Water temperatures have moderated from the unusually high numbers we were seeing the week before last. The harbor cooled down from readings as high as 78 degrees to a more reasonable 71 degrees, and the waters from the Race to the backside beaches backed off into the high 60s. Fishing was very inconsistent, however.
With the cooler water, striped bass continued to bite, and catches were mostly good for all who targeted them. The Race has been the best place for bass, and drifting chunks of mackerel or trolling umbrella rigs have been the ticket to catching them.
Still, we continue to be inundated with smaller fish. The recent population has been in the 23-to-26-inch range, which, of course, we cannot keep. Customers on charter and party boats appear to be getting weary of not being able to go home with a fish to eat. The fish this size are in the 2018 to 2021 class, and it certainly looks like those were healthy reproductive years. I just hope that translates to an easing of the strict slot size at some point.
Commercially, striped bass are quota-managed, and so far 45 percent of the quota has been filled. At this rate, the fishery will be closed sometime in late August. Due to the lack of commercial-size fish in our area — the minimum commercial size is 35 inches — we have not seen much of the commercial fleet targeting striped bass around here, and for that the recreational fishermen are thankful.
Bluefish have backed off from their enormous presence in the bay and are firmly entrenched along the backside beaches from the Race Point Station down to Head of the Meadow. They are in shallow water, and they are very big. When they are in depths of under 30 feet, the only truly effective way to catch them is by casting swimming plugs.
Bluefin tuna fishing was hit and miss, with some recreational-size fish being taken at Peaked Hill and the southwest and southeast corners of Stellwagen Bank. Federal permits for highly migratory species are required for those wanting to catch these fish, and here the recreational size for bluefin tuna is two small fish in the 27-to-47-inch range and one in the 47-to-under-73-inch range. Trollers and bait fishermen were catching a few here and there. It’s still pretty quiet for giants here.
The Cee-Jay and a number of our friends on charter boats have been spotting some good-size great white sharks cruising between the Race and Head of the Meadow Beach. At the same time, there has been a notable absence of fin whales this summer. We’re not seeing them in their usual areas between Herring Cove and the Race, which is rather disappointing, and it’s strange given we have an enormous number of sand eels in our waters at the moment.
This is a relatively quiet year so far for the charter and party boats in Provincetown, though I don’t want to speak too soon, because August can come on like gangbusters and change everything. Captains aren’t sure what it is that’s different. Is it the new striper rules that send fewer people home with a fish? Is it the higher prices that were raised to cover increased expenses? Is it the high cost of staying on the Outer Cape? All I know is right now a lot of boats are tied to the dock on days when they normally would be out fishing.