Fishing with Gary

Each fall my Gary C.of Pennsylvania visits us in Massachusetts for a week of striper fishing. Sometimes the fishing is great. Sometimes it’s just OK. But either way Gary is a good and longtime friend and fishing companion and we always have a good time.

While I rarely keep track of my own catches these days, during the week Gary visits I do keep track of his, and it’s a pretty good indicator of how the fall fishing has been year to year. The reality of fall striper fishing, despite it’s reputation as a time of bountiful blitzes, is that it is very streaky. This is especially true of the daytime fishing. In the daytime you tend to find either a lot of fish or none at all, boom or bust. This is a direct result of the stripers’ fall feeding patterns in which they abandon the structure and regular feeding lanes of summer to chase schools of fast moving bait. Today they may be here, tomorrow there, and the next day nowhere at all.

Even when you find the fish, they can be maddeningly difficult to catch. If you are a shore or wade angler, it’s typical to arrive at the water’s edge to find a cacophony of bait, birds, and bass all boiling the surface–but just outside of your casting range. If you a a boat fisherman you may find yourself surrounded by breaking fish, but by the time you hook and land one the school has moved 300 yards away. Fire up the engine, motor over, and the the school moves once more. You are constantly playing catch up, and for as many fish as you may see you never catch quite as many as you expect.

Night fishing in the fall, as it is most other times of the year, is more reliable. The bass can be counted on to gather at certain spots that attract bait at certain stages of the tide. Rivers and estuaries are especially good places for this. But even night fishing tends to be less predictable in autumn than other times of the year. And, like day fishing, it is subject to that other great factor of fall that can shut down the fishing in a hurry: weather, in the form of wind and storms (cold, though uncomfortable, doesn’t affect the fishing that much as the water temps are slow to change).

Here’s a brief summary of Gary’s catches since 2007:

2007: Day 14; Night 142; Total 156
2008: Day 2; Night 34; Total: 36
2009: Day 3; Night 52; total 55
2010: No visit
2011: Day 15; Night 4; Total 19
2012: Day 3; Night 36; Total 39

While a lot of factors, including weather, the relative lateness week of the visit, and the diminishing striper population in recent years all affect the numbers, it’s pretty clear how much more effective the night fishing is over day. 2011 is the only outlier in that respect, a reflection of my purchase of a boat (which allowed us to chase daytime schools) and night fishing that was exceptionally slow that year (largely due to the absence of lights on the water where they had once existed).

This year’s visit began this evening and we got off to a pretty good start, with Gary landing 15 bass up to 26 inches and dropping a few as well.

Boston fall fishing report

The fall fishing has been in full swing in Boston since early September. After a relatively slow August, this autumn has seen a good number of surface blitzes from a combination of big stripers, small stripers, and medium sized blues. This is the most surface activity I’ve seen in the past three or four years. Best hours have been daybreak through late morning and then again late afternoon until sunset. After dark bass will take up feeding locations where they find a combination of good current, bait, and light on the water. The prevalent bait has been peanut bunker (in the open water and along the beaches) and spearing (in the estuaries and river mouths).

While a series of grey, drizzly days have limited most folks’ time on the water the past week, this has been a remarkably storm-free season with not a single hurricane of or ocean storm making its way to New England. That bodes well for the striper season lasting late into October or even early November.

My notes from a week ago Tuesday…

“Headed out in my boat after work late this afternoon for an hour’s fishing. I was crossing the edge of a large flat when I saw a few small fish (snapper blues, maybe?) slashing at bait on the surface. I cut the engine, climbed up in the bow with my fly rod, and started tossing a Gurgler. As I worked it, about every minute or so something much bigger than the snappers would surge through the bait, scattering it. So I started working the fly with a little more pop and on about the dozenth cast hooked into a good fish. Fifteen minutes later, after a fight that took me well into my backing, I landed the biggest striper I’ve taken on a fly, just shy of 40 inches.”

Cape Cod fishing report

From Cape Cod comes this fishing report by Gary Cwyk. The striper fishing has been very good this week, with the Brewster Flats and the Orleans area on the bay side producing especially well for this time of year

Early in the week the outer beaches were rough from several days of east wind, not to mention full of seals. But the water settled as the week progressed and Truro on the ocean side has produced some nice fish.

The Cape is loaded with bait right now. On the Brewster Flats the bass are chowing on sand eels. Monday morning we found ourselves surrounded by tailing fish that were rooting their meal right out of the sand. The outer beaches are thick with herring two to four inches long. The estuary grasses are swarming with mummichogs. And everywhere on the Cape the spearing are on the spawn; The picture at right shows water cloudy with spearing milt.

The Stripers are in. And in! And in!

If you’re a fisherman anywhere near Boston, it’s time to get out there. Although this week you might have to dodge the rain drops. The stripers are in. In fact, reports are they’ve been in in some harbor locations for close to a month now. Plenty of fish around the airport. And Quincy Bay is reported full of now only stripers but near the mouth mackerel and herring too. Everything is ahead of schedule this year due to the exceptionally mild winter and warm early spring. Would not be suprised at all if we see bluefish in the first half of June.

Still stripers to be had!

For those of you in or around Boston, there are still lots of fish around, including some big ones! I’ve seen blitzes this week along Revere Beach, Nahant’s Short Beach, and the Lynn/Swampscott shoreline–all within wading range. Sunday night I gave a ride “home” to some friends temporarily moored in Salem Harbor. Their dingy was at a marina near the power plant and wow was there a ton of bait there. And stripers feeding on them. So much bait scattering it was like a rainstorm. I think I’m going to need to spend more time exploring the Salem waterfront next season.

Tonight’s snow and frigid temperatures are a sign of things to come but I don’t think are enough to push the fish out. So if you have the time and inclination, get out there!

Striped bass and mycobacteriosis

Received this message from our good friend Ed Mitchell about a disease ravaging striped bass populations in the Chesapeake Bay. Frightening stuff. Please read:

Mike, Stripers Forever has started a drive to raise money for mycobacteriosis research. With 75 percent of the bass in the Bay now infected, myco poses a huge threat to the future of fishery. I’ve attached our press release and a brief document from the lead research guy at the Virigina Institute for Marine Science. Could you please make your angling friends aware of this drive? Its a worthy cause…tax deductable too.


Stripers Forever, the conservation organization advocating for responsible stewardship of wild striped bass along the Atlantic Coast, has announced an outreach initiative to raise money for research on mycobacteriosis, a deadly fish disease that is increasingly prevalent in the Chesapeake Bay where the bulk of stripers that migrate up and down the Atlantic Coast are spawned. “Myco” is believed to be nearly always fatal to infected striped bass and can create serious health problems for anglers and anyone else handling those fish before they are cooked. Fishery scientists estimate that more than 75 percent of all striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay system are infected with myco.There is at present no known cure for this insidious disease which represents a major threat to the well-being of stripers and thus the future of recreational and commercial striped bass fishing from Maine to North Carolina.

The fund raising appeal being administered by Stripers Forever is called The Mycobacteriosis Research Initiative (MRI). Donations to MRI will benefit Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), the leading authority on myco. Checks should be made payable to “VIMS Foundation” (write “For Myco Research” on the memo line) and mailed to VIMS Foundation, P.O. Box 1693, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8779. A link to a secure site for credit card donations appears along with more information about myco under featured links on the left side of the Stripers Forever home page ( All contributions are tax deductible and will go into a dedicated myco research account. Visitors to the site can sign up for membership in Stripers Forever at no charge.

Here’s a fact sheet on mycobacteriosis

Stripers on the move!

pogy.jpgIt’s a rainy, windy, all-around dreary day today here in Winthrop, a poor day for fishing but an ideal one for catching up a bit with my blogging. So here goes.

The past few weeks have been among the best of the year for striper fishing in the Boston/Winthrop/Revere Beach area. In fact, in many ways some might say that it’s been the best in recent memory, at least where large stripers are concerned.

While bopping around Boston Harbor and nearby waters in my friend Mel Harris’ 21′ foot Eastern, I’ve seen enormous schools of very large (12″-14″ almost two-pound) pogies, the water absolutely black with them in places. And under these schools are some amazingly large bass!  I’ve seen (but haven’t caught myself) more large bass in the past week than I can recall seeing in many years, with many in the thirty to forty pound range. There have also been many large bluefish in the inner harbor as well, some up to twenty pounds. Continue reading “Stripers on the move!”

Striper slow-down in September?

borefish.jpgAs many anglers can attest, the striper fishing has been very slow for the past month in the Boston Harbor area and in many other areas as well. While the numbers are way down, the average size of the stripers caught is much larger than I’ve seen in quite some time, with twenty-to-thirty pounders not uncommon, and a few in the forty-to-fifty pound range. Most of these fish, however are being caught by baitfishermen using live pogies or chunk mackerel; flyfishermen are usually getting skunked.

I don’t know why the smaller fish are not around in their usual numbers. There are lots of theories but nothing definitive. Whatever the reason, it’s certainly not for any lack of baitfish. The harbor and nearby shorelines are simply loaded with baitfish, large pogies mostly, with silversides and herring in the mix as well. I went fishing yesterday (Sept. 11) and cruised all around the harbor looking for fish. I found large (12″-14″) pogies by the tens of thousands off Spectacle Island and also around the Deer Island Flats. Sometimes the water was black with them but on only one occasion did I observe anything feeding on them–two, possibly three stripers, and the two I saw were very large, maybe thirty pounds or so. They crashed into the school once, right in the middle of the pack, but never showed again. Most likely there were other stripers lying well beneath the school but I’m not a big fan of deep-fishing for stripers, especially in a wind and choppy water and with a zillion large and tasty  baitfish readily available, so I didn’t bother trying to catch one but turned my attention instead to the pogies themselves, staying with the school just to observe them–fascinating–and even try to catch one on a fly, just for the fun of it. Continue reading “Striper slow-down in September?”

Fishing report: August 3-August 14

bumpkin.jpgThis past week has seen some very strange weather, unpredictable to say the least. Lots of sun, lots of clouds, lots of rain, lots of thunder and lightning. High water, low water; cold water and warm. The weather seemed to change hourly and it was very difficult to plan any fishing activities more than a few hours ahead. Come to think of it, most of the past month has been like this, most of the summer, really. But, hey, it’s New England and, like it or not, the weather’s supposed to be like this. Nothing to do but grin and bear it, do what you can, and soldier on.

Sunday, August 3, Dave Skok and Scott Wessels of the Bear’s Den down in Taunton went on an overnight camping trip to Bumpkin Island. We had intended on leaving early in the afternoon but had to sit out a thunderstorm for a few hours before we could launch the canoes and kayaks from Hull and paddle over to the island. Once launched, we fished our way over the mussel beds and the gravel bar but caught nothing despite a favorable tide and low wind. This area, deep inside Hull Harbor, had been very good to me over the years, a fantastic place, really, but over the past two years, the storms had dramatically altered the structure, covered the mussel beds over with mud, and the area wasn’t nearly as inviting as it used to be. There was baitfish aplenty in the area but no fish feeding on them, none that I could see at any rate. Continue reading “Fishing report: August 3-August 14”

Striper fishing getting hotter!


It’s been a hot week, for both man and stripers. Despite rather weak tides(plus one foot and up low tides mostly) the fishing has been quite good in the Boston Harbor area, especially the Inner Harbor along the Winthrop/ Deer Island shore and on the flats near the airport.

I’ve been avoiding mid-day fishing and sticking to late afternoon/early evening hours, cooler and more comfortable and certainly more active, with low tides occuring in the latter part of the day/early evening. Luckily the winds have been lower than in the past few weeks and that has certainly helped. There are a lot of baitfish around right now, mostly pogies, some herring and small mackerel, but I haven’t seen much surface action when I’ve gone looking for it. Despite this I’ve been fishing Gurglers on the surface whenever the water’s surface has been calm and have been having some fantastic fishing, both in terms of numbers and size, although these have varied from place to place and tide to tide. For instance, on Wednesday, fishing from a boat near the airport, all of the fish were in the 32″-34″ range, with one fish I estimated at about 40″ although I never landed it. On Friday, fishing the same area the fish averaged about 23″-25″ with only one bigger one in the mix. On Wednesday the action was slower but the fish bigger; on Friday the action faster but the fish smaller. On Thursday I fished from shore along the inside of Deer Island in the evening and picked up six within about an hour and half, again all on Gurglers, nothing larger than 23″ though but lots of fun. Continue reading “Striper fishing getting hotter!”