Although it has been said in many ways that trusting a fisherman to tell the truth is a losing game, there are certain things you can count on around these parts when it comes to the fish themselves.
The further we drift into April, there will be more and more reports of schoolies hither and yon, with some debating about whether they are holdovers or small stripers that have made the long and arduous trip from the Chesapeake or even the Hudson.
Jim Young at Eastmanâs Sport & Tackle on Main Street in Falmouth didnât have much to say in the way of schoolies being caught in any of the backwaters that typically produce the first ones.
What Jim did tell me was that Evan Eastman, who is now running the shop that carries his surname, saw a video of an angler displaying a small striper that he caught somewhere in a local estuary and it had sea lice all over it. The presence of these critters typically indicates that a fish is a new arrival, since they pick them up in open water. But some folks believe it is possible that holdover fish can venture out into the sounds or Buzzards Bay where they can pick up these external parasites.
What I particularly appreciated was seeing this fish caught on a soft plastic, an excellent choice for early season fishing for two reasons: stripers love them and they can be fished effectively with single hooks. Offset worm hooks, swimbait hooks (both plain or with a little weight added to the shank), or jigheadsâit really doesnât make any difference what way you rig them. The key is that since you will (or should) be releasing sublegal fish, a single hook makes it easier and cleaner, especially if you crush the barb down.
Small, white bucktail jigs were once a top choice when fishing for early season schoolies and they became even more effective when paired with a soft plastic; the curly tail grub is an old school favorite and they still work, along with other designs that have appeared more recently.
Bruce Miller at Canal Bait & Tackle in Sagamore had a tidbit to offer about a few schoolies being caught in the Craigville area as well as up inside Cotuit. Itâs no secret that many anglers, both flyrodders and those who prefer to use spinning equipment, catch their first fish of the season from areas such as the Narrows and Prince Cove, as well as the Popponesset area.
Jim Young reported that the herring runs in Mashpee are full, while the Coonamessett in Falmouth is just starting to pick up steam, but it has always lagged behind other waters where alewives return to spawn. Although taking river herring remains closed to everyone but those who trace their ancestry to the original inhabitants of the Cape, their presence typically gets people thinking about stripers.
The arrival of squid in Nantucket Sound is another positive development, both because they are one of the favorite foods of fish like bass and blues, as well as human beings. Elise Costa at The Powderhorn in Hyannis said that a couple of draggers were out earlier this week working the sound, and although she hadnât heard anything yet about what they caught, she suspects it wonât be long before the Loligo make their annual appearance, along with more draggers and a veritable fleet of recreational boats jigging up dinner and prime bait that they can freeze for use later during fluke season or even for offshore trips targeting deep drop swordfish.
Anglers who donât or wonât make the effort to catch their own local squid pay higher prices for it at shops in our area, knowing full well that the ink and other juices that are saved when the âgood stuffâ is frozen can make all the difference when it comes to catching more and larger fish.
Over at Falmouth Bait & Tackle, which is in the Teaticket section of Falmouth, Todd Benedict acknowledged that there wasnât much to report from the saltwater scene. He did come across birds working over bait up around Old Silver Beach earlier this week, but he couldnât identify what type of baitfish they were and saw no signs of stripers feeding on the small minnows.
This information coincides with some news that Enterprise publisher Bill Hough shared with me; it concerned a local angler whose wife reported that âfish were splashing up a storm in Megansett Harborâ earlier this week. The Buzzards Bay side of Falmouth often sees fish earlier and in greater numbers than southside waters, something that holds true in the upper reaches of the Bay from Bourne to Wareham.
A.J. Coots from Red Top in Buzzards Bay told me that the rivers in Wareham, both the Weweantic and Agawam/Wareham, have produced both holdover and bright schoolies, as well as a larger holdover that topped the 28-inch legal minimum. He added that the odds are that stripers can be caught up inside Onset and Buttermilk Bay.
The Cape Cod Canal is also coming to life, said Bruce Miller, with mainly small wintered-over bass being caught around the west end, while the herring run is seeing more and more alewives every day. Bruce added that along with the gulls that typically hang outside the run, there are plenty of seals looking for a meal, with someone counting 56 heads bobbing in the area before he ran out of toes and fingers.
I saw a solitary angler rigging up in the parking lot by the Big Ditch run and you can be assured that the Canal rats are readying their larger, shad/paddletail soft plastics and other herring imitations in hopes of gathering bragging rights by catching the first legal bass from this seven-mile ribbon.
My âlawnâ is dandelion heaven, but as of midweek I had none of my favorite yellow flowers gracing my property, meaning that the tautog bite has yet to shape up.
Of course, as A.J. Coots emphasized, the winds and weather havenât encouraged nor allowed boaters to try their luck out in Buzzards Bay, which holds some of the most popular âtog locations around the Upper Cape.
A few small ones have been caught around the west end of the Canal, noted Bruce Miller, while Jim Young added that Bill Johnson has yet to find any in his lobster pots in Woods Hole.
According to the state Fisheries and Wildlife website, the only Cape ponds to receive any trout this week were down-Cape, with both Mares and Grews stocked with brook and tiger trout last Friday. Last Tuesday, Ashumet, Johns, and Mashpee-Wakeby benefited from stockings of rainbows, and Peters got more brook trout.
Trout fishing remains excellent as the transplants become more acclimated to their new home waters with each passing day and the water temperatures are still cold enough to keep plenty of fish within range of shorebound anglers.
Although he has not weighed in any freshwater bass nor even fished for them, A.J. Coots saw photos on Facebook of three solid, 5-pound largemouth that were caught recently. The anglers who caught them are dedicated tossers of artificial lures, A.J. explained, and he suspects they were using some sort of jig, perhaps chatterbaits, and moving them quite slowly.
It certainly is fun to trick any fish into hitting a man-made offering, but when it comes to angling for freshwater bass with live bait, you canât do any better in our local ponds than by using shiners, Todd Benedict emphasized.