Rockfish on Cape Cod Bay

Coastal Zone Pesky Pole Strikes Again

Anyone who has fished for striped bass from Maryland to North Carolina knows they go by one name; Rockfish.  Sounds kinda crazy for us cape Cod fisherman as we catch stripers in mainly sandy fast moving waters.  Of course we do find them along rocky shorelines, but Cape Cod doesn’t offer too much of that cover unless you’re fishing along the Elizabeth island chain south of Falmouth. So when Doug Foran from Maryland and his friend Ted come up for a two day charter I found it fitting to use the tern Rockfish whenever possible.  The plan was simple, they wanted to bring back some tasty fillets of any sort so we started the first day out on Buzzards Bay looking to see if the larger Sea

fat Buzz Bay Striper

Fat Buzz Bay Striper

Bass had moved in yet.  It was Friday June 6th and the weather on Cape Cod bay was calling for 2-3’ seas with 1’ or less in Buzzards Bay so the plan looked good on paper anyways.  We started out in the upper bay and quickly found some busting fish with birds working the surface.  I handed the guys a light tackle spinning rod and gave them a quick lesson on how to retrieve the small Bill Hurley soft plastic baits.  At first they were a little confused by the small size of our lures and gear, but when they instantly hooked up with hard fighting “schoolies” (we call stripers that are under the min. of 28” keeper size, schoolies) they quickly understood my reasoning. You see in the Chesapeake Bay most people fish with large bunker spoons and hair jigs trolled on heavy wire or lead core rigs.  Hardly much fun in my opinion. Doug and Ted had a ball with multiple hook ups being the norm until the current near the canal ran slow.  Then it was time to put them on some sea bass.  Had the larger fish made their way into the upper reaches of the bay yet?  You bet your grampa’s Mitchell 300 they did!  The guys had never caught large sea bass as most ran in the 17-20” range.  Now they had some fillets to bring back south.  A couple of nice fluke rounded out the day’s action and it was time to clean some fish and head for the barn.  Day two brought a different plan altogether.  We launched out of Sandwich harbor as I received some intel on a school of larger Rockfish feeding on the surface the morning before near the east end of the canal.  Well as some days are the action was slow to nonexistent at first light. Since I had ¾ of a tank of fuel in my Andrso Boatworks Cuda 23 I gave the signal to pull in the lines and we made our way east 9 miles to Barnstable Harbor.  The tide was dropping and we rigged up some 7.5” sand eel imitations on ¾ once jigs.  The plan was to drift the outgoing tide in the harbor channel entrance and slam some big Rocks. This worked a week earlier with a few VT anglers as we out fished the rest of the boats who were using live mackerel.  We did so well I even had another boat come along side and ask “what the heck are you using?”. 

Outer cape shore line

Outer cape shore line

As some days just happen, the fishing in the channel was very slow.  So we made our way up into the bay to hit a few of the flats that often hold fish before the tide turned them into dry sand.  Nothing!  Not even a hit.  I was starting to sweat it at this point.  Just about the time I was scratching my head for a new plan my cell phone rang with a call from fellow guide Ian Wall.  Ian said, “dude were on a school of 40” plus fish and it’s silly”. After a quick check of his location I estimated our run to be roughly 21 miles.  No problem right, wrong the wind started to pick up and the tide was against it.  After a no show all morning I made the call, let’s go after em gentlemen it’s going to be a Bumpy ride there, but should smooth out on our way back.  Bumpy was an understatement!  The guys ended up sitting on the aft deck as I held on the wheel in 4-6’ swells that with not much distance between them.  As I slowly made our way northeast I kept looking at the GPS and it almost felt like we were standing still at times. 

Ted and his second keeper

Ted and his second keeper

After a long one and three quarter hour jolting ride with me constantly repeating “ I hope this is worth it?” under my breadth we finally arrived to the coordinates.  One problem, there was no boats or fish anywhere to be seen?  I quickly texted my buddy Ian and he replied with “ they have moved around the hook and are now 6 miles down the backside”. Holy crap their moving fast, but still biting.  The tide was changing soon and I knew our window was short.  Once again I said “hold on guys” with return looks of utter disbelief we rounded the hook near Provincetown, the eastern tip of Cape Cod. Luckily the seas calmed a bit and we made better progress.  Ian was long gone and already cleaning his boat back on dry land when we found the school.  Man was the trip worth it! We had large Rockfish chasing sea herring all around the boat.  Ted was the first to hook up with a fat 42” Rocky putting the hurt on his 7’ medium to heavy spinning rod.  Many fish were chasing their baits after that only to turn at the last second. 

Doug with his first keeper

Doug with his first keeper

I instructed the guys to reel as fast as they can with jerking motions to entice the fish.  Bam, just like that double hook ups!  It only took 25 minutes to land four large keeper rockfish and then it was over.  Like someone flipped a switch they all headed back towards the tip of the cape. You see the tide was now at the slack and that stops the feeding quickly.  After another half hour of casting to cruising fish the guys finally took my understanding that they aren’t going to bite, but when your fishing in as beautiful a place there is with 40” plus fish swimming by I can certainly understand their wanting to try.  Well it was time for the long steam back to Sandwich harbor and we had roughly 30 miles to go.  I looked at the fuel gauge and it read ½-3/4 of a tank so I felt we had enough fuel as we would have an incoming tide to help us.  About half way across in beautiful calm seas I looked at the gauge and it read empty! I looked at Doug and he jokingly said, “if we run out of fuel my wife will blame me as I’m always cutting it close”.  I had to laugh as I am always running to empty on my GMC truck.  It was tense, but we made it to the marina.  After dropping the guys off at their hotel we snapped a few more pics and I cleaned their catch.  As a guide I make many decisions all day and today I admit maybe I got lucky on this one.  The boys from Maryland got their big Rockfish and they were just stoked on the whole experience.  How low was my fuel level?  Well when I got home and put the ear muffs on the Etec to flush her out it only lasted 15 seconds maybe!  Phew thank you lord of the rockfish! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply