The Weekly Bite: August 29-Sept. 3

Illustration courtesy ##http://www.fishedimpressions.com/Gallery_of_fresh_fish_4CWH.html## Fished Impressions##

Things were just settling down after last week’s nor’easter, and now we have Earl to contend with. Keep in mind that the reports below will probably be moot by the time the storm moves through, but at least there are signs of a decent fall inshore. Tuna? Not so much. Read on.

Maine

Capt. Barry Gibson, Shark Six Charters, Boothbay Harbor reports:

  • “The big news in the Boothbay Region is the arrival of good-sized bluefish over this past weekend. Charter boats Charger, Blackjack, and Shark Six all took blues in the 6- to 14-pound range, on swimming plugs trolled just off the western beaches. We also hooked a couple of nice ones on live mackerel fished on wire leaders at the mouth of the Kennebec River near the fort. The blues seem to in small pods and spread over a large area, as several of our live macks intended for tuna were chopped off 4 miles south of the Sheepcot River bell buoy on Sunday.
  • “Striper fishing continues to be a challenge, but most anglers are picking up a fish or two per trip, many of which are just outside the 26″ maximum size. Schools of spike mackerel are virtually everywhere, both in the harbors, bays, and off the exposed shorelines, and some huge “clubs” to nearly 20 inches are mixed in as well.
  • “Offshore, blue sharks are available, as is the occasional mako and thresher. Large schools of 150-pound-class bluefins are blowing up under schools of spike mackerel just a couple of miles out. A few keeper cod are being taken in 100 to 150 feet of water south of Damariscove Island, along with some pollock and redfish.”

Kittery Trading Post’s fishing reports section quotes:

  • Craig Bergeron at Saco Bay Bait & Tackle filed this report: “The bass fishing is starting to heat up again as the waters cool a bit. I talked to Cal Robinson a few days ago and he said the fishing was excellent in Saco Bay. He’s catching some fat slot-fish using chunks of herring rigged on a small circle hook.
  • “The beaches have been producing some bigger fish with anglers using live eels. Use short-shank hooks to keep the eel from balling up on your line.
  • “We have had some bluefish blitzes off of Old Orchard beach, Pine Point and Biddeford Pool. Make sure to have plenty of steel leaders and a good pair of pliers to remove the hooks from the fish’s mouth.
  • “Mackerel fishing has been tough due to the presence of blues. You can try in front of Wood Island or Stratton and Bluff. Most of the macs we are catching now are tiny spikes.
  • “Shark fishing is red-hot now with many anglers catching dozens of fish per outing. Scott Smith came by the shop last week and said he caught so many blue sharks that he ran out of hooks and leaders. It was like the old days, Smith said. The rods were bent all day and all the guys aboard were exhausted.
  • “The Down East shark tournament was this past week and plenty of sharks were caught. My father, Butch and Jack Savasta took first place with a 393 lb., 9’7″ blue shark. Chris Cantara aboard Mad Dog landed a 6-foot mako and many other boats landed multiple blue sharks.”

New Hampshire

Jason MacKenzie at Suds-n-Soda Sports in Greenland, reported  from the Kittery Trading Post :

  • “Tuna are still creating quite a bit of excitement here…There seem to be quite a few of the giants mixed in with the smaller fish. Along with the tuna, cod and haddock seemed to have moved in closer to shore, within sight of the Isles of Shoals. Those people that are fishing for the groundfish are the ones that seem to be reporting the most tuna sightings.
  • “There also seems to be more and more bluefish, both at the mouth of the river and up around Dover Point at the Piscataqua and Little Bay. Mackerel are very spotty, and if you do catch any they are very likely to be the little spike mackerel but the stripers and bluefish as well as the tuna will eat those like candy.
  • “Very few, if any, flounder have been caught lately, but people should know that they also will move back in as fall approaches with good catches starting out around the Isles of Shoals.”

Capt. Jamie Savage at Dover Marine:

  • He says that he landed a giant bluefin. “I was using only 80-pound mono leader and had to be very easy with the fish, which went close to 300 pounds before dressing it out and measured 81 inches long.
  • “A few days before that we landed a mako shark that was over 60 inches long. There have been a lot of very small makos around, in the 2- to 3-foot range, and we’ve caught and released a bunch of them. Along with the makos, we had 3 very good sources tell us that they’d spotted tiger sharks around the Isles of Shoals. This is highly unusual to have them here, especially around the Shoals.
  • “In the last few days and especially during the weekend there was a great bluefish bite around the mouth of the river (Piscataqua), with big blues in the 10- to 15 pound range. Rapala Magnum 18s were the hot plug to be trolled. Of course, wire leaders are a must!”

Massachusetts

North Shore

  • Big blues (up to 30”) have been spotty but available off the mouth of the Merrimack River, according to a report from First Light Anglers.
  • Martha Moulton daughter of Surfland Bait & Tackle on Plum Island reported that the nor’easter of last week seemed to put a hurt on the local fishing. Only a few catches were reported, and there were no bluefish blitzes or blues in their usual haunts. Moulton added that trolling eels at night for bass inside the river has not been that productive, and that the Joppa Flats seem dead, too.

Boston Harbor

  • Pete Santini at Fishing FINatics in Everett reported that he had released a bluefin over 200 pounds at the Southeast Corner of Stellwagen Bank. The fish took a live pogy. Santini reported that most of the tuna are feeding on the small spike mackerel, so he has taken to trolling small Rapala XRAP lures and modifying them for tuna by replacing the trebles with a single 8/0 Gamakatsu live-bait hook, attached with a heavy-duty split ring.
  • Santini added that he had also fished east of the bank in 260 to 280 feet of water and “hammered the haddock, along with a few codfish and cusk.”
  • Inshore, Santini said that Boston Harbor continues to hold big stripers. Trolled Santini Tubes sweetened with seaworms have been taking some nice fish around Lovell Island and Ram’s Head. It seems like all the small bait has left the harbor. A few bluefish have been reported at Graves Light and the B Buoy.

South Shore

Capt. Willie of High Hook Charters in Duxbury reports: “There is still hardly any bait in the bay right now. We went out to the bank today with one bluefish, and that’s all it took. A few tuna came through the bank this morning and we were able to hook one on a bluefish from the kite. Patrick Murphy reeled in his first tuna, which measured 63”.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVIBSv2x1mM&feature=player

Capt Dave Bitters of Bayman Guide Service in Duxbury reported the following on Friday, Sept 3, just before the storm:

  • “On board this morning, I had repeat client Thomas Knapp and his son, Jackson (6). Light tackle and fly fishing for striped bass and blues. At first light, we found topwater action with birds working overhead. About half the number of fish in the bay today compared to yesterday, and they were very spooky. But we persisted and the Tom and his son boated a total of 14 fish: 1 keeper striped bass, 1 whopping 35_ inch blue, and 12 shorts. A great morning on the bay with temps in the 90_s when we came back in!”

Cape Cod Bay and Offshore

Capt. Terry Nugent of Riptide Charters filed the following hardluck report of his recent 3-day quest for tuna in Cape Cod Bay, Stellwagen Bank and points east:

“I had Pete and his guys on the boat for a tuna trip. After going 3 for 5 on the prior 2 days I was feeling pretty confident about the trip. As we rounded Race Point the lack of any life whatsoever was the first indication that things were NOT like the prior two days.

“We ran around a bit looking at the sports that had held fish the last two days only to find flat calm dead ocean. No birds, no bait, NOTHING. I ran out to the area we had been jigging the fish and finally found some life. It was not as good as the past few days but there was a decent whale show and we set up on the area and started to jig the marks. The marks looked good, but either I was misreading the sounder or the 30-35 pound stripers were just hungrier than the tuna, because that’s all we could catch. The good news to this bad day is that several of the guys landed their largest stripers ever. But they all had to be released and it wasn’t a bass trip.

“The whale show was short-lived as was the bass bite. Once the area died it was all over for the day. We put well over 200 miles under the hull and never once saw a tuna break, nor did we see anything that looked like it was worth stopping and working. “I don’t know if it was the northwest wind or the big high-pressure cell over us or just wrong place wrong time, but other than a few comments on the radio about a couple fish landed on live bait the general chatter was dismal.

“The next day, I had mixed feelings. Sometime the fish sort of take a day off and the next day they feed really hard. But it’s difficult to get past such a terrible day as we had the day before. It’s one ting not to hook up, but to not even see a tuna in 200-plus miles of running is a whole other thing.

“We had a couple buddy boats on the water today to cover as much ground as possible. It was mid morning before we go the first glimpse of a fish. We ran to the area we had seen life the last 3 days only to have the whales, bait and birds spread out and thin. Nothing you could set up on and focus your effort. We did get a bit of a rush when the radar lit up with a ton of birds a few miles away. As we ran up we saw splashes….and a mile of dolphin. Not what we had hoped to see.

“We finally found some fish on top near one of our buddy boats. They were 1’s and 2’s over a few mile area. Even with a really fast boat it was a chore to even get near the splashes since they seemed to be random. We were able to get a few casts into the areas of the splashes before too much time has elapsed and we got 2 half-hearted boils on mack-colored Ocean Lures Fast Swimmers. On a scale of 1 to 10 this was at best a 3 for action. Sometimes 30 minutes would pass before you’d see even one jumper. Blind casting was tiresome and unproductive.

“So with hopes of finding something/anything we gave up on the 1’s and 2’s and ran to all the places I hadn’t run to yesterday. With another 200+ miles under the hull the results were just a poor as they were the day before.

“Now for the real kick in the fellas: My buddy boat hung in the area that we had the random popping fish and decided to grind out the ultra slow show. They were rewarded with a couple short but productive feeds that put meat in their boat. Woulda, shoulda, coulda!

“It’s really disheartening that the best we could find with over 400 miles of searching and two days of looking was a mile or two square of random breaks. Apparently the game is going to be sitting on this small patch of water and grinding the tar out of it for the entire day so you can be there for the 15 to 20-odd minutes that it goes from a 3 to a 7 and gives up a few fish.

“It’s now September and the slow pick of July and August should be starting to drift away behind us. Some years we have not seen the big push of fish until a week or two into September, but what bothers me is the lack of solid action in all directions. The guys from up north are down in our area. The Chatham guys are seeing a few fish, but they too describe it as a grind. The bite south of Martha’s Vineyard seems reasonable, but this storm will shake that up and make it unfishable for a week or so. Even more troubling is the lack of bait in our area. There are pockets of macks, some halfbeaks, and some pods of sand eels, but when the North Shore whale boats are down to almost the Golf Balls just to find some whales, you know things are really thin to the north. I can only hope that this storm flushes the harbors and puts some real quantities of bait out where the tuna can get to it. But then you have to ask, where are the tuna going to come from? We have run close to 70 miles east of the Cape in the last week and they don’t seem to be hanging offshore waiting for the dinner bell like in past years.

“I’m not making excuses; I sucked plain and simple. Shoulda hung with the limited life I found rather than leaving fish to find fish. But damn, hanging on a 3 out of 10 all day. Somebody shoot me!”

South Cape/Martha’s Vineyard

Action with funny fish has been spotty since the nor’easter along the south side of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. I fished on Tuesday with friend Gordon Haight and found a couple pods of albies off Edgartown and State Beach in the a.m., but it was deadsville all afternoon. We ran all the way from Falmouth to Wasque, where we found the rips barren. No birds, bait or boats. Nothing along East Beach, either. Lots of small bait off State Beach and Vineyard Haven Harbor, but no fish showed. We finished the day by running to Tashmoo and then across the Sound to Naushon, where we found small blues blitzing in Lackeys, as well as 4 seals!

Buzzards Bay

This 29” striper was taken during a blitz off Onset, Massachusetts, on Friday, Sept. 3, just before the storm. Photo by ##http://newenglandboating.com/author/tom## Tom Richardson##

Buzzards Bay has been equally dead, save for some small blues. However, I was out this morning before the storm with Matt Hawkins, and we found blues to 3 pounds and stripers (up to 29”) blitzing at the entrance to Onset Harbor. The fish were feeding on small herring. Good to see a blitz like that in Buzzards Bay. More small blues were blitzing on the Mashnee Flats.

Later, we ran along the east shore of the bay looking for funny fish, and ran into another angler who reported catching 3 large Spanish mackerel. We did not see any sign of life, but that could have been due to the slack tide.

One final note: some small pods of menhaden have been sighted in Marion and Mattapoisett. ‘Nuff said.

Rhode Island

Prior to last week’s storm, a few albies and bones had been taken off Sakonnet Point, but anglers are reporting a lack of fish since Wednesday. Some albie action was reported off the West Wall of Pt. Judith and along the south shore beaches to Watch Hill midweek.

Tom Meade filed the following report on Sunday, Aug. 29, on his Providence Journal HotBytes fishing blog:

  • “Fishing after the 3-day marathon August nor’easter was quite good for sea bass,” says Frank Blount, owner of the Frances Fleet of Pt. Judith, Rhode Island, in last weekend’s report.
  • “The fluke, however, seem to have taken a direct hit and the numbers of fluke have been spotty since the big storm. All the day boats did very well with the sea bass with anglers getting frequently 10 to 20 nice sea bass per person on full-day boats and upwards to a dozen sea bass per angler on some of the half-day trips. Lots and lots of jumbo sea bass in the mix, with sizes to over 4 pounds.
  • “There were quite a few good size porgies (scup) to nearly 3 pounds with some anglers easily getting their scup limits on all the trips and a smattering of nice size fluke with a few really nice fish pulling the needle down to the 8-pound mark on a couple trips. A few bluefish thrown in for good measure as well.”

Matt Conti Maneuvers Snug Harbor's forklift into position to take final dressed weights on a pair of 800-pound-class Mud Hole giants landed Monday by the crew of Duck Soup. Within half an hour, both of these 600-pound plugs, along with another fish from the previous day (landed Sunday by the crew of Twentyfive) would be iced down and headed to auction in a North Atlantic box truck. Photo by Zach Harvey
This fish--one of a pair of 800-pound-class giant bluefins--were landed by the crew of Duck Soup on monday in the midst of a massive fleet in the Mud Hole. Photo by Zach Harvey

Zach Harvey related that a giant bite was going on in the Mud Hole earlier in the week, with several large fish (up to 800 pounds) coming to the docks at Snug Harbor (see pix). Apparently the bite slowed somewhat later in the week. Now all bets are off with the Earl bearing down.

Monday night, 9 p.m., Capt. Dean Venticinque of the Snug Harbor-based Twentyfive pauses from a classic, bleary-eyed, late-night washdown to discuss the particulars of the giant bite that took shape Saturday, when two fish crossed the docks at Snug Harbor Marina. With hurricane Earl looming in the long-range forecast, inconsistent "swill" trawling effort and subsequent concerns about the bait/chum situation, an overactive rumor mill broiadcasting more fiction than fact and the ever-mysterious feeding habits of 800-pound bluefin tuna, the sharpies like Venticinque try to banish most of the head-clutter and stay focused on a grueling schedule of back-to-back turnarounds until the bite evaporates. Photo by Zach Harvey

Block Island

This comes from Chris Willi of Block Island Fishworks, who somehow had some time to fish and file this report after the birth of his baby boy. Congrats, Chris!

  • “I’ll cut to the chase: Fishing has been slow – even for the legendary Block Island. Although one 47-pounder was weighed in by Don Smith. The fish was taken at night. In fact all fish being caught are in low light, so start at dusk and fish till sunrise. Earl may spark a good chew tomorrow—we will see. My best catch of the week was yesterday (8/31/10), when the sun was high at 12:59 p.m., 19.5″, 6-pound 14 ounces—our new baby boy Miles Dugan Willi. Mom and Miles are great!”

Connecticut

The following report came from Pat Abate of River’s End Tackle in Saybrook:

  • STRIPED BASS: It has been a tough week for striper chasers. Reports have been consistently slow since a few days past the last northeast storm. Long Sand Shoal and Six Mile Reef gave up a few bass but most other spots held onto their bass. What had seemed to be an early start to the fall run fizzled. On the positive side we’re starting to see some schoolies in the mouth of the river. Keep an eye out for a spike in activity after the storm pass and tides pick up next week.
  • BLUEFISH: Bluefishing remained strong throughout the week, though with fewer reports of surface fish. Plum Gut seems to be the epicenter of bluefish activity, with fish up to the low teens. Southwest Reef, Six Mile and Long Sand Shoal have been good to jiggers. Some top-feeding blues have been seen around Cranes Reef and Southwest Reef.
  • FLUKE: Season is closed in CT, open in NY until 9/6 and in RI until 12/31
  • PORGIES: Very good reports coming in from most local and distant reefs. On some reefs you have to contend with blues that have been stealing porgies. Hatchetts, Cranes, Bartletts and Southwest have good numbers and sizes.
  • BONITO and FALSE ALBACORE: They’ve arrived! We’ve had reports of albies at the West Wall in Pt. Judith this past week. Unconfirmed reports have also come from the Rhode Island South Shore, from Charlestown to Watch Hill. Several good reports of bonito catches have come from the west side of Block. This storm that’s upon us will certainly move the bait and water temps around, but I think it’s early in the season to have too detrimental an effect.