By Patrick Barone
The Cape Cod Canal is undoubtedly one of the best places to fish along the south-eastern coast of Massachusetts, and potentially the single best spot for shore fishing in the state. Each year some of the largest striped bass swimming in Massachusetts waters find their way into the roughly 7-mile long canal, which is affectionately referred to by those that frequent its shores as the ‘Ditch’.
If you were to spend some time talking to the Canal ‘regulars’ about what technique is producing best and what locations are giving up the best fish, you are likely to get a wide variety of answers. This is due to the size and nature of the waterway. With strong currents that switch directions every 6 hours as the tides ebb and flow, it is important to try a variety of locations at different points throughout the tide to see how the conditions change throughout the full tide cycle, and on both east and west flows. To try and speed up this learning process for anyone that would like to give the Canal a try, here are a few pointers:
1. Fish around the slack current. Slack occurs approximately 90 minutes before the high or low tide at any location in the Canal. I like to fish for roughly 90 minutes before slack, and about 90 minutes after the current changes directions.
2. Fish around sunrise and sunset. These are the most active feeding times for striped bass. In my experiences, the most productive times are when a slack flow falls between the hours of 4 and 6am.
3. Big Gear. Big Lures. Big Fish. Most first-timers are not prepared for the strength of the currents seen in the Canal. At a nearly 6mph max flow, the current can easily make a 10lb fish feel like 30lb when it has a chance to use the strength of the tide against you. Rods should be a minimum of 9 feet long, but most use rods in the 10-11’ range. Reels need to be able to hold 300yds of line and have a very strong drag. Lures should be big: bucktail jigs, a variety of top water plugs, and a mix of swimmers will cover the basics. I often throw a 4oz plug to gain casting distance.
Lastly, I want to be sure to point out that we all have tough days fishing the ‘Ditch’ every so often. While you are learning how to effectively fish the area be sure not to get down on yourself if you are having a tough time catching fish. It takes time to learn where the bait sets up on certain tides, and even longer to predict the behavior of the bass as a result. Start small, use my tips to learn the water, and get ready because there are some BIG fish waiting for you.
FORECAST BY: Patrick is a lifelong fisherman, who has been bitten by the fly fishing bug. He is also the co-founder/co-owner of Early Rise Outfitters, a year-round catch and release fly fishing guide service dedicated to providing enjoyable angling adventures throughout Massachusetts, with an emphasis on education and conservation.