Historically, fish fill into Buzzards Bay and The Southside before Cape Cod Bay but this has been untrue in recent years. I think fish that are finding their way into the bay early are making their way around the Cape and into the bay, rather than through the canal, which suggests why you might find fish in cooler water within the bay sooner than other warmer spots on the South Side. If you have a choice between Cape Cod Bay and Buzzard’s Bay, it’s a toss-up to find the fish. When they do show up, the action can be more consistent in Cape Cod Bay than other parts in the Cape.
The top four options for finding fish in Cape Cod Bay are as followed:
- Barnstable Harbor
Most of the first fish found in Barnstable Harbor are schoolie sized. But with more and more mackerel likely to show up as May draws to a close, the more likely it is that the larger bass will start trailing the schools that gather outside the mouth of the harbor. But, if you don’t care what size bass you catch, schoolies can be found throughout the harbor and within the marshes and creeks in the surrounding areas.
Stripers will be feeding on a mix of sand eels and mackerel this time of year (spring). If casting, your best bet is to fish with small soft baits, small sliders, and small poppers. I like all of the colors but my favorites are pink/glow for high visibility, olive which mimics sand eels and green which imitates mackerel. Ona a high, dropping tide, you can get up in the shallows. On lower stages, focus on the remaining deeper water in the channels.
Below is a great break down on where to position yourself with schools of fish up inside a shallow water bay area.
Although casting small lures is very popular, trolling in the channels is very effective too. When it’s especially cold or windy as it often is in May, I like to troll the Hogy Pro Tails on lead-core in the channels. I’ll troll with and against the tide in here but I find I have the best luck trolling lighter lures with the current, simulating baitfish getting swept down current.
Schools of herring can congregate in front of Wellfleet sometime in later May/early June. Flocks of gulls are a telltale sign that this might be happening. If this bite is going on, you can count on big fish. We filmed here (below) when we introduced the Hogy Pro Tails and crushed fish on the Bone 6.5” Paddle and 9” Eel. The 3oz 6.5” Hogy Pro Tail Paddle is the most natural herring size. It’s a highly versatile lure. It can be fished on the surface, down low, fast and slow. Bone is the most natural color. I recommend the 6.5” 3oz version for maximum casting ability and versatility. The lure can be both cast or jigged.
These fish are often suspended. You can stir up an exciting topwater bite by throwing large topwater plugs such as our Charter Grade Dog Walkers and Poppers. These topwater baits are best suited for calm water, when their water noise will have the most impact. This is one of those fisheries that if it’s going off, it’s going off. If nothing is going on, proceed to Billingsgate.
Wellfleet can be an exciting fishery as the top water action can be amazing. If you don’t see fish breaking the surface but there are excited looking birds tightly grouped at times, it is a good idea to blind cast with topwater plugs. Set up long drifts and work Poppers and Dog Walkers. If you have multiple anglers on the boat, one good play is to have someone casting with a 3oz Hogy Pro Tail; let it sink down 10-feet or 15-feet before retrieving. If fish start breaking, approach the school slowly as to not spook them. Try to get in front of the school and lead the fish by casting in front of them as well.
- Billingsgate Shoal
Billingsgate can go off with lots of sand eel hungry stripers. The spring bite here can be amazing. The action usually starts off with small fish but they will increase in size fairly quickly. Sometimes, daily.
The best fishing tide at Billingsgate is on the outgoing tide. During peak portions of the tide, and in the more shallow portions, I like casting 1.25oz Hogy Epoxy Jig® Lures and 7.5” Hogy HD Pro Tail Eels.
As the tide slows, I move off into deeper water and target stripers with Sand Eel Jigs fished fast and Pro Tail Eels fished slowly. Similarly to race point, bait here can be over the top. Be sure to try fishing both slow and fast with metals and soft baits. If you are marking big fish surrounded with copious amounts of bait, try twitching the bait at a specific depth. Billingsgate is a famous trolling spot but I find trolling at Billingsgate to be unnecessary in the spring and prefer the more hands-on action with casting and jigging.
In this video, we demonstrate how to use the twitch technique for stipers overloaded with sand eels – a technique we recommend for this area.
- Race Point (The Race)
Similar to Billingsgate Shoal, Race Point can be inundated with bait, particularly sand eels. Also like Billingsgate, the bite can be amazing in the spring. I find the fish here tend to hold a little deeper and frequent the surface with less regularity. I always have jigging and casting rods ready when fishing the race in May. I have done well with the Hogy Dancing Diamond Jig and Olive Hogy Softbaits fished slowly near the bottom.
In the video below, we needed the radar to find birds in the fog. Once we found the fish, they were easily jigged with traditional soft baits such as our Se Barbarian Jig.
If stripers are finicky, sometimes it’s necessary to fish with highly imitative baits such as the Hogy Dancing Diamond Jig.
Trolling is a good way to locate scattered fish off the Race. Here, I like to use the troll-scan method. I fish with lead-core, so I often need to troll in and out of gear, with the tide to get by baits down. If the fish are very scattered, I like to troll the Hogy Bait Ball Brella. This umbrella rig is ideal because it is light-weight, has minimal drag and a massive multi-tiered profile. I will bump in and out of gear when marking fish deep. I’ll even let line out to help it drop. Like this: