Here’s a summary recap for the week. I'll add more details and thoughts tomorrow.
I went to bed last night thinking “Oh no, what if we are in the late innings of albie season”? The last couple days have been less than stellar but a nice southwest flow today really seemed to turn on some of the fish we found. It had been three days since we were in sustained churning feeds. After working rocky structure, slow cruising small pods, and covering a lot of miles it was a welcome change. We did ok grinding out infield singles. It was nice to hit some long balls today.
Overall, pink, albie crack, and olive SI Epoxy Jigs have been top producers on spin gear along with the amber and white Albie Snaxs. Productive fly patterns have been tan or tan and white bay anchovy patterns, even when the fish off Naushon were puking up silversides. The albies in Vineyard Haven harbor have seemed to be focused on bay anchovies, even when feeding around clouds of peanut bunker.
We’ve found fish just breaking the surface from Point Gammon to Tarpaulin Cove, mostly in the morning. Sometimes they’ve allowed us to idle parallel to them and take quartering shots, but other times they just don’t stay up long enough to get aligned or to work up wind or up current of them and wait them out. Best fishing has been around the north side of the Vineyard, with specific locations varying every day.
Forecast for the holiday weekend isn’t bad, with Sunday looking like the fishiest day. Despite what you might be hearing, don’t give up on the albies just yet.
Oh, and I almost forgot...on Tuesday mid-day, Craig Ucker caught this guy on a tan and white bay anchovy epoxy fly shortly after landing his first albie on the same pattern. Very cool.
It's that time of year when I shift all of my attention to chasing false albacore off the south side of Cape Cod. I base myself in Falmouth but fish from Monomoy to Wasque to Cuttyhunk to the Canal and all of the waters in-between. More later about why these fish have such a hold on me and so many other anglers. I'll try to explain in a future post, although the best way to understand, to truly get it, is to come fish for them. For now let's focus on those of you who are already committed to catching albies.
Color matters, not all the time, but often enough that it should factor into your equation of what and how you are presenting your offering to false albacore. If you've found the fish (here's a post that can help you with that endeavor) and you're making the right casts but they aren't biting the way you think they should be, it's time to change up what you're tossing. In many instances a color change is all it takes.
Pay attention to the other anglers around you. Is someone catching noticeably more fish? If so, the albies want to eat something other than what you have tied on. If you've found your own fish and aren't getting consistent hits, it's time to mix it up. I think about setting up for ducks. Pick a spot where the ducks want to land that morning and you'll have lots of action. Set your decoys in a location that really isn't where the birds want to be and you'll have some lookers and you'll talk a lonely single into lighting at the edge of your spread.
One simple change is to alter the color of the Epoxy Jig, Albie Snax, metal, Ronz that you are using. I've seen so many instances where we went from one hit every thirty casts to one hit every five casts just by changing from white to pink, or from silver to purple. And in some of those cases have confirmed the color preference with other captains and anglers on the same fish.
While I've experienced the same result with color change in fly patterns it seems to be often much less important than when tossing artificial lures. Why? I don't know but the flies we use are often much closer imitations of the prey, and I think that has something to do with this observation. Don't ignore color when you put together your fly box or watch the false albacore zoom all around your fly without trying to eat it, but I think it's lower on the list that includes presentation, retrieve, pattern shape and size.
When you're chucking hardware, be ready to tie a lot of knots, have plenty of leader material, rig rods with different lures, and remember to change up color if the albies aren't doing what you expect.
Here's a short and simple suggestion; use your binoculars when searching for false albacore. When we're covering some ground and burning some fuel, searching for signs of albie activity, it is amazing what we miss with the naked eye. Every time you stop to scan the water, and I encourage you to stop frequently, grab your binoculars and extend your vision. I'm amazed at how often we find a clue, maybe the first bread crumb, at a distance just beyond our sight limit. Those two terns diving can be tough to see, but may be the key to finding the next pod of fish or school of anchovies. If you've had the experience of scanning the horizon, looking, looking, seeing nothing and then once you use your binoculars, you spot 100 gulls diving on bait, you know what I mean.
The key to using your binoculars is keeping them handy. You need a spot where they are secure and protected but readily available. If they are buried in a tote bag in the bottom of the center console or stuffed in the bottom of a locker, you aren't going to dig them out each time you stop. When the boat is rocking, I make a triangle with my index fingers and thumbs and brace the tips of my fingers against my forehead to steady the binoculars. You can also employ tension on the strap to aid in stability.
I like to run the boat at a moderate speed when actively searching for these fish. I find I notice more when we're cruising at 3300 rpm vs. screaming to the next spot. Pause in likely places, areas where you've found fish in the past, water with good movement, and scan the horizon, first unaided and then with your binoculars. You may be astounded at what you'd been missing.
Back from Cape Cod, at least for this week, I spent today sorting through tackle, drying out gear, washing clothes and plotting the next albie trip. It won't be until mid-October when I can get south again, so we'll have to see where the fish are still showing. I'm thinking Stonington, CT.
I have been getting reports from friends who are finding more tuna inshore from New Hampshire to the Outer Cape. Mid-October can be prime tuna time in Cape Cod Bay, so maybe I won't stray far from Scituate.
Planning fishing trips in October is bittersweet. I'm not ready to give up fishing for the winter, but accustomed to shifting my focus to bird season as soon as September ends. I love to chase woodcock and grouse around the Maine woods and pine for a return to Montana and North Dakota, but my dog Hebie seems to be past the point of safely venturing out into even small local coverts. I love fall but this year the foliage makes me cringe. Time to drive south and get back out on the water.
In what has been the windiest September I can recall, I managed to set aside this week to chase false albacore down on Cape Cod. This time period has been kind to us in the past. The fish have been cooperative (as albies go) and there are fewer boats chasing them around during the week. A day or two would be windy enough to force us to alter plans, maybe seeking shelter up in the coves and harbors of Buzzard's Bay or chasing stripers and blues in Boston Harbor or Duxbury Bay. A day or two would be FAC, all the way across the Sound, letting us imagine that we were still in the middle of summer as we ran to the fish market in Menemsha for lunch and left jackets in stuff sacs even after the sun went down. And a couple days would be windy but fishable. The kind of days where you needed the stripping basket, where you might reach for the spinning gear before the fly rod, where you would need a shower before supper to rinse off the salt caked on from spray.
This week has been filled with days where you don't even make the effort to poke out past the jetty or drive down to the shore to gauge the waves and the forecast is calling for more of the same. I made it out Wednesday, in a pesky chop driven up onto the Falmouth shore by the southwest wind. No funny fish revieled themselves to me. I chatted with a couple of other anglers who had been running the same searching circut who reported the same findings. Thursday's weather window was much smaller, as the Cape Wind tower in Nantucket Sound was reportsing gusts to 17 knots out of the southeast by dawn. The northeast corner of Buzzards Bay offered the best combination of lee shore and chance to see hardtails. By 1:00 PM there was enough shelter along Monument Beach and Wings Neck to consider staying out, but the run back to the launch ramp was going to be a slog. Time to head home.
There are still stripers in the Kennebec River and Casco Bay. My last Maine saltwater trip in 2009 was in the third week of October and we found fish. The past couple of weeks the striped bass have been holding in deeper waters upriver. There have also been pods of nice bass cruising along the outer beaches, but getting to them has been tough between all of the swell and wind. The past three weeks have been much slower on the flats in the Kennebec. We haven't had any significant numbers of peanut bunker down around the mouth of the river and the little spike macs are still hanging just offshore. For whatever reason, the bass haven't moved into many of the traditional fall ambush points where they feast on young of the year alwives. They remain very grouped up, but that could change at any time.
Looks like we'll have a brief respite when the winds will drop under 15 knots, and there aren't many days left to chase the albies without a much longer trek to the south, so we'll give it another shot. Bird season is underway in Maine and the snow guns at Sunday River will be fired up any day now.