Cape Cod Bay: Top to Bottom

| Blog, Fishing

By: Josh Long

As the season progresses into July here on Cape Cod, light tackle and fly anglers can anticipate the excellent fishing of May and June to continue. Cape Cod Bay provides opportunities to find fast action in nearly every type of striped bass habitat possible, from sight casting the flats with the fly rod to live-lining mackerel in depths of over one hundred feet.

Perhaps one of the most exciting fisheries in Cape Cod Bay is the sight fishing available on the Brewster and Barnstable flats. Spotting and casting to large striped bass in water as shallow as 6 inches is truly an unparalleled experience that every Cape Cod angler should have. The crystal clear, vivid colors of the flats on a sunny day evoke imagery of the bonefish flats in the Bahamas and other tropical locales that many visiting anglers are familiar with.  The difference on the Cape, however, is that the fish cruising on the flats commonly reach sizes of more than three times that of Bahamian bonefish.

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This striper was released to roam the Cape Cod Bay flats again.

Anglers without access to large boats will have the opportunity to hook up with large stripers here by wading or kayaking on the flats this month, but are advised to do so with a partner: shifting currents and tides can make wading challenging and fog and thunderstorms can make navigation back to shore difficult, if not impossible. When wading the flats, anglers need to begin their trek back to shore as soon as the tide turns to incoming, as water can fill in unnoticeably, quickly and deeply behind you. Light tackle anglers can mimic the forage on the flats and score on shallow water stripers with Hogy Sand Eels or original Hogys fished unweighted or on lightly weighted screw-on hooks. The smaller Savage Sand Eels in the Sand Eel or Bone colors also work well in the deeper channels and holes where fish congregate as the tide is moving. Fly anglers will do well on sparsely tied Clousers and Cichetti Sand Eels. Stripers can often be seen rooting around on the bottom on the flats, and can even be seen “tailing” on occasion: the McCrab, Merkin and other crab patterns worked with short strips excel in these situations.

Merkins and McCrabs will fool wary flats stripers this month.

Merkins and McCrabs will fool wary stripers on the flats this month.

Boat anglers in Cape Cod Bay will undoubtedly find surface feeds on the always-abundant sand eels this July, but as we saw last season, a cold winter can lead to other baitfish remaining in our waters. Last season, mackerel remained inshore in Cape Cod Bay well into July due to cold water temperatures early in the season. With cooler than average temperatures again this season thanks to the winter of 2015, I anticipate that the mackerel will again stick around into July.

Dropping a Hayabusa sabiki rig around Sesuit or Barnstable Harbor, Provincetown, or the East End of the Canal can pay off with a livewell full of mackerel: striped bass candy! Live-lining a mackerel around likely hotspots such as Billingsgate Shoals,Race Point, Wood End or Barnstable Harbor is a good bet for hooking up with large stripers and doing so on light tackle like the 4000 size Shimano Stradic FJ makes for a great battle.

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A full livewell of mackerel can make for a great day of striper fishing.

For anglers interested in fishing lures around the abundant bait schools and blitzes this summer, tossing Rebel Jumpin’ Minnows, Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers weightless Hogys and Guppy Pencil Poppers to blitzing fish provides yet another opportunity for exciting visual action from big migratory striped bass– in fact, at times lures will provide more action and certainly less effort than live bait in blitzes.Fly anglers can get tight to these blitzing fish with a variety of patterns including the sand eel patterns previously mentioned as well as Mud Dog’s Dazzle Bait in the mackerel pattern. Fly rodders will especially be able to “match the hatch” and have the edge over those fishing spinning gear when the fish are keyed in on small sand eels, which commonly happens this month.

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The Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper elicits explosive strikes from large stripers.

This July explore all Cape Cod Bay has to offer aesthetically and enjoy the exciting striped bass fishing right in our backyard along the way!