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Jerry Vovcsko

First dunked a worm in Otsego Lake (upstate NY) some 68 years ago and began pursuing striped bass in Cape Cod waters 40 years ago. Pretty soon I should be able to get it right...maybe.

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May 06, 2013

Fishing the Cape: Brewster to The Cape Cod Canal

by Jerry Vovcsko

Coming back from Provincetown, when you get back to the Orleans rotary keep an eye out for signs pointing toward Rock Harbor. It's your first right just after you enter the rotary, and a couple miles down the road you'll find yourself at a small parking lot near a cluster of charter boats in the twenty eight to thirty four foot range.These will be skippered by some of the finest guides to have set trolling lines in the Bay. Their lineage has its roots in names well known within the Cape's maritime heritage – Snow, Larkin, Nickerson, Harris, et al - and traces back to that original Old Timer, Phil Schwind, who, with a few friends, invented and developed the sport fishing charter industry in Cape Cod Bay following WWII. If you have a hankering to see lots of striped bass in the thirty pound and up range, be here when the charter boats unload their catch dockside. It's a great photo op and serves as a reminder that these Large bass are still around if you know how to find them. Bear in mind that many of the ones you see were caught on the classic tube and worm rig.

Continuing west on route 6A you'll find yourself on Main Street in the village of Brewster. Lots of antique and gift shops along here but a right hand turn on almost any one of those side streets (especially the ones with the suffix, Landing, as in: "Captain's Landing"), takes you to Cape Cod Bay. It gets a little tricky to find parking down there and pay attention to parking related signs, lest you find a ticket waiting upon your return…or your car towed. Generally speaking, you can find beach access after five PM once the swimmers have headed back to their rental cottages to shower and dress for dinner.

If the tide is dead low, you can walk out on the "Flats" for more than a mile and find wonderful conditions for fly fishing out there at the water's edge with virtually unlimited room for backcasts. One caveat! Pay attention to tidal conditions and look behind you from time to time. The tide doesn't come straight in and you can find yourself cut off by deep channels forming behind where you're fishing if you're not paying attention. Just to ratchet up the excitement level a few notches, a few anglers who regularly fish The Flats mentioned brushes with sand sharks. One gent told of being waist deep on the flats casting his Clouser toward a school of stripers that were feeding on silversides. He felt something brush against his thigh and watched as a sand shark he estimated at eight feet glided past. That's the sort of experience that'll make you change your shorts in a hurry.

The next town over, Dennis, provides some good beach access along with a summer theater that drew such thespian stars as Henry Fonda, Cary Grant, Betty Davis and others back in the day. One spot worth wetting a line from is Corporation Beach and back in my more youthful times, I used to Scuba dive there and pick lobsters from their lairs among the rock ledges and boulders that crust the bottom just offshore. Nowadays this same area is home to a thriving tautog population and a few green crabs can go a long way toward helping to fill the freezer with tasty ‘tog. Expect to lose some hooks and line in here as the snag potential is high and, as the locals put it, "if you ain't losing gear, you ain't fishing deep enough."

Further west on route 6A brings us to Barnstable harbor and you'll want to take a look there, especially if you've been searching for a boat launch ramp with parking available. Costs five bucks (unless the rate went up while I wasn't looking) and you can park your car and trailer there. A skiff with, say, a five-horse engine or better will allow you to spend the better part of the summer finding productive spots to fish all through here without leaving the sheltered waters of the harbor. There are sand bars, weed beds, channels and pier pilings galore scattered all around the harbor and every one of them is a likely hang-out for striped bass and bluefish as well. The harbor winds westerly up into what's listed on the map as Scorton Creek ( locals refer to the creek further west along 6A as the "real Scorton Creek".) You can cruise to your heart's content and sometimes I think the tube and worm technique must have been invented in these waters because it's an absolute killer method for catching bass.

Continuing on the last leg of our round-the-Cape quest for good places to fish…after leaving Barnstable Harbor the next stop brings us to Sandy Neck beach. It's a few miles west of the harbor and calls for sharp eyes or you'll miss the Sandy Neck Road sign just off route 6A. Follow that about 3 miles and you'll come to the parking lot. There's a park ranger shack at the entrance and it'll cost ten bucks to park during the day in season. But you don't want to fish there in the daytime anyhow as the beach is jammed with families and sun worshippers. But if high tide turns to ebb an hour or so before dawn, or just before dark in the evening, it's a very good spot to swim an eel or toss plugs. Sand bars appear all over the place on a falling tide and the channels that form are also worth a look, especially for the fly fishing contingent.

Heading west again, toward Sandwich, keep an eye out for a winding tidal creek; that's the Scorton Creek I mentioned earlier, and a few hundred yards after you cross over it on 6A you'll see a dirt road off to your left. Drive down in there (slowly, there are lots of ruts and holes) and you'll come to a natural parking space that overlooks the marsh. This area is a fly fisherman's paradise and a potential nightmare all at the same time. The creek is less than twelve or fifteen feet wide in places back there and it's real tempting to try and jump the channel to get to a better spot but many an unlucky soul has ended up muddied and stinky from an excess of optimism about their broad jumping capabilities. Experienced locals solve the stream-crossing dilemma by dragging a plank along to facilitate fording the creek. Look for stripers finning and feeding up in these back waters. And don't be deceived by the skinny water, some Large bass have been taken here, including one in the low forties that I know about, caught a few years back on a sea worm. Scorton is a kayakers heaven and drifting way up into the marsh on a fine summer day is a seriously pleasant way to commune with Mother Nature.

Sandwich is the next stop heading west and you'll want to turn right at the lights in the center of town and follow the signs to the town beach. Walk that beach toward the east and you'll come to the old Sandwich harbor with a busted up jetty and a creek emptying into the Bay. Be careful out here. The mouth of the creek is very inviting and you can score on stripers when the tide's right and the current's running. But you can also get trapped out there and this is a location where a number of inattentive anglers drowned over the years, many of them fly fishermen who had waded out and stepped off into a deep channel on the way back in; waders filled up and that's all she wrote. But stripers, blues and, on occasion, school sized Pollock can be found here. And mackerel will cruise through from time to time, making it a lot of fun for those who brought their light spinning gear along.

Continuing on, 6A brings us to the Cape Cod Canal.Follow the signs to the parking lot by Joe's Fish Market. That path that runs along the canal past the rest rooms will take you to the long jetty that usually holds a few meat fishermen chucking clams of belly strips for flounder, scup or sea bass. But there'll be others tossing plugs and metal or bouncing jigs off the bottom. Spend a couple of hours around here and you'll see it all: tourists with spinning reels upside down on their rods; "Canal Rats" who ride the access road with custom designed bikes rigged with rod holders for their expensive conventional setups; kids with everything from Sabiki rigs on handlines to basic spinning outfits; the Orvis crowd with every weight of fly rod imaginable and everything in between. Now and then a school of blues will erupt in a feeding blitz and every conceivable type of lure will rain down on the fish as the anglers in the vicinity fire away hoping for a hookup.

No point in trying to give detailed advice here about fishing the Canal; can't be done in a paragraph or two. Best I can say is, watch what the folks who look like they know what they're doing are up to. Don't crowd them while they're working their lures but pay attention to the kind of gear they're using and if the action slacks off, feel free to ask politely for advice. Don't, however, expect to get detailed information on where their favorite spots are located. That's privileged info that they've likely spent years figuring out.

If you've read the first five parts of this series, you should have a basic idea of where to start looking when you visit the Cape. Pick an area and don't forget to scout it out on a variety of tides. One thing about Cape Cod that I've always loved is anytime you get near the water anywhere down here, you have a great chance to catch fish. But your chances to get into some decent action rise considerably if you work some of the places mentioned. Tight lines and good fishing; enjoy.

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