The beginning can be the Best!
By Goose Hummock Pro Staffer Capt. Eric Stewart
I have been fishing Cape Cod Bay my entire life, watching patterns with the fish come and go. In the past several seasons, we are noticing that the numbers of Bass that Cape Cod Bay holds dwindles as the season progresses. Though we are not sure of the reasons for this but it has been recurring. I am going to give you the angler a quick overview of how to capitalize on the early run of Bass in the Bay which can be some of the best fishing of the year.
The season usually starts in late April or early May with the first striped bass showing up just off the beaches in Eastham and Wellfleet. Fresh sand eels or chunk Mackerel can be very good bait for these early fish, but they can also be caught on plugs and soft plastics. The first fish of the season will be caught from the beaches. These fish will start to move in and their numbers will really grow. You will be able to catch them along the beaches of Brewster and Dennis, and the inside of Barnstable Harbor. Many anglers along the bayside beaches will wade out with the tides and throw soft plastics like Ronz’s, Sluggos, or Savage Gear Sand Eels into the surf line. The walk can be long but the fishing can be spectacular. Some of the best beach fishing of the season will take place during the late spring and early summer with the nighttime producing the best action.
By the second week in May, the charter boats will start to catch these fish in significant numbers. They usually show up on “Stoney Bar”, which is between the Number 3 and 5 cans near Billingsgate Island. Most of these fish will be caught on umbrella rigs with spoons down the middle and trolled single plugs. The all white color umbrella rig with a Tony Accetta #17 spoon down the inside has always been my favorite. The A17 Bombers in Pearl, Mackerel, and Pink have always been a great lure to troll for these hungry bass. I would always have a pearl Bomber out on my outrigger trolled on 40lb mono. The Yozuri Hydro Squirts can be deadly if we get a big early run of squid. As the month progresses, we will start to catch more fish along the Brewster shoreline, the south side of the Billingsgate shoals, and out on the “New Grounds” (which is roughly west of the old Target ship by a few miles). Most likely Barnstable Harbor will see good numbers of Bass moving in at this time also.
The resurgence of live bait fishing has exploded in the last few years due to the incredible runs of mackerel that have been staying around longer than they normally have in years. Fun and exiting fishing, you can jig them up on a sabiki rig near the entrance buoy to Sesuit Harbor and live line them for the Bass. This can work very well up off of Barnstable Harbor, as well as the south side of the shoals, or anywhere the fish are holding. You will need a live well to keep them alive on the boat, and if you don’t have one, swing into the shop and we can help you out with that.
At the beginning of June we will start to see our first significant run of bluefish and they will be mixed in with the bass. We will start to see big schools of both Bass and Blues out in the deep water on the North side of the shoals and out off the backside of Great Island. These fish will be moving through and can be very difficult to catch, but can offer some of the most exciting visuals, with hundreds of fish up “pushing” on the surface. There will be days when these fish will bite, and when they do, it can be epic! Many times we will see these fish settle in off of Provincetown from the Wood End to Race Point. We will usually see fish settle into the Brewster Flats also. The flats can offer you some great light tackle opportunity, but it can be over very quickly. Soft plastics and stick baits can be the magic in the shallow water there.
By mid July, the bass will move on top of the shoals and we will have to jig for them with wire line. This type of fishing can be a chore but it really produces some big fish. This is where you will bounce or jig the lure on the bottom while the boat is moving at 1.5-2kts. You will have to constantly keep the rod moving and keep the jig bouncing, to keep it clean. The standard set up is a Penn 113h reel mounted on a stiff wire line rod, and we rig it with 100 yards of wire with backing. We do not fish a leader in the Bay and we tie our jig direct. We will fish 3 to 5 oz jigs such as a River Fox or a Cape Cod Jig-it. The colors that have been the best for me are black and gold, black and purple, green and black, and all red.
Every year is different and the Bay holds many “spots” that can produce fish. This is just a guide of some solid patterns that have repeated year after year. Some years, the bass stay all year long and we have a great season. Other years, the big numbers of bass seem to move out of the Bay by the end of the summer. Every year is different and there is no way to forecast what next season will bring. The only thing that has been consistent is the springtime migration of these magnificent fish. Once the first herring shows up in the runs, we know the Bass won’t be far behind. That has never changed. They have always been here early. So, armed with this knowledge, you need to get your gear ready early and take advantage of this great springtime run. It truly is a magical time of year.