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First Keeper Striped Bass of Season Caught at Cape Cod Canal

Many Cape Cod fishermen said the bass would be back early this year.  This past winter was more of an elongated cool start to spring than anything else.  Water temps have been way above normal.   Right now some areas around Cape Cod have water that is in the mid to high 50's.  I'm happy to report that all of those fishermen who predicted an early run of striped bass seem to so far be 100% correct!

I recall past seasons when we caught plenty of small striped bass up in creeks, estuaries and way back in harbors.  Most of these fish were extremely tiny, with a few under 12 inches in length.  Catching micro-schoolies (as we referred t them) was and still is pretty common for the month of April.

On Cape Cod you usually have to wait until May to see any stripers with real size.  The first few keepers are generally on the small side, barely eclipsing the 28 inch recreational limit.

I personally have never caught a keeper striped bass prior to May 1st.  I do know some slick fishermen who have been able to catch fresh migratory keepers in April, however they are generally pretty hard to come by.

That's why I was extremely surprised to hear that a 32 inch keeper striper had been caught this past week in the Cape Cod Canal.

Usually a fish tale like this would bring out the skeptic in me, however the report came from as reliable a source as any-Jeff Miller from Canal Bait and Tackle.

For those who don't know Jeff, he helps to run his family's bait shop - Canal Bait and Tackle.  Needless to say if something interesting happens at the Canal, Jeff usually knows about it.

According to Jeff a young angler managed to wrestle a 32 incher from the Big Ditch just a couple of days ago on April 18th.  Some of the regulars at the shop said the earliest they had ever heard of a keeper taken from the Canal was April 10th, which occurred many decades ago.

There was plenty of mackerel in Cape Cod Bay not too long ago and pogies and herring have all been spotted inside the Canal.  With the latest report of this keeper it seems that the stage is now set for something special to occur at the Canal.  Could we see a pre-May striped bass blitz?

Of course only time will tell for sure.  I think we may be in for a very interesting, and very fun spring fishing season!

If you are new to the blog and want to learn more about catching spring time striped bass at the Canal, be sure to check out this post.

Tight lines and take care,


  1. 4/30/2012

    I was bit off while fly fishing in Barnstable Harbor yesterday. Are there Bluefish in Cape Cod Bay yet?

    1. Hey Dex,

      Thanks for commenting. With the warm winter we had I wouldn’t be surprised if there already was a bluefish or two in CCB.

      However your best bet for blues right now from shore would probably be South Cape or Popponessett Beach.

      Any life over in Bharbor?


      1. Hi Ryan,
        We were fly fishing off of the outermost bar at the mouth of Mill Creek as it flows into Barnstable Harbor channel. Saw someone take a near keeper bass about a 100 yards out in the channel. I got bit off, and saw two white flashes 20 feet in front of me in deeper water. I also saw a nice size bass cruising the deep finger channel just before the last bar as we were wading out. About 4 boats fishing the channel.

        We stopped at the Bournedale Herring run on the way down. Intermittent flow of fish up the ladder. About a fish or two every 30 seconds. The old dipping area had a fair amount of fish but not very concentrated. Going to try the breaking tide in the Canal on Saturday morning. Would you suggest an area?

        1. Hey Dex,

          That sounds awesome. Great to know there is some life down the Barnstable way. I’m hoping to get out in the boat this weekend/early next week so I’ll be sure to give that area a good look.

          As far as the Canal goes, I’ve always had good luck plopping myself on a nice wide open mussel bed with plenty of casting room or even better, a rocky outcropping that jets out into the Canal a little bit. There’s plenty of great casting platforms when the tide is low around the Herring run – both on the mainland and Cape side.

          If I make it down there, which I plan on doing, I’ll definitely be in that general area, pedaling around the bike.

          Nice report!


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