Numerous options in the waters of the bay make it perhaps the hotspot on Cape Cod.
The commercial fleet focused from Long Point over to Race Point had varying degrees of success on Monday, but some of them found what they were looking for when they went down the backside as far as Head of the Meadow and happened up schools of big bass surface feeding. Some of the local charter captains had this fishery to themselves for several weeks, but now the word is out. Yellow, chartreuse, and olive pencil poppers and needlefish have been top choices for topwater action, but vertical jigging with both metal and jighead/soft plastic combinations have been the most consistent day in and day out.
Some of the bigger boats that have elected to hang closer to the Race and harbor have been doing OK with live mackerel and umbrella rigs. The word from some captains is that the size of the fish in these areas is starting to decrease, perhaps a sign that the larger fish are moving around the corner and headed for the waters off Nauset and Chatham Inlets and Monomoy.
Billingsgate has had some of the best surface activity imaginable, especially on the falling tide; bass in the 20 to 26-inch range have been feeding heavily on the vast schools of sand eels, producing great fishing for flyrodders and light tackle anglers using plastics in bone, bubblegum, and Arkansas shiner. At times, simply adding a jighead in the 1/8 to 1/4 ounce range is all that is needed to have better contact with the plastics and another alternative is to use a weighted swimbait hook. Plastics are a great choice because you can simply reel them in a snappy pace and they will do the fish attracting work themselves.
Some bigger fish up to the mid-30-inch class are mixed in with the smaller fish, but it is tough to get to them with all the schoolies being so much more aggressive. On the other hand, the north edge of the shoal has had larger fish on average in the deeper water. The bigger boats jig parachutes or troll umbrella rigs on wire, but using your electronics to mark the schools and then dropping a diamond jig or one of the newer, flashier styles on the fish will result in hook-ups on bass from 30 to 40+-inches. Another option that has worked for a friend of mine, Capt. Warren Marshall, is taking the hook off an Epoxy Jig, attaching a short piece of fluorocarbon leader material, and the tying on a sand eel pattern fly – although the Epoxy Jig works fine by itself.
The Brewster Flats have been fishing most consistently in the wee hours of the morning and again at dusk; high sunshine conditions have made the fish easy to see, but they make you easy to see and the fish spooky. Towards the bottom of the outgoing and earlier stages of the incoming tide, there has been some surface activity when the bass pin the sand eels up against the various bars. Both fly fishermen and anglers using spinning tackle are catching fish, with long casts recommended since distance gives you a great opportunity to induce the fish to eat what you are throwing before they see the boat and shy away. Everyone thinks Clousers when the bass are on sand eels, but Hi-Ties and flat wings are often better choices in skinny water as they breathe better and are less intrusive.
The flats to the east and west of Barnstable have been filled with sand eels and bass, with larger fish moving in towards Chapin’s, Bass Hole, and the marshes during incoming water. The same is true of the shallows to the Sandy Neck side of West Bar; wade anglers, whether they are strictly on foot or use a boat to gain access, anchor up, and then get out and wade do really well here. Folks who toss plugs have been catching mainly smaller bass at night along Sandy Neck and the Sandwich creeks, but a live eel accounted for a 34-inch bass around Scorton Creek and fish to 20-pounds have been caught on plugs in the mornings.
There are still folks livelining mackerel with some success inside the Barnstable Harbor channel and accompanying holes, but Andy Little suggested that chunking with fresh mackerel has been a better choice at times. Boaters have both been jigging and starting to use the tube-and-worm during the day and live eels at night.
Speaking of the tube-and-worm, a 44-pounder was weighed in by Bruce Miller and caught around Scorton Ledge on a red tube. With more small mackerel around and the schools slowly moving into deeper water, more and more the tube will be the way to go, whether in tight to Sandy Neck or the deeper water around the Fingers. At the moment, however, pretty much everyone has been happy to stick closer in and burn less gas.