North Coast Angler
Fishing Reports 2012
With all the striper and blue action moving south at light speed, I guess it's time to end the this seasons Friday Report with this:

A final look at last weeks video with additional footage from Brian O'C

But we're not done fishing as Al and I have several trips planned for W. NY to chase after Steelhead, Salmon and Big Trout, so check back here or follow us on Tw and FB
Well the fat lady has sung for the NY Yankee's , but not quite yet for the striper action at Cape Ann. At the beginning of the week the action along the Cape Ann south beaches at Magnolia and Manchester lit up big time with blitzing schools of mixed sized stripers pushing baitfish ashore. The bait consisted mostly of peanuts and silversides and the majority of stripers were school size from 16" to 20". However for the patient surfcaster, some quality stripers to mid 40 inch cows were there as well. Most fishing required surf sticks as large waves and tons of mung weed made it very difficult for fly anglers, although quite a few fly caught fish were taken over at Singing Beach in Manchester on Tuesday. As the week moved along, the pickings got slimmer as the bait and stripers are probably moving farther to the south into Salem, Beverly and Marblehead. Those beach areas will be the best bets this weekend. Best baits: Any topwater plug that you have confidence in will get you tight, but remember that the majority of stripers are quite small and can easily be injured with those 2/0 trebles. If you plan to wade the surf, waders and dry tops will keep you warmer and dry. Fly anglers will need a stripping basket to help keep the mung weed off your line. We also continue to hear about solid striper action north of the border so the action might last awhile longer, so the fat lady will stay tucked away for now.

Short GoPro Video of Topwater action with Skip

Brian O'C and Chris with two hefty stripers taken Wednesday morning

This past week brought little "catching" change from last week around Cape Ann as the weather also made for challenging boat conditions with wind, swells and rain. But the good news is that there are still good numbers of stripers to the north as Plum Island anglers enjoyed schoolie fishing inside on the flats and bait blitzes out along the beachfront. Joe W. bagged a fat 45 incher last Saturday. So I'm still a believer that we'll get some good late season striper action going forward a week or two. I just hope that the weather improves so I can get out and scout out the coastal areas. Let me know what you are finding!

Joe W. and a super 45" cow taken on a live mack
Not a lot to talk about this past week as the re-occurring peanut blitz of the past two weeks has not as yet happened this week. We did hear about some blitz action to north at Rye Beach in NH and one that took place yesterday at Plum Island. It may be that the majority of bass and blues migrating south have passed by and all we are going to see are a few stragglers here and there. I did get out Tuesday and hit all the best coastal rocks and reefs from Sandy Bay, to Crane, through the Annisquam and Little Rivers and back around the Cape through Gloucester Harbor. We managed two schoolies for the effort which tells me that the "summer resident stripers" have left the area with the south moving school. I also heard about some blitzing bass and blues at Magnolia Point last weekend and a few locations at Manchester and Beverly this past week. We'll wait a bit longer before singing "It's All Over Now" along the north coast. If we get into any action I'll post it up on our Twitter and FB pages.
This past week at Cape Ann featured everything in the way of catching stripers and blues. Monday we chased around the rocks and caught a bunch of schoolie bass, Tuesday brought a bluefish blitz to Good Harbor and an even better striper if you knew where to find them. Wednesday and Thursday it was a bass and blue "free for all" on the peanut bunker which made their way ashore again, just like last Thursday. The blues were everywhere and the bass were hugging tight to shore. The shore gang nailed several large (40+ inch) stripers from Good Harbor to Eastern Point and many other stops along the way.

We're all hoping the peanuts stay around for a few more days so the weekend anglers can get at my motto states, "Fish Now, Work Later" because the stripers and blues are on the move now chasing peanuts all the way to Montauk. This weekend get out and drive the shore roads starting at daybreak, watch the birds and you'll find them if the peanuts hang in there. Make sure and check out the beaches in Rockport too, good hunting to all.

Brad and George were up to the challenge on Tuesday and did well considering the wind and swells

Blues like this brute were blitzing the peanut swarm Wednesday and Thursday

Here's a video highlighting the blues and bass feed on Thursday.

Here's an underwater video of the peanut swarm.

A very interesting of fishing around Cape Ann this week....Monday & Wednesday we were hitting "summer resident " stripers fishing tight to structure and taking them in the suds on topwater jumping minnows or flies. But on Thursday things changed dramatically as the coastal rocks and beaches from Rockport to Gloucester 'lit up" with a tremendous swarm of peanut bunker. The seabirds led the way as the biggest school of stripers that I have seen in years converged on the peanuts... my phone was ringing off the hook with calls from my fishing buds telling about the huge blitz happening. I didn't make it out until 5 that afternoon and could not believe what I was seeing: Birds everywhere, stripers busting and corralling the peanuts tight to shore from Whale Cove in Rockport to the back shore of Gloucester. Every angler that heard about the happening were lining the rocks and beaches, all catching stripers, mixed sizes up to as large as 45 inches. I finally made my way down coast to the Salt Island cove where I found myself completely surrounded in stripers, with their backs out of the water, slicing and dicing through a bait ball of peanuts that completely filled the cove. I managed a few seconds of video before the camera died, so I picked up the flyrod and proceeded to catch and release nearly a dozen stripers from 25 inches to one that lined out at 39 inches. But the action finally waned as the sun dropped below the horizon. Here's hoping that Friday and the weekend will repeat the blitz action of Thursday...I'll let you know through Twitter or FB.

Dave G. and Jona R. with some quality stripers and a large blue taken on Monday

A nice 39 "striper taken Thursday afternoon through the blitzing swarm

Here's a nice video from Brian O'C of a 40 incher he landed from the back shore on Tuesday.

It seems we're in a bit of a slowdown once again. Last weekend we had a decent mix of bass and blues but by Tuesday things got slow at Cape Ann. Plum Island and the Joppa are still fishing fairly good if you're willing to run and gun the beach or drag eels at night on the flats. And now with rough surf (2 storms offshore) on the way, it may be difficult to safely get near the rocks or beach either by boat or foot this weekend. I was out early this morning and already some rather large swells are crashing south facing shoreline. And if the swells are bad enough, the red mung weed is making it near impossible to fish on top around Cape Ann. If you are planning to fish this weekend at Cape Ann, be extra careful if you plan to be out on the rocks, or walking the Plum or Crane Beach sandbars as huge waves (and rip currents) can be hazardous to your life.

Capt Al and I are heading north to Alaska's Tsiu River on Saturday to chase silvers and run from bears ( or at least outrun the guy next to you!). We'll be gone from the 8th to the 15th. I hope to get lots of photos and some great GoPro video of the trip to share. Look for a trip report in two weeks and until then, be safe out there.

Ben and James(grand kids) out with Capt Al landed a nice keeper

Plum Island beachfront with Joe W.

We are beginning to see some seasonal changes in the "catching" rather than just the "fishing" this past week at Cape Ann and up coast, at the Merrimack/Plum Island. The stripers and blues are definitely displaying a bit more aggressiveness and a willingness to chase down artificial baits (flies, soft plastics and topwaters) at Cape Ann. A push of larger stripers has moved in on the Joppa and beachfront at Plum Island as good numbers of stripers above 40 inches and a few blues pushing past 15 pounds are being taken. Capt Al boated a few stripers over 40 inches last week (while avoiding any more shark encounters) fishing on the flats. Joe W. also had some good fortune slinging eels at night.

We had several excellent days chasing blues at Andrews and Halibut Pts. this past week with numerous 8-12 pound blues smashing topwaters, flies and trolled swimmers. We also did pretty good as we landed a fair number stripers up to 35 inches tight to rock structures using light tackle and flies (and I do not want to talk about the one I broke off this week, I'm already having nightmares!). The annual Lanesville Bluefish Tournament is this weekend and it should be a successful weekend as the blues seem to be staying put at the points and as well, down coast at the Back Shore. The marauding schools are feasting on pods of herring and some peanuts.

So, things are picking up as the cooler water and shorter days are signaling the coming fall season and baitfish and predator are readying themselves for a good game of "hide and seek". Best bets this weekend are Joppa Flats at night (eels) and Cape Ann rocks early (topwaters and flies). Enjoy the crowded waters!

Meg, Cathy and Jen, all smiles with bass and blues!

Joe W with a big eel caught bass and a super sized blue

Harry S with his first ever blue, a biggin' too!

Steve M with a 35 incher on the MD Sandeel
Not much of any sustained change in the summer pattern with stripers and blues seemingly coming and going, feeding one day and sulking the next day. This seems to be the current pattern at Cape Ann and at Plum Island. We had a few good mornings ( a couple of fish) along the rocks and along the beaches over the past week. Capt Al had similar action along the beachfront with some sustained schoolie action one day, then nothing the next. My guess is that the overall daytime feeding pattern is sporadic with the best action most likely happening during the dark hours. Some of the kayak gang have been hitting big stripers most every night dragging eels along the beaches and reefs. The bluefish bite is also sporadic day to day, no real large concentration anywhere that I know of.

But here's one for Ripley's Believe It Or Not; Capt Al had a very surprising visitor to his boat-side last weekend. Al was into a small pod of bluefish (just off the north jetty at the Merrimack River mouth) hitting topwater JM's and after hooking up with a 10 pounder and getting it up close to his boat, he noticed a large wake materializing just behind the thrashing bluefish when all of a sudden a huge sharks fin broke the surface and charged the now trying to flee bluefish and within an instant, the super sized shark snatched up the bluefish, plug and all, turned away from the boat and slapped its tail hard against Al's boat with such force that he almost got knocked overboard. Al swears that the shark was a great white somewhere around 14 feet in length. He reported the encounter to the USCG and harbormaster. I have also heard of two other white shark sightings recently, one at Sandy Point and the other east of Thacher Island, Cape Ann. And yes we do have a large population of seals.....

If you are going to fish this weekend your best bets are the rocks and beaches early at Cape Ann or venture out at night with eels at Crane or Plum Island beaches...but not wet wading!

A quality striper on the fly

Sister & Brother , Emily and Max with two of many blues they landed Friday at Andrews Point
The mid-summer slowdown continues at Cape Ann and at Plum Island. That is not saying there aren't some quality fish to be had, but it is definitely not easy pickings. The bait blitz of last Friday faded quickly as the blues and bass quickly chased the bunker and peanuts away to unknown whereabouts. I did manage to get out and about a bit this past week and found a few quality stripers around Rockport beaches and reefs tossing flies and trying out the new to market Hogy Tube bait. But there certainly were not large numbers of fish anywhere that I could find. The shore guys, Steve, Brian and Robbie did get into a few (small keeper sized) stripers and blues at dawn the past few days fishing topwaters. The guys that participated in last weekend's Rhumb Line tournament scored some quality stripers dragging live macks and pogies along the rocks at Atlantic Rd. If you plan to fish this weekend try getting out early and drag a tube n' worm rig tight to shore at 2-3 MPH . I use 3 colors of 50# lead core with a 15' top shot of 40# flouro in 10-15 feet of depth. Or hit the rocks and reefs with fly or topwater baits, but be there early.

Two quality stripers by way of the fly

The new Hogy Tube on a real hog!
The summer slowdown had continued thru last weekend with very few stripers taking nothing but live bait. However there have been a few positive signs that things may be changing a bit as some stripers and blues have made their way back from the north as Capt Al found lot's of schoolie sized stripers and mixed sized bluefish up on Joppa Flat Wednesday morning. The flotilla that has been drifting chunk bait at the river mouth are also getting back to catching some quality fish as well.

As for the Cape Ann bite, things may be improving heading into the weekend as a fresh school of pogies have been observed off Halibut point and a ton of peanut bunker are showing throughout Sandy Bay and further to the south along the rocks. A few of the shore guys are getting some quality bass and blues along the rocks and beaches at daybreak using yellow/white pencil poppers. We also had a good morning Friday with a few small keeper bass and some blues including one that tipped the Boga at 15 in Sandy Bay at Andrews Point and Back Beach. Here's hoping that we are in the midst of improving summer action!.

The commercial striper season has been closed as of midnight August 9th and is unlikey to re-open as the expected qouta has been achieved.

Friday Morning bite with Paul and Mark
I have only one word to summarize the fishing this past week "really slow", ok, two words were necessary. The summer slowdown is in place, especially around Cape Ann with stripers being really picky. The commercial fleet are still getting a few fish each day on live bait and chunks but their numbers are going down. While the rec guys are getting mostly blues with just a few smaller bass in the mix. The same scenario is playing out up the coast to Plum Island with mostly blues busting bait along the beaches and at the river mouth. The main concentration of stripers has moved well north of the border chasing after bait that the blues chased out.

Best bets this weekend are; Ipswich Bay to Plum Island as the blues are corralling the remaining bait just off the beaches. For stripers at Cape Ann, hug the rocks trolling a Tube n Worm fished slow and low or set up a chum line and chunk bait at Andrews and Halibut Point.

Nice fat 33 incher on the T&W
The overall summer pattern is making for some "on again, off again action" from Cape Ann to Plum Island. The fishing has been anything but hot and certainly not as good as a few weeks ago. But with some time and effort you'll get into some fish. The blues and stripers are cruising along the beaches and you'll also find splinter pods a bit offshore chasing herring. The night bite has been good slinging live eels along the beachfronts of Plum Island and Crane from boat, kayak or from strategic shore locations.

Not a whole lot happening along the Cape Ann shore for the surfcasters except for a few small bass or blues here and there. The commercial guys are still getting into good numbers keeper fish along the back shore and in Gloucester and Manchester harbor trolling live bait or chunking herring or squid . The mackerel are becoming scarcer as more and more bluefish are arriving every day. Some of the guys have pulling up bunches of baby blues, as small as 2 inches, on their Sabiki rigs at the State Fish Pier in Gloucester. These mini choppers are a few months old and may have been spawned nearby.

I have moved my boat back to Cape Ann today and now getting ready for the second half of the season. We'll be getting the live well on board and also getting the tube n' worm gear out if the light tackle stuff proves to be slow.

Best bets for catching this weekend will be bluefish at Halibut and Andrews Points in Rockport and along the beaches at Crane and Plum Island.

The summer pattern is solidly in place, even to the extent of cautiously describing the current striper fishing along the beach at Plum Island as the "doldrums", even with tons of small herring and sandeels unmolested. And here is the "but" ; the dark hour guys are taking a few sizable stripers along the PI beach and up to the north along Salisbury Reservation slinging eels or dragging big swimming plugs at the river mouth. Steve J took a couple of big fish last weekend slinging soft plastics off the beachfront from his kayak and other reliable friends are telling me that bite is red hot off Hampton, Portsmouth Harbor and the river mouths and shoreline at Ogunquit. It seems that the huge swarm of stripers that we enjoyed for several weeks have taken their rod bending activities north of the border...maybe the reasons are related to the big baits as in tons of squid and bunker.

Steve J with a hefty sized striper (nice going Steve!)

As for Cape Ann, the commercial guys are enjoying many good days so far this season with solid numbers of stripers being harvested using a variety of live baits including macks and pogies and slow trolling tight to structure along the shoreline from Folly Cove and south along the Back Shore into Gloucester harbor. T he deep water chumming/chunking gang are also catching plenty of stripers and dogfish at the Rockpile and Groaner. However the light tackle shore and boat guys are having a tough time luring stripers away from bait armed only with artificial options. However Steve P. and Brian O'C have had some luck at daybreak before the live bait boats get at them.

Best bets this weekend; get a live well and fill it with macks, pogies or Pollock and slow troll the rocks, reefs and around the islands if you want to cash in on the action. Next best approach would be chumming/chunking herring while anchored up near the same structures or head offshore a bit to the deep water. If you are going to hang in there with light tackle, get out early, before dawn, and stay tight to structure and hope you can coax a few stripers or blues with your non-food choices.

We are week or so into the striper summer pattern and the striper fishing at Plum Island couldn't get much better as the topwater herring feed continued throughout the week. Several pods of stripers covering a few miles of beachfront feeding on huge numbers of immature herring. Just about any bait resembling a small baitfish from twitch baits, like the white Jumping Minnow, to white soft plastics worked for the voracious and seemingly insatiable bass. The stripers have been along the beachfront from dawn to dusk, anywhere from the MR buoy , south to mid beach, from tight to shore and out a mile in 85 feet of water. And watch out as the blues are also in the mix. The stripers ranged in size from 26 inches to a few close to 40 inches, all chunkers, fat with herring. The flats also are showing some action especially on the cooler water rising tide , but scamper off the flats shortly after tide turns with warmer water.

Matt A. enjoying the topwater action off Plum Island

The local Cape Ann anglers are doing well along the Rocks from Andrews Point in Rockport (big blues) to a few big bass at the Groaner. There also a bunch of small keeper sized stripers here and there along the rocks from Loblolly to Brace Cove. The live liners and chunk fisherman are taking stripers and blues inside Gloucester harbor at the state pier and other access points. The squid are still showing especially after dark at the state pier and the harbor boardwalk and any where lamp light shines on the water.

Best bets this weekend: Halibut and Andrews Points if you want blues, fish early. Checkout the beachfronts at Crane and Plum Island by boat or early.

John and Alex from PA. enjoying their best ever day catching stripers M

The cooler weather and water this past week kept the fishing hot at the Merrimack with good numbers of stripers and as well a few big blues mixing it up. The stripers however, remained a bit picky with tons of bait to choose from including; sandeels, pogies, drop back herring, macks and even shad. Getting hooked up required much casting, bait changes and persistence.

The Joppa and Salisbury flat were quite good on Tuesday and Wednesday as water temps dropped back into the mid 60's with post spawn herring dropping back downriver. There were some really big stripers on Joppa pursuing the herring and a few guys did land a few 40 + inch fish using big plugs and white soft plastics. However the river mouth was the alive with feeding stripers pretty much the entire week. The live mack crowd were again taking good numbers of keeper fish down the middle while the light tackle guys chased around the north and south adjacent sandbars after screeching terns feasting on sandeels pushed up by stripers. It's no doubt going to be a very crowded weekend at the Merrimack so if you want to get into the action I suggest getting on the flats early for your best chances at some quality stripers, as the river mouth will choked with boats and combat fishing will prevail. If you want blues, head south along the beachfront and watch for terns following the bait swarms.

The Cape Ann shore fishing is heating up as the guys are getting stripers here and there and bluefish are showing at Andrews Point first thing in the morning. Gloucester Harbor is alive with squid and some of the regulars have taken some super big stripers (30 + pounders)using whole squid baits. The dog bar anglers have taken some bluefish as well tossing plugs. It should be a good weather weekend for fishing but hit your favorite spots early and late for the best action.

Skip with a 20+ taken with the Micah Dean Sandeel

John's first bluefish ever

Father and Son Brad and Jack with two beachfront stripers

John and Deb with two nice stripers

The past week has been one of change as the striper fishing was quite good through the weekend and into first part of the week. We enjoyed some super topwater action with a white Jumping Minnow on Monday and I got into several nice stripers on Tuesday using flies and the Micah Dean Sandeel.

The hot weather has COOLED the fishing the last couple of days as every fish taken required much effort to get them to eat ( the water temp on Joppa today was 73 as opposed to 64 on Monday). One other notable fact is the number of stripers in the vicinity of the flats and at the river mouth has been steadily declining week by week as many anglers are keeping fish rather than returning them for another day and this with the seemingly inexhaustible supply of sandeel food is keeping the remaining stripers well fed. The bright sun the last couple of days has limited the best bite time to the dawn hours.

Alex and Jeff with nice stripers taken with the white JM

The Cape Ann bite has been somewhat slow for the shore anglers, but the boat guys are still getting big stripers live linning macks while others are banging stripers at the Groaner off the Dog Bar with chunks. Brian O'C has been away visiting family so I don't have any first hand info about Crane other than the Greenies are starting to show! I'll post up any new reports over the weekend on my Twitter Page @captskipnca.

Best bets for the weekend; fish early at the Merrimack or Crane; get some macks and slow troll at the Castle and the inner harbor at Gloucester (State Fish Pier). The shad bite is hot at Lawrence...peaking right now.

Another week of changes to this very unusual striper season. The striper fishing at the Merrimack remained on the lean side through last weekend and into Monday and Tuesday. The flats were for the most part void of stripers until the dinks began to show themselves again late on Tuesday. The live liners at the rivers mouth were taking a fair number of keeper fish while the light tackle anglers worked hard for a few school fish throughout a tide cycle.

With the slow fishing at the Merrimack and Crane areas last weekend, Cape Ann proper came alive with a big push of fresh linesiders feasting on small herring at Back Beach in Rockport. Several of the Cape Ann surf guys cashed in on the action as quite a few stripers pushing 40 inches were taken using a variety of plugs; topwaters and big swimmers. While others were taken using bucktail jigs. The bait swarm was dispatched quickly as stripers and sea birds feasted throughout the weekend. All is quiet now as the majority of stripers moved north around Halibut Point and again came ashore along Crane Beach as several boat and shore anglers enjoyed a few bait blitzes mid-week. The stripers continued north and were found all along the beach at Plum Island and they finally made their way to the Merrimack River late Wednesday as Capt Al nailed several fresh stripers on flies up inside on the Joppa. A few of this bunch were in the 40 inch class. On Thursday morning a stiff northeast wind (gusting to 25) greeted anglers at the Merrimack mouth and on the flats. The strong winds created significant challenges to those anglers at the river mouth as the seas were building quickly to 4 foot chop and a few bigger swells. The flats were also challenging with a windswept chop that made anything resembling a perfect drift impossible . But the fish were there, and figuring where to be on the flat and how best to get a well presented bait to them was the challenge. I got lucky finding an agreeable pod of fresh stripers on the less choppy Salisbury flat. I managed to land and release nearly a dozen stripers from 30 to 37 inches in less than hour (the video). By then, the tide turned out, the wind came up harder and I called a day.

Best bets this weekend; Gloucester Harbor continues to fish good with tons of bait; the macks and squid should keep the resident stripers at the dinner table...hit it early. The Merrimack and Crane will continue hot as there is plenty of sandeels , macks and herring to hold stripers. The onshore winds and big crowd of anglers will make the Merrimack River mouth a bit nasty, so plan to be on the flats instead and be there early for a good seat!

Steve H. with his first ever keeper sized striper

The weather that moved in over the weekend most certainly negatively impacted the very good striper fishing that we had been enjoying. The ocean storm and very high tides left the shore fishing difficult with high surf and tons of weed to foul baits and flies. The heavy rains in the area also created sour water with the nasty runoff and the colder air pattern also dropped water temps back into the 50's curtailing the Joppa bite and as well the Essex and Annisquam backwaters. Brian O'C also reported that the storm created a great deal of beach erosion at Crane, especially at the Essex River end with a good deal of beach disappearing.

By Wednesday and Thursday the weather conditions improved enough for us to get out for a look-see at Joppa but we didn't find a single striper anywhere from the Whittier Bridge to the flats. But the good news is that solid numbers of stripers were feasting on a new batch of small sandeels with many bent rods at the river mouth. The stripers ranged in size from schoolie to keeper sized fish up to 40 inches or more. We took fish on flies (sandeel patterns), white weighed soft plastics, and top water plugs. Other anglers driting live macks were taking some fish over 40 inches.

While I was at the Merrimack enjoying the bite Thursday, Steve P got into some great action at Back Beach in Rockport as a school of big bass corralled a bunch of sea herring at the north corner of the beach. He hooked several stripers that were better than 35 inches and noted others that exceeded 40 inches. The bad news was the bait and bass left the beach as tide rolled in later in the day. Hopefully the bait and bass will hang around this weekend.

With warmer weather on the way, the Cape Ann, Essex backwaters and the Merrimack flats should heat up again so look for improving striper action. It also should be noted that the shad run is still going strong at Lawrence and should be fishable as the runoff abates into next week.

Skip with a couple of stripers taken and released at the Merrimack

Lloyd D with a fly caught keeper (released)

Guy W. with a fly caught keeper (released)

Joe W. with large hen shad at Lawrence

Sometimes a well presented Slug-Go will take just about anything, just as Don found at the mouth

The overall striper fishing can be best described as ever changing with very good days with numbers and size to slower ones for big fish and reasonable if you count the huge swarm of 10-15 inch dinks. During mid week Al and I had some very good action out on Joppa Flat with flies and soft plastics. We landed some quality stripers including a 16 and 20 pounder. The live liners are also taking some big stripers between the Plum Island jetties.

click here for a video of Al's 20 pounder

Al and Skip

Clay and Steve

Brian O'C enjoyed solid striper action over last weekend catching quite few fish with some well over 30 inches in the Essex backwater. Here is a video clip made by Brian click here

Steve P also enjoyed good action around Cape Ann throughout most of last weekend, grabbing some quality stripers at a few of the local beaches. Gloucester harbor is continuing to be slow at the usual shoreline hot spots, but the boat anglers using live macks had some good action last w/e. And there are plenty of mackerel at Saturday Night ledge and some big cows showing at the groaner. However there's not a lot happening at the Candy House with the only thing biting there are the no-see-ums, brutal!

Chuck M with mack caught keeper

For all of the shad anglers now is the time to get up the Great stone Dam in Lawrence as the shad run is entering its peak numbers right now. Many anglers took solid numbers of jacks along with a few sizable hens pushing 7+ pounds. Joe W. landed nearly 2 dozen inside of 2 hours at mid week. Best bait are the small two toned gold/hot pink willow leaf leadered/swiveled to a 3/8 ounce non-lead egg sinker. Remember the bag limit is 6/day and a Massachusetts Freshwater license is required.

Joe W. with shad taken at Lawrence

So your best bet for the upcoming weekend may be Joppa Flat with flies and jigs and live macks at the river mouth. As for Cape Ann, try hitting the area beaches at dawn with top water plugs or head out to the groaner with lots of herring chunks.

Most of the area hot spots produced fairly good striper action through last weekend with many anglers finding quality fish. However at the beginning of the week the bigger stripers were replaced with tons of very small, 10 to 15 inch stripers. Last Monday Jona R. and Steve Cole from Upper Valley Outfitters in NH got to experience dozens of hook ups on these pesky linesiders at the Merrimack. The biggest landed fish of the day was 26 inches. We found the swarm at just about every stop on the river from Deer Island to Joppa and a few places in between. Lot's of fun on light tackle!

The same report held true for Brian O'C as he saw the same type of fishing in the Essex backwaters; big fish over the weekend to very small stripers throughout the week. Mike W reported that the fishing at Little River was very good last weekend, but slowed through the week as Steve J and I fished a few times (at different tides) to find a few dinks with a keeper sized fish thrown in to help perk interest.

Steve J. with a self portrait and a keeper fish taken on JM

My 32 incher on the fly

It appear, from other angler reports, that the majority of larger stripers have pushed well up all the area rivers in pursuit of river herring. Anglers at the Lawrence dam have been taking many, many keeper fish there. One 45 incher was reported as well. It also should be noted that some of the anglers are illegally taking river herring and then live linning them for stripers; a big no no and a couple of these anglers got bagged by the EP. While other anglers are tossing 3 ounce plugs on stout sticks and landing nice sized fish for their effort.

So we're in a holding pattern right now as we await the next big push of stripers from south of here. There have been many positive reports of large schools of stripers at Chatham and the Vineyard.

And I'm sure you all heard about the 74 pounder taken off the CT coast by guide Blaine Anderson live linning a Scup.

We spent all of our time this past week fishing the Merrimack River with some great striper action for the effort. On Monday Capt Al reported getting into some striper action upriver of rt1 but all of the stripers were schoolie sized and nothing larger than 22 inches. I got out on Tuesday and was pleasantly greeted with a fresh school of keeper sized stripers feeding on a school of immature herring. The action was simply amazing for an hour or so, so amazing in fact, that it was literally impossible to retrieve a fly, soft plastic or topwater jumping minnow without a fierce take; striper paradise! The best action occurred from the top of the tide and continued through two hours of the dropping tide. On Wednesday, in the pouring rain, Al and I headed out and quickly got into a repeat of Tuesday's action except that the action was even better and spread out across the entire flats; from Rings Island to the grass at Joppa. Same school of stripers and feeding on the small herring. The stripers ranged in size from 25 to 33 inches with some bigger fish mixed as I can attest to the "one that got away" ( I'm only going to say don't tie flies on 1x wire hooks)! The cold front that popped through late Wednesday was not welcomed as the massive school of keeper sized stripers that were on the flats Tuesday and Wednesday, completely disappeared on Thursday, and we couldn't find them anywhere; from the river mouth to well up river at Deer Island.My guess is that they pushed the bait way upriver or into the Plum Island backwaters. The guys I had out with me, however, did enjoy a great day landing more than 30 schoolie sized stripers (16-22 inches) on white weighed soft plastics, and all that in spite of that nasty northwest breeze that made for some challenging casting.

Action on Tuesday

Capt Al with a 30" striper

The guys fishing at the Candy House last weekend and into mid week, reported slow fishing but some of the guy's were rewarded with a few keeper sized stripers on flies and soft plastics. The huge school of stripers that we had at the Merrimack must have bypassed the Annisquam completely as I did hear about some excellent action mid week just to the north in the Essex River backwaters.

The weekend ought to bring some renewed action in all area backwaters as the warmer weather should help heat up the action once again.

Paul D. with a nice Candy House striper
Well I don't have too much of a fishing report this week. The lousy weather and huge tides limited our time out fishing. I did get out to the Candy House Thursday afternoon just after the tide turned out and landed 1/2 dozen schoolies and dropped a couple of larger fish. So the stripers are still there and with the improving weather I expect the fishing to pick up through the weekend.

Rick W. with a nice Candy House schoolie Friday morning

Al and I tried to get out in the boat and fish the Joppa but after a few drifts in the very windy conditions headed back to the dock with nothing but a wind burn for our effort. We will try and get back out over the weekend and if we do and get into some fish I'll post it up.

Shad fishing remains slow, but again the cooler weather has maintained river water temps in the mid-50's so I shouldn't be surprised. Warmer water will bring in more shad so don't hang it up quite yet.
The early warm weather brought an early start to the striper and shad season but the past two weeks of cooler and damp weather has definitely slowed the push of fish into our water. The striper fishing at the Candy House has cooled down quite a bit as compared to the previous week but if you put the time in, you'll take a few for your effort. Best baits are white weighed soft plastics and white streamer patterns on the fly. The stripers are ranging in size from very small (14") up to 32" with some larger fish seen as well. The pressure this past week increased dramatically so you won't be alone at Candy House! If you know of other backwater spots along the Annisquam I'm sure you'll find stripers.

Brian O'C fished the Castle Neck backwaters a few times this past week and reports cold water and slow fishing although he did hook up a few solid stripers using a white Jumping Minnow topwater.

Nice Topwater striper from Brian O'C

With better weather coming next week, we should expect to see another push of migrating stripers to make their way here. I'll be putting the Maritime in the water next week at Cove Marina so I should get some firsthand intel on the striper push there.

Nice 28" Candy House Striper (photo by: Rick Wise)

The shad fishing up at the Merrimack continues to be slow because of the changing water conditions resulting from the recent rain and cooler temps. The season has just got going and it promises to be good one as normal weather patterns take hold.


Supplemental report;
Candy House this morning before the wind really came up hard;

Over last weekend many of the area striper regular hot spots produced good numbers of schoolie bass with an occasional keeper sized fish thrown in for good measure. Brian O'C enjoyed a good Sunday morning on the back side of Crane while others fished in and around the Annisquam backwaters. Most of the stripers were taken on white weighed soft plastics , while a few were also taken with topwater plugs. The shad run at the Merrimack is continuing to grow in numbers of fish and a few bigger hens are beginning to show in the mix.

But the foul weather and heavy rain came in to shut things down a bit with very high water that was also stained up. By Wednesday overall water conditions improved enough to get the guys out including Al and me at Rocks Village. Both of us took a few nice shad casting willow leaf spoons from shore.

I finally got back out for stripers on Thursday morning at the Candy House and found myself all alone with a fresh school of keeper sized stripers busting on alewife. I can't remember having a better morning landing a half dozen stripers ranging in size from 27 to 32 inches, all healthy strong fish. Unfortunately for me I had forgotten to shut the power off on my GoPro from the shad fishing Wednesday afternoon and had a dead battery and no back up so no video, only a few lousy cell phone pic's to share. I took all the stripers by way of the fly, an all white baitfish streamer. Once the outgoing tide reached ebb, the bite turned off. I fully expect the shad and striper fishing to be excellent going into the coming weekend so get out and wet a line!


Last Few Days At The Flats!
by Walleye Pete

Hello All.....good fishing lately. We had a massive spawn a couple of days ago. More fish than I've ever seen spawn at the flats. All the boat in the region were very good around the spawning fish. Most folks were just observing in awe of natures wonder. I would guess thousands of Stripers spawning over a 3 mile by 1 mile area.

The surface bite has kicked in and lately the bite has been very good. Had many fish in the last 3 days on surface plugs and Tony Acetta Spoons. Fish have been mainly in less than 10' of water but some around channel edges a bit deeper where BKD's were the ticket. Here's a few shots from the last couple of days!!!!!! Click Here Thanks to Den Kelly for sending this along!

Local Report

The shad bite is picking up at Lawrence and at Rocks Village with more fish coming. Walter from Cape Ann Brew Pub took a nice shad late yesterday at RV.
Schoolie stripers have arrived along the north coast from Cape Ann to the Merrimack. Not big numbers yet but certainly a good sign to see them this early and with the big spawn at SUSCUEHANNA, we should have a good spring and summer.

With the weather remaining on the cool side , not a whole lot has changed from last week. The trout bite remains fairly good with more trout stocked this week at area ponds. The streams are now seeing a good deal of bug hatches so unless you matching the hatch, you may not get to enjoy catching too many.

No real signs of shad at Rock's Village (RV) or at Lawrence, the river water remains seasonally cold. I spent time this week at RV with no success. Other's I have spoken with that have fished Lawrence said the same.

Stripers are in fact on the way with many reports to south at RI and the Vineyard. I have not heard of bass moving through the canal as yet. I have heard rumors of a few small schoolies showing up at the Candy House but I suspect that they are "winter over" fish. I'll get out to the Candy House this w/e or at least early next week. Let's hope the coming warmer weather brings the shad and stripers our way!

I have received a report from a reliable source that stripers are still in the midst of spawning at the SUSCUEHANNA FLATS in MD. I'll get more info next week... A good thing if true.

And don't forget to watch OTW TV Sunday morning at 10...Brian O'C at Crane beach!


The crazy weather is bringing an early start to the fishing season. Most of the area ponds and streams have been stocked with some quality trout. I got out for awhile this week and fished at the Shawsheen and Parker Rivers and had a bit of fun catching several quality browns and brookies as seen above. My guess is that we are going to see some early run shad arriving at the Merrimack any day now and within a week or so we should see some migrating schoolies arriving at Cape Ann backwaters and the Merrimack up river. Time to get your gear ready!