August 15, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4 out of 5
Fishing live bait, whether eels or pogies, remains your best bet if your target is bigger bass from Woods Hole to Cuttyhunk. It will be interesting to see what this stretch of east winds does to the bait situation and water temperatures, but from what I heard it seems like most of the big stripers that have been caught on eels or plugs were taken by anglers fishing more to the west end of our local archipelago.
Even though the folks at Falmouth Bait & Tackle in Teaticket told me that one of their summer helpers picked up some quality fish on pogies in Woods Hole at night, some of the recremercial crew who typically can be found anchored up somewhere along the islands have either given up or moved their fishing elsewhere.
As recently as Monday, there were lots of small bass feeding on tiny baby squid and other small bait and bone/white poppers and stickbaits worked really well, along with smaller unweighted or lightly weighted soft plastics in the same colors.
I admit that I don’t want to report it, but the Hole also has some of the best bonito action it has experienced in a long, long time. The fish we caught were pushing silversides and the olive Hogy Epoxy Jigs and Heavy Minnow Jigs were the ticket; what I have come to really like about the latter is that it allows you to stay farther away from the schools and avoid spooking the fish, as well as obviously covering more water with each cast.
If you have never caught a bone on the fly, what I saw this week is just what you want, with the fish staying up and feeding very aggressively. These aren’t monster fish, which may be why they aren’t always showing the characteristic persnickety attitude associated with bones.
Our fish were caught on the incoming tide, but Jonathan Gitlin told me that they were going absolutely bonkers later on in the morning on the outgoing.
We tried Lackey’s where some bonito have been caught, but only encountered small bluefish, but Doug Asselin on the Vineyard told me that someone he spoke to who became disgusted with the craziness around Oak Bluffs and State Beach moved over to the Buzzards Bay side of the Elizabeths and had schools of fish all to himself.
Far too many people only cast at breaking fish, but over 50% of the bonito I have caught over the years have been taken blindcasting at the area where the fish just were or are headed based on observations of their swimming pattern. We had a number of blow-ups on the Epoxy Jig when there was no apparent sign of fish.
August 8, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3 out of 5
Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle in Falmouth spoke to a boater who said he saw bonito in Woods Hole earlier this week, but I haven’t heard any reports of confirmed catches.
I can say that there is a good amount of small bait in the Hole as we have done well on schoolies bass this week using small bone spooks and seven-inch amber Original Hogy’s. The west tide produced best, but even then once the sun came up, the fishing pretty much shut down.
Night fishing with live eels remains the most consistent method for catching bigger bass, but drifting deeper holes in Robinson’s and Quick’s during the day has also been effective. Livelining pogies is also working, especially in the Hole and down Nashawena and Cuttyhunk way.
Working both sides of the islands is a good idea, mainly because the fishing has been a matter of picking a good fish or two out of one spot as opposed to finding the mother lode.
Schoolies and small bluefish are focused mainly on structure, as opposed to thrashing around in open water despite the presence of small bait. Some of the bass we caught this week were also tossing up good-sized squid.
The black sea bass fishing remains excellent, with Kevin Maloney catching a really nice fish on a live eel, which has proven to be the best producer for me of monster BSB during the summer for the last couple of years.
It’s an old tip, but if you are working a school of smaller bass in deep water, it’s a good idea to drop a jig such as a Hogy Heavy Metal down below the surface action where the lazier, bigger bass hold. You will often find some nice sea bass holding below the surface activity around the islands.
August 1, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3 out of 5
There’s no other way to say it, but success along the islands when it comes to catching sizeable stripers is determined by a combination of time on the water and precise spot selection. The old days of bouncing from spot to spot and finding quality fish pretty much wherever you stopped and threw eels, plugs, and plastics are memories at the moment.
Even covering large sections of shoreline trolling the tube-and-worm has been frustrating, with plenty of folks reporting that they worked all of Naushon and Pasque without a single hit.
Woods Hole has once again had some schools of small bass harassing small bait, particularly on the west tide, but they have been finicky and only small soft plastics and walk-the-dog plugs such as the smallest Hogy Dog Walker have been working at times, especially in white or bone coloration.
Flyrodders, not surprisingly given the size of the bait, have been doing very well with baby squid patterns and poppers.
Todd Benedict at Falmouth Bait & Tackle in the Teaticket section of town across from McDonald’s told me that one of the summer help picked up some quality bass in the Hole livelining; he didn’t know which bait he was using, but I’m going to guess pogies.
Of course, pitching live eels from dusk to dawn is a staple of fishing the islands and Jim Young told me that Mark Gordon’s sons had a good trip the other night, picking up a number of good fish in the low to mid-30-inch class using snakes.
To prove my point about knowing precisely where to go based on having put in plenty of time sorting out the islands this year, Phil Stanton went out with guests recently during what he said were quite possibly the worst conditions: flat calm, not much tide, and right in the middle of a sunny day. Since his crew had a very limited window to fish, he had no choice, but wouldn’t you know they caught a half dozen bass between 30 and 40-inches.
The islands are also holding some impressive schools of small bass feeding on teeny, tiny baitfish and even krill, making them tough to fool at times on anything but small flies. On the other hand, if the water surface is ruffled a bit by some wind and tide, these same fish become happy and aggressive, willing to jump all over an assortment of topwater plugs.
If all else fails, then dropping a Heavy Metal or Epoxy Jig down through the schools of surface feeding bass has worked, especially when your electronics light up with marks showing the fish are stacked all through the water column.
Competition is sometimes the key to successful fishing; when a bait or lure is thrown into a concentration of fish, your odds of getting bit go way up since each individual wants to be first to the your offering. I remember as clear as day watching multiple big bass pursue a single eel in the middle of a sunny day back in the mid 90’s when fishing had really returned to a reasonable facsimile of the glory days of Cuttyhunk and her sister islands. Now, with far fewer fish around, sometimes you have to work an area you are convinced holds fish by trying to draw a reaction strike – and nothing works better than working a big 10 to 14-inch Original Hogy right across the surface. I saw that the 18-inch Original is on a closeout sale at a great low price and I can tell you from experience that this huge piece of plastic has produced some big fish for me in the past when they wouldn’t look at anything else.
July 25, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4 out of 5
The islands definitely deserve a low rating since they are a shadow of what they once were, with even the small bass fishing inconsistent.
The one definite I can say is that my experiences have been much better the closer I get to Cuttyhunk. The schools of fish I have run into have been much larger and the average size bass has been bigger.
My most recent trips were last Friday and during the morning we found some small bass willing to hit bone colored spooks on Naushon. There were flocks of terns working over what looked like bluefish and someone I spoke to said he found the same thing, but had nothing small enough for the size of the fish and bait – and that’s why I always carry Hogy Epoxy and Heavy Metal Jigs, as well as the smallest Skinny’s and jigheads, along with rods light enough to cast small offerings.
After my morning, I had plans for another trip, starting in Woods Hole for the current turn to the west, which typically fishes really well, but it was deader than dead. We worked the ledges hard and had only two short strikes.
My original plan was then head west to pitch eels, but despite what the forecast said (5 to 10 southwest all day), the winds picked up to over 20 and it would have taken me at least an hour of pounding to get to the spots I wanted to fish and then I would have been fighting to get close enough to cast yet stay off the rocks.
The folks I was fishing with ultimately took a rain check, but not before one of them noted that after a couple dozen trips, this was the first skunking we ever suffered.
I know someone who was headed from Padnaram to pitch pogies and eels, but he never checked back and I’m sure he would have had the trip gone well.
One of the keys to fishing the islands is wind direction, both in choosing where you can fish from a safety point of view and where the bait might be blown in towards shore. Be aware that spots where you can slide among or even over the rocks during high water will jump up and bite you during the lower parts of the tide, as well as when the waves break and push the water away, exposing harm’s way and even sliding you towards “stuff” that you can’t get away from if you’re too late. Suffice it to say that the islands are worthy of spending time to study them under all the conditions when you expect to fish there.
July 18, 2019 Weekly Rating: 4 out of 5
Live eels are apparently producing greater numbers of quality bass, but jigging wire is still a great alternative.
From Woods Hole to Cuttyhunk, the number of bass in the 20 to 26-inch range has been incredible this week. Unlike many years when you could have counted on picking at fish along multiple stretches of shoreline, with our without strong tidal flow, it seems that the fish have been concentrated more in rips and areas where current flows over rocky structure.
Poppers and spooks have been producing non-stop surface action on my trips this week, with soft plastics like the Hogy 10-inch Original in amber working magic in the rips that form on both sides of the tides, although incoming water into Vineyard Sound was more productive this week.
Jigging wire before first light and again at dusk has been key to anything approaching good fishing in the Hole, as well as Robinson’s and Quick’s.
That said, Phil Stanton said he has been experiencing more of an eel bite lately as opposed to jigging during the daylight hours, especially in sunnier conditions.
Plenty of sea bass down around Cuttyhunk and Nashawena, along with big scup that are a nuisance for trollers who elect to use the tube-and-worm. While there can be little doubt that seaworms are critical to the success of tubing, oldtimers used to drape eelskins and pork rind on their hooks as alternatives that kept scup from decimating their worm supply.
They may not be your target species and won’t make up for a striped bass, at least in most folks’ minds, but don’t be surprised if you pick up some monster sea bass while jigging wire in the deeper water around the islands. If the striper fishing is slow and you want to bring home fish for dinner, if you do pick up a sea bass or two, consider stopping and reeling in your trolling rigs, followed by some study of your fishfinder to locate those big blobs of red that often indicate a concentration of tasty sea bass. Hogy Heavy Metal Jigs have proven to be my top BSB producer because their extra weight allows you to get down quickly and maintain a straight-line presentation.
July 11, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3.5 out of 5
It’s a mixed bag along the islands, but if big bass are your goal, you’re going to have to work hard.
I was especially pleased on Monday to see so much life down the islands, starting at Robinson’s where there were schoolies working bait and following the dropping tide out into Buzzards Bay. They were clearly on very small, juvenile baitfish – and by small, I mean a quarter of an inch at most. We managed some reaction strikes on topwater plugs and were most successful with small Hogy Heavy Metal Jigs.
As the current slacked, it was off to Cuttyhunk where we were greeted by a scene both exciting and terrifying – large schools of fish feeding on krill. While we ultimately managed to break the code by turning to tiny Crazy Charley’s; I always carry boxes of bonefish and permit flies, but don’t ask me why – although in this case it paid off, so I suppose that’s why. The Heavy Metal Jig accounted for monster scup, big sea bass, and one large tautog. The sea bass proved what I have been hearing, that they have moved into deeper water south of the Vineyard and the islands.
The next morning found us fishing in Woods Hole where there were bass all over small, juvenile squid, which made white, bunny squid flies very effective, as well as white and bone topwater plugs.
There are also larger numbers of small bluefish around.
According to Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle in Falmouth, a few larger bass are being jigged up in the Hole as well as Quick’s, but I sold eels on Sunday to a couple of recremercials who typically fish pogies, so the fishing can’t be that good since it’s hard to imagine that if there were large numbers around that they wouldn’t eat menhaden.
Tube-and-worm fishing along the islands should be getting into full swing; the Hogy Perfect Tube has proven to be a dynamite summer offering, whether fished on lead core or wire. Nothing is more relaxing that following the contour lines on both sides of our local archipelago, but make sure you have plenty of seaworms; from what I saw this week, there are massive numbers of scup, which are proven worm thieves.
July 3, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Although some folks, like me, avoid trolling, especially wire line jigging, it’s tough to argue with the results when the fish are holding deep in the water column and current.
Word is that there are good numbers of small bass on both sides of the islands, but the days of having multiple 20 and 30-pound pursuing a live eel right in the daytime are over.
At the moment, jigging wire is the most consistent producer of sizeable bass; Phil Stanton told me that on Monday and today, they had no luck tossing eels, but did catch some really nice fish jigging wire.
I have little doubt that the few big fish around our local archipelago are now far more selective and much more inclined to hold in deeper water when the sun is high.
Even folks fishing whole or chunk pogies have struggled for the most part, both in Woods Hole and down as far as Cuttyhunk.
As they say, you can’t catch what isn’t there.
Fortunately, more bluefish are showing up and when mixed in with schoolies, you can have a fun day with small plugs and plastics.
Take advanatage of any rainy, gray days that you can in July and August since they will often produce the best fishing of the high summer season. Otherwise, get on the water well before first light and spend the time to determine the connection between tide, current, and water temperature. Even a degree or two drop can make the difference between catching fish as opposed to catching the skunk.
June 27, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3.5 out of 5
A live eel produced this impressive striper for Dede Chase who fished the islands with Phil Stanton this week.
After a couple of lackluster weeks of reports from the islands, including one from Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle in Falmouth about one of the most experienced island captains who has struck out on all three of his trips to Quick’s this year, it was great to receive positive news from Phil Stanton.
He fished the Elizabeths midweek with Dede and Garrett Chase and they did well tossing live eels, which was a significant improvement from the report I got from Charlie Richmond who made his annual pilgrimage to Cuttyhunk last weekend: “ We fished Cuttyhunk last Saturday early AM and just got the same small bass we’ve found everywhere averaging 22-26-inches.”
Jim did know of a couple of 30-pound bass caught in Woods Hole by the same angler who uses live scup, but other than a few other decent bass for folks jigging wire, this area that typically is a go to for me has been disappointing.Besides scup, drifting live eels is another technique that works well in the Hole. There are what I call “soft spots” where the current is slowed by obstructions, as well as numerous humps and holes, where eels are effective. A change of tide at dusk and working the rock piles at night will become even more of a solid choice as summer kicks into gear.
June 20, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3 out of 5
Live bait fishing and jigging wire produced some larger fish around the islands this week, perhaps a sign that resident fish have moved in.
I know I heard a sigh of relief from Phil Stanton who was getting a little down since it had become difficult to catch bass of any size in Woods Hole. This week, however, he jigged up a few 20+-pound fish, while Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle in Falmouth told me that a 30-pound class bass was caught on a live scup on Tuesday, although someone else said it was caught on an eel.
Speak to Capt. Willy Hatch of Machaca Charters, who sails from Falmouth Harbor, and he shared some news about OK fishing with eels in Woods Hole and along the islands, but he also said it has been a pick.
I have my fingers crossed that a hatch of baby squid will show up soon since this often produces some of the best fly fishing and light tackle action of the season. While white bunny flies, small EP squids, and small squid flies, created out of hackle tips, rams wool, and Farrar Blend or Flashabou, then coated with either silicone or the flexible formula of one of the UV product companies, all work well, but tossing poppers on the long wand that my friend Bob Lewis is good enough to share with me works wonders and is a blast.
For my light tackle crew, I go with the mini Hogy Skinny in bone/white on a very light weighted swimbait hook or 1/8-ounce Hogy Barbarian or Classic Jighead for subsurface presentations, while plugs such as the Hogy Dog Walker in bone work well.
I honestly don’t think it’s possible to make a completely accurate assessment of our local archipelago because far more people are concentrating their efforts on the shoals in Nantucket Sound right now. With commercial bass season scheduled to start this Monday, it might be possible to assess what is going on since the few folks who still bother with the islands use live eels or pogies, two of the best ways of catching sizeable bass anywhere.
June 14, 2019 Weekly Rating: 2 out of 5
Even though many folks are still employing wire line and jigs in search of larger fish around the islands, eel season is upon us.
No matter what the general consensus is, the Elizabeths always hold some quality fish. Right now, the trick is both finding them and getting them to eat.
Woods Hole apparently went quiet this week, without even the usual abundance of schoolies feeding around the ledges. Phil Stanton commented on the lack of squid of any size right now, which is obviously connected with the overall lack of fish.
At this time of year, many folk stick to Naushon or other spots close to the Hole and can pick a fish or two, as Bill Hough did last weekend. Nobody has spoken of schools of fish, so persistence is valuable right now.
Rick Dunn told me that last weekend he went down to Cuttyhunk, but despite marking a large amount of bait, there were no bass or blues to be found.
Understanding tides and water temperature just might be even more important right now as Phil told me that he fished Quick’s last weekend and the water was only 56 degrees. That number is within a striper’s comfort zone, but it can also cause them to be sluggish and less willing to eat at times.
June 6, 2019 Weekly Rating: 3 out of 5 (depending on who you talk to!)
Woods Hole has been a great spot to try your hand at casting plugs or flies this season.
I hate to waffle on the rating, but let me explain.
I have been enjoying some good fishing in Woods Hole, but on Monday I decided to try some plugging along Naushon with master wooden plug maker Mike DiSanto of Mike’s Custom Plugs. Other than a single OK bass in the Hole on a black/purple metal lip, the rest of the trip was fishless. We went all the way to Robinson’s and all we had was a few half-hearted follows from smaller bass.
On the other hand, Phil Stanton, who by virtue of having his boat on a dock in Eel Pond and the number of friends he has who want to go fishing spends more time than pretty much anyone else I know on the waters from the Hole to Cuttyhunk, said this season has been a 5 when it comes to plugging. He uses two lures, a leadhead/soft plastic combination and a plastic narrow, Finnish style minnow swimmer in what he calls a “clown” color. Most manufacturers refer to this pattern as Wonderbread, mother-of-pearl, or rainbow, but no matter what it is called, it is generally a white or pearl plug with splotches/patches of light pink, yellow, and blue. Phil emphasized that he has had people on his boat try fly fishing and throwing their own plugs without success, but changing to his two favorites has resulted in fish in the boat. His best fish this week has been around 15-pounds, but one of his guests, Matt Connolly, managed a bass in the 25-pound class last week.
Phil hasn’t even tried wire line jigging yet, but he plans on giving it a whirl this weekend down around Quick’s. In the meantime, Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street in Falmouth knows that a friend of his has managed some fish in the 25-pound class; Jim surmises that his buddy was using white jigs since there are squid around, but red and white is another good combination.
George Williams, renowned around Woods Hole for his plywood skiffs, continues to use umbrella rigs on mono to pick at larger bass outside the main channel, where most of the wire line jiggers focus, while the folks drifting live scup haven’t done much according to Phil.
Woods Hole is a spot where current direction and stage are absolutely critical to success. If you want to learn it (and many folks don’t want to because of the ledges that can get you in trouble quickly), there is no substitute for time spent there. Which direction you cast from is another variable that makes the equation more challenging, although solving her “mysteries” and patterns is very rewarding.
May 30, 2019 Weekly Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Other than Woods Hole, I have received only report from a friend who fished Robinson’s and found nothing of interest.
The Hole has had good numbers of bass pushing squid at times, with the west tide, slack, and then the beginning of the east flow definitely fishing best.
On Wednesday, there were lots of terns picking at bait on Red Ledge and there were signs of small bass working under them.
Plug fishing has been good, but day in and day out, you can’t outfish bone colored Hogy’s and white plugs, although Hogy makes a translucent amber color that works well. The Squid Plug has also proven its worth in all of the traditional plugging locations.
I’ve seen a few boats snapping wire in the Hole, but I honestly haven’t seen nor heard any tales of success. On the other hand, livelining scup has been OK.
Last weekend I was fishing Woods Hole and couldn’t help feeling bad for another angler who had bass breaking all around the boat, but couldn’t hook a single one. It was clear that squid was what the stripers were chasing, but he was tossing a shiny metal jig. This scenario reminded me that taking the time to recognize what the fish are feeding on and then doing your best to replicate it in terms of color and action, first, followed by size and profile, is pertinent to increasing your hook up ratio.
May 24, 2019 Weekly Report:
When you keep your boat in Eel Pond, you definitely have an advantage over other folks when it comes to fishing the islands, especially with the kind of wind we have been having recently. You can stay in Woods Hole or even scoot down one side of the Elizabeths or the other, staying in the lee.
Phil Stanton makes good use of his dockage and he told me that there really haven’t been any boats out fishing, which is too bad because he has been enjoying great top water activity on bass up to the mid-teen (pounds) class casting jigs and plugs. There is a lot of squid around and the flocks of gulls have been happily feeding on hapless calamari that try to avoid a hungry fish by taking to the air, only to be snatched up by the beak of an avian pursuer.
Anglers who fish in upper Buzzards Bay spots would do well to keep an ear out for any news of what is happening at this time of year in Woods Hole and the Elizabeths since a push of fish there might just result in them showing up around Bourne and Wareham in a matter of days, or even tides, based on the amount of bait they find around the islands. We are in the middle of the full-blown spring arrival and what were 20-inch schoolies one day can seem to magically morph into more sizeable bass quite quickly.
May 17, 2019 Weekly Report:
I wish I could give you more of a report, but one angler I know who fishes there a great deal told me he has been concentrating on lobstering (?), while Capt. Mike Hogan reported that there were small bass on top as he passed through Woods Hole on his recent tautog trip.
John Waring from Eastman’s Sport & Tackle in Falmouth said he heard from Phil Stanton that they had no success wire line jigging in the Hole, but they did have some fun catching smaller fish on plugs and soft plastics. Phil called me and said that he wasn’t marking any larger fish and the water was filled with mung.
The water temperature reading in the Hole this week was at 52.5-degrees on a west tide and that means conditions are right where they should be for some larger bass to appear.
Jim Young added that there have been some squid jigged up off the commercial dock in the Hole and some tautog have also been caught.
Although Woods Hole and the Elizabeths are known for their rips, currents, and ledges, some of the best early season fishing occurs in quieter waters such as coves, flats, and spots where back eddies form. These typically have water that is a bit warmer and early concentrations of bait.
My go to plan for these spots is tossing an unweighted bone or bubblegum 10-inch Original Hogy, allowing it to move with any current in the water and using a slower retrieve, followed by a fast snap-and-retrieve approach, looking for a reaction strike.