by Jerry Vovcsko
Got a phone call from my son Mark last night. He lives down in New Orleans and went with a buddy up one of the Ponchartrain estuaries chasing redfish. They did okay, taking five apiece. Mark said he was checking the stomach contents on a ten pounder and jumped about a foot when a half-dead, two-foot-long water snake spilled out on the cleaning table. I told him to try to get hold of some live eels for the next trip out.
He said, "Dad, they don't sell eels in any of the bait shops down here."
Go figure that one. I consider it blasphemy.
On the local scene, the action is heavy at the canal, especially during the west tides. Plastic baits, such as nine inch Sluggos are a good first choice. Jigs in the three-ounce size range come into play when the current picks up and big swimming plugs make a pretty good backup. Carry a few metal slabs with you as there are some bites where only those seem to work. Pip's Rip and the area around the former Joe's Fish Market are good starting points.
Lately big schools of bluefish along with pods of Large stripers have been showing up on-and-off up around Race Point and Newcomb Hollow. Too early to be forming up for the start of the migration. Later, as that begins, they'll be working their way south along the outside beaches all the way down from P'town to Monomoy. Night fishing along there is at its best this time of year and those fish are hungry as they cruise by.
Around Vineyard Sound over near Woods Hole and on into Buzzards Bay there have been sightings and a lonely few catches of Spanish mackerel. Albies are turning up here and there these days and school blues continue to turn up in school numbers. Blind casting gives an angler a fifty-fifty chance of turning up good results because there seem to be more bluefish around than typical for this time of year.
Tautog fishing around the traditional places - Cleveland Ledge, the Weepeckets and the northern end of Buzzards Bay - is spotty but flounder catches are picking up and seem to be improving daily.
There was a nice school of stripers up around Sandy Neck last weekend and they appeared to move westward toward Scorton Creek judging by the catches reported along the way. Monomoy right now is another good location for boat anglers but action along the Elizabeth Islands has slowed lately. The islands will turn on again, though, before the season is over as the southern end is traditionally a staging area for bass before they leave for the year.
Remember the good old days when we used to scoop up as much tinker mackerel as we needed and liveline the little guys for big bass? Where have all the mackerel gone? We're into that time now where the shores along the western part of Vineyard Sound, from West Chop to Devil's Bridge and from Woods Hole to Cuttyhunk, are alight with striper activity. Nearly any place along there that an angler chooses to wet a line is potentially likely to produce striped bass. But to nail down the possibilities to as close to a sure-thing event as striper fishing gets, try some live eels. At night.
Scout out a couple good possibilities during the day. Look for spots where rips show up when the current gets moving, and try to locate rocky, weedy or sand bar structure points. Find those combinations of conditions and you've found the places where the big bass lurks waiting to ambush whatever nature's buffet brings their way. Bass aren't stupid but they are lazy. So why chase something small when you can make a very fine meal out of a snake-size eel that swims past right in front of your nose?
Some say that female bass especially become enraged at the very sight of an eel because eels are predators that feed on striper young during spawning season. Dunno about that but some of the most explosive hits I've had came on a live eel swimming around in striper territory. Always seemed to me the fish had a little more fervor in their strikes than when I was livelining, say, a herring or scup. So maybe there's something to the eel-as-enemy story.
My own preference for location has always been along the shoreline between Robinson's and Quick's Holes down at the southern end of the Elizabeth islands. I don't know of another place on the planet that holds bigger concentrations of Large bass than this area during the summer season. The habitat is perfect for stripers, boulder-strewn with lots of bait swimming around and currents galore. An answer to a fisherman's wish-list if ever there was one.
A little further south, of course, is Cuttyhunk and that is, to my mind, the absolute Mecca of striped bass fishing. A place that every fisherman should visit at least once a year. Problem is, it's a little more open to the Atlantic and while Sow and Pigs reef has over the years offered up as many fifty-pound-plus stripers, it is also a potentially treacherous spot that can turn malevolent in an eye-blink. Which is why I suggest the Robinson's-Quick's shoreline. Sling an eel into the rocks along there just before or just after dusk and chances of a hook up with something Large are as good as anywhere around Cape Cod.
And when you visit the bait shop try to make sure a few of the eels you buy are snake-size. I know the argument continues as to whether or not size is important, but I'm definitely on the side of: When it comes to eels, yes it matters. The biggest bass I've caught up to came on the biggest eels I fished. Coincidence? Maybe, but I feel better when there are at least a couple eels in the bucket fourteen inches or more.