Man I love this time of year. It is such a great feeling to dust off the cobwebs of the gear put away last season and head out. I’m not sure what is better: The joy of finally fishing again? –or- the day-time surface feeds seemingly happening everywhere? I am so excited about the stripers, I often forget about the great ground fishing. The scup, tautog (and soon the sea bass) fishing has been on fire. Even the Haddock bite on Stellwagen is on fire!
It a perfect time to get young anglers hooked on fishing with all the action that is right at our doorsteps. It’s hard with spring sports in full swing, but make the efforts to get your little ones out there. Whether it’s a scup or a schoolie, it’s the best time of year to recruit your fishing team!
Looking at the weekend forecast from NOAA, there is some wind in store for us. It looks like Saturday morning is going to be your best bet. On Sunday the winds really pick up. The winds will be predominately from the West, so in this week’s PLAYBOOK, I am looking for areas in the lee for calm fishing.
Weather-by-Zone link: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/zone/east/boxmz.htm
PLAY # 1: WEST END OF THE CANAL
Winds for Saturday morning are forecasted for 5 to 10kts from the west, so it will still be relatively calm here in the AM. The early AM dropping tide has been hot with surface feed of herring hungry stripers. I filmed here with Capt. Dave Peros on Wednesday and experienced lights out schoolie fishing. We had a few fish that may have been close to 28” but boats here earlier than us did well on keepers. We had one angler submit a report (http://saltycape.wpengine.com/submit-a-report/) with fish up to 39” on Thursday: http://saltycape.wpengine.com/reader-report-mashnee-flats-stripers-may-12-2016/.
The tide will really start dropping little after 4AM, so it will be PERFECT for the sunrise bite. I would shoot to be here as early as possible. If I were targeting a large keeper, I would be there just a few minutes before 5AM, in time to watch the sunrise at 5:33AM. It’s a perfect Saturday to have a dropping tide (my favorite tide here) in full crank for sunrise. Trust me, if you’re not an early riser, tomorrow is the day to become one. You’ll have the best tide/time/weather/action you will have all weekend. If you’re not an early person, there will be fish here pretty much around the clock this time of year. It’s just that early tide will be your best bet for a bigger fish.
There have been some great top-water herring feeds early. With that in mind, I would start the day with larger soft baits. Of course I own Hogy Lure Company, so my brand choice is obvious – but – my go to lure in this situation would be a 10” Original in bone or silver rigged on a 10/0 weighted swimbait hook. A weedless presentation like with this hook is beneficial as the water has been a little weedy from time to time so the swimbait hook is a great play. I like a little weight for casting purposes, but unweighted swim bait hooks will do just fine if you are getting casting distance. Regardless of what brand you’re fishing, early is the time to go big. The 9 to 10” size range is perfect for imitating herring.
Once the light is high and schoolies are winning the races to the baits, I would downsize to the 6 or 7” size ranged, again, rigged on a swimbait hook. I like the 6/0 when paired with a 7” softbait, and a 4/0 when paired with a 6” softbait.
PLAY # 2: STELLWAGEN BANK HADDOCK
I keep hearing about the epic haddock bite off the SW corner of Stellwagen Bank. I was clued into this by Capt. Terry Nugent of Riptide Charters who always seems to know about this sort of thing. Unfortunately our haddock trip planned Thursday was postponed, so I didn’t witness the bite first hand. I might actually book Capt. Terry for next week since I am so turned on by this fishery. With cod limits very tight for this region, the haddock bite is a wonderful gift to those anglers who love white meat and a great ground fish bite. The SW corner isn’t horrible in a west wind, so I think a quick morning run from Sandwich is very feasible to beat the afternoon blusters. They are calling for seas around 2’.
The tide will really start dropping at little after 7AM, So a 5:30 AM departure would be my plan, figuring to arrive sometime around 6:30AM. My plan then would be to cruise the area, looking for live bottom and some markings. I would fish the tide and probably shoot in around 10AM if I lasted that long. You might limit out before then!
For the most part, you can use the same gear for haddock as you do for cod. That said, haddock are particularly fond of pink. The jigs I would have on my boat would be a mix of Glow, Olive and Pink Fast Jigs as well as a collection of traditial diamond jigs with white or olive teasers. That way I have hedged my situation. I figure you’ll have haddock’s tendency for pink, a sand eel imitation and a herring color too. I would have a collection of sizes up to 10oz. Those who fish with me, also know I am a HUGE FAN of drop shot rigs for cod and haddock. They are great for 2 reasons: 1. You can fish with a large teaser, almost the size of your jig and 2. You can hedge your bets with colors
PLAY #3: ALL CAPE COD ESTUARIES, INLETS AND SPILLWAYS
This spot is not so much as a “SPOT”, but a structure play. Stripers have invaded Cape Cod and we are pretty much entering the best time to shore fish for striped bass. May is the best month for large numbers of fish. Towards the end of the month, it’s an excellent time of year to focus on large fish, through the end of June. Once July hits, then it’s a middle of the night endeavor. I digress. So for this play, I want to focus on the May fishing!
The reason why I love this type of fishing is that most spots are accessible by shore, boat or kayak.
The best tides for estuaries and back bays are either tide where the water is moving. The tide itself (incoming vs outgoing) will dictate where and how you fish the particular spot. A good rule of thumb is to fish inside the bay when the tide is coming in and outside the bay when the tide is going out.
Here’s a good resource for tides: http://capetides.com/
1. Best places to fish during an incoming tide. The baitfish that have been flushed out of the pond or bay are coming back in. The predatory game fish like to ambush the pray, so naturally you’ll wan to be there for the most natural presentation.
2. Best places to fish during an outgoing tide are out in the open water where bait may have spilled out. This is a particularly good time to fish when the area you are fishing has a herring run!
As with most fishing, the key is to “match the hatch”! The determining factor here is whether or not there is a herring run in the pond or estuary. A second factor is whether or not there is a worm hatch and a third factor is all other baits. In all the above cases, my two favorite plays here are ones associated with worm hatches and herring runs:
1. Herring runs: In this case, I am a huge fan of plugs, wood and plastic alike. Plugs cast the furthest while still being able to fish top water. Big soft baits, particularly jig head rigged baits or pre-molded swim shad style baits are great when stripers are holding deep. White, yellow and olive are the top colors in this case.
2. Worm hatches: We had our first report come in of a worm hatch in Green Pond in Falmouth. Although amazing to watch stripers go crazy on the worm hatch, they can become incredibly keyed in on the buffet at hand and very hard to catch. In this case, my two all time favorite worm hatch lures are the 4″ and 6” Hogy Skinny rigged on 1/0 and 3/0 hooks. I even keep a small reel spooled with 6lb test Yozuri Hybrid (a flouro/mono blend) for line because I am so afraid of spooking these fish. I tie these very small baits on with a loop knot. I cast and twitch on the fall. I reel in intermittently, primarily to bring the soft bait to the surface so to be able to fish the drop again.
PLAY #4: THE CAPE COD CANAL
The Canal has been loaded with small fish but it is really time for the big fish to move in with consistency, pretty much on any tide at this point. Bass are feeding on big baits this time of year, which means they are aggressive. It could be lights out this weekend!
The best time/tide to fish the Cape Cod Canal is around the changing tide, so here are a few resources:
Tides for Station. 115, Sagamore:
Tides for Station 200, Bournedale:
Tides for Station 320, Bourne Bridge
Tides for Station RR Bridge, Buzzards Bay
Tip: If you are new to canal fishing, be sure to cast your lure uptide and fish the swing.