Captain Steve Leary
Fishing Cape Cod Bay & Cape Cod Beaches
2020 Season in Review
A Cape Cod Bay Charter Captain’s Prospective
Part I - First Fish of The Season
After adding a few more frisky mackerel to the live well, I punched in the GPS setting and turned Wingman east toward Billingsgate Shoal, located off of Wellfleet along the eastern side of Cape Cod Bay. It was a perfect early June day, with bright blue skies and a light breeze out of the south. Aboard for this season’s shakedown cruise were my mate Mark and his dad Chris. With our first charters of the season just days away, I wanted to insure we were ready.
As Wingman hopped up on plane and effortlessly cruised across the bay with engines humming in unison, I ran through a series of system checks with no issues noted. All systems were go! As many Captains can relate, it felt like the boat and I were again tied together as one. Life was good!
During the 6-mile run across the bay I constantly scanned the sonar for signs of fish only to note a few schools of mackerel. This was consistent with current intel that the numbers of bass, and certainly the arrival of big bass were behind schedule. I adjusted my expectations accordingly and was soon to learn that was wrong!
We were about 3 hours into a falling tide, so I opted to scout around the No. 1 can at the point of the shoal and then head east along the south side. Pulling the throttles back to sustain a 2-3 knot speed, we set out 2 rods with live macks and began the hunt. Our set consisted of Tsunami Trophy Series 6’6” MH rods and Shimano TLD20 reels loaded with 45lb lead core, and 15’ of 30lb fluorocarbon snelled to 6/0 non offset Trokar circle hooks. Given we’d be working in 20-30 feet of water, 3 colors and 4 colors we set out on the starboard and port rods respectively. Both rods were secured with safety lines to the outrodders positioning them parallel to the sea surface.
Approaching the No. 1 can from the west, the sonar began to light up with scattered 20-27” fish in the lower third of the water column. Drawing within 100 yards of the can, we marked fish in the 30-38” range, and then to my surprise a pod of 40-50” fish appeared.
Responding to my guttural reaction, Mark and Chris, caught a view of the sounder, immediately moved toward the rods and readied for action. Not a tap was detected!
I pulled the throttles back and began a slow turn to port to drop the baits lower in the water column. Still no takers.
With my heart about to beat itself out of my chest, I thought let’s try this again. Collecting my thoughts and shaking off “cobwebs” from months of non-fishing activity, I decided to reload with fresh baits and retrace the track we had laid down, only this time heading west with the current. Positioning Wingman 150 yards up tide of the can we set out again and began the approach. Now running with the tide, a throttle adjustment was required to sustain the desired trolling speed.
Again, fish in the 20-27” range were first to be detected, and then 100’ west of the can the pod of large fish now higher in the water column were found. As I typically do in this situation, I was in the process of saying “Here We Go” only the get the “Here” out before the port rod had a hit and in a heartbeat the starboard rod went off, drag screaming, line ripping off the reel and the rod tip bent back nearly touching the hull. No doubt this was a big fish intent on heading for P’Town. Life was really good now!
Chris wrestled the rod out of the outrodder and began a battle lasting 20 minutes. Over years of fishing there are fish that stand out in your memory. After it’s second of three blistering runs and still not getting even a glimpse of this big bass, it became one of those great ones. Finally, after its third run, the fish tired and surfaced approximately 50’ from the boat with a tail wave before heading for the deep again. Everyone aboard shared a collective Wow!
Refusing to give up the fight even at the boat, it took three attempts with the landing net to bring the fish aboard. After a few quick pictures, a measurement and weigh-in, this 47”, 32lb beauty was released.
This fish set several firsts aboard Wingman for the 2020 season. Those being first bass of the season, first bass to be released in accordance with the new 28” to less than 35” slot limit and most notable, the first of dozens of 40”+ bass to be caught during the remaining days of June.
Over the course of the season bigger bass were brought aboard Wingman but this fish set the tone for a great but challenging season. More to come in upcoming posts.
Captain Steve Leary