There was a "nip" in the air the other morning when I woke up, which to me is a clue that summer is waning. I love late summer on Cape Cod, more so than any other time of the year. The hot and muggy air is dissipating, and the bass bite on truly large stripers is improving.
For some odd reason, striped bass on Cape Cod seem to eat live eels with more abandon during late summer and early fall, contrasted to the spring and early summer. Of course there are a thousand exceptions to this rule, but for me it seems to hold true the majority of the time.
If you are looking to catch a truly impressive striped bass over the next several weeks, whether from shore or boat, from Plymouth to the Elizabeth Islands, consider tossing a live eel.
The Toughest Creature on Earth
Eels have got to be one of the toughest, if not the toughest creature on Earth. What other animal can withstand an impaled hook through its head, and still swim at max speed? What sort of creature gets bitten in half by a bluefish and still continues to squirm and curl as if nothing has changed?
Only the American eel.
These slimy snake-like creatures are capable of astounding feats. Eels gulp air as well as breathe underwater. They are more than happy completely out of water (as long as they are kept damp) as they are on the bottom of the ocean.
Eels spend most of their lives in freshwater but have no trouble at all adapting to the oceanic environment. When they decide to spawn they squirm from their freshwater homes and swim 1,000 miles to the Sargasso Sea where they will lay 1 million eggs.
Pretty incredible wouldn't you agree?
And to top it all off, when winter sets in and the water gets super cold, eels simply burrow down into the mud, enter a torpid state and sit still until the water warms again in the spring. Talk about one heck of a way to spend the winter.
Eels as Bait
Because eels are so darn tough and versatile, it was only a matter of time until people realized that they make a great live bait. Unfortunately for the eel, this realization has created a high demand for them. Us striped bass anglers kill a lot of eels each season in our pursuit of big fish, and I fear that this may come back to nip us in the butts years down the road.
I suppose only time will tell.
Yet for now eels are abundant at just about every bait and tackle shop in New England. If you purchase eels for bait, it can help to understand what technique to apply to the area you plan on fishing. Here's a couple of examples:
3-Waying Live Eels in Rips
By using a 3 way swivel with a heavy bank sinker, it is possible to fish live eels right along the bottom in deep water and strong current. Bass often hunker down in rips and holes, and if you can get an eel down in there, the fish will often whack it without hesitation.
In these situations, bass often have only a second or two to decide whether they want to eat the eel before it gets swept away in the current. Hold onto your rod with both hands because the bites can be vicious.
3 way rigs are rather simple and look something like this:
The most important component of the presentation is to use the perfect amount of weight. You want to use the least amount of weight possible to keep the line vertical.
Whatever you do, avoid letting out a bunch of line and dragging the rig on the bottom. Doing so will make it difficult to detect bites, plus you'll probably end up fouling up on the bottom.
For more information on 3 waying live eels check out this article.
Fishing Live Eels from Shore
If you haven't already done so, right now is a great time to start fishing live eels from shore on Cape Cod. Late summer and early fall are prime time for fishing Cape Cod's beaches with eels. Of course don't forget that live eels work great at the Cape Cod Canal as well.
Fishing live eels from shore is relatively simple. I would recommend not using any weight and lobbing the eel out into the ocean. A slow retrieve with the rod tip high in the sky is the general technique. Once you get a bite drop the rod tip, allow the line to tighten and then set the hook.
Of course this is much easier said than done! The most important piece of information is fishing an area that contains a lot of life.
Often times these areas are lonely stretches of shoreline, estuaries or weed beds. When bass start migrating several weeks from now, try to think about where large schools of fish may show up. Log in a ton of time in the surf and you'll eventually hit the jackpot.
For more information on fishing live eels from shore, give this blog post a read:
Live Eel Fishing this Week on Cape Cod
I have a feeling I'll be fishing live eels a lot this late summer and early fall. I have a few out of the box ideas up my sleeve for fishing live eels from shore which I'm dying to try out. From the boat I plan on fishing a few little-known areas I haven't fished since I was a kid.
Stay tuned this week for a new fishing report focused on fishing live eels. I plan on having a report up within 48 hours.
Until then tight lines and take care,
I’m fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I’ve been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!