Capt. Dave Peros: Looking Forward to a Good September Push of Fish on Cape Cod

Dave PerosENTERPRISE FILE PHOTO - Dave Peros

It’s one of those old expressions, but frankly I have to admit that in the course of being on the water daily, with the inherent frustrations of dealing with unpredictable winds, unruly seas, and uncooperative fish, I sometimes forget the words, “Keep it in perspective.”

I have been enjoying sharing some lively banter with my buddy, Captain Warren Marshall, who has placed the appellations, “Capt. Doom and Gloom” on me as I continue to lament the lack of albies so far this season.

On the other hand, Capt. Marshall is counting on enjoying the kind of fishing we had last season and, as I write this, it certainly is possible that schools of little tunny are streaming our way from who knows where.

In scanning a number Internet fishing forums, it is clear that most fisherfolk out there agree with Warren, pointing to mid-September as the point when things normally get really good.

That said, in past years, one could count on schools of albies, albeit smaller ones, thrashing and crashing around State Beach and Edgartown out on the Vineyard in August. If one looks at the website of Larry’s Tackle Shop, you will see their predicted date for the inshore species that visit Martha’s waters and when it comes to false albacore, they offer up August 17 as a prognostication.

So, we are pushing toward a month beyond the point where one could have reasonably expected to see the first push of albies somewhere in the sounds or even Buzzards Bay.

And as far as it getting good goes, I have my wedding anniversary as a pretty reliable reminder of when it has been hopping in past years since I have made a number of trips to Ireland to celebrate my life with Kate, fully aware that I am leaving funny fish that had been in full-blown blitz mode for at least a week before September 5.

Starting in mid-August, for anglers who do most of their fishing in the sounds and Buzzards Bay, albies provide a welcome diversion from the reality of slower bass fishing, with this year perhaps one of the toughest in recent memory, especially if one is targeting bigger stripers.

But on a really positive note, in the last couple of weeks there has been some really good schoolie activity down along the Elizabeths—and that information will allow me to make a long hook back to my reference about perspective.

You see, when it comes to striper fishing, we are spoiled to have enough big bass that we can hold tournaments where fish in the 40-pound class aren’t uncommon and there is an occasional 50 pounder or larger checked in.

And that’s not to mention how many times I hear anglers refer to a fish in the 20-pound class as “not really that big.”
I was reminded how lucky we are on Tuesday when I fished with John Crawford, a gentleman of Scottish descent who married an Irish lass and settled in the town of Wexford, where she hailed from.

Now retired, with their three sons grown and eight grandchildren in the fold, John and his wife manage to take about five “holidays” a year, or vacations as we call them. Boston and Manhattan are two of their favorite destinations, but after hearing about the Cape from another Irish traveler, John’s wife convinced him to visit Falmouth and we connected through Jim Young.

Now keep in mind how many times you hear about big bass being caught when I tell you that the bag limit on sea bass, their equivalent to our striper, is two fish a day at 40 centimeters, or roughly 16 inches. And fish of that size, not to mention catching a sea bass at all, aren’t that common, with John’s top fish an eight-plus pounder.

I have had the opportunity to fish for sea bass in Ireland, which look very similar to our stripers, with the same fin structure and body shape but without the stripes and bit more drab coloration overall. I didn’t catch any, but the ghillie I was fishing with did and I could tell how significant a catch it was by his level of excitement, particularly on the fly rod.

Bait And Bass
Erupting Under Birds

So you can imagine John’s delight when we got into some pretty consistent schoolie activity in the Hole and imagine my surprise when he told me these were his first bass caught on artificial lures.

The conditions made it impossible for us to make it farther down the islands where Barney Keezell and Dana Wilson concluded a beautiful day on the water with what we labeled “mini-Montauks” since the bait and bass were so thick that you could see the schools before the fish erupted and the birds got really happy.

Joe Marcus and I found the same thing on Monday, with the fish pinning the bait to the shore and we got tripped up by some bluefish around Cuttyhunk that were sipping and slashing like funny fish. The bait in the area was incredibly small and looked like bay anchovies, which appear to have replaced silversides and peanut bunker as the predominant small bait in our local waters.

There are still some bigger fish around, with Barney managing a 37-inch bass on a live eel tossed into the rocks, but the level of activity has varied widely from day to day. I ran into Phil Stanton on the water last Friday; he had enjoyed an epic day of eeling earlier that week, but despite working the same waters, he had nothing to show for his efforts when we stopped to chat.

The word from Jim Young is that the bonito action out at the Hooter had picked up over last weekend, with Captain Eric Stapelfeld managing 14 on Yo-zuri Deep Diving Crystal Minnows, along with a good number of smaller bluefish and a few bass. A very occasional bonito has been caught at Hedge Fence, once again on the troll, but as far as casting action for bones, it definitely has not been a banner year.

It is clear that most fisherfolk out there agree with Warren, pointing to mid-September as the point when things normally get really good.

Jeff Clabault did have some good news for shore anglers, with a neighbor of his catching some bass in the 30-inch class at Popponesset, first on poppers at dusk and then on a Yo-zuri MagMinnow after sunset, while he also had a report of bigger stripers to 36 inches taken on live eels in the dark up inside Cotuit.

Jeff went to Poppy himself on Monday night and managed bass from small schoolies to 30-inches on the MagMinnow and a diamond jig with a green tube fished in the heavy current in the channel. His neighbor lost a bigger fish that he couldn’t turn, so Jeff returned the next night with some live eels in hopes that there were other larger fish. Alas, things were slower, with a few bass on the same lures as the night before; the action for everyone seemed off.

Andy Little confirmed that the waters from Osterville to Craigville have been dead, with no signs of funny fish whatsoever and no word on bass or bluefish activity from boat or shore.

After the last several years of sub-par fishing starting in July and continuing through the fall around the southside, I wonder if there is going to be a run on slips from Sandwich to Barnstable as boaters from Falmouth to Mashpee get tired of hearing how good it can be up in Cape Cod Bay.

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Or maybe they’ll take up fishing the canal, as some many other folks have over the last couple of years.

It was three wonderful days in a row getting to speak with Sheila Miller, who was giving her men a break from their long, uninterrupted schedule, and she reported weighing in a pair of 41-plus-pound bass caught in the wee hours of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning on live eels. That seems to be the common theme right now as anglers who manage to locate a school of bass anywhere from Sandy Neck down to the Sandwich creeks have been using snakes with spectacular results, with Mrs. Miller seeing a photo of a 55 pounder, while Jeff Clabault weighed in a 41 pounder caught at 7 AM in the same area—some good news for anglers who like to sleep in, although I suspect this was more of an aberration rather typical and perhaps had something to do with overcast, low-light conditions.

The Waiting Game

Tube-and-worm fishing has been effective as well, but the scenario is a lot of hours trolling for nothing and then there is a flurry of activity for a brief time.

I asked Mike Thomas what he thought these fish were finding for bait in this area and he reported cleaning several caught thereabouts and they were filled with sand dollars, with some butterfish moving into the east end of the Canal and the odds are that these bait fish came from down Sandwich way or up around Plymouth.

Mike also offered a tale regarding a couple who have just started fishing the Big Ditch itself, particularly around the fish pier. They picked things up quickly and were into fish from the start, including an eight-fish trip, before landing their personal best of 35 pounds earlier this week. Now they have become part of the regular crew, with the distaff member of the team ingratiating herself by baking cookies and muffins for everyone.

Live eels and jigs at night continue to produce good numbers of larger fish in the canal, with the action most often concentrated from mid-ditch to the east end, reported Sheila Miller.

There has also been a first-light bite, said Stan Darmofalski, with Savage Sand Eels and Daiwa SP Minnows hot lures, and they have weighed in fish up to the high 30-pound class this week. With good numbers of big bass being caught from Plymouth and points north, all bets are off as far as whether these schools will move into and through the land cut, but as long as there is bait around, like the big squid at the east end and the mackerel that keep reappearing from time-to-time, it could be a great fall in the canal.

Some bass are also being caught around the west end, especially from the railroad bridge to Bell Road, and Mike Thomas believes that schools of stripers are moving east to west before dumping into Buzzards Bay at the moment based on the westward shift of activity from morning to morning. There hasn’t been a ton of surface activity as the east turn is occurring well after sunup, but the rats who have managed to get their hands on mackerel colored Savage Sand Eels and then located the whereabouts of a subsurface school of fish have done well.

Trout continue to move close to shore with the cooler nights, although they are probably wondering what is going on with the return of summer on Wednesday, and Jeff Clabault heard of a pair of seven-pound Northern pike coming from Lake Wequaquet, a nice little bit of variety on the sweetwater scene.

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