We got our first hint of fall this past weekend as a tropical storm passing to our east ushered in a much cooler and damp air mass from the north. Relentless northeast winds reinforced this pattern and our 75-degree harbor water was down to 56 degrees, as of this writing.
A 19-degree drop in water temperature is significant and has a major effect on fish behavior. My customers often ask me why this sort of weather change affects fishing so much. Why don’t they bite as well as they were before? The answer is simple. Picture yourself walking down Commercial Street on a beautiful, sunny 90-degree day. You are in shorts, a T-shirt, and flip-flops. Suddenly the sun goes behind clouds, the air temperature drops to 50 degrees, and the wind begins to howl. Would your first thought be where to get something to eat? Hardly. More likely, your first thought and action would be to get out of the cold by going somewhere warmer.
Fish are no different. When thermal shock sets in, they seek warmer water and their metabolism slows down to the point where they do not need to eat. As I say on the Cee-Jay all the time, when fishing is bad, we don’t give excuses, we give reasons.
All that is to say our fishing went sour fast. Bluefish have all but disappeared, and striped bass are thin in numbers. Mackerel are thick in the Race rips and to the north of the rips. Flounder fishing remains hot down along the stretch from the Pamet to the entrance buoy to Wellfleet Harbor. I know of guys who came in with limit catches on multiple days last week, and the flounder are big and fat. It’s rather puzzling to me that more fishermen are not going after flounder, given how good it is.
The next question is, when will fishing improve again? There is no hard and fast answer. When the winds return to blowing from the south and southwest and the water temperature begins to rebound, everything will stabilize again and the fish will return.
Truth be told, these summer nor’easters are good for the water. It shakes things up, and turns the water over. The water becomes stratified and stale when we get the same weather and the same wind direction for a protracted period. Mixing things up in the water column is a good thing. Looking at the long-term forecast, I think the days of mid-70s water temperatures are now in our rear-view mirror.
Whales, on the other hand, are less affected by weather variables. There are still a number of fin whales cruising around the Race, and there are a fair number of humpbacks up on Stellwagen Bank. There was a rumor of a beluga whale around Beach Point. I happened to get a quick look at it while fishing over there the other day and it looked like a minke whale with one gray side and one white. I wish I had gotten a better look at it, but I saw enough to confirm one side of it was definitely gray, which, I believe, would rule out its being a beluga.
We had some pretty amazing rainbows over our harbor this week. For those who might have missed them, I got a good shot of a double rainbow while running the launch boat in Provincetown Marina.