by Jerry Vovcsko
A couple of intense nor'easters took the top off much of the late fall action over the past week or so. That first slug of wintry rain/snow mix that coated Gillette Stadium for the Patriots – Broncos game brought air temperatures diving down toward the dreaded thirties.
As air temps sink so do water temperatures and those mid-fifty numbers we've been seeing are steadily declining; magic-fifty mark, here we come. Won't be long now before we can say with some finality: So long, 2014 striper season.
But in the meantime, there's still some places to visit and fish to catch, stripers included. The Canal continues to produce bass for those persistent anglers who spend enough time working plugs, jigs and bait in the swirling currents of the Ditch. Slack tide allows a jig to make its way to the rocky bottom and it's there that the Big Ones lurk.
Live eels score with the occasional big bass pouncing on an oversized "snake" and thirty pound stripers are still at hand in the Canal ready to whack bait or lure passing nearby. Swimming plugs are the best choice now although a few anglers have done OK with pencil poppers. Personal preference dictates best lure color but I'm really all-in for those garish "parrot" color combos. For some reason they seem to work for me on late season stripers. Maybe it's just a case of that old saw: If you think it will or you think it won't, you're right.
Mackerel are probably one reason stripers continue to hang in the Canal. There have been large numbers of the little tunoids hanging around the east end and they are, of course, a striper favorite. In addition to the Canal, the macs had been thick as fleas on a barn cat up around Race Point and Provincetown Harbor. While few folks like to eat mackerel, they do make prime striper bait and those being caught here in the late fall will likely take up residence in anglers' freezers only to rise again in the spring.
To keep mackerel freezer-stored and relatively fresh for the following season, it's best to add a half-cup of salt to a quart of water and pour that into a half-gallon wax milk carton. Add however many small macs as will fit and pour more water in until the fish are completely covered. Close and seal the carton, lay it in the freezer and come next spring, these macs will make surprisingly fresh bait ready in time for the influx of the new season's striped bass.
Righty now is a very good time to fish the outflows of the south-facing estuaries and ponds from Woods Hole to Monomoy. There are still bluefish to be had in Nantucket Sound and stripers remain mixed in. Those rips south of Nantucket are active hot spots right now but the weather hasn't been the angler's friend lately as high winds have kept small boats moored at anchor for the most part. But when the rips make up and the winds allow, fishing the rips is exciting business, indeed, as the bluefish and striper mix is visible to plug casters anchored up within casting range.
The bonito and false albacore apparently felt the chill of the recent brisk nor'easterly winds and we won't see them again until August next year. They were great fun on light tackle but the fun's over for this season and the funny fish have taken it on the lam. North of Cape Cod Bay there are Bluefin tuna hanging around Stellwagen Bank with the occasional stray tuna showing up around Peaked Hill Bars and east of Head of the Meadow beach at Truro. All those mackerel schooling up off Provincetown may be the reason the Bluefin are sticking around.
The Vineyard – being the southerly departure point for the fall migration – still offers a mix of bass and blues and maybe even a solitary bonito that got distracted and forgot which way it was headed and hangs around hobnobbing with the others. The pre-dawn bite continues to be best-bet-time although anglers working live eels after dark have had productive sessions along the western shore of the Big Island down as far as Devil's Bridge. This is another wind-dependent location so small boat operators should have a care and know where to scamper in to the nearest safe harbor.
I would feel remiss if I didn't say a bit more about that Patriots-Broncos game I referred to earlier. When newly acquired linebacker Akeem Ayers sacked Peyton Manning late in the second half it pretty well put the cherry on the chocolate sundae.
With Tom Brady lacerating the Bronco's secondary and The Gronk running wild on crossing and seam routes, the Patriots made clear just who was the cook and who the potatoes. The Pats are looking good – very, very good – these days and those football seers who wrote their epitaphs a few weeks back are being served generous portions of humble pie these days. As they say, "On any given Sunday……"