Well, we’re in the midst of a ridiculous pogie bite all along Cape Cod Bay and up the South Shore; one of the best ones we’ve seen in a very long time. And while this bite has been going on for a few weeks now, I get the feeling the pogies may be shredded and scattered to the far reaches of the sea sooner than we’d hoped. Because yesterday, the bluefish came to town.
Last year saw the re-emergence of big pods of pogies (‘bunker’ if you’re a heathen) around Plymouth and South Shore locales. Massive schools came in and flipped happily in the afternoon sun. This drew humpbacks and minkes, seabirds and the occasional striper. No bluefish whatsoever. Last year, you could jump from school to school all day and be lucky to grind for one or two decent fish. This year, especially the past two weeks, has been a very different ballgame; a ballgame in which multiple 20- to 30-pound stripers hounding one school is the norm. It’s ridiculous and there’s no other way to describe it.
Now listen, I’m pumped that the blues are back. We’ve missed our tackle busting, yellow-eyed buds the past two years. So I don’t want it to sound like I’m complaining. But neatly packed pods of pogies and wolf packs of roaming ravenous bluefish don’t exactly mesh.
Where big stripers will strategically hang around schools of pogies, corralling and dividing them into easy-to-pick-off portions and feeding in short windows, the bluefish tear through the schools with abandon and an ever-hungry vigor.
This is what it looked like this morning. Pods of bunker were being blasted into the air, sprays of water, fins and tails shot across the massive schools in the calm morning. It didn’t look like stripers to me. And when one of the pogies came back without a tail, my hypothesis was confirmed. There were blues in them schools.
The first few fish we found on the schools were stripers; a 34” 36” and a true 44” 34# cow. After this, the bluefish seemed to move into attack formation, tearing through our 30lb flouro like spiderweb. We proceeded to lose 10 rigs to blues, two right at the boat. Those chompers are nothin’ to mess with.
Pogie strategy remained the same: Find the nervous schools, snag ‘em up and drop ‘em down. These ones were a little tough to miss, but when searching out a suitable school, make sure to not settle. We found two schools of bunker in deeper water that were happily flipping away, which we skipped over. We cruised up and down the coastline for close to an hour, changing depth consistently, before finding three nervous schools in around 20’ of water. Scouting is still fishing. Write that down.
The plan is to find the pogy schools and find the bass and blues. I’ll be out bright and early tomorrow and Sunday scouting the area for the tell-tale signs of a blitz. If you want to target blues on artificial offerings, Race Point area (Backside down to Golf Ball and Herring Cove) holds blues of all sizes. Striper fishing isn’t great over there though.
As we approach the new moon, the East End of the canal should light up. This is the moon phase last year where multiple 40- to 50-pound bass were caught in one tide. Be ready, and target the East End around the flooding tide, especially as it turns.
If the pogies disappear, try trolling deep diving lures like Rapala Magnums and Crystal Minnows. The blues will still be around, they’ll just be tougher to find. Bass will have either followed the pogies out or set back up on their summer structure.
More tips for catching bass in the pogie schools
Any bass willing to eat a pogie is going to be a biggin’. Don’t go into the fight with light gear. We use Spinfisher Liveliners and Shimano Baitrunners in 6k and 8k, with 50-lb braid and a flouro leader to match. With the blues present, we’ll be upgrading to 80lb flouro or even wire leader. I learned my lesson this morning when I donated around 40 bucks of terminal gear to the YEDs.
If you’re going to be practicing catch and release (which you should with these larger fish) you really should be transferring your pogies to circle hooks before dropping them down. If you opt to keep the weighted treble on, make sure you’re very diligent with the hookset.
These bass and blues have been very wary of hitting anything other than a live pogy. We tried Docs, SP Minnows, Magic Swimmers, and Bill Hurley Sand Eels, and they wouldn’t touch them.
I get the feeling though, that when the pogies start to thin and scatter, we could see some pretty wild topwater blitzes of both bass and blues. Right now, there’s just too much bait for them.
That’ll do it. Catch ‘em up.