Cape Cod Canal Updated Fishing Report

August 15, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4 out of 5

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore told me that with some good east turning tides shaping up midweek before first light and running through the weekend, the topwater morning action should pick up.

In fact, Tommy over at Maco’s in Buzzards Bay said that he had heard that there was a good bite going on Wednesday morning when I talked to him. White plugs, whether swimmers, topwater, or plastic paddletails, were working well.

There are lots of small mackerel in the Canal and these are like candy to bass, so things should be interesting over the next five days or so with the crowds returning. The parking situation is becoming impossible at the Ditch, with folks arriving at 4 AM finding that every spot is taken and the police are ticketing those clowns who decide to make their own space, with Bruce telling me about one guy who parked on the front lawn of someone who lives on the Canal. When the motion lights came on and she questioned him, he just tromped on by and said he was going fishing.

After officers from multiple sources showed up and started writing people up, this clown took off across her lawn in a hurry, leaving deep ruts in the grass.

Dylan Crawford and his uncle with a 42lb. striper pulled from the canal.

According to Bruce, the fishing should be good at the east end, with some good sized fish still around the east entrance and up by Plymouth, where they have been feeding on pogies. Along with the mackerel, there are also baby herring dropping out of the run.

This small bait, especially the spikes, are bonito magnets and while I was at Bruce’s on Tuesday, someone came in and said one was caught that morning around the east end.

In contradiction to what a lot of folks were saying about the Canal dying this week, Bruce explained that the daytime fishing was slow, with mainly schoolies at both ends, but folks working from the Sagamore Bridge east at night were catching some nice bass on paddletails and jointed swimmers.

Although there are many colors of mackerel plugs and plastics, the variation called the Wacky Mackerel has caught on since most versions of it feature some combination of green, chartreuse, blue, yellow, and pink, pretty much covering all the shades that mackerel imitating lures are made in.


August 8, 2019 Weekly Rating: 5 out of 5

It’s time to once again give the Canal its due as the prime location to catch big bass on the Cape this week. Even boaters are glaring at the Big Ditch knowing what is taking place there while they are struggling to find even a single legal sized fish in most places.

The action has been hot both day and night, with a topwater bite both in the morning and again in the afternoon, said Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. Green or wacky mackerel have been the hot colors, with the waters around the Sagamore Bridge receiving a lot of attention. That said, Jeff pointed out that fish are feeding on small mackerel, which typically has them moving up and down the land cut in pursuit of these fast moving baitfish.

A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay advised that jointed gliders or swimmers in both green mack and ghostescent have been flying out of the shop as they catch fish without anything more than a straight retrieve required. Some folks change speeds from time to time or even add in a twitch or snap of the rod tip, but they aren’t necessary to make even first timers to the Ditch feel like they are experts when the fish are going wild.

Justin Ellsworth visited the Canal this past week from upstate New York and landed his new personal best striper at 43lbs.

There is also a night time jigging bite, Jeff explained, and he said the Hogy Pro Tail Paddle in the six-ounce size in black or mullet (blue) have been working really well; the choice of whether to go dark or lighter is based on the amount of moonlight. Canal Bait is now carrying the full Hogy line for both casters and trollers alike.

One of the more positive developments in the Canal this week has been a decrease in the crowds, with many people finally having to go back to work after taking vacation time to get in on the most recent bite.

Choosing the correct weight in a paddle tail is important as the motion and shape of the tail impacts its sink rate. If you are looking to get down to the bottom, then you only have so much territory to get there before hanging up. Bucktailing and eelskinning always required carrying different weight rigs to deal with current speed and depth and the same holds true with the newer generation of soft plastics.


August 1, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4 out of 5

Social media has done it again and after two days of good to great fishing without crowds, Todd Benedict said that it was back to shoulder-to-shoulder at the Big Ditch “hotspots” this morning. Fortunately, there are enough fish moving up and down the land cut that Todd had little company where he was.

The east turn was about 3 AM this morning and from the last couple of hours of the west to the change, there was a good topwater bite at both the east and west ends. White or mackerel pattern topwater plugs, especially pencil poppers, were working as the mackerel moved back in once the water cleared from last week’s storms. Bruce Miller from Canal Bait and Tackle Sagamore added that where there a fish feeding on pogies, a change to yellow is in order.

Jonah Olsen with a nice striper taken out of the Cape Cod Canal this past week.

This morning (Wednesday) the action continued after sunup, with many folks making the switch over to swimmers, sliders and multi-jointed plugs. A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay said that business has been brisk with folks restocking their supply of white and mackerel plugs and some of them reporting that they caught fish in the 40-pound class.

Nighttime has seen some good squid jigging at the bulkhead and the regulars who fish at night for bass have been using bucktails and other squid imitations in the dark. There is also some chunking going on at night, along with a few folks tossing eels around the bridges on the west end.

Keep quiet and off social media if you want some peace and quiet to yourself. If you find an area where you are catching fish and there aren’t crowds, don’t strap a Go Pro on your head or put one on a pole and stick it in the rocks to show how many fish you caught – and then complain when you are surrounded the following day or even tide. Way too many folks have no interest in learning how to find fish and your video is just what they are looking for.


July 25, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3.5 out of 5

After some solid fishing around the east end of the Canal, particularly around Pole 20, or what is known at Poachers’ Pole, the bass that had pushed in from Cape Cod Bay to feed on squid and mackerel moved out into open water, explained Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. Down the west end, there are still some quality fish being caught during the last couple of hours of the west and then the beginning of the east current. Chunking mackerel around slack tide between the railroad and Bourne Bridges, especially at night, has been producing some quality fish.

That doesn’t mean that during the next tide cycle that they won’t move back in, but with so many pogies from the entrance buoys up to Plymouth, there is a good chance they will hang outside instead.

Next week the new moon is on Wednesday and the east turn gets closer to first light (around 3:15 AM), so everyone will be fired up about the breaking tides. Given the amount of bait in the Big Ditch, including mackerel, squid, and pogies, there is a always a chance that a topwater bite will go off.

Down the west end, there are still some quality fish being caught during the last couple of hours of the west and then the beginning of the east current. Most folks are tossing mackerel colored jointed swimmers, but Bruce said that if you are going to toss surface plugs, either during the occasional flurry of activity in the wee hours of the morning or again at dusk, or you plan to try and draw fish up to the surface, then yellow or mackerel Polaris style poppers are a good option since they make more noise. Yellow is a good color when pogies are around and apparently the west end has the same mix of bait as the east: pogies, mackerel, and squid.

Chunking mackerel around slack tide between the railroad and Bourne Bridges, especially at night, has been producing some quality fish, while casting and swinging eels during the slower parts of the current around the Cribbin’ is another option this time of the season.

With jigging paddletails having taken over from old school methods such as bucktailing or eel skinning, folks often wonder what the difference is between the many versions of soft plastics that Canal regulars prefer. It’s important to recognize that jigheads aren’t just a lump of lead or other metal that is used to get the soft plastic to the water column level that someone prefers. Some styles swim better than others or sink at an angle that is closer to parallel or a head first plunge, dragging the plastic behind. Learning how to swim a paddletail plastic is important, from retrieve speed to rod tip movement, and that is why some folks catch fish when others are tossing the same lure but coming up empty.


July 18, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3 out of 5

Subsurface presentations have been the way to go this week in the Ditch, as the breaking tides have been broken.

Frankly, anyone who has chosen to fish the bite at the Maritime Academy should have his or her head examined since nobody should be that desperate for a fish.

A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay admitted that people are catching fish from a small stretch near the MMA, but getting a spot is almost impossible and even then you are going to be overwhelmed by people casting from behind you and in every direction.

According to Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, things have gotten so bad that they have devolved into fights, some of them involving knives and even a few guns being drawn.

Around Bell Road, enough complaints have been registered with the Bourne Police that the Army Corps of Engineers has elected to pay for a nighttime detail from the local gendarmes. Imagine trying to sleep with idiots yelling back and forth across the Canal at 2 AM.

With some small mackerel around the west end, along with remnants of the squid that were thick for a couple of weeks, green mackerel and white paddletail jigs have been working. Bruce Miller added that red/black and purple/black bucktail jigs have accounted for folks who prefer a more traditional approach.

Bruce added that there have been some small bass and blues at the east end, but there have been no signs of fish following bait into the land cut down that way.

Stay home until the EPO’s do their job and complete their sweeps of the poaching crews that have operated brazenly for the last two years. Some folks have suggested confronting these miscreants, but I suggest making phone calls to the authorities or taking photos/videos that you can share with the Environmental Police.


July 11, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3 out of 5

The Big Ditch is in that “catch your breath” phase before the next push, but there are still quality stripers to be caught.

Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore acknowledged that fishing in the Big Ditch has been slowing since last Sunday, but that doesn’t mean fish aren’t being caught. Apparently, the west end has had the better action as of midweek, with green mackerel topwater plugs and paddletail jigs reported as the best option. The current change has been later in the morning, which typically doesn’t produce as much topwater action, but guys who have been able to hang around as opposed to having to go to work have been able to pick at fish with plugs.

There are also fish at the east end, but generally they have been on the smaller side. It appears that when there are big fish being caught in Cape Cod Bay, there are mostly schoolies around the east end of the Canal and vice versa. That leads me to suspect that there are only a couple of schools of bigger stripers around and they are moving with the bait, which is only logical. Given that the moon is in a weaker phase and the change in the current is later in the morning, there typically is less of a topwater bite.

Caught by Jason Mahoney at the Cape Cod Canal this past week.

A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay said that guys have been picking at some decent fish around the Maritime Academy, especially well before first light, with jigging more consistently effective at the moment.

The word from Tommy at Maco’s in Buzzards Bay is that night activity has picked up around the railroad bridge, both on eels and jigs. As many of the regulars have been complaining about for a couple of years now, the lack of consistent shore fishing elsewhere has led a new crowd of anglers to the Canal and it’s not a pretty sight, from crossed and cutoff lines to arguments and even some physical confrontations.

Nighttime angling on the Canal is an acquired taste, as fishing the riprap is in general. But it comes with smaller crowds and the opportunity to fish spots that far too often have been holding shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.


July 3, 2019 Weekly Rating: 5 out of 5

It may offend some folks seeing the big bass that are being killed in the Canal, but there also seems to be an increase in catch-and-release.

The new moon and early morning tide changes have produced what Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore expected as he has heard of bass to 48-inches being caught around the east end, including the bulkhead.

Odds are that these fish are part of the same school that was out in Cape Cod Bay north of Billingsgate and up around Truro, but they followed schools of mackerel and squid into the Ditch.

There has been an early morning topwater bite around the end of the west and turn to the east, but once the surface scene settles, Bruce advised sticking around and fishing the stronger parts of the current with jigs or other subsurface presentations

Plugs with some degree of pink coloration have been working well according to Bruce, including Canal Specials and pencil poppers in pink mackerel or the ten-pin style of long casting plugs in wacky mackerel, which does a good job of matching any color that gets the attention of fish in the land cut.

The word from A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay is that the fishing remains solid from mid-Canal down the west end; they weighed in a 48-pound bass on Monday that was caught on a plug and a number of other quality fish have also been caught on a mix of surface plugs and subsurface offerings like paddletails or stick shadds and magic swimmers.

Apparently, there has been more ticketing of illegally parked cars so that’s something to consider if you can’t find a legal parking spot and insist on breaking the law. You would also be doing ethical anglers a favor by reporting illegal poaching activity, including those rings who have a runner pick up fish at the water and run them back to vehicles, where they are taken to fill coolers of folks who have boat licenses and can’t catch their 15-fish limit, or they simply sell them directly to customers.

Some folks have taken to blocking vehicles of poachers or using other aggressive tactics, but a better idea would be to take photos and videos of the illegal activity and turn them over to authorities.


June 27, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4 out of 5

The waters around the west end of the Ditch continue to produce quality stripers, but it’s the regulars who have been doing best as they are most familiar with what turns the fishing on when the Canal is between those moments of all out craziness.

I ran into a friend on Tuesday who fishes the Canal pretty much every day and just about an hour after I left Bell Road, a brief topwater bite took place at the end of the west current. I was simply watching and enjoying my cup of $.99 Cumberland Farms coffee (one of the few things I have really come to appreciate about life in this modern world!) when I saw a few fish pop on top, but nothing like he encountered. At one point, everyone in the group of five or so anglers he was fishing with was hooked up on sizeable stripers, with the largest caught 46-inches long.

Jeff Hopwood at Maco’s Bait & Tackle in Buzzards Bay and Monument Beach told me that topwater plugs produced a couple of nice bass earlier this week in the waters off the Maritime Academy and he added that he has been selling more eels lately to guys fishing a night bite around the east end.

Topwater plugs worked well in this case, but Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore emphasized that folks jigging have been enjoying a more consistent bite, with only brief flurries of surface activity on the dying tides and the first part of the change.

A 35″ striper caught and released at the Cape Cod Canal this past week.

Paddle tail soft plastics have been the most effective subsurface lures this week, with white, blue mackerel, green mackerel, and wacky mackerel colors that are typically found in most pluggers bags.

Some folks have also been sticking with jointed swimmers in spots where the fish tend to come close to the shore on a more regular basis, which again is one of those pieces of knowledge that comes with experience. This type of plug has one major liability and that’s casting distance and from what I saw the breaking fish were holding in the middle of the land cut.

Fishing is often talked about in terms of what happened and what could happen in the future as opposed to what is going on at the moment and the Canal is certainly not immune to this. July 2 is the new moon and a set of breaking tides is setting up for next week.

The east turn takes place in the dark (2:48 at the railroad bridge) on Monday and obviously gets closer to first light as the week progresses, so make sure to get there early if you want to get a parking spot.

That last real big bite in the Big Ditch was spurred by a large concentration of squid and apparently there are still some Loligo around, but while pink, amber, and other colors that match these cephalods are popular in those moments, white always works – at least most of the time.


June 20, 2019 Weekly Rating: 5 out of 5

The Big Ditch erupted this week with bass up to 50-pounds driving squid everywhere, including out of the water and up onto the riprap.

With shore fishing for stripers a shadow of what it used to be in many locales from Rhode Island to Maryland, the Canal has become the premier – and some say only – locale where an angler with his or her feet anchored to ground can legitimately have a shot at a big bass.

I was expecting all kinds of reports of bass chasing mackerel into the east end of the land cut from Cape Cod Bay, with another school or two moving in from Buzzards Bay.

But I never saw what did take place, with the west end erupting with big bass blasting big squid all over the place. The onslaught continued right through today, with Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore relating that there has been an hour or two of surface activity in the morning, followed by action using swimmers and paddletail plastics.

Given that the fish have been feeding on squid, I would have thought that white or pink would have been the best choices, but Bruce said that color hasn’t been as important as finding the fish and putting your offering right in front of them. Heck, even mackerel patterned plugs have been doing the job even if the fish haven’t been feeding on these baitfish.

And I hate to sound like a broken record, but the coloration known as Wacky Mackerel has an advantage because it carries the shades of pretty much every bait source that swims in the land cut.

It always amazes me that folks plant themselves in one spot on the Canal, find nothing going on, and continue to hang there. I understand that there is a chance that at some point on either side of the tide that some fish will bass by that one location. If that kind of serendipitous approach is OK by you, then I respect your belief that the joy of fishing goes beyond just catching a fish.

But if you’re like the guy who called Sheila Miller up and complained that he was by the Bourne Bridge and nothing was happening, then move. Fish follow the currents in the Canal and although they might start at the west end as the current turns to the east, they will work their way east, typically.


June 14, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Jigging has definitely produced a greater number of quality fish in the Canal this week.

The only reason I have given the Big Ditch that rating at the moment is the reality that this week has been for the Canal regulars who fish these waters even when the bass aren’t jumping on anything that is thrown their way.

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore explained that the fish for the most part are feeding on smaller bait in the land cut right now, including sand eels and silversides, which has made blue soft plastics and those that feature some blue in their color scheme, like the wacky mackerel, most effective.

A nice striper taken by a shore angler at the Cape Cod Canal via Northeast Surfcasters.

But he also emphasized that you are going to have to work for your fish and concentrate on certain rips that might shape up and become productive for a relatively brief period of time. In other words, it’s like old school bucktailing, when the sharpies had developed a clear understanding of when and why to move from area to area as fish settled in to feed.

Bruce did let on that while the fish were feeding more on the west tide in previous weeks, that has shifted to the east recently.

That said, next week features another set of breaking tides; the east turn on Sunday is well before first light, but that won’t deter the plug crew from hitting the riprap in the dark. Blue again seems to be a good color this week for the folks tossing Magic Swimmers and other subsurface offerings around the west end, explained Hayden Gallagher at Red Top in Buzzards Bay, especially with more bluefish being caught, which obviously raises havoc with soft plastics.

Our advice is simple this week: you better get up early if fishing a specific spot is your goal this weekend, and especially next week. Apparently, the days of giving other anglers sufficient room to employ techniques such as bucktailing or eelskinning are pretty much over, unless you fish at night. And if plugging in a crowd isn’t your thing, remember that there are seven miles of shoreline on both sides of the Ditch and they will pretty much all hold fish at one time or another.


June 6, 2019 Weekly Rating: 5 out of 5

Simply put, the Canal has been on fire and the word is out that the big bass are hungry and active.

Sometimes the best way to describe how good things are is to relate stories, especially first hand ones.

On Wednesday, I did my early morning run to the Canal to sit and drink my coffee and get my head screwed on straight; typically, I stop at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore since they open extra early and Bruce Miller is ready to give me a healthy portion of grief.

An excited angler came into the shop asking if Bruce could weigh a fish for him, and since Bruce was busy helping customers with bait, plugs, and other fishing paraphernalia, I agreed to help. When the scale stopped at 43.1-pounds, the joy was palpable as this fella jumped around and I snapped photos for him.

He told me that a blue mackerel pattern soft plastic paddle/jighead combination turned the trick for him and Bruce confirmed that a variety of paddle colors have been working, including wacky and green mackerel, as well as white.

A huge striper caught by a shore angler in the Cape Cod Canal this week.

Along with that fish, Bruce had checked in two fish over 30-pounds for a couple of guys who were neophytes to fishing the Ditch earlier that morning and the day before a 48-pounder was landed.

With the water temperature starting to touch the high 50/low 60-degree mark, the topwater plugging activity should improve, but most anglers who have had success with plugs have been using subsurface offerings like Sebiles or they are letting heavily weighted, bowling pin style plugs sink below the surface and retrieving them slow to keep them there.

Apparently, the best fishing has been between the Bourne Bridge and the herring run, with the tide turning east early enough in the morning tomorrow to consider it part of the “breaking tides,” but Todd Benedict shared some information that proved his point that the fishing has been good all morning. Earlier this week, he hit the west end before first light and he caught some nice bass, at which point he had to leave for a doctor’s appointment. A couple of hours later, he visited the east end of the land cut and folks were still doing well.

Phil Stanton was up at Bell Road yesterday showing some visiting friends the scene when he saw an angler catch a small bluefish, which was the first this guy had caught this year and one of only a handful that I have heard about this season in these waters.

A few tautog are being caught around the Maritime Academy, but remember that the possession limit dropped to one fish on June 1, with the minimum size still at 16-inches.

Over the last several years, with the Canal perhaps the only spot from New Jersey to Maine where a shore angler can have a reasonable shot at catching a big bass, the crowds have become overwhelming and the parking situation a real headache. Remember that getting to a spot two or three hours before the best tide is a good idea and use common sense if you get to an area where there are multiple anglers casting. Trying to squeeze or muscle in is a no-no and there are 7+ miles of shoreline on both sides of the Ditch.


May 30, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3 out of 5

The Big Ditch hasn’t been on fire by any means and this is the time when the catching is dominated by the regulars, the folks who have been fishing the Canal for decades and become accustomed to working for one or two good fish on a trip rather than the “shooting fish in the barrel” lunacy of the last couple of years.

Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore advised that it is definitely a jig bite in the land cut, with some better fish caught around the bridges. Any plugging action has been in the early morning, with the east end probably outproducing the west at this moment.

Then again, Hayden Gallagher at Red Top in Buzzards Bay told me about a 38-inch bass that was caught at the west end on Wednesday.

The tides are a morning west turn, which should encourage more mackerel to move into the east end, which in turn just might draw in some larger bass from out in the bay.

Bruce Miller said there are also still good numbers of small bass around to play with at both ends of the Canal and he keeps challenging me to bring my fly rod down to play with them.

Simply put, this is a good time to learn how to fish the Canal and begin to understand what these waters are all about. Pay attention to where the rips set up and what was going on when and if you caught a good fish. Although blitzes are great and ego building, knowing how, where, and when to coax out that solitary impressive fish will serve you better in the long run.


May 24, 2019 Weekly Report:

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore said he was surprised that fish were being caught on surface plugs given the cold water in the Big Ditch, but starting last weekend and continuing right through this week, the top water action has been solid.

One tip for when the water is cold and the fish are lethargic is to use as little movement of the rod to impart action to the plug, similar to dead drifting a fly. Even if a plug sinks, you can allow it to drop below the surface and then slowly bring it back up.

The east end has produced fish up to the 40+-inch range; mackerel are moving in and out with the tide and at the moment it seems like darker colored mackerel patterns are working best.

Some quality fish are also being caught in the waters around the herring run, especially on metal lips and jointed swimmers.

All of that said, with a school of larger bass having moved into upper Buzzards Bay, it would be a wise move to keep an eye out to what is going on around the west end.

One thing to keep in mind when fishing plugs that sink is what their orientation is as they move through the water column. Typically, this is determined by where the weight is concentrated in the body, but especially with wooden plugs, the type or density of wood is a factor.

Although Gibbs pencil poppers and Polaris will always be classic Canal plugs, there is a new topwater plug that has different names based on who is making them, but I have yet to hear a generic name for them. I think they kind of look like a ten pin bowling pin, but they were designed primarily for increased casting distance.

Bruce Miller said they sink slowly with their butt end down and can be fished very effectively on the swing.


May 17, 2019 Weekly Report:

I received a text yesterday from a friend who reported his first legal fish of the year with sea lice; it wasn’t a monster at 29-inches, but it’s a start. He caught a number of other bass up to 27-inches from the Big Ditch as well.

The west end has been mainly a schoolie playground, with any larger fish apparently coming from mid-Canal to the east end. There are mackerel in Cape Cod Bay, but they have yet to move into the land cut.

This weekend there is change in current to the east around the west end between 3 and 4 AM, which will bring in warmer water from Buzzards Bay. Combine that with what looks like sunnier, warmer weather and there is a chance for that some fish will feed on top, but don’t expect any breaking tides, said Bruce Miller at Canal Bait & Tackle in Sagamore. The water in B-Bay is 52-degrees and around 50-in the Canal, while Cape Cod Bay has been topping out the thermometer at 48, so we’re just bordering on the line between lethargy and activity.


Plugs are fun, especially those that make surface commotion, but jigs worked deep and slow are the ticket right now. Hits are most likely going to be a bit more tentative, so it is even more important to keep contact with your jig.

Although dinosaurs like me stick with our mono, there can be no argument that braid is the way to go when jigging, especially when the cold has bass nosing around your bucktail or jighead/soft plastic combination rather than clobbering it.