Weekend Warrior: The Fall Run Spectacular in our Backyard

I don’t like to throw the word “historic” around. Insane? Yeah, sure. Ridiculous? All the time. But historic? Come on. Don’t be so extravagant. Get off your high horse. You haven’t been around long enough to know if something is “historic” or not. Yes, these are all good points.

But, folks. I’m making the call. The fishing has been rather historic the past month around Cape Cod Bay.

I had a couple of the boys from Buffalo for a three-trip stretch last week. After a miserable albie experience last season, they wanted to spend the three days in the Bay chasing stripers, blues and toons (more on our trip in a bit). At one point during a lull (of which there weren’t many) Justin asked me if a trip to Montauk to experience the ubiquitous “Fall Run” was worth it. Just then, the fish started blitzing again. You couldn’t hear above the calls of the terns and gulls, and I told him he was pretty much looking at it.

While I view the past two weeks as a pinnacle of sorts, ever since those baitfish started pouring out of their nurseries in mid-August, the fishing has been as good as I’ve ever seen it in the Three Bays. Anyone who has ever fished this area, or at least reads what I have to write about it, knows that that mid-august through October typically brings great blitzes to our shorelines. This is usually an automatic (well, as automatic as anything in fishing can be). But this year has been different, not only due to the ferocity of these blitzes, and not only due to the size and duration of them, but due to the range of size classes we’ve found. Striper size has ranged from 24″ (fat ones!) all the way to mid-40-inch fish. Oh yeah, and the bluefish. Millions of them up to gator size have been terrorizing baitballs all along the Western portion of CCB.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve seen during this period of time.

Early August setting of the table

Big overslot stripers started moving into the sandy areas in Western CCB in the first few weeks of August. While there weren’t any blitzes per se, at certain stages of the tide, they’d come up and eat flies or Docs. Live mackerel was the key to the bite of course when they were hugging the bottom. We were focused around the deeper portions of flats and cruised around until we started marking fish.

As is typically the case in this area, I have no idea why they were where they were. We didn’t mark much bait and they seemed to just be sitting on the bottom waiting for the right meal to pass by. Occasionally, tinker macks would find their way into the shallows which gave us some good opportunities for larger fish on light tackle. Blitz fishing for smaller fish inside was good, not great. That is until…

Bait-splosion!

I say it every year. Everyone does. “Look at all this bait!” After a month of scattered pods of silversides and the occasional schools of mackerel, the the sheer number and mass of baitfish in the fall bounty can take us a bit by surprise. But this year was different. The amount of peanut bunker suddenly in the bay was staggering. And then the blitzing started.

Along the same areas as the August bite, on close to every tide, fish up to 40″ were smashing bait. We found them inside the Three Bays, as well as out on Browns Bank and all the way down to the East End of the Canal. They were eating small, so at certain stages of the tide, they got finicky. Small flatwing flies and Jumpin’ Minnows, as well as Albie Snax would get the bites when they got picky. This went on every day for close to three weeks. Bluefish arrived and roved the deeper areas for schools of baitfish. Often, a single bird would lead us to the yellow-eyed devils.

The Pinnacle

Somewhere around the middle of the month, the blitz reached a critical mass. The Buffalo guys and I pushed out into the still very dark morning. Miles of birds flew and hovered over our heads, but the water below them was quiet. We scouted an area that was holding more bait than the rest of the flat and stopped the boat. A small fish tail slapped next to us, and Andrew put a beauty of a 30-foot cast right on him.

Before I finished the words “big strip!” he was tight and down to the reel. Spoiler alert: The small fish we had seen was certainly not the fish that sucked this fly down.

To say I felt “comfortable” at any point during that 10-minute fight would be a lie. As big stripers typically do, especially on the fly, this one just did not want to turn. She held deep in the current and ran under the boat more times than I care to remember. I debated with myself multiple times throughout the fight about how big she really was. I mean, Andrew is a good angler but it was his first (or second?) cast ever into the salt, and his first striper to boot. But when I saw those telltale big thumps on the rod, I knew she was a good one. Not bad for a first striper, huh?

Justin Damude

The next morning, we had a “window” of around three hours to hit the bay before 30kt winds chased us off. We immediately found the blitz of the season in the well-oxygenated water–miles of birds and bait and stripers, carrying over from the afternoon blitz the day before. It didn’t matter where we cast our fly or lure. The fish were on it. The waves stacked up and we made the short but wet ride home.

The next day, the seas were angry, which put a damper on our tuna wishin’ plans. And as we approached Race Point, we saw the tell-tale slashes of some type of tunoid–Bonito to be exact. The big bonito chased sand eels right on the rip line and happily ate every stickbait and popper we threw to them. No bluefin, but bonito is as good a backup plan as any. Especially in Cape Cod Bay.

Second Half Magic

While we’re in bit of a lull around the Western portion of CCB, I’ve heard some reliable reports of big fish hanging around Boston and just South along the rocky coastline. We still have plenty of bait in our Bay and down to the canal, so I fully expect a round two of ridiculous fall fishing. Maybe not historic, but definitely ridiculous. Insane? Tremendous? Use whatever adjective you want. The fishing is good. But it won’t last forever. Get out there while you can.

billmitchell19

One thought on “Weekend Warrior: The Fall Run Spectacular in our Backyard

  1. Billy,
    As usual, excellent post! I also enjoyed your post on 12 tips, fishing the 3 bays. As I talk to newer fisherman, as soon as they begin to understand what the 3 bays are about, it’s number 12 (spend the time!) that makes all the difference.

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