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.
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.
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.