The odds for today didn’t look good. Reports wee the bait were in, but not the fish. Fishermen and guides alike were picking up fish here and there, but nothing in numbers, and nothing at any size. With memories of last year’s season and a forecast for cold air and rain, I thought we’d be looking forward to a paid boat ride. The fact that we splashed the boat at 5:30 am was a triumph of hope over experience.
Thankfully, hope won: after the rain cleared early, the sand eels and the bass decided to show. But the good news is a bit more complicated.
First, there’s more bait than I’ve ever seen in Cape Cod bay. The water was glassy calm, with almost no wind to break them up. We passed over school after school of sand eels whose size would rival many a cape cottage. And these were not small sand eels, either: they were 3+ inches long, and beefy. On a few occasions, we drifted over schools of them, with birds surrounding us as far we could see.
Usually, where there are bait and birds there are bass. But today the bass were more finicky. They were cruising through the bait in singles or pairs, but not crushing them. Instead, we found stripers elsewhere, off the big bait balls, sipping and slapping at the surface.
Of these, most were schoolies. Of the 30 stripers caught, all but a few were schoolies. I hope this means that a future generation of large stripers is building. There certainly was enough bait. Only time, and fishermen, will tell.