Cape Cod Canal Fishing Reports

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- October 6, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Understanding current direction is critical to fishing the Canal, along with knowing how and when rips, back eddies, and other hydrological events will shape up in the big Ditch. Fortunately, Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore kept it basic for simple folks like yours truly: “The bass are moving into the east end of the Canal when the tide is running west and then they move back out into the bay when it switches.” The largest fish he heard of today was 46-inches, with odds being that the angler who caught it was complaining that he – or she – couldn’t kill it. Shad body paddletails in white/pearl or bunker have accounted for many of the larger fish, but white bucktails have been getting the job done as long as you opt for ones that are heavy enough to get down – which usually means in the range of five-ounces. 

It’s kind of fun to see people in the land cut getting all excited about the schools of albies that move up and down, east to west with the current; I especially like to sit at Bell Road and watch the show as folks watch the fish moving in from around Onset and the Maritime Academy as the current is flowing east and then when it changes direction, all the eyes are looking towards the railroad bridge in hopes of seeing them. Of course, the folks who typically do hook up continually cast even if fish aren’t showing; Bruce said that the 7/8th ounce Hogy Epoxy Jig in Blue Runner is a hot item due to the large silversides that the little tunny seem to be focused on, along with peanut bunker and other small bait. Silverside, EChix, and Pink are also popular color choices, but accurate casting and proper presentation – in other words, retrieve speed and rod action – are more often the name of the game. 

Obviously, nobody can say what is going on in any area all the time, but it was cool to see a couple of flyrodders working the mud flats this morning; there is a ton of bait thereabouts and everything from bass to blues to funny fish have been known to cruise in and around casters in this area, providing some great shots at breaking fish and comic relief as folks lose their minds and any semblance they had of effective casting. 

There has been a brief early morning topwater plug bite the last three mornings, but the duration has gotten briefer the last couple of days with the high/ bright sunshine. 

Over at the Buzzards Bay end of the Big Ditch, the word from Connor Swartz at Red Top is that there are some nice bass being caught in the early AM and again from dusk into night. His buddy sent him a photo of a fish in the 30+-pound class he caught last night. Although jigging is most productive, Connor said it’s possible to pull fish off the top on slim profile plugs – both Finnish style plastic swimmers and smaller, skinnier pencil poppers as opposed to big, fat ones – with bone and more neutral colorations like olive over pearl/white – often called sand eel – effective. I spied a number of folks rigged up with smaller chrome swimmers, most likely hoping for albies to come within range. The old standby was a loaded Red Fin or Bomber that you rigged yourself, but both Yo-zuri and Daiwa make this style of swimmer rigged for longer casting with weight transfer systems. Connor said that along with butterfish and peanut bunker, there are small mackerel around and given that some of the largest bonito and/or albies caught in the Martha’s Vineyard Derby are caught on livelined tinker or spike mackerel, it might be a good idea that have smaller mackerel pattern swimmers on hand, either in green or blue. Yo-zuri even makes a Wacky Mackerel in one of their long cast swimmer series.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- September 29, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Despite the heavy rain that is supposed to fall later today into tomorrow, the hardcore Canal folks will be at it, especially because nobody can say how long the great fishing for big bass will continue.

Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore said that the east end has been producing good numbers of 40+-inch fish on everything from loaded pencils and spooks to subsurface plugs in the morning while at night those folks who like to avoid the daytime crowds have been opting for offerings such as darters and plastic lipped swimmers along with jigs. This week with the midday current change to the east, the crowds have been forming back around the west end, especially for the albie bite as they move through with the tide. This fishery can be as frustrating for the Rats on the rocks as it can be for boat anglers, but the word from the senior Miller, Bruce, is to keep casting even when there aren’t fish showing; they can be shooting through a short cast away and you won’t even know it if your lure – with the 7/8th ounce and up Hogy Epoxy Jigs in Silverside and Blue Runner especially effective due to the large silversides in the Big Ditch. He told me that someone came into the shop earlier in the week with a six-inch silverside and asked if they were edible, which is certainly the case if you like to eat anchovies or smelts. 

According to Connor Swartz at Red Top in Buzzards Bay, he has been catching albies from the fishing pier, which is one way to avoid the crowds that can form at spots like Bell Road where there have been words exchanged and even at least one fisticuffs event this week; another option is to concentrate your fishing on the Boston side of the land cut like Connor does, with way too many people believing that the fish stick to the Cape side. It is also more common for the funny fish to lose their minds as they move east, with Connor noting that he has seen them caught on everything from big pencil poppers to large soft plastic paddletails; it also could be a matter of them feeding more aggressively on the larger bait in that area of the Ditch, including larger butterfish and peanut bunker, as well as some squid. 

There is a good reason other than the albie bite to be at the west end, Connor admitted, with reports of bass in the 40+-inch class blowing up schools of larger butterfish and even scup right out of the water at times. White jigs are the way to go when these scenarios shape up, with the current change what most often fires up this action. As much as I still believe that the so-called fall run begins way earlier than most people believe, it’s important to make the distinction between when the fish – in the case of bass meaning schoolies up to slot and slightly larger bass – start to make their migration and when the cows come home, which should continue from now until the middle of October. If the bait hangs around and the movement of truly big bass is towards the Canal and not across the bay and around Provincetown, the opportunity to catch 40 to 50-pound class stripers could very well linger.

No doubt that’s why there have been so many new faces on the riprap this week, including folks from England and even some from Texas; apparently, the latter have elected to give the Canal a shot at tangling with a big, wild bass after enjoying a good impoundment fishery for stocked stripers in the lakes of the Lone Star State and Oklahoma.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- September 22, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Fishing in the Big Ditch has been pretty consistent this week, with a wide range of sizes amongst the bass being caught, while albies continue to entertain and frustrate anglers and the bluefish numbers haven’t been as prolific.

Jeff Miller from Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore believes that the fish are feeding a good amount of time on small to medium squid, making white offerings productive, including the Canal Bait Bullet Pencil in white. A loaded pencil popper, this plug can be worked at various depths as well as on the top, based on the current speed and how long and what retrieve someone uses. Of course, white paddletails are working as well along with green mackerel – if you already have them because the word is that they are tough to come by. 

Along with schoolies up to slot fish, some really big bass showed up on the AM dying west tide and turn to the east yesterday at the west end. Some 40-pound fish were caught; in fact, one guy managed a cow on one cast and then the next fish he hooked was what Jeff called “a dink,” a term saved for a really small schoolie. Jeff emphasized that while the morning tides get plenty of attention, there has been some solid activity in the late afternoon/evening as well. 

The east end has had some bigger fish as well; in fact, Connor Swartz from Red Top in Buzzards Bay said that mid-morning has seen some surface schoolie/slot activity on topwater plugs and an occasional 30-pound class bass has been caught on pencil poppers, but the larger fish have been taken for the most part using subsurface offerings, including paddletails, bucktails, and loaded plugs. There is plenty of bait in the land cut at the moment; along with the squid, you have peanut bunker, some mackerel, and even butterfish, with white, green, and pink colors that seem to be working best. 

I made my morning visit to Bell Road today and there were a fair number of folks hoping for shots at the albies “that have been blowing through with the tide,” Jeff told me. Pink and Echix  (pink and chartreuse) have been producing a good number of the little tunny that people have managed to hook up with; landing them has been another matter given the combination of the speed of the current in the Big Ditch and the long runs these fish make, which often produce significant slack in the line and the hook popping free. 

One of the challenges anywhere you target Fat Alberts – and bonito, for that matter – is they can be finicky as all get out when they are feeding on small bait. On numerous occasions, Capt. Mike has extolled the virtues of the Pop-and-Fly rig which is a clear Hogy Charter Grade Popper with the hooks removed, a two foot or so shot of light fluorocarbon leader material tied to the tail loop, and a fly like the Hogy Protail Fly. This gives you added distance and the popper produces commotion that grabs the fish’s attention where it sees an offering that matches the hatch. 

I did see a couple of folks using casting eggs with trailer flies and even some opting to trade a hookless Epoxy Jig for the popping plug. Add in a fly angler who was just rollcasting a bug close to shore and it was an interesting crowd. If you are a practitioner of the long wand, I did hear that some albies have been caught by flyrodders and light tackle casters who have waded out onto the mud flats when the tide allows, giving them shots at the drop off that albies love to run; I even heard one story that the little tunny actually went onto the flats around high water this week. 

Finally, you won’t find a better place to target tautog if you’re a shore angler than the Ditch; the Maritime Academy is always a popular tog spot, but you will find them on pretty much any hard structure. Shops are selling plenty of crabs, with both traditional rigs with a bank or dipsey sinker for weight or the tautog jigs tipped with a crab working well. And just a reminder: the bag limit at the moment is three fish per day per angler and on October 15 it jumps to five fish. No matter the number of tog you can legally keep, only “one fish may exceed 21” as stated in the DMF regulations.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- September 15, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

The action in the Canal has been end-to-end the last several days with bass, blues, and a charge of albies and even some bonito getting plenty of attention from anglers, said Bruce Miller from Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. There have been some larger bass around the Stone Church, with the largest fish Bruce heard of this morning measured 45-inches. Everything from pencil poppers to paddletails, both in white and pink, have been working as there has been a push of smaller squid in the Ditch, along with some schools of peanut bunker and a few mackerel.

Fall is truly an amazing time to be fishing the Cape Cod Canal

Jay Hopwood from Maco’s in Buzzards Bay and Monument Beach emphasized that while there are mainly smaller bass throughout the Canal, if you work at it, there are bigger fish to be caught, especially on white or green mackerel jigs.

Although it has been pretty common for the funny fish to latch onto a larger lure intended for the bass, Bruce emphasized that the E-Chix Hogy Epoxy Jig has been the top choice for many anglers who are targeting albies and bonito. 

Although the word for the boat crew in Buzzards Bay and the sounds is that smaller EJ’s have been needed since the funnies have often been feeding on tiny bay anchovies or silversides, which are often called “snot bait” due to their size and translucent coloration that reminds people of – well, you get the picture – in the Canal you will need larger Epoxies mainly for the required casting distance, from 1.25 to 2-ounce; in extreme situations where you have to reach fish that are staying way out, you could even upsize to the Tuna Rigged version which is 4-ounces, but is still relatively small at 6-inches. 

I have been giving a lot of thought recently to the “character” of albies, in particular, but have included bones in my ruminations as well. The word from Connor Swartz at Red Top in Buzzards Bay is that folks have been catching funny fish on 8-inch pencil poppers and even 5-ounce paddletail jigs in surprisingly good numbers this week. So what gives, when so many people have been frustrated by these supposedly finicky critters in other areas.

Well, as Capt. Corey Gammill on Nantucket has emphasized in a number of his reports this season, when albies and bonito are feeding in the rips, they are more than willing to take plugs and getting them to eat soft plastics and casting jigs is not a problem as well. Clearly, the nature of a rip with its white water and stronger currents reduces the wariness of these species; last week, I wrote that Corey most often uses 40 and 50-pound fluorocarbon leaders when targeting funny fish. He goes that heavy even when not working the rips, but a lot of his fishing is done in deeper water scenarios, which again seems to cause the fish to cast aside their frustrating habit of turning their noses up at everything thrown their way and, instead, just “trash” a wide variety of lures. 

Now, the lures that Corey was talking about certainly aren’t as large as the monstrous pencil poppers that Connor mentioned, but they are still larger than the small casting jigs and flies that so many people associate with this kind of fishing. 

That said, the Canal features all of the structural advantages that can cause funny fish to change their spots: rips, strong currents, and deep water. That said, Connor added that the albies, in particular, have been feeding on 3 to 4-inch peanut bunker and larger baits often drive albies crazy, especially the larger ones that have been caught off the Fish Pier and the bulkhead by unsuspecting anglers targeting bass who can only stand and watch as their line disappears off their reels at a rate that no striper can match.

Bass will often be extra aggressive as they make their way back down south through the canal.

Albies also love squid, including the smaller ones that Bruce M. mentioned earlier as well as cephalods in the four to six-inch range; over the years, a number of winning bonito have been caught by folks livelining spike mackerel, and although the general consensus is that there aren’t a ton of mackerel of any size around in the Ditch at the moment, it wouldn’t surprise me that the bones have found them. 

Finally, the blues in the Canal are definitely showing a preference for soft plastics at times as opposed to hard baits like plugs that are far more resistant to their dentures, leading to some cursing about “yellow eyed devils” amongst the anglers while local tackle shop owners are more than willing to help folks restock their supplies of “rubbers” since a paddletail without a paddle is a sorry lure, indeed.

There can be little argument that the Canal is one of the most challenging places to learn how to fish; in fact, unlike the internet heroes who are only too happy to post videos when the fish are blitzing and herding bait right along the riprap, there is a limited number of regulars who can find fish and catch them consistently throughout the season. That’s why it was cool to talk with Gary Engblom who was down fishing the moon tides at the Canal this week; he is such a humble guy, more than willing to mention how much he has learned about fishing the Ditch from folks who have been fishing it for years. In fact, somebody suggested that Gary get his hands on a few of Jeff Miller’s Canal Bait loaded pencil poppers in white, part of his Dirk series. When he did, Gary went right to the water and began to work on learning this plug’s nuances and was planning on putting it to use, although he had caught fish earlier in the week on other offerings, including a just overslot 31.5-inch bass on a soft plastic paddletail.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- September 8, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

According to Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, a large percentage of the folks fishing the Big Ditch this week have been heading to the west end, especially around the railroad bridge. The morning bite has been good with white soft plastic paddletails producing lots of fish, from schoolies to an increasing number of bigger bass. It’s always interesting to see folks come into shops that specialize in the Canal and ask for green mackerel or perhaps wacky mackerel and then walk out if there aren’t any available; meanwhile, white paddles, whether they have more of the detailed mackerel configuration of Jeff’s Canal Bait series as well as another manufacturer; more of a sand eel, narrow design; or even the fuller body, internally weighted versions that some would argue started the whole paddletail craze, are catching plenty of fish. 

If for some reason you believe that the fish won’t take a plain white lure that doesn’t have the characteristic vermiculations of a mackerel, it just takes a little work with a black permanent marker to add your own. You can even add these to loaded plastic plugs if you need to, but Jeff emphasized that his white, three-ounce pencils and spooks have been doing well without any doctoring at all. While his Dirk series can be worked to the top during the retrieve, at the moment a subsurface approach has been better, especially if you are targeting on larger fish. 

Of course, if crowds aren’t your thing – and things can get downright hairy around the west end when the bite is on – there are also bass to be had around the east end, especially from the power plant to the bulkhead.

Connor Swartz from Red Top in Buzzards Bay was looking forward to catching up on his sleep Wednesday night after five straight days of either nighttime rock hopping/wetsuiting or fishing the Canal in the wee hours before sunrise. From what he surmised, the Ditch is definitely in the early throes of the typical, early fall run with a wide range of stripers from small schoolies to cows in the 30-pound class – as well as some scattered bluefish up to 8 to 10-pounds. Soft paddletail jigs continue to fly out of the shop, jointed swimbaits in bone are working as well; at times, Connor emphasized, smaller lures have been the way to go as the fish are keyed in on peanut bunker and other small baitfish.

It could very well be that the fish are chewing on whiting, which a lot of folks don’t know has historically been a prime food source for bass and blues in the land cut, making white the hot color with a lot of sharpies reporting that they haven’t been seeing any real big concentrations of mackerel at the moment. 

While the action this week has been spurred by a combination of the dying west/turn to east current in the morning, Jeff added that the evening bite has also been good at the same stage of the tide.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- September 1, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

 If you’ve been reading these reports for a while, you might have noticed my concern – some might say obsession – with small bass. To me, it’s pretty simple: no small stripers, no larger stripers. 

So it was heartening to hear from Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore more report that the east end around the bulkhead and spots just a short jaunt from there have been holding lots of smaller bass this week. Both tides have been productive, with regulars like Dave and Randy coming into Bruce’s shop to take a break after the morning push on the tail end of the west tide before the “east runner,” as Mr. Miller calls it, gets going and things go bonkers again. Mixed in with the schoolies and the occasional slot fish are enough bluefish to keep folks tossing soft plastics cursing and tackle shop owners smiling; for the most part, the sharpies are throwing white or yellow topwater plugs and saving their jigs for when the next push of big girls settles into the land cut. 

A couple of weeks ago – or more like a month or more, since time has been flying – Capt. Mike’s first mate, Jack Pinard, posted a photo of how you can mark up a Hogy Pro Tail Paddle to look like a mackerel; the key has been using the correct waterproof marker that doesn’t smudge.

Jeff Miller spent some time this week doing the same thing with his soft plastic paddles and folks snatched them up, although they kept asking for green mackerel, a color that has virtually disappeared from the walls of many shops. I suggested marking the body of a white paddle with a green marker, but Jeff did call to say he just received a shipment of green mackerel paddletails from another manufacturer and no doubt they will go quickly.

The Canal Cruiser brigade has been reporting fish popping up here and there throughout the length of the Ditch; as they say, find the bait, find the fish and be assured that bass will find where the most baitfish are before most anglers. Apparently, the fish are feeding on smaller, whitish hued bait; it could be small squid, juvenile butterfish, or even whiting. Add in silversides and even a few juvenile river herring and there you have it. Remember that juvenile baitfish aren’t typically very strong swimmers, so zipping your offering along at breakneck speed or thrashing your pencil poppers around wildly just might be the wrong approach. Try a more subtle approach, letting the current work your lure and your hook up rate could increase. 

The west end has had the same size fish moving in and out with the tide, according to Connor Swartz from Red Top in Buzzards Bay; it is certainly possible to catch fish after fish when things are going, but please take into consideration the damage you are going to do to these smaller fish if your plugs are decorated with multiple sets of trebles; crushing barbs should be standard practice by now along with removing unneeded trebles. When folks are catching lots of fish, it is also quite common to become so hyped up about wanting to catching another that they take no time to properly remove hooks and revive the fish at hand. 

Connor did say that the underwater camera at the Maritime Academy has showed an occasional school of larger bass in the 15 to 20-pound class moving in from Buzzards Bay on the east tide, so keep that in mind since these fish have been down on the bottom.

The west end is also filled at times with small bluefish, but so far there has been no chatter about funny fish despite the presence of so many tiny morsels that they prefer.

On the other hand, Connor said the same camera set up has shown lots of tautog, many of them good-sized. Green crab sales are increasing and the bag limit increased on August 1 to three fish from one, most folks feel it is once again worth targeting them. Remember that the size limit is 16-inches minimum per fish, but only one fish, no matter the bag limit, can exceed 21-inches. Tautog grow very slowly and that makes breeding size fish – especially females – very important.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- August 25, 2023

New Hogy Lures Video!

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

For shore fishing, the Big Ditch definitely remains your number one bet for bass on foot, which is really nothing new over the last I couldn’t say how long. I can say it has to do with seals and beach closures, but I suppose I should do some research to add that piece of Cape fishing history to my memory bank – or at least my laptop, since the old gray matter isn’t what it used to be.

Fish movement is certainly an often discussed and theorized about subject and there’s no inshore area where that is truer than the land cut. According to Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, yesterday there was a very good topwater bite during the morning mid current portion of the west tide. The stretch from High Bank to the iron works gave up a lot of 40+-inch fish to white or yellow, 3 to 3.5-ounce pencil poppers, matching the small whiting that the fish were feeding on. 

Plenty of people still throw traditional style pencils harkening back to the inventor of this style of plug, Stan Gibbs, but over the last who-knows-how-long, a newer generation of what can best be described as a grenade style pencil has really caught on. Plenty of people have claimed to be the inventor of this design, but like pretty much everything in fishing, things that are often referred to a groundbreaking are either only tweaks to an old lure or even a direct copy of something from back in the day that folks forgot about or didn’t know about before they came across it, from that point forward claiming it as their own. 

Just like pencils, the grenade style plug allows for plenty of variation within body shape and I imagine this must result in differences in casting quality and the ease of getting it to work on the surface. I have never cast one since I fish from a boat most of the time, so distance isn’t as critical. 

Jeff Miller has his own Canal Bait line of grenade pencils, but I what I appreciate is that he also carries those from other folks, including some small batch custom builders. And knowing the Millers’, they would never hesitate to recommend someone else’s plug if it meant helping you catch fish. 

That aside, what I do know about the grenade style of plug is that its extreme tail weighting allows for better turnover of the plug, which is critical to getting better distance. The worst feature of a casting plug is if wobbles, sails, or flutters in the air – well, I suppose if it doesn’t catch fish, that is even more problematical. Back in the day when pretty much every serious Canal angler using conventional reels, a plug with poor aerodynamic qualities and improper weighting would guarantee a backlash or an aborted cast well short of the target in an attempt to stop a pile of line from forming, which in turn would result in lost fishing time as you tried to pick it out or a snapped off plug. Nowadays, there are conventional reels with electronic controls that prevent overruns – which is the euphemism popular among casters who can’t acknowledge that they, indeed, backlash from time to time. There are still reels that use magnetic or centrifugal brakes to control line flow, both during the cast and at the end, but there is still something magical about picking up a properly tuned and lubricated Squidder and giving it a whirl – although I prefer my Newell’s that have no controls and bearings that absolutely scream.

Of course, all of this talk about conventional reels has been rendering moot by reel makers beefing up spool shafts, gearing, and rotors so that spinning winches are the choice of 99.9% of the people who fish the Canal. Add in super thin, coated braided lines and a well-designed spinner featuring a long cast spool and a properly tuned oscillation system– which improves line lay – and a good coffee grinder outfit can almost match the best conventional rig in the hands of a good caster. I say “almost” because even though braid keeps the line diameter from dropping as quickly as mono does – thereby reducing friction on the lip of the spool – a conventional reel doesn’t suffer from this design limitation. 

There is no substitute for casting practice, however; no amount of the best equipment will help you learn to load a rod smoothly and powerfully to aid in plug turnover; this doesn’t mean thrashing about applying force willy nilly. This “style” of cast will result in a lure flying even more out of control.

Somehow I managed to veer off fish movement into a gear and casting conversation; getting back to the former, last week the west end of the Canal had a good push of big fish and this week it has been kind of quiet, noted Connor Swartz at Red Top in Buzzards Bay. Towards the east end, there have been some brief spurts of topwater action in the early AM, with the catching more about numbers of small bass rather than a few larger fish where inches are the figures that count. After the early AM bass activity, a wave of bluefish has typically been moving in.

I was sitting around Bell Road earlier this week watching a couple of folks jigging plastic paddletails; one guy, who was fishing the Ditch for the first time on a visit from Florida to attend a wedding, picked up two bass on a blue plastic. It could have had mackerel markings, but I’m not into going up to someone and grabbing their lure to see what it is. From a distance, however, I could tell it was a mackerel shaped plastic, one that had pretty detailed fins in its molding. 

Another angler was using a pink, thinner paddle, more sand eel in shape, but all he managed to do was hook bottom because he clearly didn’t understand the limitations of the arc that you can fish a jig in the Canal before you have to reel pretty darn quickly before you add it to the tons of lead – and now plastic – on the bottom. He kept having his young son wade into the Canal to grab on the line and pull to free the jig, which is never a good idea for a lot of reasons I won’t go into here, and then he kept yanking on his rod and putting a huge bend in it. I can’t imagine that anyone who has jigged this body of water hasn’t donated at least one bucktail or paddle to its bottom, but at some point, you have to break it off and with the new braided line, that’s become more of a challenge. All you can do is walk until your line goes straight to the jig, lock the drag down, and walk straight back, with no bend in the rod; the principles of physics will find the weak spot in the line or leader – usually a knot – and you will break off. 

Finally, Bruce is confident that the fish which were caught on Thursday aren’t a new school that moved in from Cape Cod Bay, but the larger fish that had been west and followed the bait from mid to just shy of the Sagamore. Odds are, that as long as there is enough bait to hold them – especially larger stuff – they will ping pong back and forth and ride the currents to their advantage, challenging folks to learn how to do the same. So far, the schools of mackerel and pogies are keeping the big fish happy up around Boston and it should be a couple of weeks at least before they start moving towards the Canal – unless they scoot across the bay and down the backside.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- August 18, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

The Big Ditch just might be the both the easiest and most complicated place to fish on Cape Cod. The easy part is that typically, if you have the bait, you are going to have fish; I’m not going to say large or small or what species, but the currents and structure in the land cut make for ideal feeding habitat for many types of fish. 

And, according to Bruce and Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, the bait part came together earlier this week, with some squid, baby river herring, peanut bunker, silversides, and sand eels calling in the big guns: the mackerel. Fish aren’t stupid; while they will feed heavily on small bait if that is all this is available, if there is big bait around like macks, pogies, adult herring, and adult squid, that is what they are going to feed heavily on as they get the most bang for their buck – in the form of protein – for the effort they have to put in to fill their bellies. 

So it only makes sense that green mackerel paddletail jigs are flying out of local shops, both those that cater to the Canal Rats and those from a distance away that still have a good network that can fill them in on the pulse of what is going on in the Ditch. In fact, when I was visiting Canal Bait yesterday, Bruce and Jeff were busy replacing tips on rods, re-spooling line, and even showing folks how to tie the correct knots to rig up, so I struck up a conversation with Paul Seriac, a shop regular and owner of Freddie, the most adorable, personable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who greets everyone with a smile and a wag – and she even dances when Paul asks her to, with a cookie to follow. Paul said that Jeff’s stock of Canal Bait design paddletails – especially the 5.5-ounce size – in green mack was dangerously low, with folks grabbing them a half dozen or more at a time. 

Paul added that with an increased number of bluefish around, it makes sense to choose jigs that can be re-rigged with new tails – and that’s a feature of Jeff’s paddletail leadheads that he made sure to include, as well as ordering a healthy supply of replacement tails. 

Now, I am pretty blasé when it comes to lure colors, still opting for the most basic offerings even with so many incredible paint jobs on both wooden and plastic plugs, and the folks who spend all of their non-work hours fishing the Canal swear that at times one color is killing it and the fish are turning their noses up at anything else. Along with green, wacky mackerel combines pretty much all of the hues that mackerel paddletails can come in and Bruce is a big fan of that coloration. I have even heard that the actual color of mackerel change based on their size, with larger ones tending towards dark blue or almost black and smaller, juvenile ones light green/chartreuse or almost white.

When it comes to the complicated part, there are a number of books written about fishing the Ditch and you can read all of them and still not catch fish consistently. Wind direction can influence whether the bait is concentrated on the Cape or off Cape side; the moon impacts the strength of the currents, as does wind direction; certain rips and holes shape up for only a brief time during any tide cycle; and so on. I had the pleasure of talking with a young man named Donovan and his mom who have been up here this week from the Chesapeake area and it has been a tough go for him. Mac over at Riverview Bait & Tackle in South Yarmouth did a great job of setting him up an outfit that wouldn’t break the bank and that he could use back home: a sturdy ten-foot rod that can handle four ounce jigs with a Daiwa BG reel of appropriate size to match, along with an assortment of proven Canal paddletails. Donovan has hooked up, but the key was helping him understand where he wanted to be – again, in general – based on the direction and stage of the current.

Oh, and while Donovan was visiting Canal Bait, Jeff noticed that the ceramic ring had popped out of his tip top and changed it out right there. Try getting that kind of service online or a big box store.

That’s why Canal shops like Red Top in Buzzards Bay has been around since 1947, starting in a smaller location up Main Street in the village before moving to its current spot. You are going to get personal service from folks like Bull MacKinnon, Connor Swartz, Ian Lumsden, and the rest of the staff, along with owner Tom Coots and his son, A.J. In fact, one thing I appreciate when I call any local shop on the Cape is that they will quickly – and politely – inform me that they are swamped with customers and ask if I can call back. To me it’s simple: the folks seeking advice and assistance absolutely come first before a phone call from yours truly; in fact, that’s why I enjoy stopping in at the shops that provide such invaluable information. It brings me back to the days when I was a kid and could only stare at the big plug on the roof above the door at Red Top – which years later I learned was not an Atom, but a Cap’n Bill’s. This was a series of plugs designed by Bill Sherer starting in 1939 and running through 1952; eventually, Alden Cook, one of the owners of Red Top, bought out Cap’n Bill’s and they were sold exclusively out of the shop after that – and that’s why that plug was on the roof! 

If you want to see an amazing collection of vintage Cap’n Bill’s plug, stop in at Red Top and check out Tom Coots’ collection; he has them all and in what lure collectors like to call “minty” condition.

So, what did I learn this week when I spoke to Bull, one of the most knowledgeable and successful Canal anglers you will find these days? Well, he said it has “been a very good week in the Canal, with a lot of fish on the east tide, which hasn’t been the case so far this season.”

I have been hearing a lot about the last two hours of the west current and then a brief flurry after the turn, but it seems like the action had kind of fizzled as the east really got going. That said, be advised that folks like Bull live for topwater action and if you’ve experienced a big bass blowing up on a pencil popper or Polaris, you’ll know why. Unlike Bull, however, they rely on seeing fish top with birds often marking their presence, which makes sense; in his case, on the other hand, he has complete confidence that on a given tide cycle and the right conditions, he is going to be able to raise fish that aren’t showing with his custom plugs. 

I’m not sure any Canal regular would argue that jigs catch more fish in these waters, and while Bull has taken some nice bass on plugs this week more to the east, he added that the younger Red Top crew has been catching plenty of fish around the west end. Folks were describing bass and birds everywhere from the Maritime Academy up to the Bourne Bridge and beyond as the current flowed east. A good number of these bass were in the low to mid-20-inch range, with a few slot fish caught on topwaters, but the Red Top folks were working jigs under the surface fray, seeking to cull out any larger fish hanging below. 

As I spoke about earlier, color plays a large part in what lures folks purchase, so I was heartened to hear Bull confirm that at this point in the season, it’s all about white plugs for him; unlike the vast majority of people who jig the Canal these days, Bull also eschews plastic in favor old school bucktails – again in white. But he did add that later in the season, into the deep part of September and beyond, when the really big fish have moved from spots to the north, staging and then making their way into the land cut, he is all about yellow.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- August 11, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Right now we are in the weaker stages of the moon cycle, with the new moon coming up on August 16; these slower periods of current movement often coincide with equally stagnant fishing, but Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore said there are still fish around, but you have to work for them.

What is a pretty good indication that any larger fish are being caught jigging some form of heavy soft plastic paddletail or pig-and-jig, especially early in the morning and again at night. There are plenty of different color soft plastic tails that feature mackerel markings, but green is always a good place to start. But if you happen to run into a feed where the fish will only take one color and you aren’t carrying it, well, you are in for some major frustration. 

I do have to admit to some confusion over the absolute belief that one color will trump another mainly because in the days when bucktailing ruled the Big Ditch, you basically had white . . . and then more white and some black as well for the nighttime. Now, it is possible that today’s striped bass have been far more selective in terms of what they will take, but over the last week or so, I have taken some time to study the body and paddle configurations of the most popular soft plastic leadheads out there, as well as the density and “feel” of the plastic that folks use in their baits. 

All of this has to impact rate of descent, as well as what angle a leadhead takes as it sinks – such as tail down or head down or perfectly horizontail – as well as what it does when it is jigged or swum. Jeff even showed me how he designed the head on his paddletail to sit and bounce a certain way on the bottom, similar to the way true Canal legends like Stan Gibbs, Stan Kuzia, Bunny DiPietro, and others used to create their own leadhead and eelskin rig configurations, as well as carve prototype plugs to see how their ideas would work in reality. 

There are some bluefish in the land cut, especially at the west end, and that will drive anglers crazy and manufacturers thrilled; as Capt. Mike once joked, “Bluefish are his best business partners.” If they are prevalent, then carrying a design with interchangeable/replaceable tails, such as the new Hogy Thumper series, is a wise way to go. 

Connor Swartz from Red Top in Buzzards Bay said there is a fair amount of bait in the Canal right now, but the wind this week has produced some dirty water that definitely impacts the fishing. The last two hours of the west current and the first part of the east still seems to be what most people are targeting, but Connor emphasized that each area of the Ditch will have fish on a pretty predictable schedule that can be plugged – or should I say pissed off – into taking a swing at a plug. While bait such as mackerel, herring, and pogies move up and down with the current, there are holes and eddies that hold choggies as well as small sea bass, tautog, and other small bottom feeding species use structure to hold in a given area, making them perfect targets for big, lazy fish that often feed around slack water. Unfortunately, these areas are also perfect for gobbling up a leadhead thrown by an inexperienced angler who hasn’t yet learned how to feel and roll his jig on the bottom.

As of yesterday, the best bass activity – including some early AM topwater flurries – have been from the middle of the Canal out towards the east end; these are mostly smaller fish, up to the low 30-inch range;  traditional wooden pencil poppers, once the gold standard of Canal plugs along with Gibbs’ Polaris design, are nowadays challenged by plastic versions, whether floating or loaded such as those that Jeff has as part of his “Dirk” series, that latter giving you the added versatility of being able to work throughout the water column by counting it down to reach the level you want. While many people associate big spooks as a boat plug, the reality is that they work well in the Canal at certain stages of the current, with Jeff again stepping in to produce loaded spooks of various sizes while most designs of this type are floating, whether really large like the Hogy XL Charter Grade Dogwalker or smaller ones from originators of the design such as Heddon and MirrOlure or an incredible array of spooks from Yo-zuri, Rebel, Rapala, Bomber, and others. 

Swimmers are often overlooked by newcomers to the Canal scene, but they can be really productive in situations where bait of any size is holding close to the riprap. Some years will see smaller mackerel pushed right up onto the rocks and along with soft plastics, a Daiwa SP Minnow, Red Fin or Bomber Finnish style swimmer will outproduce any other option since they are shallow runners. When loaded, either by the manufacturer or in a home shop, they can handle deeper water and heavier currents as well, with the added benefit of longer casting range.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- August 4, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

After a sustained feed in the Canal, it isn’t uncommon for the fishing to slow given a waning moon and the fact that the fish are often holding the bottom, digesting what they have been feeding on. This is especially true if it’s bigger bait like the mackerel that have been moving in and out of the land cut, making for a good season overall.

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore said that there were a few reports of smaller bass on top around the east end, but generally speaking on Monday through Wednesday folks were catching mostly while jigging. Green mackerel and white continue to be your best options, with four to five ounce jigs what most people were using to get down to where the fish were holding. There are a number of body designs when it comes to soft plastic paddletail jigs, but a lot more people are opting for the realistic mackerel body type that Jeff Miller is selling under the shop name, Canal Bait. Folks were picking up pink and wacky mackerel colorations. 

The white Hogy Protail Paddle is another good option that I saw people buying; the lighter, smaller ones are a good choice when the fish are feeding on fry of some type, along with heavier casting jigs like the Hogy Epoxy and Heavy Metal Jigs. 

On Thursday morning starting with the 4:30 tide, Bruce said the topwater action really turned on from mid-Canal out to the east end. Traditional wooden pencil poppers in white, mackerel, and green were doing well, but the Canal Bait Dirk Series has proven to provide a great combination of a deep water presentation along with an effective topwater approach. These are “loaded” or extra heavily weighted pencil popper and spook style plugs, both in white or bone; by counting these plugs down after they hit the water, you can let it sink to your preferred depth – based on the speed of the current, of course – and then work it back to the surface, where you can work it like a traditional pencil. Along with mimicking the action of a fleeing baitfish as it tries to escape to the surface, you also gain the advantage of increased casting distance.

One thing that I really like about the Canal is just watching birds, bait and fish move through; Noah Lampert from Riverview Bait & Tackle in South Yarmouth fished the Big Ditch earlier this week and said he could see the fish moving east, providing opportunities for people to get ahead of them if they are on a Canal Cruiser or even see them coming and prepare to cast – including getting their nerves under control since it isn’t uncommon for people to become unglued at the sight of this ballet headed their way. 

Ian Lumsden from Red Top in Buzzards Bay spoke of a decent topwater bite at the west end during the latter stages of the dying west current; this was an early morning bite, from about 4 AM on earlier this week. With the change in tide happening later each morning with each passing day, it’s hard to predict whether they fish will show on top in the daylight. Given that Ian said most of the bass at that end of the Canal have been on the smaller size, up to maybe 20-pounds, which makes them more likely to feed on top during the day as opposed to bigger, wiser bass that hunker down, it’s a good idea to carry a couple of rods, one set up for jigging and the other with a plug that you can drop on the fish if they are showing. 

It’s also important to remember that you can call fish up using either a slowly worked a Polaris style plug during the slower stages of the current or even a big spook like the Hogy XL Dog Walker; you have to steel your nerves for this type of blindcasting approach since it’s not uncommon for someone to rip the plug away from a good fish when it explodes on it without any warning. 

There are some bluefish in the Ditch as well, especially at slack water, so make sure you have more than one of your favorite paddletail if a chopper comes along and lops off the paddle, rendering it useless.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- July 28, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

As of yesterday, the fishing in the Big Ditch remained outstanding, providing some great examples of stupid people as well as great fish.

The word from Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore is that he has been constantly restocking his wall with plugs and plastic paddletail jigs. Loaded pencil poppers and spooks, like those in Jeff’s “Dirk” line, allow for a combination of working deep like a jig and on top like a surface plug, have been catching a lot of nice fish, but Jeff added that traditional pencil poppers and jigs are doing well, too. 

I know for a fact that when the bite is concentrated in a given stretch of the land cut, it can be more difficult finding a place to plant your feet than it is to catch a bass. For example, Paul, one of the regulars at Canal Bait who is well-known due his wonder dog, Freddy, the cutest and most personable King Charles Cavalier Spaniel you will ever meet, told me he couldn’t find a spot under the Sagamore Bridge yesterday morning. 

Unfortunately, certain elements in the angling world are quite adept at cutting their own throats; for example, Paul added that people have been going into the yards of local businesses and moving the inventory around so they can park their vehicles, which is mind boggling. Frankly, I hope the police get involved rather than allowing some of these business people to take matters into their own hands.

Speaking of law enforcement, there have been numerous sightings of bass well above the upper end of the recreational slot – less than 31-inches – disappearing left and right, which is no surprise given the failure of the court system when folks are caught poaching. Then again, it seems that at times, checking licenses is more of a priority than theft of a public resource, which is what keeping illegal fish is.

And on a personal note: will some of you put away your bigotry in labeling “certain elements” as the guilty parties when it comes to poaching. I know of plenty of tried-and-true and red, white, and blue Americans who have been busted in the past who love to rail against others; they need to shut up and crawl back into the holes they came from.

According to Ian Lumsden from Red Top in Buzzards Bay, the west end has been pretty quiet right now, with most of the action taking place from mid-Canal and out to the east end. One of the most common beliefs you will hear from striped bass anglers is that the largest fish are hanging under smaller ones that are causing all the noise on the surface, but one area where that theory doesn’t necessarily hold is the Big Ditch. For example, Ian noted that he, Bull MacKinnon, and Connor Swartz, all members of the Red Top staff, have been catching fish this week on pencil poppers that are the equal, and in some cases, even larger than those brought to hand by the jigging crew. White and mackerel variations continue to be the hottest colors, although Ian has also been turning to pink plugs with good results; there is some squid in the Canal, but overall the main forage continues to be macks of various sizes that have flooded in to feed on the herring fry and other small bait. 

Overall, the general consensus is that the last couple of hours of the dying west tide and the turn to the east has been best.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- July 21, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Slow as of yesterday was the word on the Canal from pretty much all of the folks I spoke to this week. 

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any bass around, but that the incredible bite during the previous two weeks has tailed off this week. According to Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, the best bet if you want to catch fish with any consistency is to get down to them – in other words jigging with heavy soft plastic paddles for most of the folks who fish the Big Ditch these days. No need to play around with a couple of ounces of lead, whether you fish plastics or are old school and stick with bouncing or rolling bucktails; it’s four ounces at a minimum and most often five, no matter what design of jighead/plastic paddle you prefer. At times, the fish will turn their nose up at every other color than the “hot ticket,” but at the moment, sticking with white or green mackerel seems to be the word, although pink has worked best for brief periods of each current.

I’m no genius, but whenever I hear pink as a good color, I immediately think squid, especially in deep water like the Canal, and Ian Lumsden at Red Top in Buzzards Bay confirmed my take by saying that there are some squid in the land cut, along with a few pogies and herring, but overall the main forage remains mackerel, mostly tinkers and a few spikes. Ian went on to explain that there has been some early morning surface action at the west end; he only fishes pencil poppers – large ones – allowing his to cull out any larger fish around, while folks tossing smaller plugs have generally been catching schoolies. As for color, it’s pretty simple: white or green mackerel.

In the afternoon, there have been some flurries of mainly schoolies around the east end, but there have also been some larger fish taken, especially on bait. In fact, some folks witnessed a couple of fish in the 30-pound range being caught this week.

One of the new realities of fishing the Canal is the use of social media and smart/cell phones to pass the word on when a bite is starting to shape up – or more likely when it is in full swing. This applies especially for out-of-state folks who wait for the call or scan the web hoping that some glory hog opens his yap about action – or worse posts a video with a well-known landmark in the middle of the screen. With so many folks showing up from as far away as New Jersey and even some from Maryland, Jeff Miller can pretty much tell what is or is going to happen when certain faces show up at his shop to stock up on their favorite lures. 

With good tides and even more mackerel showing up the last couple of days, according to Jeff, and a good set of tides starting today, if the fish show as he and other shop owners are hoping, it could be a busy weekend in the good old Ditch.

NEWS FLASH: As I was putting this week’s reports to bed, Jeff was good enough to call and said the middle of the Canal went absolutely ape this morning; there was a great topwater bite, both Jeff’s 7” loaded pencil that he calls the Dirk, as well as both loaded and regular spooks and pencils. There were definitely some large fish caught on plugs, but remember that with loaded plugs you want to let them sink and then work them to the surface, imitating a mackerel or other baitfish sprinting for the surface; once the plug reaches the surface, you can work it like a traditional pencil or spook. Some folks who are new to the Canal believe that pencils, for example, are meant to float, but the reality is that many of the classics that Stan Gibbs – the godfather of Canal plugs – created actually are weighted such that they will sink. Of course, paddletails worked really well for the sharpies that know that the biggest fish often hang below the surface fray.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- July 14, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

The best way I heard the Canal described this week came courtesy of Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore: “It’s insane. We have been non-stop.” In fact, Jeff and his dad, Bruce, were busy restocking their house brand of mackerel imitating paddletail soft plastics when I came in earlier this week. One of the greatest challenges for a tackle shop is deciding how much inventory to have on hand; common sense would suggest that you go by what took place the year before, but anyone who has done a lot of fishing knows that fish don’t have common sense. A perfect example is how the pogy bite that everyone was getting in on last season around Manomet has been a pick for the most part, with a large concentration of mackerel in the Big Ditch keeping the stripers fat and happy right there.

Jeff and Bruce used to joke about how the “Lure of the Month” last year was the weighted treble hook, while this year they have more than enough on hand waiting for a sudden run on them.

Now, when it comes to the most popular and perhaps even most productive lure in the Canal these days, it would be hard to argue with the aforementioned soft plastic paddletail rigged on a jighead and any shop that specializes in the Canal or understands how soft plastics continue to revolutionize fishing will have to try and predict how the fishing will be in the Canal and how many jigs to have in stock. Live every manufacturing industry, lure makers base their production runs on a number of factors, but I would imagine that past sales has to figure highly there. So both the shops and makers are hedging their bets, which leaves the angler in the tough position of trying to figure out how many lures to buy, especially in these tough economic times. I can tell you that when a lure is hot and supplies run out – like the A17 and A27 diamond jig bite off Chatham back in the day – folks will jump through hoops to find some. 

Unlike when soft plastics showed up on the market and you rigged them on your favorite jighead that typically came from a different manufacturer, in most cases nowadays, the jighead is unique to a variety of paddletail, both in terms of coloration, which can be in many cases artistic airbrush work, and how it interfaces with the plastic. I recall numerous discussions and even some advertising gambits about how the design of a jighead featured special hydrodynamic features that came from submarine design, giving it a ability to sink faster in the water column.

You’ll also hear folks speak of the type of plastic used on a certain brand; some anglers like softer plastic that features more wiggle and shake, while others are willing to sacrifice a little action for durability. I can tell you from personal experience that Capt. Mike has spent endless hours looking for that magic combination of strength and movement, leaving no stone unturned in the Protail series and the Originals. 

But where things get most interesting for me is when talk centers around soft plastic body design; Canal Bait’s variety represents one school of thought when it comes to soft plastics which is clearly imitative – and incredibly effective -with every detail on a real mack included. 

On the other side are varieties that feature more of a generic baitfish profile, electing to concentrate on color and action of the paddle.

Now, you have folks who swear by one style or another, but where it really gets interesting is when it comes to color; I really enjoy listening to – or in some cases, whispering – about what color is absolutely critical to success. Green, blue, chartreuse, wacky, yellow, pink, white – you can find soft plastics in all of these hues that feature a mackerel’s characteristic vermiculations. I even heard of a purple mack variety this week that caught plenty of fish.

Along with the jig bite that has lasted for well over a week, there have been some impressive topwater pushes; although there were fish to be had throughout the tide – as long as you adjusted how and what you were doing to the stage of the current – the surface plugging action was focused on the last couple of hours of the west current and then the early stages of the current change. As Connor Swartz from Red Top in Buzzards Bay called the action, “it was a weird, gnarly topwater” fishery that became more prolonged as the preferred tide moved from really early morning to later in the AM. In fact, earlier in the week, the topwater craziness, with bass everywhere blasting mackerel out of the water, lasted for about four hours; if you only preferred to plug, said Connor, then you could opt to throw Finnish style plastic swimmers like the Daiwa SP Minnows. This variety features a long cast system, which in most cases is a series of BB’s or metal balls that move back and forth in the hollow body chamber to improve casting distance. Yo-zuri features a number of what they call “long cast” minnow swimmer designs and I was surprised to see that along with its classic WindCheater variety, Bomber has another, even thinner profile swimmer for saltwater use that features a longer casting system. Of course, you can opt to use old school Red Fins and Bombers, both as they come or “loaded” yourself with a number of materials, from BB’s to mineral oil to water; in the old days, the hardcores used to weight hollow plastic swimmers with mercury, but I would advise against using this toxic material, no matter how effective it was or is at producing “magic” plugs. 

According to Connor, pencil poppers, as usual, were most commonly used when the fish were on top, although some folks opted for big spooks like the Hogy XL Dog Walker, especially during the slower stages of the current – dying or just beginning. It’s hard to beat white or bone.

Loaded pencil poppers or spooks, whether you buy them that way – Canal Bait has a number of their own versions that Jeff designed himself – or load them yourself, once you learn the techniques needed to work these plugs correctly, they can at times outfish jigs for subsurface work.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Canal has been a tough place to fish during this stretch, especially in well-known, named areas that always draw crowds. If you’ve fished there, then you know them well, and they can be a real zoo. At one point on the off Cape side near the railroad bridge – or was it Bourne Bridge? – there was a picket line of folks casting from the access road – over the heads of another picket line down on the riprap. There have been fights; folks thrown in the water; and lines cut, all over a stupid fish. 

Clearly, there is no consideration on the Canal – and some folks would say there never was – but it really bugs me when people try and place an ethnic or racial overtone to the uncalled for conduct. Amy Wrightson at the Sports Port in Hyannis told me that one of her staff, Ben, fished the Canal this week and caught some really big fish up to high 40-inches, but he also experienced what I call a “new style Canal dude” – and I claim a copyright on this term – with his Van Staal; latest and greatest graphite rod; specialized plug bag with all the latest goodies; and the obligatory spiked wading shoes, who came right down next to him and proceeded to cast across his line. 

I did take a ride up there yesterday and it was quiet – obviously – during slack tide, but I did see some folks soaking bait or casting jigs – on way to light, eight foot sticks and all I can say is I hope they got out of there before the next good tide brought the hordes in.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- July 7, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

You know when the Big Ditch is going off when folks come into the local shops to restock after a great morning tide, confidently preparing for a repeat of the kind of action on the next turn of the tide. According to Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, that’s the story, with big bass feeding on mackerel throughout the land cut. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the fishing would be good at the east end since this area typically holds good numbers of mackerel that move in and out with the direction of the current, but Jeff emphasized that the west end is also holding these baitfish. In addition, the action has been solid on both changes of the current direction at both ends of the Canal. 

Of course, the word is out – thank you social media – and the crowds will shape up at the areas that typically draw them; in fact, while I was talking to Jeff, a guy was in complaining that they had closed off parking at Scusset State Park, which is where folks who don’t use bikes – aka Canal Cruisers – park if they want to fish Pip’s Rip or even the off Cape east end jetty. The reality is that when the bass are feeding on mackerel, unless they manage to pin them up against the riprap in a given location, creating a concentrated – sometimes surface – feed, they follow the bait and can be targeted as they move with the current. 

No doubt the Canal’s topwater activity is legendary – especially the reverentially whispered “Breaking Tides”- day in and day out – or should I say, “tide in and tide out” – jigging produces more fish and more big fish in the Ditch and that means having the appropriate tackle for not only handling the size of the bass, but the strength of the current and the weight of the jigs that are often used. This is a reality that anyone visiting the Canal should keep in mind; what might work on your local sand beach with quieter water that features less current and fewer obstructions will most likely be a poor choice when facing the Ditch’s shoreline riprap and a bottom that has claimed tons of lead over the years. If you need to ask if you have to use five ounce jigs because you brought the lighter eight and nine foot sticks from home, the answer will become painfully obvious. 

And a word to the wise: you definitely don’t want to hook up with a fish on your too light tackle that you can’t control and have to run down the riprap, putting everyone out of commission since they can’t cast– or shouldn’t if I’m being honest – or worse yet cross their lines. If you’re going to fish in areas of the Canal where you are going to encounter a sea of humanity, shoulder-to-shoulder, don’t come undergunned for the job at hand. 

There will be times when a particular color paddletail jig outfishes everything else, but Jeff acknowledged that at the moment, green mackerel, wacky mackerel, and white or pearl have all been catching fish. Although the soft plastic/jighead combination is the most popular choice by far these days when working deep in the current, that doesn’t mean that old school bucktails paired with some form of trailer – usually pork rind – won’t catch plenty of fish. What has been lost is the art of working these incredibly versatile lures, as opposed to simplicity of casting a paddle out and letting that tail do its thing. Clearly, I am overdoing it since even when using plastics, there are folks who outfish others since they have worked hard to master the intricacies of this newer style of jig.

Finally, there is one way of telling how good the fishing is in the Canal at any given time and that is if a true tuna crazy elects to give up their pursuit of the mighty bluefin to get back to their roots in the land cut. According to Ian Lumsden at Red Top in Buzzards Bay, who has been doing really well this week thereabouts, that’s the case with certified tuna nut Connor Swartz, his co-worker at the shop. Now it may be that the fog kept Connor off the water this week or an issue with his boat or one that he occasionally fishes on, but Ian said his buddy joined him and did really well tossing plugs, proving that he hasn’t lost his touch after spending so much time watching balloons or dropping jigs down on tuna. Of course, I hope that Connor knows that I am only participating in that age old fisherman’s game of “busting chops.”

White was Ian’s top choice when selecting his pencil popper, but green mackerel and other mack variations worked, too, with fish ranging from schoolies to cows over 40-pounds throughout the Canal. 

Another option which combines the qualities of a surface plug and the ability to get deep in the water column like a jig is the loaded pencil; Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle has designed his own version in both white or bone that have flown off the shelves, while the original plastic pencil that folks loaded on their own, the Cotton Cordell, has a pre-made heavy model as well. By allowing this style of plug to sink before bringing it to the surface, you can mimic the fleeing action of a mackerel or other baitfish rushing to the upper reaches of the water column to escape a certain doom and then work it on top like a traditional pencil. That’s why some wooden pencils sink; not only are they weighted to cast farther, but they can be fished at different depths based on the speed of the current.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- June 30, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Action in the Big Ditch this week has been slower, requiring more work to find consistent action on fish from mid-Canal out to the east end, noted Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, with the west end seeing the best action during the last two hours of the west tide and the turn to the east. Green or blue mackerel paddletails seem to be what is working best right now; in fact, while enjoying my morning coffee and surveying the scene at Bell Road earlier this week, I got to see Bruce’s recommendation come to fruition as someone using just such a lure landed what I assumed was a nice fish given the arc of his heavy rod and the relatively slow stage of the current. I couldn’t be bothered to get out of my truck and get a close up view, but I assumed it was a nice, clean release as the lucky angler never brought the fish up the rip rap or seemingly displayed it for a photo.

I was never a big Canal guy and that’s even more true today because of the crowds that descend on the land cut when the fishing is hot and my worries about taking a tumble on the rip rap. As I creep up in age, I have become far more cognizant that I miss the unconscious sense of balance I had in my younger days. There is little doubt in my mind that when I am more uncertain of my next step or whether I can reach a more precarious, albeit more advantageous, perch, odds are that is when I am going to go down, so I like to watch more. I have more than a few friends who swear that they want nothing to do with the Canal, but I enjoy an occasional visit due to its unique scenery, fishing, and life in general. 

One thing that I noticed the other day is the amount of gear that at least one guy was carrying; in fact, I think he was wearing suspenders to keep up his gear belt that was festooned with a lip gripper, pliers, knife, and whole bunch of other items, while his plug bag had what looked like a couple of dozen paddletails hanging out of it. Going with an average of say four ounces per plastic, that meant he was carrying at least between five and six pounds of jigs, not to mention any plugs or metals he had with him. If I did that, between my back and hip, I would be popping Aleve even more than I do now. 

As Connor Swartz from Red Top said, jigging the Canal is a matter of learning where the holes and other structure are and how they fish at different stages of the current and the season; it’s the same story if you aren’t casting plugs or other lures at breaking fish. You have to develop a sixth sense about which plug to use in any given situation and then how to use it to raise fish, especially that old grumpy cow that is holding in the current looking for the easiest meal possible to swim by. 

There has been some limited topwater activity this week, mainly right before first light, and typically than means pencil poppers and other topwater presentations, which combined with jigging bucktails and metals has produced over 1,000 bass for the shop’s Bull MacKinnon already this season, according to Connor, the reality is that the coming heat of summer will see a switch over to night plugging with swimmers and even a few darters. Loaded, Finnish style swimmers are popular, including some of the long cast designs, but there is also a place for big wooden metal lips worked in conjunction with the current. 

Eels will also increase in popularity during night tides in the summer, but at the moment Bruce said that chunking mackerel has been more popular, whether you are lucky enough to get some fresh ones or have to opt for the frozen ones. But be advised: you might have to try and coax Bruce’s grandson/Jeff’s son Clark out of one of his pet mackerel that they have on occasion on ice with his buddies.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- June 23, 2023

New Hogy Lures Video!

In this video, Capt. Mike joins Capt. Rob Lowell of Cape Cod Offshore Charters for a day of fluke fishing out in Nantucket Sound. This video was filmed in early June and the Fluke fishing was still heating up, but the crew still managed to have a successful day on the water. From locating fish to proper gear and technique, Capt. Mike walks through everything you need to know for your next trip to the fluke grounds!

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Starting last weekend with a new moon and a set of breaking tides, the fishing in the Big Ditch definitely picked up from all reports.

The word from Bruce and Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore is that there has been both a solid topwater bite and very consistent jig action on a variety of mackerel colored paddletails. In fact, I heard from some folks that the jig bite has been ridiculously easy at times, as long as the water is moving. It’s kind of fun to hang around a shop that caters to Canal anglers around the time of slack water and watch folks come in to restock their supply of lures; the lucky ones were doing so because they caught so many big bass that their plastics got torn up, while the not so fortunate folks either fell victim to the bottom gremlins of the Canal or ran into one or more of the bluefish that have apparently made their way into these waters this week. 

Now, with the breaking tides, the pattern is typically to focus on the west end – in other words, Bell Road, the railroad bridge, or near the Bourne Bridge – around first light and await some surface action, but the Miller’s said that while this has certainly been true, the reality is there are quality bass being caught from one end of the land cut to the other as long as the current is moving. Most of the action is being driven by small mackerel, which makes for cool visuals when the fish manage to blow them out of the water or corral them right up against the rip rap.

Over at Red Top in Buzzards Bay, Bull MacKinnon explained that he has been on fish since last Tuesday – not this week’s Tuesday – but things were a little slower yesterday. His largest fish during this stretch was 54-inches and weighed 38-pounds, which is a perfect example of combination of the change in the anatomy of the big bass we see these days as well as how earlier season, migratory fish are underweight at this time of year due to a combination of the rigors of spawning and a general lack of big forage along their travel route. Sure, as humans who like to think that of fish anthromorphically, we might assume that a bass would simply stop in New Jersey and hang out chowing on pogies that school there in June,  but these bass are heading to where they reside for most of the season and odds are that once they settle in that general area, they will hopefully find big bait and put on some serious poundage.

Bull’s pattern when the breaking tides are shaping up – as is the case with most serious Canal anglers who over the years have earned the respected moniker of “Canal rats” – is to jig overnight and then turn to tossing topwater plugs around first light when the west current starts to die and then turns east. Along with using traditional bucktails and trailer – usually pork rind – for his jigging as opposed to paddles, Bull also explained that he has been using a metal, painted jig for years, but at the moment he has been dealing with what he called “the nuisance of sea bass,” catching more of them than stripers. Bull re-rigs these jigs by moving the hooks from the skinny end – the way they come from the builder – to the heavy end, similar to the way a Reverse Atom was basically an Atom 40 metal lip flipped end-for-end, with some variation in weighting. These jigs come in colors that are appropriate for both matching forage in the Canal as well as attractor colors, including mackerel, black/silver, and chartreuse, but Bull likes to paint his bright, bright wide or flesh tone pink, colors that he achieves through using cheap nail polish; the basics might work, he did say, but he has confidence in what he does and that makes all the difference. As for surface plugs, Bull is all about white pencil poppers and he typically uses custom versions made for him between five and eight ounces on his spinning gear that helps him get more distance, while he uses his conventional outfit if he is using swimming plugs like SP Minnows, Mambo Minnows, or Red Fins that he likes to work slower.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- June 16, 2023

Open Water Trolling for Big Striped Bass!

The Salty Cape crew joined Capt. Terry Nugent of Riptide Charters. The crew steams out from Sandwich Marina into Cape Cod Bay in hopes of finding big Striped Bass in open water. The goal was to put the new Hogy Charter Grade Swimming Plugs to the test in an open water trolling scenario for big Striped Bass. The name of the game was utilizing the RayMarine radar to locate flocks of birds diving on bait with the big Striped Bass holding beneath. If you like big Striped Bass then you’re in for a treat with this video. Enjoy!

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

The general consensus is that the Big Ditch was better as of midweek and the improvement continued through today. In the Cape Cod Bay report, I talked about color and its relative importance when selecting a soft plastic, but the word from Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore is that they had a run on their green mackerel shad style paddletails. There are a lot of different body styles when it comes to larger soft plastic paddles and you would end up with a pretty wide variety of opinions if you were to gather up, say, 50 Canal regulars about which one is their favorites, so I won’t get into that issue. It does seem to me, however, that the heavier versions, say in the five-ounce range, are very popular; that said, any experienced Canal angler is going to acknowledge the necessity of carrying different jig weights – whether plastic or bucktail – to deal with varying stages of the currents. 

In the days when the bucktail ruled, as Bull MacKinnon at Red Top in Buzzards Bay reminded me, designing and pouring your own leadheads was standard practice; I often heard stories of a particular version being so coveted that anglers would make sure to remain in the good graces of the angler who made the mold and could provide the favored jigs. 

It’s the same with the jigheads used with the current batch of paddletails; along with the often incredibly detailed airbrush jobs, there are shapes and features of the various designs that the rats will go to their graves trying to convince a non-believer that they make a difference, from sink rate to swimming action.

A simple sharpie design on a Hogy Protail Paddle and you got yourself an awesome mackerel imitation!

With a concentration of mackerel at the east end on the building east tide, most folks have been focusing their jigging efforts there, Bruce said, but there has also been some smaller bait around as well throughout the land cut; whether they are sand eels or silversides or some other small baitfish, smaller, heavily weighted pencil poppers worked the best.

As far as any observable topwater activity, there have been very limited flurries on the turn to the east from Bell Road to the railroad bridge, but Ian Lumsden from Red Top reminded me that there are folks committed to throwing big wood – and plastic – in the morning and again in the evening at proscribed locations based on the current direction and strength. This is blindcasting at its best and some of the best action occurs on the dying current at the end of the Canal that the flow was moving. 

Ultimately, with the moon building to the new, dark stage on Sunday, there is hope that these stronger currents will move some of the bait – including pogies – out in Buzzards Bay into the west end, along with the larger bass that has been trailing it. Around the east end, as mentioned earlier, the bass have been feeding on mackerel for the most part, but if history repeats itself, some increasing concentrations of pogies could build up like they did last season from Manomet up to Boston, dragging away the larger body of stripers away from the land cut.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- June 9, 2023

Help us conserve striped bass!

We joined The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to take part in their Striped Bass Citizen Science Study. Check out the video above to receive a breakdown of the study and how you can help! Want to become a DMF Citizen Scientist? Sign up HERE.

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

After a tough weekend in the Big Ditch with a lot of cold wind putting a damper on things, the fishing has slowly improved this week, noted Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. It’s definitely been a jig bite this week as the bass are feeding on what remains of the mackerel in the land cut, which apparently are on the small side. It’s always a good idea to carry a variety of mackerel colors, with the Wacky Mackerel often top prize since it incorporates all of the colors associated with these baitfish. A few small fish have been caught around the west end around first light, but Bruce advised that the best action has been in the middle portions of the seven-mile stretch.

@kayakin.with.kurt on IG picked up some quality fish at the Big Ditch earlier in the week.

Over at Red Top in Buzzards Bay, Ian Lumsden agreed that the fishing has improved a bit this week, but it is nowhere like the gangbusters that it was in late May and early June. Any topwater activity has been very sporadic with most folks who work deeper in the water column using some form of paddletail plastic, but as Bull MacKinnon has told me more than once, he still uses white bucktails with really good results. I think it would be hard to argue that there is a far longer learning curve involved with old school bucktails, but the skills and “feel” for the water that can be developed are priceless as opposed to the often mindless casting-and-reeling routine that so many folks fall into with paddletails. Don’t get me wrong; plastics are incredibly versatile, but too few anglers work at learning how well they can work in so many situations. 

Over at Maco’s in Buzzards Bay, Morgan Hopwood had a very good west entrance to the Canal report from the last four days and he assumed that guys fishing from shore in the same area were doing similarly, but he couldn’t say for sure. Morgan had great topwater action on three of the four days by boat and slimmer profile paddletails on the bottom on the other day.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- June 2, 2023

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

It’s key to note that the Canal isn’t dead; it has just slowed down from the early run of lots of big bass.

Paddletail Swimbaits, like the Hogy Protail Thumper, are a super effective way to fish the canal. We recommend at least a 3oz jig-head to accommodate for the heavy current and deep water.

Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore acknowledged that things slowed down starting last weekend. The majority of the larger fish are hanging outside the east end of the land cut, but when they come in – typically on the later stages of the west tide and the turn to the east – they are being caught on subsurface offerings such as Wacky Mack and Green Mack swimmers and large crankbaits, along with plenty of paddletails. This week, it has been more of an evening bite, with the tide right at that point in the day right now. Later this weekend and into the early part of next week, things could change with a good early morning east turn at the west end. 

The word from Bull MacKinnon at Red Top in Buzzards Bay is that there have been few fish on top this week and while last week the bass had pushed mackerel through the land cut and out into the west entrance to the Canal, this week Bull hasn’t seen any mackerel past the herring run the last five days. On the bottom of the west tide, folks have been picking up some bass around the west end, mainly on paddletail jigs in various mackerel colors and white. It sounds like things in the Canal are still pretty “fluid” in the sense that the resident population hasn’t settled in quite yet, the fish that Bull is confident will be in the same places on the same tides starting the first or second week of July. 

Relevant Links

Morgan Hopwood at Maco’s in Buzzards Bay added that there have been a decent number of size-able bass caught in the Canal this week; it’s not crazy good, but the slow sink magic swimmer style plug is back in vogue among more folks than it was the past few years as paddletails have begun to dominate. This plug has changed hands over the years and Morgan told me that it is now marketed under the Berkley label. They have a popular Green Mackerel in the lineup, but they also make a Ghostescent version that at time was very popular. According to the Berkley website, they still make the MS in floating, sinking, and fast sink, with the sinking – which I assume is a slow sink – typically the most popular locally when it comes to casting. I haven’t had a chance to hold one yet, but based on photos, this version does look a little different than the originals; I know some folks would give up their first born for original Sebiles, but that might be just a continuation of something that anglers – especially older, grumpier ones like yours truly – believe: that the older ones were always better.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- May 26, 2023

Check out the latest Salty Cape T.V episode! In this video, Capt Mike steams out to Nobska Point aboard his 28′ Contender to do some rip fishing for striped bass. Capt. Mike goes deep into the proper approach for rip fishing for striped bass at Nobska Point, such as boat positioning and the art of fishing “the swing” of the rips. From a deep dive on his fishing outfit, to the proper retrieve of the swimbaits, no stone is left unturned. You’ll also see some awesome striped bass action too. Enjoy!”

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

I’m no Canal regular nor have I spent much time researching or gathering data about the fishing cycles of the Big Ditch over the years, but from what I gather from those who have, this year has been pretty darn remarkable. 

The word from Bruce and Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore is that people are catching plenty of fish from low end of the slot all the way up to 50+-inch bass throughout the land cut on both tides. You know a plug is hot when a name pops up when talking to another shop owner whose business wouldn’t necessarily quality as a “Canal” shop – only because it doesn’t happen to be within a stone’s throw of the Ditch. In this case, they had heard that a plug called the “Bullet” was producing a lot of big fish – and this plastic creation is the brainchild of Jeff Miller himself. 

Emergency Action

Division of Marine Fisheries has announced that starting Friday, May 26, the new slot limit of 28 to less than 31-inches will be implemented in Massachusetts, as well as all other Coastal States. The ASMFC’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board took this action to alter the slot limit based on a large increase in recreational catch mortality in 2022 in comparison to the 2021 figures, mainly because a large percentage of the 2015 year class – which represents at the moment the best hope for a recovery of the stock by 2029, the date established by the bass board – entered the slot and suffered extensive mortality. Only time will tell if the new slot reduces the pressure on the 2015’s, but as with plenty of things in life, only time will tell.

For years, Canal sharpies have known about the benefits of loading the Cotton Cordell pencil, a plastic version that has a “chambered” body, allowing for the addition of BB’s, mercury, water, or even mineral oil to allow for a significant increase in weight. In some cases, loading a plug is more about casting distance, but with a loaded pencil like the Bullet the added ounces allow it to sink down to the water level where the fish are holding.

Last week, Jeff explained that allowing a weighted plug to sink and then starting a slow retrieve will cause it to rise towards the surface, mimicking a panicked baitfish trying to flee from a bass pursuing from below. One mistake, Jeff added this week, that inexperienced anglers will make is to quickly retrieve the plug as well as opposed to letting it swing in the current and using just enough lift of the rod tip to move it upwards lightly and reeling only as much as is needed to maintain contact. Anything with more “oomph!” behind it will typically pull the plug out of the strike zone, both horizontally and vertically. 

Plugs are fun, for sure, but Jeff added that paddletail jigs can be even more effective, especially in the hands of less experienced anglers. First off, that paddle will vibrate on its own and doesn’t require any great skill in working it, just as the old big double-jointed lipless crankbait that once ruled the Canal since you just cast it and retrieved it, most often as fast as you could.

Bruce said there is just an incredible amount of bait in the Canal, from mackerel of various sizes to pogies, alewives (river herring), shad, and squid. Although there are plenty of soft plastic paddletail jigs to choose from – and everyone seems to have their favorite – one thing to keep in mind is to have on hand a wide selection of weights to deal with the speed of the current. Now, logic would dictate that a heavier bait would be larger all around, but not necessarily, and apparently this week having the right size soft plastic to mimic the bait was really important. Add in color – with blue a hot option this week given the herring and shad the fish are feeding on – and it becomes clear that options are many.

Earlier this week, Connor of Red Top was fishing an early morning tide around the west end at the later stages of the west current and was faced with a plethora of uncooperative bass – and big ones to boot. He tried a multitude of approaches and lures with no success. By mid-morning, Connor had enough of fussy fish and went off for his scheduled round of golf. While irrelevant to his fishing, Connor did say his golf game was the best it has been in a while. Later in the day, as the current progressed into the mid to late stages of the east current, he hit an east end location and the fish jumped all over the plugs he was throwing, whether mackerel or white.

Finally, when it comes to how good things are in the Canal, Charley Richmond spoke to a friend who lives to fish there – and he spends even more time on the riprap, if that’s possible, since he has retired. He told Charley that he fished a night tide recently in which they had a half dozen fish over 40-inches, with the top at 48-inches, Now that’s good fishing.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- May 18, 2023

Check out the latest Hogy Lures video. In this video, Capt. Mike joins Capt. Cullen Lundholm of Cape Star Charters aboard his beautiful 33′ Conch. There’s been a consistent topwater striper bite at the West End of the Cape Cod Canal, with lots of fish in the 40″+ range. This gave us a perfect opportunity to fish the new Charter Grade XL DogWalkers paired with the Hogy Hybrid Spinning Rod!

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

You can’t go wrong in the Big Ditch right now, said Bruce and Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. With the water warming quickly, there has been a solid morning topwater bite; things switch over around 8:30 through the rest of the day to primarily a jig bite, especially a multitude of paddletail soft plastics. 

Jeff said that there have been some larger crowds around the west end, with many people trying to get as close to the railroad bridge as they can, while from the stretch from the herring run to the power plant has been producing larger fish as well.  According to Bruce, a gentleman who goes by the nickname Old Joe caught a 53-inch bass and at times folks are complaining that they can’t come up with a slot fish (28 to 31-inches) to take home for dinner. 

Pencil poppers are definitely tops on the list of many regulars when it comes to plugging on the surface, but Jeff advised that they have been selling a good number of white/pink stripe and yellow Super Strike Little Neck Poppers, Now they make these in three weights: floating (green eye); sinking (black eye) and extra heavy (red eye). It’s the latter two that you want in the Canal; as Jeff explained, since these versions sink, you can let them sink and then work them up to the surface, which imitates a larger fleeing baitfish, including mackerel, pogies, or herring, as well as squid. 

Along with tautog, the winter flounder are stirring around the tanker cut and the fish pier, coming out of the mud with the extra sunshine and warmer water. One of the keys to fish for flatties – which most folks commonly do around slack tide – is to get your bait – sea worms or clams – on the bottom while allowing your sinker to bounce puffs of sand that attracts the fish as well as dislodging critters buried in the bottom, thereby creating a little chum line.

A high-low rig tipped with either sea worms or clam is a super effective method for targeting winter flounder.

The word from Connor Swartz at Red Top in Buzzards Bay is that there are a decent number of 40+-inch bass being caught on plugs around the west end from Bell Road to the Bourne Bridge. That said, soft plastic paddles are consistently producing more and larger bass on both tides. Connor advised that you can’t go wrong with white colored plastics and plugs, with yellow running a close second. 

One of the variables to consider is what direction the warmer or cooler water is flowing from; for example, yesterday in Woods Hole the NOAA sea temperature buoy registered 58.5 degrees while the Cape Cod Bay buoy recorded 54.5-degrees.

Tommy at Maco’s in Buzzards Bay told me last week that I should check out the underwater camera that is situated in the Canal by Mass Maritime; it can be accessed on YouTube. I took his recommendation and it was pretty cool watching the tautog and other bottom dwellers in the area.

Check out the Live Camera Below!

The three tog bag limit runs through May 31 at which point it drops to one on June 1; remember that the minimum size is 16-inches and no matter what the bag limit is, you can only keep one fish over 21-inches. This protection of larger spawning fish is a welcome move since tautog are very slow growing fish and survival of big fish is critical to the development and sustainability of a healthy stock.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- May 11, 2023

Welcome back to our annual Cape Cod Fishing Reports! We greatly appreciate all of our readers and wish everyone a “fishy” 2023 season! {PC: Matt Rissell}

It seems odd to even register any concern about the present fishing here on the Cape, but I kind of agree with Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore who opined, “This is definitely not normal.” Of course, what Bruce was referring to was fish to the upper 40-pound class being caught in the Canal already, while the south-side shoals are filled with quality bass and the bluefish bite started to turn on last week. Buzzards Bay is no slouch either, with big bass around and a solid tautog bite. Meanwhile, Cape Cod Bay is producing plenty of stripers as well for the shore crew for the most part – mainly because there aren’t a lot of boats in the water. 

As I far too often do, I can’t just focus on the quality of the fishing and have been wondering where all these big fish are coming from. Was it a cold, wet winter in the Chesapeake, which typically results in an early spawning season and thereby an earlier departure from the bay for parts north? Or are these Hudson fish; from what I have gathered, that river system has enjoyed some solid spawning classes over the last decade that has resulted in excellent fishing in the bays and backwaters of New Jersey and New York.

With the new coast wide slot limit of 28 to 31-inches, there are going to be even more size-able fish that are going to have to be released and how that is handled – pun intended – is critically important to how successful any rebuilding program from the ASMFC is going to be.

Then again, I can already hear the voices of the charter fleets up and down the east coast proclaiming, “See there are plenty of fish; they didn’t need to change the slot. It’s going to put me out of business. My customers want to take fish home.” And on and on. Hey, it must be tough seeing all these big bass around and not being able to kill them. I guess they’ll have to settle with photos of a dock load of dead slot fish like they did last season as opposed to the real ego boost of stacking cows.

Meanwhile, I am also wondering where the schoolies, you know the little guys, are. It would be interesting to ask a bunch of anglers what length(s) constitutes a schoolie; I suspect over the years it has changed. Then again, my friends would say that I worry about small bass because that’s all I catch – if I catch anything. Talk about an Ouch!

Well, on to the reports. Be safe, courteous, and conservation minded out there and here’s to hoping that 2023 is a great season for you.

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Simply put, the fishing in the Big Ditch is absurd for this time of year. Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore said folks have been coming in with photos of fish in the 40-pound class taken from one end to the other, on everything from topwater to paddletail soft plastics, with almost every customer offering up a different tune when it comes to the hot color. The fishing is so good, in fact, that Bruce added that they sold out of a popular plastic darter in white when a real cow was caught on one. Now, while the darter is a super effective plug and revered in spots close to home like the Vineyard and down Montauk way, up here there is a very small community of plugs who realize how effective they are and I would be willing to be that just a handful fish them in the Canal. Another popular plug that is called a darter and features a mag cast feature is, in fact, as Bruce calls it, a swimmer, but is another effective subsurface plug for the Ditch.

Apparently, there is a good mix of bait in the land cut, including sea and river herring, pogies, and even some squid, but I was especially jazzed to hear that mackerel from spikes to horse have been showing at the east end. Now, it’s not huge numbers, but given the lack of macks last year and the kind of dire straits they are in which caused managers to take drastic measures, any sightings are good.

2023 Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report.
Capt. Mike Hogan found fish in the 40″ range around the West End of the Canal while out filming for the latest Hogy video. He was testing the new Hogy XL DogWalker!

Meanwhile, when I checked in with Red Top in Buzzards Bay, it was great to catch up with Bull MacKinnon, whom I haven’t spoken to in years. Bull has been part of the Red Top crew for as long as I can remember, but his hours never coincide when I call there. His largest fish so far this season is 49.5-pounds, but he has heard of a 55-pound bass. Now, as I recall when there was a Canal tournament on Mother’s Day weekend, we were just starting to see fish in the mid-30-inch class; Bull said that he hasn’t seen anything like this since 2012 and before that it was back in 2001 and 2002. No matter the reason, people are enjoying both a topwater bite that can pop any time of the day while paddletail jigs in mackerel, white, and pink are hot. Bull prefers to fish topwater plugs, especially pencil poppers, both wood and plastics, and he sticks with white. It’s the same color when he is jigging, but Bull is old school and uses bucktails; as he said, “I never got into the plastic thing.”

As I mentioned in the Buzzards Bay report, the tog bite is good down around the Maritime Academy, but Bruce Miller said the winter flounder around the east end are just starting to stir out of the mud, but this stretch of weather could accelerate their willingness to take worms bounced on the bottom.

Relevant Links

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- September 30, 2022

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore had a report that is clear and promising: folks are coming into the shop really happy as the last two weeks has seen the Big Ditch just explode with big bass. Plenty of people are running to the west end and the east end has a crowd as well, but Jeff said there are fish spread throughout. While nobody is putting away their paddletails, the topwater bite, both in the morning and again in the evening, has been fantastic; mackerel and what folks are calling “baby bonito” are driving a lot of the action, making mackerel colored plugs a hit, but white has been working as well. Jeff noted that folks are also enjoying some really good squidding action around the east end. 

Connor Swartz from Red Top in Buzzards Bay was thinking of hitting the outer Cape beaches, but admitted that with the fishing so good in the Canal, he had to stay closer to home. This morning he picked up 10 quality bass, the largest around 35-pounds, while another angler close to him had one in the low to mid-40-pound class; Connor was more towards the east starting around 3 AM fishing the west tide; when it started to slow, he moved west and there were fish still being caught there, with plenty of people on both sides from the Bourne Bridge to the railroad span.. Whenever he caught a fish, someone nearby offered to take a picture of it, but I was glad to hear that Connor demurred, preferring to get it right back into the water to enhance its chances of survival. Although enjoying the topwater action is enticing, Connor explained that he has been sticking with paddletail jigs, especially mackerel or white, since the largest fish have been down deep. 

On Wednesday and Thursday morning, I ran into Joe Keegan of Falmouth at 7-Eleven as he and I were picking up our morning coffee; Joe’s boat is still in New Jersey being rebuilt, so he has dedicated himself to fishing the land cut, including a completely decked out Canal Cruiser. Although fishing jigs has been good to him all season, the last couple of weeks have seen Joe switch back to pencil poppers and other topwater plugs, which is by far the most exciting way to fish the Ditch. He told me that folks using yellow plugs have been connecting with mainly bluefish, but white has been all about bass for him. 

Sales of green crabs have picked up a great deal among the shops that specialize in the Canal, such as Maco’s in Buzzards Bay and Monument Beach, meaning the tautog bite is on, with the shoreline over towards the Maritime Academy known for producing some hefty tog.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- September 23, 2022

The Fall Run is Underway!

It’s a magical time on Cape Cod right now. The fall run is in full swing, and the options for anglers are endless. Jump into an older video highlighting the excitement of the fall run here on Cape Cod!

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Still a good bass bite in the Big Ditch, noted Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, including some pretty consistent topwater morning activity throughout the land cut. I caught up with Bruce earlier this week at the shop and I mentioned that I have fallen into the trap of talking about east end, west end, east end, west end this season and was wondering if there have been fish anywhere else. Bruce let out one of this famous laughs and advised that there are of course fish being caught everywhere, but folks are finally getting smart and keeping their whereabouts to themselves. That said, Bruce did say there has been some decent action between the high tension lines and the Cribbin’.

Most of the topwater action around the east end has been driven by schools of chub mackerel, making wacky mackerel a popular color since this species of mackerel has a distinctive yellow hue, which the wacky version has amongst its green, blue, pink, and white. Folks have also been doing well with white and even though the bait hasn’t been really big, larger plugs have been the way to go, including the shop’s four ounce Canal long distance pencil. It seems that over the last several years, when I talk about fishing plugs and other artificials in the Canal, it’s some combination of plastic paddletails, pencils, or jointed swimmers; what seems to be missing too often is a mention of one of Stan Gibbs’ greatest creations geared towards fishing the Ditch – you know, the Polaris, which Bruce said is a great plug all season long, but especially in the fall. 

There are still bluefish at both ends of the Canal, with solid bass action at the west end, with many folks waiting until the last hour of the west to even show up. With the New Jersey and New York crowd here this week in combination with the usual crowd and winds that will keep shore anglers from trying other locations, certain areas such as Ding Dong Street and Choo Choo Bridge should have some extra large crowds. Plugs have been working at the west end, but paddletail jigs are the way to go at times since the bait around this area has been on the small side, including peanut bunker and silversides. 

A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay reported that some big bass have been coming out of the west end, including one fish that he saw a picture of that was 53-inches and well over 50-pounds. His buddy has been fishing jigs and managed a good number of bass in the 30-pound class, with green and blue paddletails, along with wacky mack, working really well. When I asked him what I thought would be a logical question – Are there mackerel around? – given the jig color preference, he said not that he’s heard of, with some pogies and squid in the mix for the most part, along with a variety of small bait.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- September 16, 2022

Finicky Albies

Reports of finicky albies on Cape Cod have been abundant this year. In this video, Capt. Mike shares a deadly technique to fool these finicky fish!

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

It was interesting to see so many Facebook posts this week of big bluefish being caught in the Big Ditch since so much attention is typically given to bass in the land cut and far too many people display such disdain for choppers. We’re talking about blues 36-inches and up, fish that will make you think about what it would be like if they got as large as bass. 

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore explained that these fish have been spread throughout the length of the land cut; at times they have been showing on top, but generally it has been a jig bite, with a good number of them hooked by folks targeting bass on soft plastic paddletails. Of course, a blue will make short work of a soft plastic, typically lopping off the paddletail, rendering the lure useless after that. At the moment, as A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay said, if they are into blues, folks would typically toss plugs if they are on top or switch over to metals if they are being caught subsurface, but these fish only want soft plastics, so make sure you carry plenty of extra tails. 

Obviously, if you are fishing paddletails and given a bluefish’s tendency to hit a bait from behind, that creates a challenge since a jig head rigged soft plastic puts the hook up around the head, often causing a missed hit and a severed paddle. One suggestion I saw posted on Facebook by Gary Engbloom, a Canal regular and creative minded angler, was to rig with a fairly long wire leader since his big blue inhaled his soft plastic and he wouldn’t have landed it without the metal tracer. I know that when folks down south are fishing for king mackerel, a fish with dentures at least the equal of a bluefish, is to include a small hook – usually a treble – as a stinger towards the tail end of the bait – typically some form of live baitfish – to deal with short strikes. I’ve never heard of anyone doing this with a soft plastic paddle and this rig might inhibit the action of a soft plastic paddle for all I know. 

On the bass front, Bruce said that there really hadn’t been any real topwater activity as of yesterday, with fish being generally caught jigging around the east end, moving up as far as the fishing pier on the west tide before following the east current out and up towards Scusset. As it usually is, white or pearl has been the go to color for many people, followed by bunker. What I found especially interesting was Bruce’s comment about all the “baby bonito” that folks have been catching around the east end and taking home for dinner. Without a photo, it’s hard to say exactly what these fish are there is even a chart out there that covers commonly confused mackerel and tuna species, including Atlantic mackerel, chub mackerel, frigate mackerel/tuna and bullet mackerel/tuna. While the Atlantic is what we typically associate with bait for bass, the latter three species are all caught in our waters and could easily be mistaken for bonito. Heck, I have even seen people mistake a false albacore with a bone. 

Down around the west end, there are also some 40+-inch fish being jigged up, A.J. said, but generally it has been a schoolie jig bite with a decent number of slot fish mixed in; I would have thought there would be reports of more surface activity given all of the bait around, but as has been the case for most of the season in the Canal, it is soft plastic paddletails and more soft plastic paddletails.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- September 9, 2022

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In this video, Capt. Mike walks through everything you need to know when fishing for false albacore.

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

First a word of warning: don’t make the mistake of walking behind the crowds of anglers at Bell Road or the Maritime Academy – or even the east end where Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore said more people are gathering up by the day – as there is too much of a chance that you will get a paddletail or perhaps even a plug buried in your head. There is a video of a guy who had this happen to him last weekend and Jeff emphasized that way too many people don’t bother to look behind them before starting to cast.

Jeff said the fishing has been very good the last couple of weeks, with smaller bass on top, especially around the west end, and larger fish being caught on paddletails. There is a ton of peanut bunker around and some mackerel at the east end as well; white is obviously a good color, along with bunker variations, but he said a lot of folks have been doing well with wacky mackerel even where there is no sign of macks. There is also some squid at the west end. Along with paddletails/shads, loaded Cotton Cordell’s have been catching a lot of fish; clearly pencil poppers in design, they are filled with so much lead to make them drop deep in the water column and then produce their own action as they are retrieved. While it is not uncommon to actually bounce a jig right on the bottom – and that’s why regulars carry a multitude of weights so they can deal with the current and feel when they are in the strike zone – plugs are another matter and will hang up way more easily than a single hook bucktail or soft plastic jig. 

Connor Swartz at Red Top in Buzzards Bay added that there have been some big bluefish in the Canal as well; the east end has probably been more consistent, but folks have run into them throughout the Canal. Although most people associate bluefish with being totally indiscriminate when it comes to what they will hit, Connor said in this case, these Big Ditch brutes have keyed in on soft plastics. Now, that will mean you will go through a good number of baits, but if that’s what it takes to catch fish, that’s what you have to do and that’s why they make replacement tails, he said with a laugh.

Smaller white or yellow pencil poppers have been working best on the smaller bass that have generally been feeding from before first light to an hour or so after sunrise, but there are a number of manufacturers like Hogy, with its Hogy Dogwalker series, that make bigger spook style plugs that cast well and will get you into the action.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- September 2, 2022

Filmed Last Week!

In this video, Capt Mike is joined by Capt. Rob Lowell of Cape Cod Offshore Charters as they target deepwater bluefin tuna on Hogy Charter Grade Poppers.

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

While way too many people have spoken of the demise of the Canal, the reality is that folks who have put in the time understanding how the Big Ditch works have been catching bass all season. At the moment, however, things have switched over to more of the “easy” fishing that the newcomers came to associate with the land cut and that should make for some interesting times this holiday weekend.

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore advised that with a combination of mackerel, peanut bunker, and pogies – with even some squid mixed in at times – the fishing has been good throughout the Canal for the last ten days or so, with both a topwater bite for smaller fish and a strong jig bite for larger bass. At the east end, there has been some surface activity at first light, but it generally remains a jig bite – and in this day and age that means paddletails and more paddletails. Both pogy colorations, mackerel and white remains the top producing colors, with size and weight to be determined by the strength of the current and at what level the fish are hanging, as well as what bait they are feeding on. Bruce said that at times, it has been necessary to go as light and small as one ounce and at the other end experience will tell you that five plus ounces are often needed. 

One of the challenges that folks everywhere will be facing over at least the next month is that at times fish will be incredibly picky when they are on small bait and that means having imitations such as the Hogy Epoxy Jigs and smaller profile metal jigs on hand. When it comes to plugs, Mr. Miller said that yellow seems to be most productive at the moment, but you should never pack a plug bag for the Ditch without some mackerel variations. That said, I have seen a good number of wacky mack plugs on the rods of folks looking to plug up some bass at the moment. There are also good numbers of bluefish at the east end and that would account for the howls of despair and creative cursing that you hear filling the air from the soft plastic crowd.

Epoxy Jig
When small bait is present, The Hogy Epoxy Jig is your best bet for matching the hatch.

Connor Swartz at Red Top in Buzzards Bay said that he has put his travels to other locations to get his shore bass on hold, now that there is plenty of activity closer to home. He said there are fish being caught everywhere, especially on the dying west current and then the turn to the east. Connor often concentrates on west end locations and emphasized that while there are plenty of smaller fish making a ruckus on top – and he wanted to make it clear that this is a lot of fun and provides plenty of action on plugs – the larger fish in the 20 to 30-pound class and up are for the most part being caught on paddletail jigs. His top color at the moment has been green, most likely a sign that mackerel are once again driving the fishing in the BD, while if he is plugging, he particularly likes a ghost mackerel pattern. 

Some folks are also continuing to chunk mackerel or pogies with some good results around the bridges, but you definitely want to consider the wisdom of trying to work your way into a line of pluggers and then casting out a chunk in their midst. Bruce said there have already been reports of “friendly disagreements” along the riprap and you definitely don’t want to participate or more importantly be the cause of unkind words and unwieldy threats. 

Jeff Hopwood from Maco’s in Buzzards Bay and Monument Beach was at the computer and was good enough to type out a few comments on what has been happening in the Canal: “Actually a decent Canal bite the last week, not huge fish, but lots of action. Mostly on jigs and paddle tails” which it seems like every soft plastic maker is turning out, with brand loyalty as intense as it is when it comes to cars and beer. 

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- August 26, 2022

Filmed Last Week!

In this video, Capt. Mike is joined by renowned angler Eric Harrison as they target bluefin tuna on Hogy Sand Eel Jigs.

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Boy was it good to hear from Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore that this last set of breaking tides has produced some good topwater action the last couple of days, sort of a reward for the regulars who have remained steadfast in their commitment to the Big Ditch and all of its nuances this season. 

On the other hand, the flock of Johnny-come-latelies who were internet heroes when it was dumb-and-easy a couple of years back, gave up when faced with the challenges this season had so far served up and will probably show up in force when word gets out about the bite around the east end. It sounds a little crazy, but paying your dues is a Canal tradition that I hope is never replaced by Go Pro exploits. 

Enough of that preaching and just the facts: Bruce explained that while there are some mackerel around the east end, it is the thick schools of peanut bunker that have been driving this week’s surface bite; smaller yellow pencil poppers have been very effective when the fish are on top, with a switch to smaller, lighter paddletail jigs in the one-ounce range the way to go when things quiet down on top. Pogy colored versions have been tough to beat, followed by white or pearl versions. There are also plenty of bluefish from the fishing pier out to Pip’s Rip and the entrance jetties, leading to lots of paddle less paddle tail jigs; as Bruce noted, while this is good for business, another approach is to switch over to metal casting jigs with wider profiles that are clearly more resistant to a chopper’s dentures. 

Down around the west end, most of the bass have been on the smaller size with a smattering of slot sized fish and even a few over the top around. As Kagan Roper at Red Top in Buzzards Bay noted, while small topwater plugs such as pencil popper and spooks have been a lot of fun, chunking has been the way to go when it comes to larger bass. Mackerel has been the most commonly used bait between the railroad bridge and the Bourne Bridge for the bait contingent, as well as Bell Road and around the Maritime Academy. 

There have been no confirmed reports of albies in the Canal yet, but that could change soon given the vast amount of small bait and increasing numbers of funny fish in Buzzards Bay towards North Falmouth and the entrance to Woods Hole. 

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- August 19, 2022

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Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Whether the push of bass into the Big Ditch is part of the school that had been up around Manomet and White Cliffs or fish somewhere else in Cape Cod Bay, it really doesn’t make any difference to the regulars who are enjoying some more consistent topwater action throughout the Canal this week. 

According to Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle, the fish around the east end have been concentrated on small bait, most likely peanut bunker, and squid; the small schools of tinker mackerel have been sporadic, making white the lure color of choice, although folks keep loading up on mackerel pattern topwaters in a variety of colors. Any topwater action has been best in the early morning, especially if first light coincides with a tide change, but in general smaller (around one ounce) white paddle tail jigs such as the Hogy Pro Tail Paddle are picking up most of the fish. Perhaps the biggest challenge around the east end has been the number of bluefish, which are doing great things for soft plastic sales but not the grousing among folks hoping to coax a larger bass out of the numbers of small fish. 

The word from Connor Swartz at Red Top in Buzzards Bay is that there have been bass and bluefish spread throughout the Canal, mainly feeding on smaller bait; over the years, metals such as Crippled Herrings have been the go to lure when fish are concentrating on small bait, but the Hogy Heavy Metal Jigs have proven their worth when extra casting distance is required along with a smaller profile. Of course, when the fish are in tighter to shore, a Hogy Epoxy Jig is an excellent choice, with a variety of colors and sizes to match the bait profile. 

In many spots, including a number around the west end, after the artificial action is over as the tide slacks and during the early stages of the turn, there are still plenty of folks fishing bait, including mackerel, squid, and pogies; the waters between the Railroad Bridge and Bourne Bridge see a good number of chunkers, but the waters between the fishing pier and the east end jetties are also popular with bait anglers. 

Earlier in the week, Bill Prodouz was good enough to file a report with me, noting that Pip’s Rip had mainly bluefish after first light, with plenty of plastics ripped up, but a few fish were caught. Any bass were on the small side according to the one person he spoke to who was at Pip’s and they were deep. Bill fished the west end himself and had four over slot fish, the largest at 38-inches and fat, in the 20 to 25-pound range, three slot fish, and two 26-inchers. As Bill said, it was good to get “a little mojo back today,” which Morgan Hopwood at Maco’s in Buzzards Bay and Monument Beach said has been the feeling of a good number of regulars who have been picking at fish all season long, but not experiencing those mornings with a number of quality fish.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- August 12, 2022

Take a look into Capt. Mike’s inshore fishing tackle, featuring the Hogy Mesh Crate Storage System.

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Some good news to share about the Canal from Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. For over a week now, Bruce has been talking about some spike mackerel showing at the east end and they finally drew some bluefish on the west tide. He believes these are some of the fish that have been over by the Path and they are mixed in size, with a good number of six to eight pounder as well as some in the double digit category. Although some people only get jazzed up a topwater bite when it involves bass, bluefish are made for topwater plugs and their presence is a hopeful sign that if – or when – the huge school of pogies north of the Ditch breaks up, those bass might move into the land cut. There are still bass in the Canal, Bruce emphasized, but if you want to catch one right now, you have to jig.

Now, down around the other end of the land cut, Bruce said the peanut bunker that are starting to dump out into Buzzards Bay are making their way in up as far as the Bourne Bridge and there have been some good feeds going on. Although most everyone is throwing smaller paddletail jigs, metal or Hogy Epoxy Jigs, Bruce is convinced that these fish would hit smaller surface plugs as well.

While white/pearl and bunker/olive are clearly two colors to use when faced with fish feeding on peanut bunker, A.J. Coots from Red Top in Buzzards Bay noted that they have been selling plenty of pink paddletails, a sign that the squid reported around the west end are still around. The chunk bite is still going on, with folks using mackerel, pogies or squid.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- August 5, 2022

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Things have quieted down in the Canal this week, noted Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, with a return to the jig and bait bite after a brief spurt of topwater activity late last week. White/pearl and pogy imitation soft plastic paddletails continue to work best, especially around the east end on the Cape side. Most of the consistently successful Rats are concentrating on the turn of the tide; early morning has been best when coinciding with the change from the bottom of the west to the east. The west end is where the winning fish came from last weekend during The Fishing For The Mission 22 Canal Tournament sponsored by Skelton’s Lures, Bruce added, with chunking mackerel or squid the way to go. Bruce did offer a ray of hope for the topwater crew as there are some spike mackerel showing up in the east end and it’s this bait that typically generates a surface bite, with squid second on the list. Then again, there should be small bait in the form of peanut bunker around soon and they drive the fish crazy as well, along with small butterfish that Bruce heard are starting to show around the west end.

Over at Red Top in Buzzards Bay, A.J. Coots offered up an interesting take on how so many folks are saying the Canal has been dead this year, calling it in many ways a self-fulfilling prophesy. There are fish being caught on a regular basis, but one’s success is predicated on the amount of time he or she puts in and the willingness to learn the subtleties of the Big Ditch. Paddletail jigs are definitely the way to go, along with loaded pencil poppers, when the fish are deep, if you prefer to go the artificial route, but fishing the rips with chunk baits is tops at the moment. 

Of course, I have one question, given that nobody is even talking about them: what happened to eeling at night around the middle of the land cut? Just wondering. 

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- July 29, 2022

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

It sure was good to hear some good news emanating from the Big Ditch this week, certainly not because it might bring the hordes of wannabe rats back, but because the topwater action provided a reward for the regulars who devote themselves to fishing this unique and challenging location no matter what the fishing is like. 

The word from Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore is that a push of bass up to the 40+ inch class moved into the east end and followed the bait up as far as the middle stretches of the land cut until the change from west to east occurred and the fish chased the bait back out into Cape Cod Bay. As I noted in the CC Bay report, Bruce explained that these are most likely the bass that had been on Billingsgate Shoal for over a week as opposed to a portion of the fish that have been chowing on pogies from Scusset up to Plymouth and points north. 

Apparently, there were water temperatures in the vicinity of 60-degrees reported, clearly a stream of cold water that moved in and around the outer Cape. That, in turn, brought in a large concentration of whiting, normally a fish that one associates with deeper, colder water; in fact, folks fishing for giant tuna often jig them up on the grounds where they are targeting tuna and liveline them instead of mackerel or even bluefish if the latter two are scarce. Folks came into the shop starting midweek, asking him what the baitfish were that they could see kind of porpoising on the surface and Bruce knew exactly what they were based on the descriptions of their swimming motion. The Canal hasn’t seen any real concentrations of mackerel this year – perhaps the main baitfish that drives surface activity in the land cut – but the whiting made a great substitute, with the regulars able to finally put away their jigs for a while and get back to tossing white pencil poppers. Bruce also emphasized that there are some squid mixed in with the whiting, which is something to keep in mind when filling your Canal plug bag.

At the other end of the Ditch, A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay had obviously gotten word of the improved bite to the east, but he noted that there are still some good fish being taken around the west end. These fish have been targeting the schools of pogies that keep moving in and out from the west entrance, making jigging with paddletails the way to go during most of the tide. At first light, however, there has been some topwater activity, with pencils and multi-jointed, slow sinking swimmers the way to go.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- July 22, 2022

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In our latest video, Capt. Mike Hogan heads offshore targeting bluefin tuna on spinning gear using a combination of the Hogy Harness Jigs and Hogy Charter Grade Sliders.

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Jigging is definitely the approach to take so far this season if you want to catch fish in the Big Ditch, explained Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. The lack of crowds has meant plenty of water to fish for the regulars who been fishing paddletails all season long; white and pogy have been most popular lately, with pink a good option if there have been squid around, but Bruce advised that some small pushes of mackerel are happening around the east end and that means you shouldn’t put away your green, blue, or wacky mackerel paddles just yet. 

The end of one current cycle and the start of the next is typically the time to be on the Canal, with the end of the west and turn to the east, when combined with first light and a full or new moon, known as the “breaking tides,” but any surface activity has been limited to at best a half hour of surface activity. 

Bruce said that the jigging bite is just as tide change specific, but too many people fail to take this into consideration. Of course, mackerel are what generally drive the exceptional topwater bites that have been just memories this season that most of the wannabe Rats assumed is the way the Canal always fishes. Folks out east fishing tuna have been jigging up mackerel with no problem, but overall the population of Atlantic mackerel is in dire straits; in fact, on the website of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council website, the federal agency in charge of managing this species along with butterfish, two species of squid, and chub mackerel, it states – and I quote – “According to the 2021 stock assessment, Atlantic mackerel is overfished and subject to overfishing” and the population is “Significantly below target population levels. A rebuilding plan is in place.”

Perhaps this is only a brief break in the breaking tides cycle, but odds are that this is just a localized example of what happens when fisheries managers and their plans get it really wrong when it comes to controlling commercial harvest. On a hopeful note, Jeff Miller said that with the next moon cycle, in past years chub mackerel have shown up in the Canal in good numbers, drawing in a third wave of bigger bass, and that could perk things up for the traditional pencil-and-Polaris popping gang as well as the Magic Swimmer brigade. 

For those folks, as Connor Swartz at Red Top noted, “it’s been a whole lot of nothing lately,” with jigging and chunk baits the way to go. There have been some bluefish around the west end, but the push of bass in that area a couple of weeks ago seems to have passed, with those fish most likely out in Cape Cod Bay.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- July 15th, 2022

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The schoolie size bluefin tuna bite off of Cape Cod has been one of the best we’ve seen in years! Here’s a look into our latest video, trolling for bluefin tuna just east of Chatham!

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Fishing remains tough in the Big Ditch – there’s no two
ways about it. Up until this season, boat anglers out in Cape Cod Bay
could only watch as the bait held the fish in the land cut, but this year
it’s a different story as there has been no push of food to create a Canal
frenzy. The general lack of mackerel that has plagued plenty of spots in
the bay has wreaked havoc in the Canal as these baitfish are typically
part of the surface activity that takes place during the well-known
“breaking tides,” those periods when the current slows to the west and
turns to the east, especially at first light.
Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore did offer up a brief
glimmer of hope when he said there have been reports of some

mackerel outside the east entrance, but right now the only bait to
speak of are squid and pogies, although the largest body of the latter
are hugging the shoreline from Scusset up to Boston Harbor.
White soft plastic paddletails are the ticket nowadays when the fish are
feeding on squid in the Canal, but I still recall how white bucktails
tipped with red pork rind were the way to go and I know they would
still work. The advantage of the paddles is that they provide build in
action, while the old school option required more knowledge of rigging,
retrieve speed, and rod action.
Bruce said that the east end is holding some bass, but the larger fish are
definitely holding to the west and chowing on squid; Jeff showed me a
photo of a plug – in this case a super heavily weighted pencil popper –
that a big fish ripped the through wire out of when it got close to shore
and started to barrel roll. The tail end of the west and turn to the east
has been best.
Along with the white jig bite at the west end, Howie Keeler at Red Top
in Buzzards Bay said there has been an occasional spurt of topwater
activity around the west end, but we’re talking about the crack of dawn
and then done. White and yellow surface plugs are working best, a
good sign that the fish are feeding on squid (white) and pogies (yellow).
And while plugging and jigging the Ditch are a tradition, Jeff Hopwood
at Maco’s in Buzzards Bay and Monument Beach noted that folks have
been back to more frequently chunking the tides, including using
mackerel, pogies, and squid. I may be showing my age, but I am a little
surprised that I haven’t heard of any nighttime live eel and eel skin
jigging, but that may be a matter of people keeping it quiet.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- July 8th, 2022

Coming Soon…

Here’s a sneak peek into Capt. Mike’s latest offshore tuna trip. Stay tuned for the full length version!

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore had an
interesting observation about how gas prices have impacted the
number of people fishing the Big Ditch this season; with no plugging
activity, especially the craziness that can be the breaking tides, on the
radar this season, folks are thinking twice about driving two or three

hours in hopes of catching some fish. That’s because the Canal has
definitely been on a jig bite this year and the regulars are doing best
since they have an understanding of the currents and where the best
rips are going to set up as opposed to just showing up and throwing
plugs to fish that are determined to get hooked.
Obviously, the lack of mackerel in Cape Cod Bay has impacted the
topwater bite in the land cut because these baitfish are typically what
drives that action; instead, the fish are feeding on some small
concentrations of squid and schools of pogies during the mid tide west
current, Bruce explained. Paddletail soft plastic jigs remain your best
option for lure fishing right now, especially pogy colored ones.
The alternative to the artificial approach, as Connor Swartz at Red Top
in Buzzards Bay observed, has been to drift chunks, whether mackerel
or pogy. At one time, getting fresh pogies was an industry on the Canal
and the scuttlebutt is that folks are leaning in that direction again.
Connor emphasized that there is no specific location that is super hot,
but the east end is producing more bass while there have been some
bluefish around the west end.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- July 1st, 2022

Paddletail Swimbaits

Paddeltail swimbaits are a popular presentation when fishing the Cape Cod Canal. The Hogy Pro Tail Paddle swimbait is a great option when deciding on a paddletail,  just make sure to opt. for the heavier versions (3-6oz) to accompany those strong canal tides.


Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Slow and steady remain the optimal words on the Big Ditch,
according to Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. Folks
putting in the time – and that typically means “rats” who understand
currents and bait movement – are picking up fish, including a brief
window of topwater activity around the slack turn heading east. This is
a brief window of action, sort of a mini-breaking tides – both in the
morning and again in the evening, with the best bet towards the east
end. When it comes to plug choice, anything yellow was Bruce’s advice,
usually a sign that the fish are feeding on pogies that have driven to the
surface, with no sign of the small mackerel that typically get the surface
action going. And while any kind of surface bite gets folks jazzed around
the Canal, the reality is that jigging has been the ticket this year, Bruce
concluded, with bone, pogy, and even mackerel paddletails tough to
Ian Lumsden at Red Top in Buzzards Bay reported some good bluefish
action around the west end, while there is a lot of chunk fishing going
on in the Canal. Both mackerel and pogies are working and folks are

picking at fish throughout the Canal, working mainly around the slower
stages of the tide.

Capt. Dave’s Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report- June 24th, 2022

Catch & Release

Here’s a guide to rigging a Hogy Charter Grade Popper for catching and releasing striped bass. This method minimizes damage done to the fish, ensuring a healthy release!


Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Once again, the Big Ditch is consistent, not gangbusters, noted Bruce
Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. There are bass around the east
entrance, but there just isn’t enough bait to draw them in, especially with all the
pogies up north. No concentrations of mackerel have moved in, limiting the
potential for a topwater bite, and even though folks at times have managed to jig
up some squid at night around the east end, there just aren’t enough around to
incite any solid surface activity.
That means jigging continues to rule the day and brand loyalty very much in play,
with folks sticking by their favorite soft plastic jigs – that is until someone nearby
is tonging fish while their paddletail isn’t even getting a touch, and then all bets
are off. But when it comes to color at the moment, Bruce said that mackerel and
pogy patterns are getting the job done, followed by one of the variations of white
that differs ever so slightly from one maker to the next.
If you just have to plug, then Bruce recommended using slow sinking, jointed
swimmers when the fish are on pogies, which is the main bait right now, and

these can be fished almost as effectively as jigs during the mid-tide west current,
when the dropping tide concentrates what bait is in the area.
Over at Red Top in Buzzards Bay, Connor Swartz perhaps put the Canal scene
best: “It’s not something I would drive from a long distance to fish, but if you live
nearby, it definitely is worth fishing.”


Capt. Dave’s 6/17/2022 Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Filmed Last Monday!

In this video, Capt. Mike Hogan heads out to the rips off of Monomoy targeting striped bass. Hogy Poppers in translucent pink and amber color were the ticket to success in imitating the squid these bass were feeding on!

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Let me be very clear right from the start: it’s not that the
Big Ditch isn’t fishing well, but it is interesting that there really hasn’t

been any sustained topwater activity, even when there are some of
those renowned breaking tides.
Those folks who insist on using pencil poppers and other surface plugs
have managed to pick a fish here or there, especially on the morning
tides, but overall it has been a jig bite, said Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and
tackle in Sagamore. Some small schools of smaller mackerel have
moved in and out of the east end, but Jeff explained that since the main
bait has been pogies and what herring remain, broader profile
paddletails have been the way to go. Of course, there are numerous
options to choose from and there are plenty of opinions about which
one works best, but Jeff chose to concentrate on color choices, with
bunker tops on the list – or something with a brownish hue – followed
by pearl/white. Pretty much anyone who has fished the Canal knows
the name of the most popular eel style paddletail when the mackerel
bite is on, but as Jeff said, he and others have mackerel colorations in a
more traditional baitfish profile in contrast to the “sand eel” style,
increasing their versatility since eel style soft plastics just don’t have the
bulk that broader baits like pogies or even river herring possess.
And remember: if the fish are holding deep during the stronger mid tide
currents, if you’re using too light a jig, then odds are you’re out of the
Over at Red Top in Buzzards Bay, Cole Freeman said that most of the
fish are in the slot range, with the turns of the tides fishing best for
folks who continue to stick to their plugging routine. Swimmers,
especially the larger slow sink jointed style that get their action from
body design as opposed to swimming lips, in natural colors such as
bunker, black/silver, or blue/silver are a better option at the moment as
opposed to classic Canal topwaters.
During the east tides, schools of big bluefish have been encountered,
resulting in increased soft plastic sales – and a good reason to carry a
second rod with a hard bait such as a plug.

Capt. Dave’s 6/10/2022 Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore confirmed that jigging with soft
plastic paddletail jigs in wacky mackerel, mackerel, and white/pearl have definitely been the
way to go, with heavier jigs the way to go since you will be fishing the stronger parts of the
flow. The midcurrent fishing has been best, with the bigger fish that were out in Buzzards Bay
moving in and through the land cut. Bruce explained that these aren’t the fish that “reside” in
and around the Canal during the summer, moving in and out with the current and bait
availability. Right now, there isn’t a ton of bait around, with some herring still moving into the
run making the waters between the mussel bed and the herring run where most folks have
been fishing, a change from a week ago when bass were following schools of pogies into the
west end. Hopefully, with an increase in water temperature and some more bait around, a
more consistent topwater bite will develop. At night, the squid bite has been consistent around
the east end.
Folks were coming into Red Top in Buzzards Bay on Thursday morning to restock on soft plastic
paddle jigs, said Connor Swartz, as schools of bluefish were doing a number on them. Connor
said the bass bite has been consistent, if not spectacular, with the regulars picking at what

seems to be the case pretty much elsewhere: a good number of slot sized fish with the
occasional cow in the mix. A few folks are committed to coaxing fish up on pencil poppers or
even dragging jointed plugs across the surface, but I know of three folks who fished the Big
Ditch with plugs this week in hopes of a repeat of the insane bite they experienced in August
three or four years ago and as of midweek they had been skunked every time out.

Capt. Dave’s 6/3/2022 Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore confirmed that
paddletail plastics are ruling the day in the land cut at the moment. Big fish are
following the schools of pogies in from Buzzards Bay on the east tide up as far as
the railroad bridge with the bite best around mid current on most days before
working their way back on the change. Pearl or white is always a good starting
point in terms of color, but mackerel or pogy versions are typically in most of the

regulars bags as the bass turn on to certain variations for no apparent reason –
but you better have them when they do.
Down around the east end, there are some smaller mackerel showing up, Bruce
added, and they are drawing fish in from CC Bay at times, but they are hugging
the bottom of the water column and that means jigs are your best bet.
With a set of breaking tides set for next week and hopefully a change to some
sunnier, warmer weather, there should be the first real topwater bite in the big
Ditch as opposed to the pick a fish here or there as the dedicated pluggers have
been experiencing so far this season.

Capt. Dave’s 5/27/2022 Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Filmed last Monday!

Stripers have arrived full force in the rips feeding on squid. In this video Capt. Mike shares his favorite technique using Amber Charter Grade Poppers to imitate squid for exciting topwater striper action.

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Some mackerel moved into the Big Ditch this week and
mixed in with the herring, pogies, and squid that were already there,
making the fishing even better, if that is possible, noted Bruce Miller at
Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore. Mid-tide has been producing best
and that means it’s jig time; in the old days, that meant bucktails, but
today it’s all about soft plastic paddletails, “which are crushing it,”
Bruce said. Mackerel has been the color this week, but fish are also
being caught on white/pearl and pogy versions. At this point in the
season, Bruce added, there are fish being caught throughout the length
of the land cut; Bell Road obviously gets more than its share of
attention, but the Cribbin’, Herring Run, and even Pip’s Rip are doing
quite well.

Green crab sales are also a good indicator that the tautog bite in the
Canal and elsewhere remains solid, Bruce concluded.
Connor Swartz over at Red Top in Buzzards spoke of a brief topwater bite in
the morning, but they said these were mostly smaller, slot sized fish,
with the larger fish deeper in the water column requiring the use of jigs.
Remember that it is important to match the weight of your jig to the
strength of the current so that you are getting down to where the fish
are holding. Twenty to thirty pound fish are being caught with a fair
amount of regularity, with some 40’s in the mix as well.

Capt. Dave’s 5/19/2022 Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

West End Stripers

Every tide presents a new wave of fish! Silversides and herring seem to be the primary forage at the moment, but keep an eye out for a push of mackerel to appear in the Canal. As we know from prior seasons, once the mackerel make their way into the Canal, chaos is likely to ensue!


Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

I decided to take a ride up to Bell Road this morning to see
for myself what is going on – apparently there has been a good slug of
stripers moving back and forth at the moment with the currents – and
there were certainly plenty of people at the west end and a some
impressive fish caught-and-released. It really didn’t seem to matter
what folks were using, with fish caught on white/pearl paddletails,
jointed white swimbaits, and pencil poppers, especially mackerel
patterns – although there haven’t been any macks reported in the Big
Ditch yet.
In fact, Bruce Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore said that
there aren’t any mackerel in the Canal that he has heard of and that the
pickings out in Cape Cod Bay are slim as well. Bruce believes the fish are
feeding on herring and silversides at the moment, with some pogies
and squid also being reported. The fish are definitely moving with the
current, as usual, with the end of the west and beginning of the turn to
the east – as it was this morning – producing best around the west end,
followed by action from the Cribbin’ to the herring run around mid-tide
and then the latter stages of the east bringing the bass to spots around
the east end.
Bruce added that while white has certainly been a productive color, he
has been selling a good number of pogy imitation paddletails and black
over silver or mackerel jointed swimbaits.

Cape Cod Canal Fishing Tip:

With many of today’s artificial lures, there is a tendency to
emphasize their productivity by simply casting them out and retrieving
them straight back. In other words, many of them have a “magical”
built-in action. I was reminded of that this morning when I watched
folks casting paddletails and jointed swimbaits and then reeling them in
without any rod action at all. In some cases, they caught fish, but I also
observed that the one angler who was consistently catching on his soft
plastic was subtly employing rod action. Changes in retrieve speed, rod
movement, and angle of attack are always worth taking into
consideration even with today’s lures.

Cape Cod Canal Conservation News:

It was good to see folks walking down the rip rap to the
water’s edge to release their fish while it was still wet and supported by
the water. If a photo was taken, it was by another angler and done
rapidly, as opposed to struggling to get a selfie. Good stuff.

Capt. Dave’s 5/13/2022 Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Filmed last Friday in Buzzard’s Bay

Fish are moving in daily! A search won’t take you long to find them… But a heads up, there’s some micro silversides around, so be ready to downsize you leaders and baits to crack the code if they are cranky!


Cape Cod Canal Fishing Report

Rates 1A this week, mainly it saw the first push of larger
bass this week, with a 43-incher topping the list, according to A.J. Coots
at Red Top in Buzzards Bay. That fish was caught on a larger, bone
colored walk-the-dog plug around the slack tide.
The bite was particularly good this morning, noted Jeff Miller of Canal
Bait and Tackle in Sagamore, with a mix of schoolies, slot fish, and even
a handful above the 28 to less than 35-inch limit. There is a good
amount of sizeable bait in the land cut, including pogies and herring, so
larger, multi-jointed subsurface plugs and paddletail jigs were the best
producers of larger fish. Generally speaking, soft plastics and small
plugs in the five-inch range are working on the schoolies.
The action has been best around the west end, although fish were
caught from there to the middle of the Ditch, which is no surprise,
really, as these fish are moving in from Buzzards Bay, which rates a solid
1B this week as we will discuss next.
The tautog bite also remains very strong in the Canal, with fish up to
the nine-pound class caught so far this season. One of the regulars at
Canal Bait said he was around the fishing pier this week where a trio of
hardy souls had the platform all to themselves in the wind and rain.
They were drifting their crabs right into and among the pilings where
the fish were holding, with a hook up requiring a fast response and strong, steady pull to dislodge the tog from the structure they love so


I will acknowledge right up front that I have been
struggling with this whole catch-and-release, keep ‘em wet ethic; when
I see someone holding a big bass on his or her lap while posing for a
photo, I can’t help thinking about how long that fish was out of the
water and how it was handled to get the proper “pose.” It’s the same
when folks talk about measuring a fish, either from boat or shore,
where dragging it up on the rip rap or up the sand shingle just might
ultimately lead to its demise, despite the old “but it swam right away.”