First off Happy New Year! I hope you have a great time tonight ringing in 2013. Stay safe and have fun.
With 2013 now upon us, it is time to start thinking about the upcoming Cape Cod fishing season. 2012 was a phenomenal year on Cape Cod for striped bass fishing, so I think we have a lot to look forward to in 2013. Will the fish return in droves? I suppose only time will tell.
Regardless of whether the fish show up in the same numbers as they did this past season, there will be certain ways that you can maximize your odds of finding them. Of course in some areas finding fish is as simple as finding the boats. Love it or hate it, certain Cape Cod fishing spots get pretty busy during the season-resulting in more folks searching for fleets of boats than actually looking for signs of life and trying to "think like a fish" in order to find the bite.
If you are like me then you prefer to not take part in the whole "look for a bent rod and go there" mentality. For me in this coming 2013 fishing season, I will be focusing on fishing more obscure locations. I want to head off the beaten path to Cape Cod fishing spots where I'll be the only fishermen for miles. Believe me these areas still exist, they just require a little extra time and energy to get there.
"Fish where the fish are" seems like a no-brainer. Yet viewed from a more broad perspective, fishing where the fish are is actually very important and easy to overlook.
Many of us will launch the boat from the same old boat ramp and fish the same old areas. Or we'll fish the same stretch of shoreline. Either way I myself often find it is just easier to fish what's most convenient. This makes plenty of sense as we are all short on time and often just want to sneak away for an hour or two.
There is certainly nothing wrong with this approach, but if you want to increase your odds of having an epic Cape Cod fishing trip, you really have to fish an area that contains a lot of life. Certain Cape Cod fishing areas will produce better during certain stages of the season. If you launch your boat or plan your shore fishing trip in accordance with where the fish normally show up during a certain stage of the season, you will dramatically increase your odds of finding the bite.
Head South in the Spring
Generally speaking, the warmer waters of Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound and Buzzard's Bay fish very well for stripers during the early part of the season. The month of May and early June has always been the best for me in this area. Remember that in the spring bass are migrating north, so they will swim by the Islands and the southside of the Cape before showing up in Cape Cod Bay and spots to the north.
Small fresh migratory bass typically show up by late April, sometimes even earlier in certain locales. The first part of May is in my opinion one of the best times to catch bass from shore on the southside and in Buzzard's Bay. Bigger bass begin moving through during the first part of May and by Memorial Day there will be some behemoths in the area. Early June can be good in these areas as well, before the water gets too warm for the bass to handle.
So from late April through early June I like to focus on fishing the southern waters of Cape Cod. Vineyard Sound, Nantucket Sound and Buzzard's Bay are usually my go-to choices. Casting top water plugs is my favorite method.
If you want to find aggressive bass, spring time is the right time! Below are some posts that highlight some of the good spring time fishing of 2012. I would anticipate great action once again occurring in these same areas again during the spring of 2013.
Think Cool During the Summer
Things usually shift once the summer settles in. Bass leave many of the areas that fished really well during the spring. If you want to keep on catching, you too may have to leave those spring time hot spots.
For the most part I usually find big bass during the summer in cooler water. The bath water temperature estuaries and bays are just too warm for big stripers. Fishing deep and fishing cooler waters is a good strategy.
During the first part of July the Cape Cod Canal can fish very well after dark. The Canal is a conduit for striper migration, contains a buffet of food options and a constant supply of cool water. On one tide the Canal may be 65 degrees and then an hour later on the opposite tide the temp is 58. There's a lot of mixing and currents, which I think helps attract big stripers.
For your best bet at a big bass at the Canal during the first part of July, I would recommend fishing at night. I talked a lot about this during November's Cape Cod Canal Fishing Webinar. Click here to watch the webinar reply.
Boat fishing usually out produces shore fishing during the summer by a pretty wide margin. Much of the action is happening well out of casting range in deeper water. I think bass instinctively head a bit farther offshore during the summer, but the inshore seal population certainly hasn't helped either.
In the deeper water, techniques such as the tube and worm as well as bunker spoons can really pay off on big bass.
In past summers we have taken bass over 40 pounds on these huge chunks of metal by trolling them through the deep waters of Cape Cod Bay. 3 years ago my father and I picked off a 43 pounder in 80 feet of water in the Bay. Talk about deep!
This past season I stuck with the tube with regards to trolling. I learned that adding a rubber core sinker to the line a yard or so in front of an un-weighted tube worked extremely well when bass were deep. The magic formula for me during July was 7 colors of lead core line with a half ounce rubber core sinker on the leader one yard in front of the tube.
For more information on summer time tubing for cow stripers, check out these following posts from the summer of 2012.
Thinking Skinny During the Fall
To be honest, I am having a hard time envisioning the fall of 2013 - which is a long ways away!
During the fall on Cape Cod stripers tend to once again begin showing up in the nearshore haunts. In past seasons we have been lucky to stumble upon big schools of big stripers in less than 10 feet of water during the fall. I will admit that this sort of fishing can be really hit or miss, as bass show up in one spot one day and are gone the next.
The fish are migrating which makes them a bit more unpredictable in my opinion. Expect to hit them hard one trip, and get skunked the next. That's just how it goes, at least for me and most people I speak to.
During the fall I like to fish estuaries. Estuaries are a magnet for striper activity, especially as the water cools. If we get a good onshore blow all the better. Live eels fished around estuaries during late September and October can be a killer combination.
Fortunately here on the MFCC blog we already have a bunch of posts about fishing estuaries and live eels. The below few are some of my favorites.
Topwater Plugging Creek Mouths During the Outgoing Tide (members article)
Have a great 2013 everyone!
Tight lines and take care,