Henry Gilbey
Cape Cod - 1010.jpg


Henry Gilbey blog

The Cape Cod Canal - outgunned but also ridiculously overexcited

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter with what we are here to do that I am pretty much outgunned when it comes to being able to fish parts of the Cape Cod Canal properly, but I find it absolutely fascinating how specialist much of the local canal fishing is, and with so many fish around, a whole industry exists to serve the anglers who spend time fishing it. I have never, ever seen people put big surface lures out so far, and this local angler “Bull” we hooked up with takes it to another level again. I can’t speculate on distances, but it’s a hell of a long way out when his lure hits the surface. Why the need to get mostly 3.5oz and bigger surface lures out so far? Because he’s catching big stripers out there. Numerous fish over 30lbs already this year, including a few over 40lbs, and for eleven successive years he caught a 50lb+ striper from the canal (personal best of 61lbs). Holy frigging cow……

I love how anglers consistently prove to be the best people around, and it’s a huge thanks to a guy called Pete who very kindly hooked us up with Bull who works around his job as a fireman in what seems to be the mecca of a local tackle shop around here, Red Top Tackle. And of course it’s then a huge thanks as well to Bull who so kindly offered Matt and I the chance to go fishing with him - how kind is that? He meets us at the shop, we have a yap (believe me, I could ask the guy a million questions, poor bloke!!), and we arrange a time to go fishing together. Hell, Bull even says come on guys, have a go with some of his own surface lures. He’s never met us before yet he is asking to come along fishing with him. How cool is that? Pretty humbling, that’s for sure.

I like to think that I can get a lure out there kind of ok, and this Major Craft X-Ride 10’ 20-60g Shore Jigging rod is actually doing pretty well at a job it’s not meant to be doing. Bull kindly offered me the use of a surface lure around the 2.5oz mark so that I could really wind the rod up and try getting it out there, and whilst I was actually pretty pleased with how far it went, when Bull saw some stripers busting on bait way, way out and then proceeded to put a surface lure right on them, well let’s just say that in an instant I knew that if I am to come back and seriously target these canal stripers, then I need to seriously up my whole approach. I have never felt so outgunned, and of course it helps that the guy can seriously cast a rod and has tuned his whole approach towards reaching those big fish.

Bearing in mind that Bull is 6’8’’ tall and wears size 17 shoes, you can see how this 30lb+ striper that he caught on Monday evening looks somewhat dwarfed in his hands. To see a fish like that come in was something else, but on that particular tide I just could get not my lure out far enough to be in amongst the feeding fish which you can sometimes see busting on bait beneath those telltale birds. Bull had to head off for work so Matt and I stayed a while longer, and just as the man said, when the tide turned and went the opposite way, the fish began moving on bait that little bit closer in. I was banging my surface lure away and the water suddenly erupted. I had hooked a fish that looked around the same size as Bull’s fish from earlier, in that I saw it clear as day as it smashed my lure and hooked up, but then the fish seemed to flop over onto my braid and it parted. I had been fishing the Crazy Sandeel in a very rocky hole a little earlier and I would imagine that I damaged the braid without realising. Gutted but also elated to have hooked a decent fish.

We made plans to meet up with Bull early the next morning, but at 2.45am we got a text to say that we should meet him at a different location - seems that the strong NE wind was driving the bait shoals further into the canal and we needed to be there. Matt and I arrive at 4am in the driving rain and there are fishing trucks parked all over the place. We meet up with Bull, and we wander along the towpath to find our spot. The ability to put his lures out a very long way means that Bull is able to fish away from the crowds that can turn up when the fishing is on because he can access current lines that many other anglers can’t. Could we though?

So we are standing there and waiting for it to get that bit lighter. Birds are starting to move around and you can just about hear the odd faint splash as a striper busts on bait. The rain is hammering down and my adrenaline levels are on overload. It’s time to start fishing, and because I need every single bit of distance advantage possible, I wade out as far as I dare and wind a few casts up. On perhaps my third cast and I see something just explode onto my surface lure. It’s all I can do not to pass out. This is it. I have heard so much about fishing this Cape Cod Canal, and now I am actually hooked up to what feels like a pretty good fish - when over 20lbs of striper is at my feet it’s about all I can do to stand up straight and be able to say a big thanks to Bull for going out of his way to help us get a shot at fish like this from the shore. I am over the moon but I also know that a striper like this raises not even the corner of an eyebrow in the canal. You might have noticed that I just don’t have or post photos of me with fish, but Matt took a couple of snaps on his iPhone. My apologies.

The barbless hooks came out easily (Bull fishes barbless only, returns all his fish, and surprise, surprise, he doesn’t reckon he loses fish because of it - amazing isn’t it?) and I take a moment to properly admire the fish before letting go of that big tail and watching it power off. To be honest I feel pretty overcome by the whole thing - the fish, the fishing, the place, and the whole vibe I suppose. I landed another couple of stripers over the 20lb mark, plus a bluefish and a smaller striper, as well as a few big smashes on my lure that didn’t hook up. At one point I reckoned I could see at least ten other anglers into fish, and the average size looked to be around that 20lb+ mark - pretty frigging awesome if you ask me, and I would imagine that one of those 40lb+ donkeys on six knots of current is quite something!! The lack of photos here is quite simply because the rain was just torrential yesterday morning and I could do literally nothing except smash a few fish!!

We are out on the boat all day today and then we head back to the airport on Thursday, and if all goes to plan I should walk through my front door around lunchtime on Friday. I can’t wait to see my family and get back into the swing of things at home, and I will report back most likely on Monday and tell you how our last boat based day went. I think Matt’s head is about to burst with all the ideas he is coming away with from this trip. I have got the shots they need for the moment, and I have also come away with an inkling of what the fishing can be like around here. The Canal is of course one tiny part of the whole striper scene, and I am going to do my best to start coming back here regularly and see if I can get to grips with it a little bit. My profound thanks to Bull for his immensely kind help, and also to Pete for putting us all together. I will be back……....