How To: Cape Cod Bay Stripers on Sand Eels
I met with Capt. Terry Nugent on Wednesday morning for the first trip of 2016 on Riptide, his newly re-powered Contender 35 (which happens to be on my top-short list of boats I envy). The fog was absolutely socked in on Cape Cod Bay which could have caused problems for our plan to chase birds working on herring. EXCEPT Capt. Terry has his radar so tuned, we literally were able to hop from bird pile to bird pile. The whole way out of the harbor, on-plane and off-plane, Terry was going on and on about all the action he has been finding. He also made a comment on how I need to go on Facebook more. Needless to say, I was excited. I was hoping to button up some film now that the newly designed Pro Tails have arrived at the Hogy warehouse.
Topwater Stripers off Barnstable Harbor
Within a few miles of Barnstable Harbor, we picked up our first flock of birds. Terry and I had a bet going. He has been using the 2oz and 3oz silver Epoxy Jigs to imitate herring. He went into detail on how to fish them, “much slower than you would for albies” with “tip pointed toward the lure” and “bam!” Terry had never seen the Pro Tails but was confident that the Epoxy Jigs would out fish my new lure. I was happy because we had a good baseline. We knew what was working so any variance with the new lure would be telling.
Off went two casts, one with Epoxy, one with a Pro Tail Paddle and we both hooked up simultaneously. In all reality, the fishing was so hot, I think pretty much any large lure would have done the job, BUT I was happy — my fish was bigger than his for bragging rights. There was a million bass, and the little guys would get the lure first, you just needed time to seal the deal on a larger fish. This non-stop action was perfect for me work-wise, as I wanted to demonstrate how tough the new Pro Tail paddles are to Terry. They feature a tougher blend of BASF plastic we export from Germany that we are confident to be durable enough for charter captains in hot and heavy action.
We did find that you had two ways to upgrade your fish size: 1) was to hold your cast until you find a larger fish breaking and pin point it or 2) letting your baits sink under the pack. The fish ranged from 24” to 45” and each and every fish was stuffed to the gills and quite fat. Sort of like me — man, I really need to get back into the gym and see Pete.
Technique: We fished large Paddle Tails and Epoxy jigs slowly with periodic twitches. From time to time, we’d let the baits drop and sink to try and find larger fish. The retrieve needed to be surprisingly slow.
Jigging for Stripers off Provincetown
The fishing was so hot, we literally got bored of chasing massive schools of bass chasing herring. That sentence looks funny when I re-read this. Late May problems I suppose. So we took a run toward P-Town to see if we could find any bass on sand eels we could vertically jig to. It was pea soup running across which was a perfect opportunity for Terry to show off his new Raymarine 12k Radar. He took it. We had a split screen going, on in “bird mode” the other in “collision” mode. I was astounded when we would see a bird and come up to it sitting in the water. As we got near P-town, we could see the birds all lined up on the edge, which we could see overlaid on the Navionics chart. I have 2007 vintage electronics on the Gray Goose which I thought worked great. I wish I could unsee Terry’s unit.
We set into position, found a number of birds and bait. Terry surmised from his Chirp Sonar that they were sand eels and mackerel. We cruised a bit, finally marked a few targets. I had re-rigged everyone with 2oz Se Barbarian Jigs with 7” olive tails.
Technique: We dropped down, no hits. It turns out we were jigging too fast. We SLOWED the jig down into a slow-motion iteration and it worked. For what its worth, every fish hit the baits on the fall and the hit was extremely subtle, even on 40” class fish. They were super picky and I think a highly imitative finish was important. The fish were slow moving and I think were getting a good look at the bait. Once we cracked the code, they were very responsive.
After a few nice fish, and a camera man who needed to catch a flight to the Bahamas to film Blue Marlin (BOOORRRRRIINNNNNNGGG) we headed back to Sesuit Harbor after a round of high fives.
Side Note: Even if you think you know how to work your electronics, you should consider hiring Terry to help you dial yours it. I hope he “does this”, as I didn’t ask him before writing this. I was so impressed.