The 2023 striped bass season has officially begun on the Outer Cape. It may seem like we’ve been waiting a long time, but the truth is they are way ahead of schedule — two or three weeks ahead of what is typical around here.
Capt. Vaughn Cabral went out on a reconnaissance mission this week and found a large school of bass between Long Point and the Pamet, and they were hungry as well, he reported. He caught some nice-sized slot fish. When he went back the next day, they were still there and, again, he found keepers within the new rules: between 28 and 31 inches.
The bay is loaded with mackerel at the moment, which is probably what is holding the bass there. Water temperatures are in the 50s now, too, so everything is in place for things to get going.
I’ve had no reports yet from Race Point or beyond, but the stripers are more than likely there. As more people get out and try to find them, we will get a clearer picture of what’s happening on the back side. Right now, though, the bay is hot.
The arrival of the stripers gives a nudge to the local charter fishing fleet. Everyone has sprung into action, finishing up all the things they need to do to get ready for the upcoming season. The sounds of sanding and engine tune-ups are in the air, and people are caulking and painting. With boats, the work is never-ending; there is always something to fix or replace. A saltwater environment is harsh.
Capt. Nico of Cape Tip’n is already in the water and ready to go. Capt. Rich has one of his Beth Ann boats in the water doing private whale watching trips. Capt. Russ of the Lisa Z and Capt. Dave of the Ginny G both say they will be fully operational by Memorial Day weekend, and the Cee-Jay starts her trips on May 20.
You may wonder what it’s like for those of us who take people fishing here. There’s a competitive spirit to fishing. But I’d say collaboration runs deeper. Collectively, we skippers probably have a couple of hundred years of experience on the water. The fact is, we all work together to help each other find the fish.
Flounder fishing is starting to pick up down on the south end of Billingsgate Shoals. Meanwhile, haddock fishing has been a bit slow on Stellwagen Bank.
The Dolphin Fleet is running whale watching trips every day now. The humpbacks have completed their journey north from the Caribbean, where birthing and breeding is done, and are here to fatten up and feed on the enormous quantities of baitfish we are blessed to have in our waters.
The right whales have departed, according to the latest aerial surveys, and are continuing their migration up to the Bay of Fundy. Because of that, the 10-mile-an-hour coastwide speed limit and ban on setting trap gear have been lifted for the season. This is welcome news for the lobstermen as well as the high-speed ferries. And this, too, has happened earlier than usual, at least by a few days.
Does the fact that everything in our local waters is happening earlier in the year indicate an inevitable trend due to our warming seas? Time will tell, but my guess is yes. I also believe we are going to see more and more species of marine life showing up from the south — fish we have never seen here before. Stay tuned and stay ready for the unexpected.