So you want to go and fish for striped bass in Cape Cod?
I am getting emails, messages and Facebook stuff about going fishing for striped bass in the extensive Cape Cod area, so rather than trying to reply to all of them with my extremely limited knowledge, I thought I would put what little I know up here as a way of at least getting some of you on the right road to heading over there - a bit of initial research shall we call it? Please don’t go shooting the messenger when the messenger (me) is telling you how little he knows - and if any of you kind souls who know about the Cape Cod fishing feel so inclined, please leave further info in the comments section - and my thanks for doing so. I will then copy this post to the Help & Info section and make sure to credit any other info that I put in there from you guys.
The most logical airport for the Cape Cod area is Boston, and all over Cape Cod there are stacks of motels plus places to eat at all kinds of prices. Next time I go I will look to rent a house with a few mates, most likely in the Sandwich area (good for the Canal and plenty of other shore fishing, we stayed in a motel around there for a few nights), but I haven’t looked into this properly yet. Pick up a hire car at Boston airport, and it will be helpful if you get something that can fit rods in of course. Stuff like this is so sorted in the US, and a bunch of anglers sharing transport, accommodation and food should make things pretty cost effective.
The Cape Cod Canal - I am not going to try and tell you where to go and when, because I don’t know. Drop into Red Top Tackle and ask to speak to Rob “Bull” Mackinnon, and the chances are that he might be heading out fishing and kindly ask you to tag along, or at least help you with up to date info. This is not a money changing hands thing, but please at least do something like treat the guy to breakfast, lunch or supper as a way of saying thank you, and if you want to see the most awesome casting of large surface lures, then Bull is your man. I am indebted to a lad called Pete for putting us in touch and of course to Bull for getting me a shot at a few nice stripers on surface lures. It seems that the Canal can fish almost at any time of year, but the purposes of visiting anglers, think about late May, June and July especially for the bigger stripers, with big numbers of fish of all sizes in summer especially. They sometimes get a run of really big fish in late October/early November, but in fishing there are of course no guarantees, and the weather gets pretty brutal on Cape Cod in the winter.
The Canal is a fascinating fishery, and it tends to require a specialist approach to fishing it. How you go about the (relatively heavy duty) fishing may well not be for everybody, but it’s unique, and they catch some seriously big stripers out of it - there was a 45lb fish landed the morning before we left, plus we were hearing of lots of 30lb plus fish coming out. If you intend to fish the Canal, go prepared or buy the gear over there. Of course you could land a 50lb striper on the sort of bass gear we fish with if you fished snag-free water with zero current, but on the Canal you are mixing it up with serious currents and/or the need to sometimes put some big lures out a long way. When we were fishing there with Bull, if you didn’t reach the tide rips, you didn’t catch fish, end of. When I go back I will buy a bunch of different lures from Red Top Tackle, and I will look to have some kind of 10’+ rod that can handle up to say 100g (surface lures as well as soft plastics for fishing the bottom etc.) In my mind the rod is more a means for putting the lures out rather than worrying about the potential size of the fish in strong currents if that makes sense - albeit those stripers go well in that current!!
I was very interested to see that Bull was fishing mainly with 20lb PowerPro, and until I asked him I could not work out how he was not cracking off with the heavy surface lures. His entire Canal setup is geared towards extreme distance if he needs it, and he doubles up a long length of his braid to get a few wraps on his spool when he is casting for extra strength. Leaders do not need to be long if you fish like this. It isn’t exclusively about heavy gear on the Canal, but why not give yourself the best chance at the big fish? Lots of local anglers have a couple of rod and reel setups with them. I’d like that heavy setup and then a rod up to say 60g, along the lines of that rather impressive Major Craft X-Ride 10’ 20-60g Shore Jigging rod I was using out there. I would be interested to see their X-Ride “Plugging” rods, the 9’6’’ 15-70g and the 10’3’’ 30-100g - see here. There are of course a stack of specialist rods over in the US that are designed to deal with the heavier lures.
Now there is of course another whole world of shore based striped bass fishing outside of the famous Cape Cod Canal. I know absolutely nothing about it but next time I go I am going to try and get in amongst it. I love the sound of sight fishing to stripers on big coldwater flats for example, or how about bumping plastics down some current rip at night and potentially hooking a 20lb plus fish? They do a lot of night fishing for stripers. I would strongly advise that you drop into the famous Goose Hummock fishing tackle shop in Orleans and speak to the guys and girls in there - they know their stuff, and whilst I would never expect the divulging of top secret marks, I find it fascinating how open and helpful so many of the US anglers and tackle shops are. Fishing is so much about communication to me, and I will never understand anglers who don’t ask questions and talk with other anglers. Goose Hummock is an awesome tackle shop where you could seriously abuse your credit card.
I stand to be very much corrected here, but as visitors it seems that the best of the shore fishing tends to happen in late May, June and July, with a good chance at bigger fish again in autumn (called the fall in the US). Shore fishing aside, there is of course a wealth of boat fishing for striped bass around Cape Cod. Ask in the Goose Hummock tackle shop of course, and I can highly recommend the Real Deal Fishing Charters setup that Matt and I fished with out of Truro - where you depart from on the boat will depend very much on the time of year and what’s going on with the fishing, but nowhere is that far on Cape Cod. My understanding is that the boat fishing can keep on getting better and better as the season progresses.
I had heard a little about the bluefin tuna fishery in Cape Cod, but as with Italy the other day, I didn’t know just how many fish there were - and in Cape Cod these bluefin get really, really big, to a size in fact that I must admit that I don’t really want to hook!! If you want to get beat up by potentially 400lb bluefin tuna, then that Real Deal Fishing Charters is a good place to start, and the season tends to get going in June and lasts for months. Some boats will troll, but the bulk of the fishing is chucking soft plastics and surface lures at the tuna, and to be honest the thought of a giant bluefin smashing a lure off the top freaks the living daylights out of me.
I hope this basic info might help you out a bit. There are people reading this who have a lot of experience of striped bass fishing - please do help out in the comments section if you feel so inclined, and my thanks in advance. Whilst you can of course spend some serious wedge on any number of fishing holidays around the world, it is my belief that this striper stuff is some world class fishing that can be accessed for sensible money if you do it right. They are awesome fish, they grow big, and they scrap pretty much like our own bass I reckon, taking into account their potential size of course. Many of the methods and techniques are pretty similar albeit across the pond they are of course geared towards dealing with much bigger fish, and it’s always very special going to the US anyway. I love it over there. See you as soon as possible Cape Cod.