by Jerry Vovcsko
If you're looking for striped bass action these days, it's a good time to try the west end of the Canal and on down into Buzzards Bay. Jigging is probably your best bet right now but there are lots of ways to go about it. One of the more effective is to tie on metals slabs such as Hopkins, Kastmasters, Deadly Dick or Crippled Herrings and forego the traditional lead-head and bucktail type jigs.
For one thing, you can really sling the slabs out there for distance and there are days when distance makes all the difference, like when you spot early morning breaking fish just out of reach and no matter how hard you rear back and toss your usual needles and poppers you can't seem to reach out and touch them. The metal slabs will let you fire for effect and you can cheat a few extra yards by aiming your casts up-current from the fish and letting the hard running tide sweep your lure out a bit further as you free-spool for a bit.
That slab will be rolling and tumbling in the turbulence of the canal and the glinting metal is very likely to catch the eye of a feeding striper. By the way, one of the most impressive sights I can recall when I fished the canal with some regularity was an elderly gent working an eelskin that was tied on over a big reverse Atom plug. He, naturally, wasn't trying for any distance casting records but he put on a real striper clinic over near Portagee Hole and took more bass in a couple of hours than the half dozen or so nearby anglers combined.
I asked him about it and he said he used eelskins over plugs, slabs, jigs and pretty much anything in the tackle box. Said it had been a killer rig for decades and most folks just didn't want to be bothered or take the time to rig it properly. He mentioned that he switched his trebles for single hooks and it didn't seem to affect the balance of the plugs any. He worked the eelskin setup slowly and paid lots of attention when his retrieve brought the skin back in close to the rocks, swimming it around for some time before lifting it out.
"That's something I learned musky fishing," he said. "When you finish your retrieve and your plug is back close to the boat or shore you dip your rod tip and swim the plug around in a figure-eight pattern. Muskies will often smash it then even though you've had no action at all earlier on the retrieve."
I've since tried what that fella described to me and found that it works from time to time with stripers as well. I think a lot of fishermen don't give the bass a chance to hit in close to shore because they're lifting the lure clear of the water too soon. Once in a while I'll stop my retrieve and let the plug (if it's a floater) just sit on the surface for upwards of a minute, then give it a twitch. I tell you truly, you will never forget the strike you get when a big striped bass pounces on that plug practically at your feet.
Two or three days before a hurricane arrives is often fishing like you wouldn't believe. Must be the severe low pressure alerts the fish to eat now before things get stirred up so much the baitfish disappear into hiding. Watch your weather, but sneak out before the winds get too bad and you may just experience some of the best blitz fishing you've ever run into. It looked for a while like Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Hermine was going to give us a rerun of that pattern but then Hermine slipped away offshore without much of an impact at all on local anglers.
The usual mix of stripers and blues continues to show up in Buzzards Bay with one of the hot spots being around The Knob just outside Quisset Harbor. The mouth of the harbor has also been productive on falling tides for those anglers running drifts on the ebb. We're still waiting for sustained albie action but mostly it's been sporadic and unpredictable. Anglers casting for stripers along the Elizabeth Islands have seen pods of albies chasing bait from time to time but still haven't seen any of the large schools that show up around this time of the year.
There's been sporadic Bluefin action around the southeastern corner of Stellwagen Bank. And speaking of Stellwagen, President Obama has designated some 4900 acres just off Georges Bank as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. A protected area located approximately 130 miles off the southeast coast of the Cape, it will be off limits to commercial fishing as of 2023. Under terms of the designation, red crab and lobster fisheries will have a seven-year grace period before they have to exit the monument area, and other commercial fishing operators will have 60 days to leave.
Over the next few weeks the annual fall migration will slowly begin to ramp up and it won't be long before the striped bass that arrived in the spring from the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay will return from whence they came. Seems they just got here and soon it'll be time to say good bye…oh well, at least football season's here and pretty soon our New England Patriots will have Tom Brady back at the helm. Then let the games begin…for real.