by Jerry Vovcsko
Nantucket Sound water temperatures in the mid-60s means there's still plenty of time for anglers to get in their licks before the striped bass depart Cape waters for the return trip south. But even if the official start of the migration remains a month or more in the future, bass will continue to put on the calorie-stoking feed-bag over the next few weeks so now's a very good time to get after them.
And that's not even considering that we still haven't seen much of a false albacore fishery in local waters just yet. It's not clear just why the albies haven't arrived in the usual numbers by now but consensus opinion is consistent across the board: As one local angler puts it: "Wherever they are, they ain't here."
The albies may be scarce right now but Bonito have been showing up around the islands, especially in and around the Woods Hole area. Schools of albies and blues cruise around Lackey's Bay and occasionally show up just off Nobska Point. Folks who target these funny-fish keep a spare rod rigged with a metal slab such as KastMaster, Deadly Dick or Hopkins lure as the mini-tunoids find the glitter and flash of the metals alluring enough to draw strikes.
Other effective lures include holographic swimming plugs like some of the Yozuris, particularly the Crystal Minnow, along with jigs that feature shiny mylar in the bucktails.
The Canal has had its good times and not-so-good moments recently and at one point there were schools of thirty-and-over stripers feeding on mackerel in the Ditch and anglers lined up around the Scusset fish pier were working out on these lunker-sized bass. But all good things come to an end it seems and lately it's been a matter of catching the occasional solo fish or more likely getting skunked. But before long the migration will turn the Cape Cod Canal into a four-lane-highway for south-bound bass and the banks will be lined with anglers looking to score a fish or two as the stripers depart.
Along the back beaches from Chatham to Truro the late afternoon to evening hours have been productive for keeper size bass. When darkness falls break out the live eels because they draw some of the most vicious hits an angler may experience all season. The waters around Monomoy continue to deliver striped bass action and the lower parts of Pleasant Bay have been productive during the day. That newly-formed cut of Monomoy Island created by last winter's storms has delivered its share of large bass and once the migration gets under way the locals will likely concentrate their striper efforts their as it makes an attractive short-cut for bass heading into Nantucket Sound. Drifting or casting herring chunks is the name of the game there and turn-of-the-tide often brings good results.
There have been some big stripers caught this past week at Billingsgate on tube and worm rigs and that will continue to be the case well into migration time. Folks working the wreck of the old target ship, the James Longstreet, have been doing very well for themselves with black sea bass, fluke and tautog. It's easy enough to find the wreck site; just pick a nice day and look for a cluster of skiffs anchored up in the middle of Cape Cod Bay...odds are, that's it.
The stretch of shoreline from Barnstable Harbor past Sandy Neck Beach and westward toward Sandwich has seen some striper activity over the past week. Popper and needless in the early morning and swimming plugs or jig and plastic combos from dusk into dark has been the way to go. Black sea bass rewarded some bottom fishers near the mouth of Barnstable Harbor and Corporation Beach off the Dennis shore offers keeper size 'tog to anglers equipped with a good supply of green crabs.
Bluefish and stripers continue to show up around Race Point and down toward Herring Cove with blues the predominant presence although the striper bite at first light has been pretty consistent and rewarding for early arriving anglers. There's still some bluefin action off to the east of the Cape and out in the canyons the yellowfin can make or break a trip depending on an angler's luck on any given day.
The rips around Nantucket hold the mix of large blues and bass that make fall fishing an exciting proposition...sometimes a little too exciting when the weather ratchets up the ante out there in the open ocean, small boats take notice. We've been very lucky so far with the weather in terms of storms and hurricane season. But there's still time for a bit of excitement to blow in from Africa and points east. It's Big Water out there and pays a skipper to keep a sharp eye out; we like to see all the boats that went out make it back.
The Red Sox clinched a playoff spot with their win last night and can clinch the division with another tonight. They feature a genuinely talented pitching staff these days and it's rounding into shape with everyone about as healthy as they've been all season. This could be another World Series year for Jonny Gomes and the rest of the bearded lads and that would make it one helluva October in New England, wouldn't it?