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The Herring Are Here On Cape Cod, And The Bass Aren’t Far Behind…

I spent a morning this week visiting many of Cape Cod's herring runs. Driving from herring run to herring run is a spring tradition that I share with many eager and enthusiastic Cape Cod fishers.

The great news is that many of the Cape's herring runs are chock-full of river herring. It's awesome to see so many herring returning to spawn and I feel it bodes well for spring striper fishing here on the Cape.

I would expect schoolie stripers to start appearing along Cape Cod's coastline any day now, and I myself hope to catch one this weekend. In this post we'll discuss herring and how you can use them to your advantage, to find and catch early spring striped bass.

An Update On How The Herring Are Running On Cape Cod

cape cod river herring

I visited several herring runs recently, including the famous Bournedale herring run at the Cape Cod Canal.

I did not see a single herring at any of the runs. However this doesn't mean a darn thing, because my visits occurred during the middle of a bright and sunny day, which is not the most ideal time to find herring.

From what I am gathering, many of Cape Cod's herring runs have experienced solid pushes of herring. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of herring will make a charge in the evening, at night or early in the morning.

The Great Herring Migration

Steve Kean from Cape Cod Fishing Expeditions recently shot some video of herring moving up a river to spawn. I always find it amazing how these rugged fish travel from the open ocean, right into just inches of water.

Most of the herring's journey is upstream, right into the teeth of an often relentless current.

cape cod river herring

Next the herring must navigate narrow streams, which are sometimes cluttered with tree limbs, stumps and man made debris.

river herring on cape cod

Some of the Cape's herring runs cut through neighborhoods, people's backyards and even major highways.

bournedale herring run

Throughout the past decades over fishing, pollution and many other factors have contributed to the decline of the Cape's population of river herring. More recently however, the moratorium on river herring fishing and efforts made by local groups to help keep herring runs clear and navigable have helped the population rebound.

Despite all the challenges that river herring face I have a good feeling about this year's herring run. As mentioned above, from what I am gathering, the herring are running strong so far this season.

The Bass Aren't Far Behind

cape cod herring

A year ago yesterday I caught my first striped bass of the 2013 season. So far this season I am yet to find a striped bass, but I feel that could change any day now.

I would fully expect to hear about migratory stripers being caught on Cape Cod within the next 7 days. I hope to catch  my first striper this coming weekend.

These early spring striped bass really do love to eat herring.

The first schoolies that will appear on Cape over the next 7 days will be very small and won't be able to engulf a full grown river herring. However, larger stripers will not be far behind the first schoolies.

When these bigger bass arrive (I'd say the first "keepers" will arrive in some spots by May 1st) one of the best places to target them is around the Cape's many herring runs.

Places To Find Herring-Hungry Bass

cape cod herring stripers

Early in the season I enjoy fishing around herring runs. I feel that the coastline surrounding any of Cape Cod's known herring runs are good places to check out.

If you're a My Fishing Cape Cod member, I have put together a list of Cape Cod's herring runs which I feel will help you zone in on some good fishing over the next couple of weeks.

Click here to view the list of herring run hot spots

If you're not a MFCC member, you can still learn some more in-depth information about targeting stripers by zoning in on river herring, by reading this free article.

The One Lure I Plan On Using To Catch My First Keeper Striper During Late April/Early May

daiwa sp minnow

I have recently discovered the lethal Daiwa SP Minnow. This lure has been popular for a few years now, especially in places like the Cape Cod Canal.

I think the particular SP Minnow photographed above will do a good job of imitating river herring. The lure swims and casts great, and basically does all the fish-catching work for me.

I would not use this lure for the first migrant schoolies that will be arriving on Cape Cod over the next 7-14 days. However I do plan on casting the SP Minnow quite often once the big bass begin to trickle in, probably during early May.

In Conclusion & Looking Forward

Like most folks on the MFCC blog, I am really chomping at the bit. All this week I have been exploring and fishing the Cape's freshwater ponds, streams and saltwater estuaries.

You can read all about my latest excursions by clicking here.

I am having a blast, but I will say I am eagerly awaiting the first big push of stripers into the Cape Cod area. It's only a matter of days now until that happens...

What do you think? Let me know by commenting below.

Tight lines and take care,


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by Ryan Collins

Ryan Collins grew up on the beach, and has been fishing since he was 5. Ryan has great family, friends and fishing experiences to be grateful for. Just being there is enough...catching a few fish is always a bonus!

  1. When certain species migrate on an anticipated schedule it assures us that all is right with the world. Let the games begin!

    1. Amen to that Art!


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