Spring is here on Cape Cod, and our favorite saltwater fish species are not far behind. The striped bass action to the south is heating up, herring are entering our local runs and bottom dwelling fish like flounder and tautog will soon be active.
Right now is an exciting time of the year for many Cape Cod fishing fanatics-myself included. I spent some time this weekend cleaning reels and brainstorming ideas for late-April striped bass fishing expeditions. I also received a call this morning from Eagle Marine informing me that all the necessary parts and equipment to keep the Miss Loretta running at top notch have been ordered. If all goes according to plan the gear, the boat and yours truly, will be ready to start fishing in just a few short weeks.
Spring is also an awesome time of the year for the small boat angler. If you fish Cape Cod from a 12 foot rowboat, kayak or small skiff then spring is prime-time. Inshore areas which may be barren during July and August, will be inundated with life this spring. For me, spring is the best time of the year to fish Cape Cod from a small boat.
I plan on fishing the following areas starting later this month. If you are looking to jump-start your 2013 small boat fishing season, then consider giving these spots a shot.
Fishing the Flats of Cape Cod Bay
Fishing Cape Cod Bay during the spring is much different than fishing Cape Cod Bay during the summer or fall. The action over the expansive sand flats extending from Barnstable west towards Brewster can be outstanding. Striped bass of all shapes and sizes move in over the flats during the incoming tide. Fly fishing, spin casting and live lining mackerel are all great options here.
This is the ideal environment for a small skiff or kayak, as long as the wind is light from the SW. Always be sure to keep an eye on the sky when fishing Cape Cod Bay. A northerly or easterly wind can make for bumpy and unsafe conditions. Even though it is a "bay" sea conditions can deteriorate quickly. Fog is always a factor too, so be sure to stay up-to-date on the weather and always carry a GPS and compass.
When fishing these flats keep in mind that the tide drops and rises as much as 1.5 feet every fifteen minutes. If you aren't paying attention to the tide, it can be pretty easy for your boat to get stuck high and dry on a sandbar. If you decide to walk the flats, be sure to play the tides correctly to avoid becoming stranded during the incoming tide.
Finding and Catching Fish
The ideal boat for fishing these flats is a flat bottom skiff with plenty of room for casting, but as mentioned above kayaks work well too. The most predominant bait in the area is the sand eel, and the most "desirable" (if you are a bass) is a mackerel or herring. Therefore any slim profile soft plastics or flies will work well. Plugs and larger swimmers can work too, especially when bass are aggressively feeding on the surface.
Finding the best spots will take some time and effort, but you can establish a good overview of the area by hopping on Google Earth or checking out a Captain SeaGull's fishing chart. Notice the grass patches in the image below. If you are unsure where to start fishing, then try a grass patch first. Often times bait and bass will congregate in these interesting areas.
Dozens of whales fed with vigor inside Cape Cod Bay during the winter of 2011-2012. The whales were in the Bay because there was an extraordinary amount of bait around. In other words, the stage was set for an abundant Bay with plenty of marine life - and good fishing ensued throughout the spring.
I do not believe there were as many whales inside Cape Cod Bay this past winter, aside from a few Right whales here and there. Because of this I will be interested in seeing how much life is inside the Bay this spring, compared to last season.
Fishing the Southside Beachfront
The southside comes alive starting in mid to late April and fishes well straight through the month of May. This area is loaded with many quaint harbors, estuaries and bays that an angler could spend a lifetime fishing and exploring. The southside is pure paradise for the small boat fishermen.
I prefer to fish the southside beachfront after a day or two of a moderate south or southwest wind. I think the breeze helps push marine life in tight to shore, which in turn attracts predators. The southside can be a hot spot for both bluefish and bass during the spring.
The first stripers caught during April are often holdovers. Some good areas to try for these small holdover bass are harbors and bays, which happen to be perfect for kayaks.
By mid-May bluefish inundate Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound. Many of these blues will be feeding very close to shore which is convenient for small boat anglers. Trolling swimmers and Hoochies a hundred or so yards from the beach is a good way to find an area with some life. Once you hook up trolling, stop the boat and try casting top waters.
Buzzards Bay Fishing | Opportunities Abound
Buzzards Bay is a superb place for the small boat angler, especially early on in the season. Biomasses of big striped bass move through Buzzards Bay during the month of May, en route to the Cape Cod Canal. If you are fortunate, you may be able to intercept some of these fish on their northerly migration.
Like the Cape's southside, Buzzards Bay is filled with bays and harbors. These bays and harbors are prime spots to locate those first few fish of the season. Last season I caught some of my first striped bass while fishing from docks and bridges, located within these harbors. Many bays have herring runs which also help attract good size stripers in close to shore.
Some of these bays are chock full of bait, which in turn creates an ideal scenario for the kayak or skiff angler. Even when the wind is howling, these bays and harbors remain protected. In other words, you can fish these areas safely on a day when it would not be wise to venture off the southside or in Cape Cod Bay.
During the day most bass caught in these near shore areas will be on the small side. Bigger bass tend to move in close to the rocks once the sun sets. Fishing around the boulders can be precarious at best for power boat anglers. I've bumped a few rocks in Buzzards Bay with my boat - I cringe just thinking about it. If you want to fish in tight to the rocks, I think a kayak or fishing from shore is the smartest move.
Aside from stripers, tautog will be a viable option this spring in Buzzards Bay. Any rock pile or piece of structure in 15 or more feet of water can hold big tog. Green crabs always seems to be the bait of choice. For more solid information on fishing Buzzards Bay for tautog, check out Tom Richardson's article Massachusetts Spring Tautog Fishing.
Just a Few Weeks Left
I have a few things left to take care of over the next few weeks, but by later this month I plan on hitting the beach and the water hard. Needless to say I am extremely excited to start posting fresh Cape Cod fishing reports later this month.
My Fishing Cape Cod members will be able to follow along, as I explore the nooks and crannies of this sandy peninsula we calll Cape Cod. If you enjoy reading these blog posts, then you will love reading the Extended Reports that will be available to members in just a few short weeks.
The 8 Part Cape Cod Canal eCourse will also be available for free, for anyone who becomes a member before May 1, 2013. The info contained in this eCourse will help shorten the notorious Canal fishing learning curve by at least a few years. If you need help learning how to fish the Canal, be sure to sign up as a member before May1st.
All in all we have a great community developing here at MFCC, and I'm incredibly excited about the potential our community has for helping each other make 2013 the most memorable fishing season of all our lives. With your help I think we can definitely make this happen.
Tight lines and take care,