Cape Cod Canal fishing can be off the charts good, or dry as a desert at this point in the season. October can be a fickle month for sure, as schools of fish migrate south along the coastline and through the Cape Cod Canal into Buzzard’s Bay. [click to continue…]
It’s fall on Cape Cod, which means striped bass are en route to warmer waters. Striped bass from as far as Maine are now moving south along the New England coastline towards our local bays, beaches, harbors and estuaries.
Some of these bass will take a left and migrate around the legendary backside beaches of Cape Cod. However other schools of fish will take a “shortcut” straight through the Cape Cod Canal into Buzzards Bay.
It is tough to say exactly when large schools of stripers will push through the Big Ditch. Bass are notoriously difficult to predict.
Yet there is no arguing the fact that somewhere out there is a biomass of thousands of bass, heading directly for the Canal.
In this update we’ll talk about the past couple of weeks of fishing at the Canal. We’ll also touch on the week ahead, what to expect and how to make the most of what will hopefully be a great fall run.
This report is a bit out-dated. Click here for the latest Cape Cod Canal fishing report.
The rain was whipping and the wind was howling in my face as I pedaled my 1980′s bicycle down the Cape Cod Canal’s service road. I had heard rumors of decent size striped bass recently being caught in the Big Ditch, so I felt motivated despite the difficult weather conditions. Fish of course, do not care much about the rain.
It was just about dead low tide and the current would switch to the east at any moment. As I pedaled down the bike path I noticed boulders and rocks that are usually covered with water. The recent full moon created big minus tides, which revealed areas of the Canal not often seen with the naked eye.
The air smelt fishy and I had a good feeling about what I may encounter.
As I write this Cape Cod fishing report the wind is howling at close to 30 mph from the northeast. This morning I drove by the Sandwich Marina, after fishing the Cape Cod Canal, and there was not a single truck and trailer in the parking lot. My guess is the 3-5 foot waves have scared most fishermen, including myself, from trying to fish Cape Cod Bay, Buzzards’ Bay, east of Chatham and just about everywhere else.
Yet before the blow the striped bass fishing on Cape Cod was pretty good. In this past week’s podcast we talked about how finicky Cape Cod striped bass can be during late July, and while I encountered plenty of finicky stripers this week, I also found some much more aggressive fish. The bite for me was slightly better than the week before with my largest striped bass of the week tipping the scales at 36 pounds.
Most Cape Cod Canal fishing reports are saying that the fishing has been very hit and miss. Therefore, renewed motivation is the best way of describing what I felt after hearing a Cape Cod Canal fishing report about a buddy’s 40 pound striped bass. Needless to say, the good news of a big Canal striper was a much needed boost to my morale.
Right then and there I decided to forgo just about everything I had planned and instead fish the canal hard. Fortunately I had a nice window in my life schedule to allow such an excursion. The weather, at least for the evenings, was looking good too.
Seven years ago this July Fourth I was a 20 year old kid with a big decision to make. Should I go to the Plymouth waterfront and watch the fireworks, or fish the Cape Cod Canal? It was a perfectly flat calm and clear evening which made the decision fairly easy. I called my buddies and told them I was going fishing.
My first Canal fishing spot of the evening was a little hole towards the East End of the Canal, right by the Scusset Beach fish pier.
I made one cast and was instantly inundated with mosquitoes, no-see-ums, gnats and every other bug under the Cape Cod sun. Of course I did not have any bug spray so I had no other choice but to evacuate the area.
However the bugs would end up being a big-time blessing in disguise.
Most of the Cape Cod Canal fishing reports I have recently received have been rather bleak. Contrasted to last season, the action is not hot and heavy with epic blitzes and bountiful schools of huge bass. At least that is what I’ve been hearing…
And if I have learned anything in my short stint here on this planet, it is to take the rumors and grapevine fishing reports with a grain of salt. Many times have I heard that there was not a fish in sight, when suddenly the ocean erupts in a massive feeding frenzy. On the other hand, I often hear about incredible bites, just to be let down as I encounter a barren ocean devoid of any life.
Torrential rain and heavy wind is a good way of describing conditions this morning at the Cape Cod Canal. I almost felt foolish as I stood there on the rocks, getting pelted in the face by wind whipped H20.
Nevertheless I felt like my chances at connecting with a decent bass were pretty good. I knew there was a large biomass of fish somewhere in Buzzards Bay, just waiting to push through. Would today be the day they decided to make their move? Only time would tell.
Last night (technically this morning) my high school buddy Andrew and I set off to fish the Cape Cod Canal at night. Night fishing the Cape Cod Canal is one of my favorite types of fishing because you often have the place to yourself, plus there is a good chance of encountering big striped bass. Despite the rain, both Andrew and I were eager to see what the night would bring.
With each passing day more bass, and larger bass, are filtering into Cape Cod’s bays, sounds, harbors, estuaries and of course the Canal. Right now is an awesome time to be a striped bass fishermen. It’s an even better time to fish Cape Cod from the surf. We might as well enjoy these near-shore opportunities while we have them, because stripers will be harder to find in these close-to-shore haunts once the heat of July and August settles in.
I would first like to say thank you for your patience yesterday while the MFCC website was down. Quite a few people emailed me letting me know that something was wrong, which was really great. We should be in the clear now, but of course if you find something that doesn’t seem to be where it should be, please let me know. I appreciate all the help!
Yesterday morning I decided it was finally time for me to make my first early morning fishing trip to the Cape Cod Canal. I woke up to another morning of perfectly flat calm conditions and a little fog. At least for me, no wind and some fog are perfect conditions when it comes to fishing the Cape Cod Canal. My only hope was that the conditions would be perfect for the fish too.
Today was a perfect day to catch my first Cape Cod stripers of the 2013 season. The sun was shining and I could definitely feel spring in the air. Nevertheless it is still very early for striped bass fishing, so I had my doubts regarding whether or not I would find any fish.
I set off around 3pm to fish Buzzards Bay. More specifically, I planned on fishing a few Buzzards Bay spots that have produced well in the past for me during mid-April. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, the plan was to fish estuaries and inlets. More often than not the first Cape Cod striped bass of the season are caught in these areas.
Earlier last week bass above the 20 pound mark were still being taken at the Cape Cod Canal. While big bass in November are not unheard of, good action on big fish in November off Cape Cod is certainly pretty rare.
Take last year for example. The 2011 season as a whole was much slower than usual for me. On the majority of my 2011 trips, I really had to put some serious time and effort into catching just a handful or so of big bass.
In 2011, it seemed like most of the striped bass had migrated south by around the middle of October. At least that’s what I observed.
However 2012 has been much, much different. This past season was by far the most productive striped bass season I’ve ever had. A lot of folks from various Cape Cod areas all the way out to Nantucket have agreed. 2012 was definitely a good year for Cape Cod striper fishing.
Thus I don’t think it’s terribly surprising that big keepers were being caught in the Canal right up until the middle of last week. Who knows, maybe there are still a few in there, and/or a few more yet to come. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
I do think we may be in for a good winter season of hold over striped bass fishing. Certain years small schools of small stripers decide to spend the winter hunkered down in Cape Cod’s many estuaries. Believe it or not, it is possible to catch 20 or more stripers during January if you happen to hit the right spot at the right time.
I haven’t caught a winter striper on Cape Cod in a few years. With the way the 2012 season has been going, I believe this winter could produce at least a few hold over fish. As mentioned above, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Cape Cod tuna fishing during October and November is a dangerous game. Unpredictable weather, big seas and cold temperatures make late season tuna fishing off the Cape a treacherous activity.
For most Cape Cod fishermen, George’s Bank is an illusion of sorts. Located roughly 150 miles due east of Cape Cod, George’s Bank is a fishing destination for only the most serious and experienced of Cape Cod tuna fishermen. For the captains featured in Discovery Channel‘s new show Fighting Tuna, heading to George’s Bank is the equivalent of the average person’s commute to work.
However the commute to George’s Bank is a bit more extreme than most folks’ drive to the office. For the Fighting Tuna captains, fuel bills of over $2,000 are not uncommon. Long range fuel bags and barrels are used by some boats in order to extend their range. A single fishing trip to George’s Bank can cost upwards of $3,500 once bait, gear and miscellaneous expenses are tallied up.
The four captains featured in Fighting Tuna-Paulie Stern, Donnie Braddick, Anthony Prudenti and Carmine Zoccolillo understand how much time, energy and money go into fishing George’s Bank. They also understand that the Bank is arguably the best giant tuna fishing destination in the Cape Cod area. Fishing George’s is a major expense; however the potential pay-off makes the expense and the danger worthwhile.
Cape Cod Fishing | There are No Guarantees
In episode 2 of Discovery Channel’s Fighting Tuna, one important element is apparent-there are no guarantees in Cape Cod tuna fishing.
Captain Paulie Stern, who according to the show, caught over 16,000 pounds of Bluefin tuna in 2010, is the first captain at George’s Bank to hook up with a giant. As the tuna rips line from his 130 class fishing rod and reel, Stern estimates the fish to be between 300 and 500 pounds. Despite Stern’s expertise, the giant tuna ends up breaking free-a huge disappointment for the crew of Stern’s boat -Tuna Tangler Too.
“We’re just out here to let ‘em go” Stern announces sarcastically after breaking off the giant tuna.
Losing fish is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to issues that can arise when fishing George’s Bank. En route to the fishing grounds Captain Donnie Braddick experiences engine trouble-a potentially major problem considering his boat Defiant is floating over 100 miles from shore. Fortunately Braddick is able to radio a nearby tuna fishing friend, who provides Braddick with a spare fuel filter in exchange for chewing tobacco.
“We take care of our own” explains Braddick. “It’s like being in the marines; we’re not leaving without everyone.”
Across the Bank, Anthony Prudenti and his crew are eating dinner when a rod suddenly doubles over under the strain of a powerful Bluefin. It is night time, and the pitch black conditions add to the difficulty and challenge of landing the huge fish. The tuna unexpectedly swims towards the bow of the boat, which increases the risk of snapping the line on the boat’s hull. After swinging the boat around, the tuna takes off towards a nearby fishing vessel. Prudenti and crew convince the other boat that they must move, or else the Bluefin will swim directly into their anchor line and gear. Suddenly the line goes slack as the fish “spits the hook.”
“It all comes down to a few important seconds” Prudenti explains. Despite the loss, Prudenti’s crew remains in good spirits, hopeful that they will get another shot at one of the car-size fish that roam George’s.
Tuna Fishing Cape Cod | The End Game
Arguably the most challenging moment of Cape Cod giant tuna fishing occurs once the tuna is brought alongside the boat. Due to the skill of the Fighting Tuna captains, many giant tunas are brought to the boat in amazingly short order, despite the fact that tuna are the hardest pulling fish in the sea.
Landing a tuna quickly and taking proper care of the tuna once landed is imperative in order for the fish to fetch a high price at auction. The problem is that some tunas still have an incredible amount of energy once brought alongside the boat, which makes harpooning and gaffing giants extremely challenging and often times dangerous.
There are accounts of Cape Cod tuna fishermen being drowned by giant tuna after their leg becomes wrapped up in the harpoon line. Harpooning and gaffing 1,000 pound fish is not a task to be taken lightly.
The dangers of the “End Game” are made apparent in episode 2 of Fighting Tuna when Captain Donnie Braddick brings a 500 plus pound giant Bluefin alongside his boat the Defiant. Even after a 4 hour long battle, Braddick’s tuna is still kicking hard and thrashing violently.
“We try and keep things as low-key as possible” Braddick explains-with regards to having a big fish on the line. “The best thing to do is get a harpoon in that fish.”
However harpooning a tuna is not straightforward and simple. It takes the crew of the Defiant three separate harpoon attempts until the fish is subdued. Even after being hit with a harpoon the tuna remains strong, pulling hard on the 130 class rods and reels.
“This one tried his best but I think he met his match today” says Braddick.
Commercial Bluefin Tuna Fishing vs. Sport Fishing for Tuna
Carmine Zoccolillo is the only tuna captain featured on the show who does not rely upon his tuna earnings in order to make ends meet. Over the past few decades, Cape Cod commercial tuna fishing has grown to include not just folks who fish for a living, but also folks who fish for sport.
Zoccolillo is known amongst the Cape Cod commercial tuna fishing fleet as a “sporty.” The giant Bluefin tuna fishery is managed by a strict quota, and often times fishermen like Zoccolillo are viewed as “stealing” quota from fishermen who truly rely on the fishery in order to pay bills, support families etc.
The show makes it obvious that there is tension between commercial tuna fishermen who rely on the fishery to pay bills, and commercial tuna fishermen who more or less fish for “the fun of it.” This same sort of tension is also present in other Cape Cod fisheries, including the commercial striped bass fishery.
Unlike the other fishermen featured in Fighting Tuna, Zoccolillo is hesitant about making the long and dangerous trek to George’s Bank. After receiving pressure from first mate Damon, Zoccolillo finally gives in and decides to join the other captains at George’s.
After losing a fish, Zoccolillo and crew manage to hook up again in the “bottom of the 9th” as some Cape Cod fishermen call it. Pandemonium ensues on deck as crew members holler orders at one another. From atop the bridge Zoccolillo yells at his crew “Put a gaff in him! Put him in a gaff please!”
Big tuna, for lack of a better term, can make grown men completely crazy.
Zoccolillo ultimately leaves the cockpit, makes his way to the deck, grabs a gaff and helps subdue the massive fish. After landing the tuna he removes his sweatshirt to reveal a “One less fish in the ocean for Paulie” t-shirt.
Giant Tuna Fishing | A Bittersweet End to the Season
Despite being one of the most skilled tuna fishermen in the North East, Anthony Prudenti and crew ultimately depart from George’s Bank after 4 straight days of fishing without catching a single tuna.
“Not a good way to end the season” remarks Prudenti. “It is very frustrating.”
Long hours and days spent without so much as a nibble are common scenarios in the tuna fishing world-even for the most talented of tuna fishermen. An incredible amount of time spent on the water is typically necessary in order to catch the world’s most valuable fish.
Zoccolillo’s last fish of the season ends up weighing 459 pounds, heavier than Stern’s 344 pound tuna. Zoccolillo takes the opportunity to point out the fact that his fish weighed more than Sterns.
“Nothing like beating the best” remarks Zoccolillo.
Captain Donnie Braddick’s ends his season with a behemoth tuna that tips the scales at 541 pounds. It is the largest fish taken out of the George’s fleet, and a good way to end the year according to Braddick.
As the cold weather settles into Cape Cod, the fleet will stow their gear and prepare for spring-when giant Bluefin tuna once again appear off Cape Cod.
“Another season behind us, still in the green, looking forward to next year” says Stern.
The other Cape Cod commercial tuna captains seem to agree that it was a successful and safe season filled with big fish and incredible stories. For these expert tuna fishermen it was just another day at the office, and a productive year now in the books.
Well here we are 5 days into November and the striped bass fishing is still holding strong-especially at the Cape Cod Canal. Who would have thought?
This past weekend I hit up the Canal with a friend of mine and blog member Andrew Massard. Andrew’s a great guy who has just recently caught “the fishing bug.” Due to work obligations he doesn’t get as much fishing time in as he’d like, which I think you can probably relate to. Like a lot of folks Andrew had logged a good amount of time in at the Cape Cod Canal, but was yet to catch a fish.
To make a not so long story a heck of a lot shorter, I happened to be down at the Canal this weekend when I got a text from Andrew, asking how the fishing has been. Instead of going into detail about the fishing, I just told him I was currently at the Canal and that he could come on down and join me if he wanted.
In true fishing nut fashion Andrew dropped what he was doing and made his way down to the Big Ditch. I was fishing the same holes that the 25 pounder from the previous report came out of-definitely a good area for Andrew to try his luck.
Andrew and I set up shop and got to jigging. I was tossing the same big Slug-go I had been using all week, and Andrew was tossing a Spro jig. Two good offerings that usually have no trouble enticing a late season Canal striper.