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Fishing Heats Up as Beach Days Dwindle

A thousand pound tuna, 400 pound sharks and 40 pound striped bass were the name of the game on the water this past week. Click here to continue reading.

It's a tough truth to swallow, but there is a good chance we have already seen our last true beach day of 2011.  Cape Cod's beaches have been eerily quiet as of late.
 
Yet this is the best time of the year for the saltwater fishing crowd.  Next week's forecast may be a bit wet, however the winds are predicted to be light and from the south.  October weather can be iffy at best, so I know I will at least be taking advantage of this week's predicted calm winds.

There's also been some big fish kicking around as of late.  Quite a few giant bluefin tuna have been taken inside Cape Cod Bay recently, with one fish allegedly topping the coveted 1,000 pound mark.  Enormous bluefish, as well as cow striped bass are coming within reach of the surfcasting crowd.  False albies are all over the place on the southside, the tautog fishing should start heating up soon, and there are blue sharks just about everywhere in Cape Cod Bay. 

Mola-mola or ocean sunfish, as they are locally called, have surrounded Cape Cod.  These awkward looking, jellyfish consuming fish can grow to be 1,000 pounds, and basically resemble a giant swimming fish head.  Mola-mola are easily spotted when they swim near the surface.  Look for what appears to be a shark fin.  If the fin is swaying back and forth, then you have just seen the dorsal of a mola-mola. 

Ocean sunfish are also capable of launching themselves straight clear out of the water.  The splash created from a jumping mola-mola resembles that of a giant bluefin tuna, and it's very easy to mistake one for the other.  I'm going to guess that the reports coming in about giant tuna sightings in the Cape Cod Canal, and within a stone's throw from many of the Bay's beaches, are actually a case of mistaken identity. 

It's fun to think that there could be a large school of giant tuna residing inside the Cape Cod Canal, however the real culprit is almost always a mola-mola.

The beach days may be behind us, however the best saltwater fishing of the year is still to come.  Lets take a look at last week's action, and make an educated guess about what to expect this week on the water.

Last Week's Action

The bass fishing inside Cape Cod Bay is the best it has been all year.  I may start sounding like a broken record, but the fishing seems to get better with each passing week.  We've averaged 10 keepers per hour on a few trips as of late, however the bass really need to cooperate in order for this to occur.

For example, last weekend we had a couple days of a sustained northeast breeze, that diminished overnight to light and variable.  These weather conditions coincided perfectly, and pushed the base of the food chain (plankton and small organisms) up tight to Cape Cod Bay's north facing beaches.  Mackerel and other larger bait fish subsequently followed the smaller organisms in shallow to feed.  It did not take long for the big bass to zone in on the larger prey items.

When a school of a few hundred or more bass descend on bait that's concentrated in shallow water (15 feet and less) it makes for incredible fishing.  The stripers usually hang in one spot longer than they would in deeper water, making them much easier to find and catch.

On the other hand, once the wind turned around and blew from the south, the small organisms, bait and bass vacated the nearshore haunts and returned to deeper water.  The fishing in turn remained good, yet not at the epic level it had been just a day or two prior.

The giant tuna bite from the Fishing Ledge to Provincetown picked up this past week.  There are some seriously big tuna around to say the least.  Boats fishing amongst the whiting draggers have been doing well live lining pogies, mackerel, whiting and whatever other live bait they can get their hands on.  Most folks have been anchoring up right in with the draggers and chumming.  Most of the tuna I heard about were taken on balloon baits set deep from 75 to 120 feet.

The blue sharks have been terrorizing the tuna fleet for a few weeks now.  Live baits make quick and easy meals for the "blue dogs."  These sharks are powerful, put up a good fight, and provide some action on a slow day.  However they can put a hurting on your gear and live bait supply, so pack a few extra hooks before leaving the dock.

From what I have heard, the false albies have shown up in force off the southside.  I've never targeted false albacore, but from what I hear they can be a finicky fish.  Look for the birds to find the best action.

Looking Forward

The winds are predicted to be down for this weekend, so expect some company if you head out tuna fishing.  Hopefully the bluefin bite in Cape Cod Bay will continue to improve as the days go by. 

If you are looking for tuna bait, many of the south shore's bays and harbors are chock full of menhaden.  Setting a gill net after dark in harbor channels is a good way to load up the live-well with frisky live baits.  Aside from pogies you may even net a shad or two.

The striped bass migration south should start soon, if it is not already underway.  Keep in mind that to head south, the bass must either go around the arm of the Cape, or cut through the Cape Cod Canal.  Undoubtedly, most bass probably choose the more traditional route around the Cape.  Yet the Cape Cod Canal has literally become a shortcut to the south for an impressive number of striped bass.  There's a good chance that biomasses of stripers will stage off the Bay's north facing beaches before making the run through the Canal.  Consider yourself the luckiest of the lucky if you are able to intercept one of these massive schools!

Also expect to encounter huge, 10 plus pound bluefish if you fish in Cape Cod Bay this week.  These choppers have been around all summer long and have shown no signs of leaving anytime soon. 

Don't forget that where there are big bluefish, there are often giant tuna.  A 15 pound blue, drifted off Sandy Neck, could be the ticket to a 900 pound bluefin-it's happened plenty of times before.

Keep your eyes peeled for mola-mola if you head out into Cape Cod Bay or Buzzard's Bay this week.  Ocean sunfish are pretty cool to show the kids, and they do put on an impressive acrobatic show when they feel so inclined.

When all else fails, put out a live or dead bait under a balloon and catch a shark.  There's plenty around, just watch out for their teeth!

There is plenty of potential for folks fishing Cape Cod this week.  Good luck, tight lines and catch 'em up!

rick September 25, 2011 at 06:52 PM
I wouldn't say "beach days are behind us", as I was just down at W Dennis last Wednesday (9/21/11) and the beach looked like summer to me; many people fishing and lot of people out in their bathing suits on the beach and the parking lot was full down to the turnaround !! Plenty of nice weather left.
Ryan Collins September 28, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Hey Rick. I went for a swim in Cape Cod Bay today-water was incredible, had to be close to 70 degrees. Hopefully we'll have a mild fall and winter. I remember one unusually warm night in January five to six years ago when it was 65 degrees. We had a fire on the beach, all of us wearing flip flops, shorts and t-shirts. Crazy! The following weekend we were hit with a snowstorm. For me, this is the best time of the year, for many different reasons, including the weather. Take care!

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