by Jerry Vovcsko
The 2013 striper season is definitely under way and water temperatures in the mid-50s are proving attractive to migrating bass as more and more fish swarm into the waters around Cape Cod. Some of the newly arriving fish have made it further north as reports filter in that stripers have been caught in Boston Harbor and the surrounding region.
These are mostly smaller fish that have made it this far north but the bigger ones are traditionally not far behind and should be turning up before long. Right now, though, it's not a bad idea to fish with bent barbs making it easier (and less damaging) to return the little guys to the water. Some of the local hot spots include Popponesset and South Cape beaches as well as the estuaries along the Falmouth shoreline: Great Pond, Green Pond, Waquoit Bay, etc.
The Elizabeth Islands are populated with increasing numbers of newly arrived stripers and they are being taken on both the Nantucket Sound and Buzzards Bay sides. The action has been particularly brisk along the east side of Nonamesset Island and local anglers do well tossing plugs into the rocks and boulders that line the shore from Woods Hole down to Lackey's Bay. Swimming plugs seem to produce a little better than the topwater variety but pencil poppers have also been productive in the early morning hours.
There are more and more bass moving up into the Cape Cod Canal, also of the smallish size and the east end of the Ditch is mackerel city; sabiki rigs are lethal when the mac schools move in close and metal slabs improve casting range when they're further out in mid-channel. Chances are the macs will be moving on once the bigger stripers show up but for the moment the tiny tunoids are around and very catchable.
There have been reports of large schools of bass forming up in Cape Cod Bay over near the Brewster Flats but non-responsive to any and all attempts to get them to bite. Plugs, plastics, metal or jigs…no matter, these fish turn up their noses at whatever's chucked their way. I remember back in the 70s and early 80s this was typical early season behavior by newly arrived stripers and after a short time they dispersed and the non-responsive-schooling ceased for the rest of the season. Never figure out why they acted that way; maybe the scientific types had a theory but it's a mystery to me.
The Chatham area is loaded with small schoolies, especially in the flats around Monomoy Island. With the changes to that locale brought by the winter storms it will be a while before it's clear where the hot spots are for the big bass once they show up. Not much action right now along the back beaches. Most of the fish showing up over there will continue on up past Race Point heading for points north, Boston, the North Shore and on up to the New Hampshire coast and even Maine. Lower Cape anglers are happy to see the stripers showing up but even happier are the seal colonies around Chatham and Nauset…Dinner is served!
Plenty of school bass arriving at Martha's Vineyard right now and that area will continue filling in as the bigger fish begin to arrive in a week or two. The squid boats have been showing up in the Sound and that's always a good sign. Woods Hole Harbor at night is the perfect location to try firing a squid jig in amongst the dock pilings; the combination of bright lights and deep shadows is irresistible to these tentacle creatures and their strike is vicious when they attack bait or lure. Just be cautious if you find you've hooked up with an eel from those dock shadows…big Conger eels can do lots of damage to any body part they get their teeth into. Best thing about catching squid is they can be used for striper bait or taken home and sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Delicious!
The first bluefish sightings have already occurred in Nantucket Sound. Small schools of Blues in the 3 to 4 pound size range have been cruising around Nobska Point as well as in Woods Hole Harbor and near the Weepecket Islands on the Buzzards Bay side. Another reason to use the flattened-barb method…these small-but-feisty fish are lots easier to release if you're not catching them on a barbed treble and there's less damage to the fish.
For some reason there have been a number of reports of weakfish being caught end to end in Nantucket Sound. The "Bathtub" down around the Harwich/Chatham area is one such location and Succonnesset Shoal off Cotuit is another. This is a somewhat new phenomenon; in the past, these sea trout haven't shown much of a presence in local waters and when they did it was generally later in the season. No complaints, though as they are one of the more delicious species available and perfectly suited for the grill.
Anyhow, the season is definitely here and by next week we should be hearing about more Large bass showing up around Quicks Hole, Robinson's Hole, Cuttyhunk and along the west side of Martha's Vineyard…maybe Gay Head and Devil's Bridge. Meanwhile, it's worth getting out there with the light gear and having a helluva fine time fishing for schoolie bass, small blues, mackerel and maybe even a weakfish or two. Black sea bass season opened up last weekend and tautog are thick around the Elizabeth Islands so it's also a good time to fish for the pot or the grill. We've waited all winter for the chance to get going again and here it is. See you on the jetty.