Fish Stories: August Topwater Mayhem

It took some time, but I finally convinced my fiancé, Gelany, to fish on the boat with me at a relatively fishing-centric hour. No, we didn’t catch the pre-dawn bite. We didn’t even get the dawn bite. But we did have lines in the water at a respectable 6:30am, (which, she still complained was still too early, even though by this time on a normal fishing day, I’d be just about ready to eat lunch).

I was excited at the prospect of having her fishing by my side. I had visions of an all-out blitz, or something to at least give her some insight into why I roll out of bed at 3 in the morning a few times a week.

Well, she’d still think I was crazy, but it would at least let her understand the excitement that fishing the morning bite can bring. At worst, I hoped I could hook up with a few fish and let her reel them in.

We cruised out into a brilliant blue Cape Cod Bay, with the tide just about ready to slacken at its highest point. There was a steady breeze from the Southeast which, in the already hot morning, made the air bearable, if not pleasant.

We pushed the Mal de Mer at 30 kts on a rippled-calm sea, keeping a constant eye on the horizon for signs of life; birds diving, fish breaking. But but there was nothing to be seen. With the tide just starting to run the other way, I thought now would have been our best time to find a surface feeding frenzy, an experience that would surely make Gelany think that fishing was anything but “boring.” But after not seeing a single feeding bird, I began to have my doubts.

We ran over to where a fast rip had set up and let out a few swimming plugs to see if we could find some bass on the troll. I clipped on a bone SP Minnow to the port rod and a LeMire trolling plug on the opposite. At 2.5 knots, the SP was doing its erratic side to side wiggle and the trolling plug was rolling lazily like a big wounded baitfish. The spread looked good.

The past few years featured a big run of squid in this particular rip in the weeks leading up to August, so I thought we might encounter some of the cephalopods, with of course a hungry striped bass or two on their tails. But after a few passes through the rip with not so much as a bump, I began to think the bait and bass were not here. The Lowrance also came up empty. At this point, we were running out of time. Gelany had promised some friends we would pick them up at the dock at 9 to cruise around and head out to the beach. I was desperate. I wanted more than anything to put us on some fish.

To shake it up, I trolled past the rip and up into shallower water, thinking that maybe the bass were waiting at the top of the ledge to catch unsuspecting baitfish. In 6 feet of water, we got a hit, and drag started peeling from the spinning reel.

“We’re on!” I yelled. I set the hook and handed the rod to Gelany. As typical in shallow water, the bass came right up to the surface and thrashed around. After a few runs we had a fat 27” on the boat. We took some picture and released the fish.

File Mar 03, 8 31 53 AM

 

With a half hour left on the fishing clock, we decided to try one last spot that had proved to be either red hot or ice cold, depending on the day, over the course of the season.

I’m not sure what draws the bass and bait to this spot, as it is relatively non-descript. It’s a large bowl in 40’ of water at the end of two major channels in the bay that rises up gradually onto a shoal. I found it one day while barely paying attention, probably scrolling through Twitter on my phone while I trolled around a tube and worm.

I slowed the boat to a crawl and watched the Lowrance screen scroll left, thinking that at any moment, I might see a solid red arch or even a screen full of solid red arches roll by. But there was nothing. I made the turn and decided we would have to settle with the one fish. Suddenly, at the very last possible second, it happened. The screen filled up.

File Mar 15, 9 57 34 PM

I dropped a white Al Gags ‘whip-it eel’ down to the 40’ depth, feathering the spool, stopping the lure occasionally to let it flutter in the tide. It reached bottom, I flipped the bail and made one crank of the reel and a felt the telltale thump of a bass inhaling the lure. I set the hook and we were on again.

“Drop that other lure down to the bottom and reel it up.”

Gelany took the other rod, this one armed with a 6” Bill Hurley Cape Cod Sand Eel, and dropped it down.

“I think a fish just tried to get it!” she said.

“Close the bail and start reeling.” She did just that and no sooner, I heard her drag slip and her rod was arched over, almost touching the water. I got mine up to the surface and it looked to be bigger than the previous fish. When I went to lip it, it made one last run and spit the hook.

Gelany fought her fish and we got it boat side after a few nice runs. She held up the healthy fish for a picture and released it. We lost the school briefly and moved back to the top of our drift, on the northern side of the bowl. Gelany’s eyes were glued to the Lowrance screen. “They’re back. Twenty feet down. Streaking up.” She focused on her lure dropping through the water column, eyes fixed to the spool.

We hooked two more fish each and after some hesitation, made the quick run back to the flotilla to pick up the friends. We hoped that the bite would stay hot so everyone could get in on the fast fishing.

When we got back to the spot, we quickly realized that the fishing wasn’t only still hot. It was on fire. Bass were pushing bait up onto the newly exposed sandbar and chasing frantic squid clear out of the water. The Lowrance was filled wherever we moved. Over the course of the next hour, we caught fish on everything we threw; mostly topwater plugs and SP Minnows. The fish were feeding on smaller bait, with some silversides among the squid, but they did not hesitate to take large lures. The strikes on the plugs were quick and ferocious, often coming before we could even take a turn of the reel handle. We focused on the smaller fish on top, but I don’t doubt there were some larger ones hanging on the bottom.

File Mar 15, 9 59 03 PM

After we caught just about as many as we could handle, the heat and humidity in the air made the decision easy to head over to the beach and cool off.

 

We spent the rest of the day on the sandbar. I even got a little fly fishing in before the sky got too menacing. Just north of us, a storm cell was rumbling through. Sheets of rain hung over the shoreline like it was painted onto the sky. The wind changed direction and began blowing from the North. We heard the distant drum beat of thunder.

File Mar 15, 9 58 27 PM

“Time to go.”

We packed up the boat and picked up the anchor and made the cruise into the harbor in a line of twelve other boats. We were on the dock as the August storm moved in.

Bow Fly Fishing edit2

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