaches here on the safe side of Labor Day. There have been confirmed shots of bluefin activity off Peaked Hill, including fish in the 300- to 400-pound range.

Tom at Red Top said there have been some strong showings of bass in the Canal on recent morning tides, and some better fish at night for the guys who understand the finer points of eeling the Ditch’s sometimes subtle seams, current breaks, and riplines.

Albies have drawn lots of attention over the last week, with reliable topside appearances anywhere from Nobska Point in Falmouth north to around Barlow’s Landing (Pocasset) and even a few pop-ups as far north as the West End of the Canal. Along the south side of the Cape, albies are ranging from Craigville Beach to Falmouth. Best bites this week have come in the late afternoon and evening.

Scup fishing is still fair to good, and there are more tautog mixed in with the sea bass on some of the rockpiles and reefs in Buzzards Bay.

Massachusetts—Martha’s Vineyard and South Coast

The big news in this area has been the arrival of albies and bonito in Buzzards Bay and the islands. In the bay, the funny fish have been available from Quisset to the Canal, with mornings and evenings producing the best action so far. Small Slug-Go’s and Zoom Flukes have been the hot lures, although the fish are also taking metal lures such as Kastmasters and Deadly Dicks.

Shaun Ruge holds a mahi taken by Tommy Costello at the Dump on Thursday
Capt. Shaun Ruge holds a mahi taken by Tommy Costello at the Dump on Thursday.

The funny fish have been scattered along the Vinteyard’s North Shore in the usual haunts, and thee are scads of bluefish at Wasque Rips and the Hooter.

Offshore, the crew of New England Boating TV got out with Shaun Ruge of Riptide Charters for an epic day of fishing at the Dump. The team bailed mahi to 7 pounds all day before chumming up a pair of blue sharks on the way home. Things have been quiet on the tuna front in this area, although action for those making canyon runs has been decidedly better.

Rhode Island

Sam’s Bait and Tackle in Middletown said some of the shop’s blackfish-afflicted hungries, fishing tight to some undisclosed Aquidneck Island stones—well short of 20’ of water—managed 3 fat tog north of the 9-pound mark on Thursday. There are schoolies galore in the lower East Bay, responding well to unweighted Hogy’s and other soft-plastics, but the big fish have been tough even for the top local talent, especially since Block Island went quiet.

Blues are in all the usual places and then some. Scup are still thick out front, along with the better sea bass concentrated on the deeper hangs that don’t get incessant pressure. The night bite has gone haywire in the closest canyons—the Tails in particular—and the sharking is worth a go thanks to a bumper crop of small makos.


Blue sharks have been a dependable target south of the Vineyard
Blue sharks have been a dependable target south of the Vineyard.

Word from Snug Harbor was that just about any craft capable of the steam left for the Fishtails on Thursday with high hopes for a continuation of the lights-out yellowfin bite. There are yellows of various sizes, including good numbers of fish in the 70-plus-pound bracket, along with scattered white and blue marlin, wahoo, longfins, bluefins and bigeyes. Then again, there’s NE wind in the weekend Wx, so whatever befalls the guys out slinging butters, sardines, and other assorted morsels at press time will be ancient history by the time Saturday rolls around. That said, if the recent pattern persists, we could be in for a fall of tuna fishing the likes of which we haven’t seen so close to home in more than a decade. Among others who have scored recently was the crew of the Twentyfive, who came home mid-week with a dozen yellows to 70-plus.

Much closer to home, the charter boats have been into some solid shark fishing on the usual grounds along the 30-fathom line. Most notably Capt. Kelly Smith and the crew of the C-Devil II bested a fat 361-pound mako while fishing the southern part of Tuna Ridge last Sunday. In a separate follow-up phone call, Capt. Kelly noted it was Dr. Martin Lederman of New York who rode the working end of the stand-up gear that dispatched the heavyweight shark.

Locally, the better sea bassing has been a dead heat between the Hooter and Nebraska Shoals, while folks who know the lay of the lesser-known hangs around the Island continue to catch the biggest of the sea biscuits. There are still some fluke around in the deep water at random intervals around the lower east and west sides as well as the south side. Giselle Golembeski checked in with a fine 11-pound welcome mat last weekend. One guy vowed he would sample some of the shallow rockpiles not far from Point Jude Light in an effort to unearth some early tautog; that guy was in looking for a glass-bottom device that would likely be of more use than any of his electronics, given that most of the fish seem to be well within casting distance of the rocks.

Mike at Watch Hill Outfitters was approaching a new facial tic when he called back late Friday evening, the dedicated shopkeep experiencing some late-stage googan burnout. Bleary-eyed, he was busy spooling reels and trying to maintain a semi-accurate inventory between visits from the roaming hordes of fish-afflicted crazies making it virtually impossible for the man to keep sandworms in stock with huge clots of scup gumming up the works from Watch Hill Light all the way along Naps.

Fluke fanatics are still out and taking full advantage of Block Island’s deep-water doormat situation. One regular, Chris Sottile, nailed a 12-pound, 3-ounce behemoth drifting, rumor has it, near the Hooter Buoy off Block’s SW Corner in 80-plus feet. There have been scattered showings of both green bonito and false albacore chowing on small feed along the south side of Fishers, around and inside New Harbor on BI’s west side, and around Montauk Point. There have been blues of all sizes taken around the Weekapaug Breachway and along Charlestown’s East Beach.

No real word on the local tautog front, though that’s probably a fair option for those willing to anchor up in 8’ or 12’ right in the stones at various spots around Fishers Island Sound. Speaking of, for what it’s worth, most of the 15- to 20-pound tautog I’ve confirmed as legit catches since 2002 have come from somewhere between the mouth of the Thames River and the Stonington breakwaters during the earliest part of the fall—September particularly.



Albies have shown up big-time along the South Cape
Albies have shown up big-time along the South Cape.

“Q” at River’s End passed the phone off to co-worker Joe, who relayed some details about several improvements on the local fishing scene. For a select few guys who know the place well enough to fish the shallows in pitch blackness, the south side of Fishers has been surrendering a handful of better bass. There seems to be quite a bit of bait—Joe thought peanut bunker—in that area. There have been rumors of albies patrolling that area and points east toward Watch Hill; the big numbers of false albacore have been at Montauk, according to a few folks who’ve been going that way.

There have been some epic bluefish blitzes this week as well, including major ones in Old Saybrook and Westbrook mid-week. There are mixed small bass and some gorilla bluefish to nearly 15 pounds hanging around the CT River mouth, and a full-blown invasion force of choppers in and around Plum Gut the last couple days. Scup are big and just about everywhere, while the sea bass have been a bit tougher to find in the right sizes and numbers. Hickory shad and snapper blues are providing plenty of action in the harbors, and the canyon bite between the Fishtails and Hudson is shaping up to be memorably good this fall.



Striped Bass
Striped Bass

Rick Mola was running short-handed at Fisherman’s World when I called Thursday. Thanks to the man’s considerable bluewater experience and knack for sharing good advice with shop patrons, he has spent superhuman hours at the office, rigging, fine-tuning, and otherwise guiding his regulars through ongoing efforts to get the most out of a wide-open canyon fishery Mola described as a throwback to the 1970s, complete with daytime chunking, a solid night bite, and more than a few trolling encounters with the not-altogether-elusive bigeye the last couple weeks. For the latter, Mola noted his guys have been impressed with their results dragging Joe Chutes rigged with wire- or mono-rigged ballyhoo on the early-morning and dusk troll. Rapalas—the classic CD-14’s and 18’s, as well as the newer Magnum divers—have been taking a mix of yellows, albacore, bigeyes, and other assorted mystery meat, though Mola noted those high-speed offerings do require some hook tweaking, rods with softer tips, and lighter drags, given the forces to which they’re subjected during run-offs. On the bait side, Mola has been searching high and low to keep his chunkers in butterfish, sardines, spearing, and the rest of it for excellent chunking both day and night between the Tails and Hudson. As for the limitations of fishing in a 60-boat fleet in the canyons, Mola said we should all be glad there’s so much meat in the water of late: It’s uncanny how much of an impact the grand-total chum deposits can have in keeping a body of tuna around.

Closer to the proverbial barn, Mola noted there have been some legit mixed blitzes—bass and blues—in the Rowayton area and around the outer Norwalk Islands over the last couple days. There have been albie encounters from eastern Long Island Sound to Rhode Island, and at Block Island, but not much on the hardtail front in the western reaches.

Scup are big and spread thick across the area, while sea bass are still big and cooperative. Buoy 1B has produced some solid chunking and diamond jigging. The the northeast side has been hot on incoming tides, the west on the ebb.