Cape Cod Bay Updated Fishing Report

August 15, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3.75 out of 5

I wanted to give the bay a higher grade, but the general lack of big bass made me come up with a new number.

There are plenty of schoolies from Barnstable to Billingsgate, with many of the charterboats switching over to bluefishing since they are generally larger and fight harder than 18 to 24-inch bass.

They are also catching some nice sized bonito on everything from umbrella rigs to swimming plugs; Paul Newmier at Blackbeard’s in Eastham said a charterboat captain friend of his caught one that measure 28-inches and that is larger than anything I have heard of from the sounds.

Jamie Costa of Columbia Sportfishing with a 34″ striper caught off of Provincetown.

Shawn Powell from the Sports Port in Hyannis told of some larger bass being caught around Barnstable on the tube-and-worm; red or orange tubes have been the ticket, with medium sized tubes working best.

There are also whispers about some quality fish being caught at the parking lot on tubes, but if the past is any indicator, then we are a couple of weeks away from the Scorton Ledge bite, if it happens this year.

Flyrodders are still picking at bass around the Sandwich creeks and I have heard of some bass in the 30 to 40-inch class being caught on plugs and plastics along the beaches.

In fact, Capt. Austin Proudfoot at North Chatham Outfitters said he was going to grab some eels and fish the Sandy Neck area since he has heard of some big fish being caught at night.

If you are going to get into tube-and-worm fishing, then you had best learn to care for what many consider the most important part of this rig – the worms. If you buy them by the flat, make sure to change the newspaper on the bottom regularly and pick out any dead worms and dispose of them. Some folks also swear by the worm bedding that freshwater folks use for their worms as a way of keep seaworms fat and healthy. And, of course, keep them refrigerated.


August 8, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3 out of 5

From Barnstable to Billingsgate and Brewster, the story is the prevalence of small bass in the 18 to 24-inch range feeding on small bait, mainly in the form of sand eels.

In fact, there are so many small stripers that Jamie Costa from Hogy, and the first mate on her father’s charterboat, Columbia, told me that many charterboats have turned to trolling for the bluefish that have increased in numbers. After finding big fish around Sunken Meadow, they faced the challenge of getting them to eat as they wouldn’t take Hootchies. That resulted in a switch to umbrella rigs rigged with small tubes or “worms” that matched the sand eels the blues were feeding on.

When the fish moved out from this area, the boats managed to find them off of Rock Harbor, but again they were focused on sand eels, requiring the use of umbrella rigs.

This past week, Capt. T Lange of Cape Cod Bay Outfitters, had luck landing several bluefish with this group.

Given this information, casters would be well advised to carry an assortment of topwater and subsurface plugs, as well as jigs, to prepare for whatever mood the blues are in. All of the smaller size Hogy Charter Grade Plugs have proven to be excellent choices when fish are feeding on sand eels at spots such as Monomoy and the Elizabeths and no doubt they will prove very effective in this CCB scenario. The Hogy Epoxy Jig gives you the versatility of working all levels of the water column, from skipping it across the surface to deep dropping, while you can start your retrieve with the Heavy Metal Jig and keep it up in the water column as well. The Sand Eel Jig is geared more towards deep drop work.

When I asked Elise Costa of The Powderhorn in Hyannis where she would recommend someone go in the bay and what technique they should use if they were determined to try and find any sizeable bass in the area, she mentioned using the tube-and-worm off of Scorton Creek. Red tubes have typically been most effective this time of year, followed by orange.

Shore anglers have definitely been concentrating on early mornings and night as the water temperatures are way up there. Fly anglers should think sand eel and crab patterns, as well as sliders and Crease Flies at night, while fishing soft plastics at night can be worked slowly at night to attract sluggish stripers.

With so many bluefish being reported in the bay, switching your plugs and jigs over to a single Siwash tail hook is always a good idea for two reasons: blues typically hit from the rear and having the lure body free of any hooks allows you to grab it to control the fish and keep your fingers away from those nasty teeth. Using natural materials such as bucktail or hackles to dress a hook will quickly result in an undressed hook; if you are determined to fish with some tailing material on your single hook, think in terms of crinkly nylons favored by fly tiers such as Super Hair, Unique Hair, or Neer Hair, or even a flash material such as Flashabou or Krystal Flash. Just remember to epoxy over your thread wraps really well or all your work will disappear in a second.


August 1, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I wish I could give the bay a higher rating, but with far too many spots holding mainly schoolies, that would be a dishonest trick.

From Barnstable to Billingsgate, finding a legal bass, not to mention a truly impressive fish, is apparently a challenge.

There are some small bluefish up on the shoals that folks are catching by trolling swimming plugs.

With boats that typically fish around Provincetown and Truro showing up off of Dennis, Hogy’s Jamie Costa said that should give you an idea of how the fishing is up there.

On the other hand, if you don’t care about size and enjoy casting soft plastics and plugs to smaller fish, while downsizing your tackle, then you’re in luck. Early mornings have definitely been better, as well as at dusk, with schools of surface feeding fish around the end of the drop and the beginning of the incoming tide.

There is still some squid in the bay, especially outside the east end of the Canal and that makes the Hogy Perfect Squid a great choice. The folks at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore are now carrying Hogy products, including the HPS, since folks have been looking for an alternative to the venerable, but no longer made, Hootchie.

 

Via the Rock Harbor Charter fleet

Even though there are still some schools of pogies around Sandwich, Bruce Miller from Canal Bait said that folks trolling the tube-and-worm off the Parking Lot, especially the red color, have been doing better that the liveliners. With conditions not great for digging up in Maine, the quality of the worms is not great Bruce said, so if you get some good ones, make sure to take care of them.

Before the bass moved back into the Canal this week, shore anglers chunking pogies at night around Sandy Neck picked up some big fish, Jeff Miller said. I find it fruitless at times trying to figure out what bass are doing in terms of where they are and where they might be going, but I imagine that if they were there last weekend, there might be some lingerers still in the area willing to eat fresh pogy chunks or perhaps even live eels.

Flounder fishing typically slows as we get into August with the warmer water, according to Paul Newmier at Blackbeard’s in Eastham, with any fish in the area typically moving into deeper water and burying into the mud.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already August, but this month often finds fish starting to school up around Scorton Ledge. The tube-and-worm is all the rage when that happens, but as Bruce Miller pointed out, if you can’t get seaworms or the quality is awful, then substituting a strip of squid is worth considering.


July 25, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4 out of 5

With some more bluefish in the mix and larger bass moving in and out of the east end of the Canal to feed on pogies, the bay is certainly worth fishing, especially for the recreational community.

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore told me that the bass that had moved into the east end of the land cut moved out into open water around the east entrance, most likely to feed on the schools of pogies that are thick from there on up to Plymouth.

There are also schools of mackerel still around as well as some squid, but he said that boats dragging the transparent red tubes are doing better than those livelining. Odds are that the larger fish will continue to move out into Cape Cod Bay from the Dump over to the Fingers before the new moon next week.

The tube and worm combo has been most effective for Capt. Mike Hogan in Cape Cod Bay.

A few boats are tubing off of Scorton Ledge, but there has been little to report about a good bite there.

Billingsgate is filled with small bass, with Elise Costa from the Powderhorn in Hyannis reporting that the ratio is generally about 40 schoolies per recreationally legal fish. About once a trip, some of the charterboats are managing to pick up a mid-30-inch class striper. The small bass are being caught on everything including darker colored jigs (dark green, red/black, purple/black), umbrella rigs, larger deep diving swimmers, and the tube-and-worm.

The Hogy Charter Grade Slider is a great option at this point in the season, both trolling and casting. Another great option is the Hogy Perfect Squid (HPS), especially in areas where the bass are feeding on squid. The old school Hootchie is worth its weight in gold and the HPS is a step up in hardware while still maintaining the colors and tantalizing action that works so well.

While it is certainly possible to target fish holding on the bottom with vertical jigging techniques, the Mojo rig is starting to catch on if a boat angler prefers to troll. Featuring a heavy jig head, anywhere from 12 to 30+-ounces, with a swinging hook and skirt, along with a big shad body soft plastic slid onto the hook, this is a big rig and requires heavy equipment to fish it correctly.

They can be fished individually, or some folks tandem rig them off a three-way swivel, with a lighter one lure on a longer leader and a heavier on a shorter leader. Extra heavy leader material in the 100-lb. test range is a must.

While shore and kayak anglers have been keeping busy with smaller bass inside Barnstable Harbor and in the shallows or flats outside both East and West Bars, there are still some larger fish holding in holes and dropoffs where they are being caught on live mackerel.

For shore anglers, fishing cut mackerel or live eels for bait at night or topwater plugs and soft plastics, especially in the troughs inside the bars in the area, are popular ways of targeting bass around Sandy Neck.

Early mornings before first light and nights have been best for tossing plugs and plastics along the beaches from Yarmouth to Dennis, as well as in the shallows that Brewster is known for.

More bluefish are also showing up, with one flyrodder telling a friend of mine that he was shut out on bass at Billingsgate

Cape Cod Bay is known for its sandy structure and a features, meaning that during the daylight hours conditions in shallower water are difficult for folks who prefer to cast since bass are much more wary and easily spooked. That means seeking out deeper water and/or low light conditions, such as before first light and dusk on into the night, although there can be a bite just after slack water on an outgoing tide as the fish look to feed before heading into deeper water. Determining when during a tide cycle that there is a change in water temperature can also turn the fishing on.


July 18, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3 out of 5

If you work hard and get your ducks in a row in terms of locating bait and the right tide, there are enough legal fish around the make for a good trip.

Simply put, if you don’t like small bass, you are in trouble. Everyone, from charter operations to the most casual anglers, is finding plenty of schoolies in the 18 to 24-inch range from Barnstable to Brewster, Yarmouth to Brewster. It’s been reported that even boats from up Provincetown way have been sighted fishing around Dennis, which gives you an idea of tough things are.

It doesn’t seem to matter which method of dragging something behind your boat you choose, whether it is snapping wire with jigs, trolling the tube-and-worm, or dragging umbrella rigs, you are going to go through large numbers of sublegal bass to pick up the occasional 28 to 30-incher.

Jamie Costa, who mates for her dad, Capt. Marc Costa of the Columbia out of Rock Harbor, said the small fish have been really aggressive and eating green/black and purple/black jigs.

There are some schools of larger fish down south of Billingsgate, but they have been unwilling to eat, perhaps a product of the full moon and bait issues. I know that folks fishing the Brewster Flats have been seeing some bigger bass among the schoolies, but it has been a tough go no matter what they throw their way.

With aggressive schoolies outrunning the larger fish, it seemed like a miracle when this 34″ bass was caught this week by Columbia Sportfishing.

Most of the recremercial crew have given up and gone back to work, rather than trying to play at being a commercial fisherman. As of Wednesday, the percentage of the quota that has been filled finally jumped into double figures at 10.8% – and the state has the audacity to offer striped bass conservation license plates for sale!

A few bluefish have been caught as incidental catches, but no numbers that would cause anyone to run to a specific part of the bay to target them.

The only really positive note I heard this week came from the east entrance to the Canal up to Plymouth where there are large schools of pogies. David Jeffers from Red Top in Buzzards Bay told me they weighed in a couple of 40-pounders that were caught on live pogies from this area.

Flounder fishing remains good off Sesuit and remains a solid alternative to mediocre fluking in the sounds.

Whether you fish from boat or shore, a willingness to fish at night on an incoming tide could make a difference given that larger bass often move in close to shore under the cover of darkness. Consider larger, darker colored soft plastics or swimming plugs, especially those that produce a larger, surface waking profile, as artificial alternatives to live eels if bait isn’t your thing.


July 11, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4 out of 5

The word in the bay is that what you are going to experience fishing wise depends on what day you are out there – but big bass are still around.

Elise Costa from The Powderhorn in Hyannis reported that up until this week, the primary bait in the bay has been squid and mackerel, but this week there have been some schools of sand eels showing up as well.

At least one shop I spoke to said people have been coming in looking for Hootchies, the classic squid imitating trolling lure that Hogy has improved in its version, the Hogy Perfect Squid. Frankly, when you know there are bass feeding on squid where you are fishing, unless you elect to casting soft plastics like the Hogy Originals or plugs which do a good job of imitating Loligo (such as the clear amber/pink Hogy Charter Grade Poppers, Dog Walkers, and the inshore Slider, as well as the Charter Grade Squid Plugs).

Unlike the southside shoals and Monomoy, where parachute style jigs are preferred because they imitate squid and larger baitfish, in CCB they prefer to fish traditional style bucktail jigs, albeit with the eye set at an angler appropriate for trolling. I’d be interested to know if a few more parachute jigs have shown up in local tackle boxes.

Sometimes thinking outside the box can pay dividends, as was the case of the guy who picked up a 51-pound bass on a live eel, reported A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay. A.J. also spoke of a couple of mid-40-pound class fish being caught and I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that fish this size were caught at night, given the high sunshine and flat seas this week. The waters between the Brewster Flats and the south edge of Billingsgate have been holding some quality fish, along with plenty of those mid-20-inch class fish.

Jamie Costa of Columbia Sportfishing shows off a 42-inch bass taken from the Brewster Flats.

There are still mackerel scattered throughout the bay, but whether livelining them will result in any fish depends on the tide and the mood the fish are in. At times, big surface plugs have been outfishing the real thing between the Brewster Flats and Wellfleet.

Sheila Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore told me that the few boaters she saw this morning that were heading out had purchased seaworms, clearly a sign that they were going to use the tube-and-worm. Jeff Miller said he has been selling tubes made of clear red tubing as fast as he can get them, particularly a design that features a spinner blade and beads out front.

There has been some good activity around the Parking Lot, with some boats trolling deep diving swimmers between the Dump and the Fingers to cover water and locate fish.

Shore fishing has been OK, although Mac at Riverview Bait & Tackle in South Yarmouth explained that the lack of sand eels has made it tough on guys who rake them to sell to shops, which in turn makes it difficult for shore anglers from the bayside beaches who rely on this popular bait.

On the other hand, the hardcores who typically toss plugs and plastics around the Brewster Flats at night have been doing OK, with sight fishing inconsistent, especially with the spate of bright sunshine days we have had this week. It’s not that the fish aren’t there, but it has been tough to get them to eat.

Barnstable Harbor is a great option if size isn’t important since there are schoolies to be caught around the marshes, on the flats, and the channels, with an early morning outgoing current especially productive as the fish move off the shallows and into deeper water.

Elise said there have been scattered reports of bluefish and Mac told me that a charterboat skipper who fishes out of Sesuit Harbor told him that he is still managing to limit out on flounder in two to three-hours.

With spots such as Billingsgate and Barnstable Harbor holding plenty of schoolies at times, enjoy fishing for them and take the time to properly release them. I have heard far too many reports of both recreational and recremercial anglers mishandling small bass out of frustration and general ignorance.


July 3, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4.5 out of 5

You might have to work longer, harder, and deeper, but there are definitely big bass in the bay.

Simply put, Cape Cod Bay is definitely in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde mood, with far too many people reporting widely varying fishing success for it to be a coincidence.

Starting with boaters, a 42-pound bass that was caught on a live mackerel around the east entrance to the Canal at Red Top in Buzzards Bay on Monday, so the fish that are moving into the Canal are also dropping back into the waters of the bay.

There is still some squid in the bay and trolling hoochies was producing some quality fish for the local charterboats, but recently it looks like the school(s) of bigger fish have moved west towards the Canal. That has resulted in a switch to umbrella rigs, which typically produce smaller bass in the 28 to low 30-inch class, as well as plenty of schoolies.

Warmer water up on the shoals also means that fishing the deeper water between the south edge and the Brewster Flats is a good plan.

Rob LaBranche at Blackbeard’s in Eastham said that Paul Newmier, the head honcho, weighed in a 32-pound bass for a local charterboat, but there has definitely been a change in the size of the fish recently.

Billingsgate has been hot one day (or tide) and not the next; my buddy Capt. Warren Marshall spoke to an angler who sells bass and he told of a school of smaller fish as large as the pond they live on. The neighbor didn’t stop to bother with them as he was looking to go larger, but Warren is hoping for them to show on a fly rod trip on Friday.

Last Sunday, Pat Rourke joined some friends who keep their boat in Sesuit and they did really well tossing plugs and plastics tight in to the shore from Dennis to Brewster. Pat was really impressed with the number of legal fish they caught in such skinny water.

Those same hours and areas have produced some quality stripers for shore anglers, with live eels and soft plastics top choices, along with surface plugs at dusk and dawn.

The fly rod and light tackle crew have been doing OK with sight fishing the flats, but as is typical for this time of year, the more pressure they feel, they spookier they get. Early morning and evening tides will work best, with crustacean patterns the way to go.

Over in Barnstable, the word from Andy Little at The Powderhorn in Hyannis said there are still plenty of small fish for folks tossing a range of plastics, small spooks and poppers, and sand eel imitating metals/Epoxy Jigs. Those boats that continue to liveline mackerel are still picking up fish that are legal, but really big bass are becoming tough to come by. Folks who don’t mind losing sleep often turn to drifting and casting eels at this time of year.

Bluefish are scarce, with a few caught around Stony Bar, mostly by accident according to Jamie Costa of Columbia Sportfishing, but shore anglers have yet to see them around the usual spots such as Sunken Meadow.

Follow the example of the more successful charterboats sailing out of Barnstable, Rock Harbor, and Wellfleet, who understand the necessity of being flexible to keep bookings on the docket. You may like to liveline, but if the fish are turning up their noses at live bait (and they do sometimes), break out the surface plugs or plastics and work for those reaction strikes. If you run across a concentration of fish holding on the bottom and snapping wire and jigs isn’t working, then consider staying on top of them and dropping Epoxy Jigs, metal lures, or even some of the Hogy Pro Tails right down on top them.


June 27, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4.5 out of 5

There definitely seems a change in what bass in the bay are hitting, with artificials often outfishing even live bait.

Who knows what today will hold, but the word from my Cape Cod Bay sources is that the opening day of commercial (or recremercial, as I like to call it, since most folks who sell bass are only posing as commercial fishermen) was a tough go for most folks.

Matt Cody at North Chatham Outfitters reported that it was a tough bite this week as the schools of big bass were much harder to find, if they were around at all. Matt suspects that they have moved into deeper water in the bay.

Matt added that the big bass bite that typically shapes up between Race Point and the Golf Ball hasn’t really happened yet, with most of the Provincetown boats working the waters closer in to the harbor.

I spoke to Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore on Tuesday and his report gibed with what I heard from an angler who fished the bay on Sunday. Apparently, the bass were not really interested in live mackerel and for the most part simply swirled on them or followed them to the boat.

On the other hand, big topwater plugs produced some quality fish as they exploded on them. As seems to be the pattern, plastic plugs that harbor some kind of rattle or other noisemaking device are tops on the list, including the Charter Grade Hogy Dog Walker and the new Floating Slider.

Lee Boisvert at Riverview Bait & Tackle in South Yarmouth pointed out that any concentrations of larger fish in the bay are much smaller and pickier than they were, providing another reason that liveliners were challenged since their baits are fishing a much smaller piece of water, even when drifting.

While casters do cover more water, it’s the trollers right now who are finding larger bass on a more consistent basis. Paul Newmier at Blackbeard’s in Eastham had a group of friends from Nebraska go out on a local charterboat and they caught five nice stripers over 40-inches trolling “jigs and rigs,” as he likes to call bucktails and umbrella rigs, with dark red and black effective color choices. Then again, dark green or white are both traditional colors that folks have on hand.

The waters south of Billingsgate down to the Brewster Flats are holding good numbers of fish and Paul shared that one shore angler he knows has been doing well at night fishing live eels on the flats. He is fishing from the beach during high water so I am in no way suggesting that someone wade out in the dark during low water and then work their way back to shore with the incoming tide.

A 38″ striper caught in Cape Cod Bay this week by Columbia Sportfishing.

Lee did say that the bayside beaches in Dennis and Yarmouth are holding bass for folks tossing topwater plugs in the morning and swimmers at night, while the same is true for the more popular shore locations inside Barnstable Harbor.

Speaking of Barnstable, the live mackerel bite is definitely slowing, with the traditional pattern seeing boaters who focus on big fish turning to the tube-and-worm and even live eels at night.

If you just want to catch bass and don’t care about size, take the cue from the fly rod and light tackle crew and concentrate on the tide changes, especially outgoing water around first light.

Paul also told me that he has heard of four bluefish caught so far this season, so it can only get better. And that’s why I took a half point from my score this week.

On the other hand, he said the flounder bite remains strong, with very little effort required to get your limit as he confirmed through is own fishing. In fact, Paul has been picking up so many flounder that top the 17-inch fluke limit, never mind their own 12-inch size minimum, that he things he just might stay with the former since folks fishing inshore waters on the southside have had a tough time finding summer flatties for dinner.

The squid population in the bay is still providing plenty of action for folks, whether they are catching them for bait or dinner. In fact, I was told by Paul Newmier that a woman who lives right on the water inside Provincetown has had them pushing right up onto the beach in front of her house, where a friend is gathering them up for a fresh calamari dinner.


June 20, 2019 Weekly Rating: 5 out of 5

Mackerel continue to drive some of the best fishing in the bay, but folks have also been having fun at times tossing big plugs.

The word from Capt. Austin Proudfoot at North Chatham Outfitters is the fishing from the northern edge of Billingsgate up to Truro has been very good for folks livelining mackerel. At times, however, topwater plug fishing, especially with the Junior version of what some folks labeled “the secret plug,” which in truth is a big musky spook plug.

Jigging wire is still producing the occasional 40+-inch bass, but generally folks employing this old stand by have been picking through numbers of 24 to 26-inch fish.

Lee Boisvert at Riverview Bait & Tackle in South Yarmouth had an interesting take on Cape Cod Bay as he observed that there is a lot of squid around and folks have been jigging and sabikiing them up and fishing them live or whole fresh dead with good results. Squid is a classic striper food source and folks spend a great deal of time coming up with items to mimic them, but the real thing is way underutilized and hard to beat.

Mackerel has also been the ticket around Barnstable Harbor for folks seeking larger fish, while both poppers and spooks have been working well on both sides of the tide for light tackle anglers. The sand eels are getting larger, with plastics in the 4 to 5-inch range, both weighted and unweighted, in white/bone, Arkansas Shiner, bubblegum, and chartreuse, as well as metals with slender profiles, such as the Hogy Sand Eel and Epoxy Jig® Lure, are excellent choices no matter where the fish are in the water column.

Bob Lewis told me that fishing on Billingsgate has been OK, but since this is so tide dependent, as Elise Costa from Powderhorn Outfitters in Hyannis and the charterboat Columbia out of Rock Harbor told me, fishing both sides of the tide can produce better results as opposed to relying on just the incoming or outgoing.

It’s the same with the Brewster Flats and the flats around Barnstable and Yarmouth: good today and absolutely a desert tomorrow. Size and color of your soft plastics is important if you fish daytime hours, so throwing the same old thing and getting rejected is a loser’s game. In fact, fishing before first light or at night, if the tide is right, is far more productive day in and day out, than trying to outfox the big fish when the sun is high in the sky.

Capt. Michael Hogan with a beauty of a striped bass caught in Cape Cod Bay this past week with the Hogy Popper in amber.

For boaters heading out of the east end of the Canal, Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore recommended starting at the CC Buoy and working your way to the Dump and then Billingsgate, looking for the schools of mackerel. You can do this by studying your electronics, or you can choose to troll big swimmers or bunker spoons to find the bass.

Flyrodders are doing well wading the bars and flats around Barnstable, as well as the Sandwich creeks, while plugging the beaches from Yarmouth to Brewster is very popular, with some anglers following the outgoing tide to the edge of the dropoff where the bass often hold before the next incoming water brings them into the shallows. That said, remember about the major tide range (9 to 11 feet) or you could be swimming back to reach dry land – or at least the bottom that you can reach with your feet.

If you decide to take up livelining, remember to take the measure of your livewell; most boats have systems that are inadequate in size, water flow, and oxygenation – or all of these. Really dedicated liveliners typically create their own bait wells with a series of pumps and oxygen bubblers. Of course, if your mackerel should die, don’t just chuck them overboard. Fresh chunks or fillets of mackerel, or any other bait for that matter, make easy targets for fat, lazy bass.


June 14, 2019 Weekly Rating: 5 out of 5

One of the keys to catching the larger bass in the bay is to feed them mackerel.

Andy Little at The Powderhorn in Hyannis told me that the livelining mackerel around Barnstable Harbor continues to be solid, although you are going to have to pick through smaller bass in the high 20 to low 30-inch class if you are looking for something really large.

There are also plenty of schoolies feeding on sand eels, with the changes in the tide particularly effective as the action spikes up after a break at slack. Soft plastics such as the Hogy Skinny Series do a great job of imitating sand eels, but there is at least one tin boater that I see who does really well throwing topwater plugs, particularly spooks or poppers, making the Hogy Dog Walker or Popper productive choices.

Over the years, some of the largest fish I have caught around Barnstable have been caught on plugs, even when the sun is up. Of course, I have been fishing by boat, while Andy explained that shore anglers typically will encounter big fish at night, especially towards the top of the incoming and the beginning of the drop, when they move in to feed.

A nice striper caught (and released) from Cape Cod Bay by Ricky Gold.

Out in the bay, the concentration of mackerel close in towards the east entrance of the Canal has thinned out, according to Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, but you still can find some if you run out to the CC Buoy and points east.

Bruce went on to say that he expects that as the latter part of the weekend approaches, the mackerel and larger bass will stage outside the Canal before moving in with next week’s set of tides.

For now, though, you would do well to consider livelining mackerel in the waters off the north edge of Billingsgate up to Provincetown. Capt. Austin Proudfoot at North Chatham Outfitters showed me some photos of the fish they caught in the slop yesterday and he also told me that he caught some quality fish on a Hogy Pro Tail Paddle.

Meanwhile, wire line jigging is catching plenty of fish for the Rock Harbor, Sesuit, and Barnstable charterboats from Billingsgate to the Brewster Flats, although most of them have been smaller bass in 26 to 32-inch range, with enough 40+-inchers to make things interesting.

A 35″ striper taken off of Billingsgate via Columbia Sportfishing, based out of Rock Harbor, early this morning.

I took a ride out to Billingsgate last weekend, where over 50 boats (the folks with me counted them) were milling around, with some trolling, others vertically jigging, and even a few flyrodding. There was nothing going on, but as Elise Costa, who works at The Powderhorn, said the shoals are really tide dependent and you need to have a thorough understanding of them to catch consistently.

Paul Newmier from Blackbeard’s in Eastham said that one of his friends who charters out of Wellfleet picked up a bluefish this week and I know lots of folks are hoping for a better season than last, when there seemed to be only a few schools in shallow water up around Wellfleet and Truro.

Rick Enz of the Cape Cod Flyrodders took top honors in their club event last Sunday with a 40.5-inch fish on a heavily weighted fly fished on a sinking line off the edge of the Brewster shallows and I personally witnessed a school of smaller fish make a ruckus on the surface towards the bottom of the tide.

I also noticed plenty of boats anchored up off of Sesuit, so apparently the winter flounder bite is still going strong. It was kind of cool to see some larger, pricier boats working the bottom for flatties, vessels that I wouldn’t normally expect to be participating in groundfishing, perhaps a sign that they were using a Plan B while waiting for the bass to get moving again somewhere else.

For the beach anglers, the waters between Dennis and Barnstable have been producing good numbers of bass, noted Mike O’Harra at Riverview Bait & Tackle in South Yarmouth. Plugs with a broader profile, such as pencil poppers, and jighead/soft plastics combinations have both been working well, with white or pearl the best colors at the moment.

Whether you’re a flyrodder or spin angler, it’s important to carry bugs or lures that cover the entire water column if you want to be consistently successful in Cape Cod Bay. That doesn’t mean you can’t stick with one style of fishing, such as topwater plugs, but you have to also be prepared for days when the fish are hunkered on the bottom and just won’t come up to take a swipe at something splashing and sliding across the surface.


June 6, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (only because of the wind but this weekend looks prime)

From boat and shore, the fishing couldn’t be much better in Cape Cod Bay, with bass of all sizes, from the tiniest schoolies to those over 40-inches being caught on artificials and bait.

Elise Costa at The Powderhorn in Hyannis said there are bass all over Cape Cod Bay; in fact, it sounded like you would have to work hard not to catch any. Most of the charterboats out of Barnstable and Rock Harbor are jigging wire, but red or black/red umbrella rigs are also popular.

Elis4 emphasized that folks tossing surface plugs are picking up mainly bass to the low 30-inch class around Billingsgate and the Brewster Flats, but there are lots of smaller fish that are keeping flyrodders and light tackle folks happy.

13-year-old virtuoso flyrodder Travis Tanberg proved to be more than a match for Barnstable Harbor’s stripers.

Andy Little, the head honcho at The Powderhorn, told me that the winds over the last couple of days have kept folks off the water, but when they can get out, there is no lack of mackerel for the liveliners, from the east entrance to the Canal over to Barnstable and up towards Provincetown.

Shore anglers working up inside Barnstable in the early morning hours and at night have been plugging up some quality fish, while there are large schools of surface feeding bass on both tides from inside the harbor over to Chapin’s and down off Sesuit. They are feeding on small sand eels, with Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore relating that the guy who rakes sand eels for him has been complaining that they haven’t moved into the sand and started to get larger.

Outside the east entrance to the Canal, the word from Jeff Miller is that boaters have been trolling deep diving Rapalas or bunker spoons until they locate a school of mackerel with bass under them, at which point many resort to the sabiki rig and livelining.

The winter flounder bite has been steady off Sesuit, but Paul Newmier related a story that boaters should pay heed to. He launched at Sesuit Harbor last Sunday after closing his shop at 1 PM and launched his boat; nobody was manning the shed where they typically collect launching fees, but apparently there is a kiosk where you have to pay with a credit card when nobody is there. Paul was unaware of this policy and it cost him a $50 ticket.

Although tossing topwater plugs festooned with trebles works well, you can usually tell after a few fish whether you are dealing with a school of undersized bass. If that is the case, then switching to a single hook bucktail or soft plastic jig, or even a soft plastic rigged on an offset or swimbait hook, is the responsible way to go.

Crushing the barbs down on all your lures will help with releasing fish and consider removing unnecessary trebles and/or switching over to single hooks.


May 30, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3.5 out of 5

May into June is livelining time around Barnstable Harbor and there are plenty of mackerel in the bay to help the practitioners of this type of fishing. Andy Little at The Powderhorn in Hyannis reported an occasional fish up to 40-pounds has been caught by the live bait crew, but generally the “legal” fish that are being caught range between 30 and 36-inches.

Flyrodders and light tackle anglers tossing soft plastic have been enjoying quality fishing on both tides; imitating sand eels is the way to go in the waters from Sandwich down to Brewster and Orleans. That means smaller baits in olive/white/pearl combinations from 4 to 6-inches are tough to beat, but straight white/bone/pearl, bubblegum, and chartreuse are important colors to carry since the fish will occasionally key in on one of them. I also carry my big ammunition, the seven and ten-inch Original, as these mouthfuls have often produced for me inside Barnstable and on the Brewster Flats before first light.

Tossing topwater plugs and flies in the shallows will also raise your larger, more aggressive bass. Bone/white/pearl is an excellent color choice in both smaller pencil poppers and spook style plugs like the new Hogy Charter Grade Dog Walker, but clear is a secret weapon, especially on sunny days.

Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore told me that plenty of people are tossing big spooks up around Billingsgate and catching decent numbers of bass in the low 30-inch class, but this fishery has been inconsistent and some boats have turned to livelining pogies when the plug bite slows or turns off completely.

The few charter boats that were running this week have been focused on the waters south of Billingsgate, reported Paul Newmier at Blackbeard’s in Eastham. They’re catching fish, but they’re also catching cold, which makes the cabin in these larger vessels a nice place to hang out. Red or red-and-black umbrella rigs are popular among the wire line trollers at this time of year, with some boats also employing swimming plugs with a slimmer profile, such as those created with the original Finnish style minnow.

Around schools of mackerel, Bruce Miller recommends turning to trolling bunker spoons or jigging with paddletails in white or the various shades of mackerel that are available. There are concentrations of big macks outside the east end of the Canal so keep that in mind.

Paul said he spoke to a shore angler who fished Sunken Meadow earlier this week and his reports was similar to far too many from the bayside beaches: lots of 20+inch schoolies with far too much time put in to perhaps catch a fish that breaks the 28-inch legal minimum. Chunk mackerel continues to be popular, with some plugging as well.

If you prefer to fish artificials and are targeting larger fish, then hanging out around liveliners can be an exercise in futility. Find your own holes and edges to drop your bucktails and paddletails since it will always be tough to compete with the real thing with all those nice smells and panicked signals emanating from a live mackerel.


May 24, 2019 Weekly Report:

The bay is full of bait, specifically sand eels and mackerel, and plenty of happy bass of all sizes.

I fly fished Barnstable Harbor with Jeff Sawyer and his brother-in-law Mark and friend Gary on Thursday before the wind kicked up and we found smaller stripers feeding on top as soon as we left Blish Point. I think that any sand eel pattern would have worked, but we stuck with the prosaic chartreuse/white and olive/white Clousers.

We also saw a few boats tossing smaller soft plastics rigged on jigheads and one boat in particular had four anglers hooked up all at one on a number of occasions. Based on my Garmin, as many fish as were on top, the bottom was also paved and as the wind kicked up there was far less surface activity as the bass hung deep.

There were far fewer boats livelining mackerel than I expected, but I know that a number of fish in the low to mid-30-inch class have been caught by folks working the holes and dropoffs around the main channel.

This nice striper was caught aboard Riptide Charters this week.

I wanted to head east to check out reports of really good action on decent sized bass from the Brewster Flats up to Truro and Provincetown, but given how things were kicking up, I decided against taking a pounding. We did make it out to the flats and dropoff outside East Bar and there were definitely birds working over bait and fish throughout this area.

If you prefer to fish up on the Brewster Flats themselves, this set of tides should really kick off some good fishing as the bass are typically less pressured at this point in the season and willing to eat what you put in front of them, including topwater plugs and medium size soft plastics such as the Hogy Original Seven-Inch, with bubblegum a good early season choice.

There are some charter boats from Rock Harbor and Sesuit out on the water and they have done well trolling swimming plugs and jigs from the south edge of Billingsgate over to Wellfleet, as well as the drop-offs around the Brewster Flats.

More nice stripers caught aboard Riptide Charters this week.

Paul Newmier from Blackbeard’s in Eastham said that shore bound anglers working the bay side Eastham beaches up to Truro have been catching good numbers of smaller bass, with the occasional legal fish in the mix. Chunk mackerel is a top choice when it comes to bait, while soft plastics, especially rigged on jigheads, and Finnish style swimmers have been working for anglers who prefer to toss artificial lures.

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore added that trolling bunker spoons is another way to go when you are trolling around schools of mackerel that are being harassed by bass.

Around the east entrance of the Canal there are plenty of boats jigging up mackerel and Bruce noted that these are good-sized fish.

The flounder bite down Sesuit way was good up until the wind started blowing and Paul Newmier believes it should remain so if the breezes finally settle.

With the new regulations from the state Division of Marine Fisheries concerning the use of circle hooks when targeting stripers with bait, scheduled to start in 2020, it probably would be a good idea to pick some up and get used to the different technique required.

The advisory from April 25, 2019 reads:

Effective next year (2020), recreational anglers not fishing aboard for-hire vessels will be required to use inline circle hooks when fishing for striped bass with whole or cut natural baits. This will include fishing with whole or cut natural baits while in possession of striped bass as well. This circle hook mandate will not apply to natural baits attached to an artificial lure to be trolled, jigged, or casted and retrieved (e.g., tube and worm). Nor will the mandate apply to any natural bait affixed to a treble hook and fished using the snag and drop technique. A hook is considered to be an in-line circle hook only if it is manufactured so the barb of the hook is in-line with the shank and bend of the hook and is turned perpendicularly back to the shank to form a circular or oval shape.

It’s very important to make sure you use in-line circles, often called “tournament circle hooks,” since many companies make hooks that they label circles, but they won’t qualify for use next year since they feature an offset design as well as the circle point.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Striped Bass Board has also tasked their staff with developing options for 2020 that would include the mandatory use of circle hooks coast wide when fishing bait for stripers, which would only be one part of a plan that would help reduce fishing mortality and help rebuild the Atlantic stock that is currently over fished.


May 17, 2019 Weekly Report: 

Many times I have mentioned in conversations how people on the Cape are so parochial, with folks from the upper Cape towns rarely venturing to the lower or outer Cape. It seems like Hyannis is a central hub where you can find folks from any town on our peninsula, but a local from Bourne or Falmouth down Truro or Wellfleet way? Not very likely.

The reason I mention this is because I suspect the same holds true for anglers; most become familiar with an area and that is where they go. In many ways, this is a wise way of going at fishing, since you develop a solid knowledge base about a general area, which increases your odds of enjoying a successful day of fishing.

But after talking with Paul Newmier at Blackbeard’s in Eastham, I realized that I just might be missing something because of my tendency to stick with Buzzards Bay and the sounds in the early spring.

At the moment, there are schools of mackerel in the bay, as well as burgeoning numbers of sand eels. People are always saying how important bait is to fishing, but typically I don’t venture over to Cape Cod Bay until around Memorial Day.

According to Paul, a friend of his who runs a charterboat out of Sesuit Harbor went out last week and ran from there to Duck Harbor up in Wellfleet. Using topwater plugs, he managed to catch a number of 30+-inch bass, which should really be no surprise given the schools of fish that show up around Provincetown and down the backside of Truro.

Paul added that a charter captain he knows had two six-hour trips last Saturday and they did very well fishing the area off of the Brewster Flats out to Billingsgate.

Now Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore has been telling me about all of the bass that come around the hook into the bay at this time of year, where they find plenty to eat. He said that he knows of one angler who jigged up some mackerel and livelined them around Barnstable Harbor; the largest fish he picked up was 27-inches, but this suggests that the potential exists for larger fish to show up with a tide or so.

Mac from Riverview Bait & Tackle in Yarmouth added that one of the folks from the shop fished a Cape Cod Bay beach and managed a number of 30+-inch bass on lures at night this week.

Add to that news of some good fishing up on the Brewster Flats and large numbers of small bass up inside Barnstable and there seem to plenty of reasons to fishing Cape Cod Bay right now.

You can’t go wrong with soft plastics when fishing on schools of bass that are chowing on sand eels. White/bone, Arkansas shiner, and bubblegum are colors that have always worked for me and I make sure to have a multitude of rigging items on board, including unweighted and weighted swimbait and offset worm hooks, as well as jigheads in various weights. Versatility is a major selling point for soft plastics since you can fish them throughout the water column.

As good as soft plastics are, I have learned that not having Epoxy Jigs on hand is a mistake. They work in skinny water since the smaller sizes don’t plummet to the bottom like a metal jig does. In deeper water, try dropping a larger EJ to the bottom and watch how its tumbling motion resembles that of the sand eels that gather in areas such as Herring Cove and Billingsgate Shoal.