SB Observations [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: SB Observations

08-02-2006, 09:42 PM
Albeit only based on my last 3 trips the past few weeks...the following are my observations and thoughts regarding SB:
1. The place isn't what it was (due to the near closing of the southway) compared to even last year regarding #'s of past years on a bad day, one could easily spot 75 stripers and on a good day 200+. Today in 9 hrs, I saw about 25 fish, last week, less than that;
2. Fish seen are most likely "resident" fish.....there does not appear to be an influx of surf side fish.....this results in very educated residents, wary fish and obviously less fish on the flats;
3. Non residents appear only for about 2 hrs before and after the high....making the chances of hooking up, a limited opportunity; I got my first skunking of the year:frown: Change of tide was late on the books and even later due to the narrowing...had to catch the shuttle, thus missed what now appears to be prime time;
4. I agree with Striblue's recent observation....the outgoing is generally a waste...1/2 as many fish are seen vs the incoming; In addition, unlike past years where selected flats had fish on them both incoming and outgoing...there appears to now be a flats that have fish only at incoming
and flats that have fish only at outgoing....odd! Anyone else observe this (or not)?
5. Bunker have arrived, not in great numbers, but there....very few on the incoming...far more on the incoming...presently about 2 inches in length;
6. At least appears that larger fish are seeking bunker....of the 25 or so fish sighted today....6 were 30+ inches, 2 schoolies and the rest in the mid 20's.....real decent fish and ratio! ...but few in #'s given a 9 hr span and all singles. Sad to say, too late in the day, I stumbled on the only way to get a strip and then let the fly least they looked at the fly before giving the "fin". I don't know what the feeding (frequency) behavior of stripers is....but my guess is that with an area that contains primarily resident fish, with the exception of a 4 hr tide window (new fish influx)....they probably feed every other or 3rd miss that day, and your out of luck (sort of like Filine's Bargain basement).
Hopefully with a greater influx of bunker over the next few weeks....ocean based fish will make the effort to scrape their belies on the sand bars to get in.

Just some thoughts...maybe valid, maybe not...but at least something to discuss. Would be interested in the observations of others.....seeing the same pattern or not?

08-02-2006, 11:06 PM
Generally in agreement, however fresh fish surge in under certain conditions and are active regardless of tide when visiting. However they don't always visit.

Outgoing can be very good on certain spots over on North. In fact a recent trip reinforced that in a BIG way. NM fish are not acting in their usual manner. But there are big fish working the island for sure.

Bunker were in two weeks ago, so things are definitely going to change thru early August.

One trait I've observed is that fish are much less prone to come up onto the flats this year than 2004 and years prior. I've also noticed that there is a near void of grass shrimpas compared to other years (not to be confused with chub fry which are plentiful) with that being a huge draw onto the flats each tide no wonder the fish are less flats oriented.

Every clammer I've asked (and that's a lot) have confirmed the lack of sea worms as well.

Go to Annisquam, the shrimp are thick as theives and the fish are in the shallowest water imaginable eating them. Nice bass are even in the tide pools with the kiddies up there. I have some recent recon I need to follow up on.

Most of the finfish the SB fish need to chow are over the dark water and weed line so they seem to be focused on that. You can tell by the way the hordes of bluefish work the area.

There were times when a blind cast into the channel would be an instant hookup but the flats next to the channel would be void. The approach of looking for fish cruising the very edge of the weedline has been most productive for me / clients this year.

However we have had some great sight fishing off and on especially in July, partly corresponding to the crab molting and appearance of sand eels thru the southway inlet.

I think it's still quite good, just very different.

The big bunker and shad that held the big bass on Stage this spring / early summer should repeat in fall. I will be all over that as usual as that's a great time to get inducted into the 40+ fly club.


Dble Haul
08-03-2006, 09:15 AM
I have to respectfully disagree with the theory that these fish are only feeding every second or third day. They are cold-blooded animals, and as such when the water temperatures increase, their metabolism increases in kind. This requires more frequent feeding.

Perhaps most of the feeding is occurring at night (I know, not so great for sight fishing).

08-03-2006, 10:00 AM
Feeding schedule wasn't a theory...only admitted ignorance.....if they are feeding a night, then we need to fish the flats and midnight highs with night vision goggles :) Wonder if Keith is willing to work nights :smokin:

08-03-2006, 10:10 AM not so that far fetched if you can get out under a big moon and clear sky :wink:

The effect is a bit like those days when heavy cloud turns the sky so dark there is zero reflected light from the water surface relative to the light reflected from the bottom. Sight fishing at those times can be remarkably good over light sand.

I have yet to get the "stars" to align for me on this but I'm hoping this week-end might be possible - 85% visible moon this Saturday...

Nightime brings many other advantages not the least of which is the absence of crowds :smokin:

Dble Haul
08-03-2006, 10:13 AM
Nightime brings many other advantages not the least of which is the absence of crowds :smokin:

....and an abundance of fish. :lildevl:

08-03-2006, 10:18 AM
Hard to say what's my favorite...

big rips, standing waves, big lines, big fish - invigorating!

flats - shhhh, walk like a heron... here comes a cow...

estuaries - trout fishing for tackle busters

surf - survival of the fittest, you or the fish

night fishing - was that a log drifting by or CAST! CAST!

beach blitz! RUN!!!!!

Damn we are lucky to have this fishery. :smokin:

Rip Ryder
08-03-2006, 07:50 PM
I have to say Ron, I don't see as many fish scraping their way in at mid tide like I did in the spring, when I was scraping the Parker's belly to try and get out to the outer bowl for the seals. Beryl made a big mess of the little bit of a mouth left out there. It chopped ofF the tail of the new point and deposited that sand right in the mouth. Basically right at the tip against the beach is the only way out and the old route out by the orange ball by SM is no longer useful.

For me, only about 15 seals are coming in a day. And what I find interesting is they stay at the clammers canal at North Monomoy by the H buoy. It use to be the K buoy was the hightide hang out, but with no depth left after the washover and seeing very few clouds of bait in the grass, there is no need for them to go there. I see the same old-timer (seal, not Gary) working in there everyday.
The seals were coming in to the Southway enterance for a couple of weeks, about a 100, but again I never really saw clouds of bait fish to keep them in there.
Working in the clammer's canal at H is the only place I see a good number of sand eels and silversides on a daily basis. I have also seen some cows in there once I move into the start of the crib area.

I know most don't want to hear about the seals, but my income comes from the same food chain your working, and THERE AIN'T NO FOOD!!!!!

Capt Keith

08-03-2006, 08:07 PM
Keith, I haven't seen a single sandeel in 3 weeks on the flats....your observations certainly verify that I'm not losing my sight :)
How about considering a "Twilight Cruise"....only for a will "influence' another certain shuttle service to do that to go along with their "new" harbor cruise special:devil:

08-03-2006, 10:10 PM
How things change so quickly! Last time I was out (2 wks ago) there were a lot of seals in the first bowl, in fact they came after our fish with abandon once hooked. We moved further in after landing some nice fish. Big blues in large numbers present as well. Bass were pushing in the shallows with their backs out after bait running over the bars and the terns were working hard.

There were juvie herring, plenty of sand eels and bunker although most bunker were observed in the mouths of terns heading back to feed their young. They were heading south / southwest from the ocean side, and about 50% giant sand eels they could barely carry in flight. I tied on a sand eel fly I twisted up at the CAC with Mr.Morin the night before and never took it off until the end of the day, many good fish later.

Ron I find it helps to look in the sky as well as the water to determine what's on the menu - any fresh arrivals are still very much focused on what's outside. Residents well they still have memories but not a fresh as the blackbacks. The nemesis is usually cloud-feeding on grass shrimp but they've been practically non-existent. Most of the fish I caught were outsiders that day, and my guest the day before did very well too including a large resident in very skinny water sight fishing.

Clearly it was a day when the fish surged in, and the seals too. As Keith mentioned, it all has to do with bait.

It seems all that fun's been over for a week or so (I had no fishing last weekend). It could all change with the flick of a switch for this weekend.

Family obs put me on the cape this weekend, so I guess I will just have to explore for meeeself a little :)

08-04-2006, 07:23 AM
I might as well throw in my 2 cents worth....

There are definitely less fish on the flats this year. Also, I have yet to see any in skinny water. The ones I've seen lately have been mostly singles, either along the edges or on the deeper part of the K flat. All have been near vegetation.

Depending on how much water is on the flat I've been working inside to outside and back more than usual and I'm not seeing anything close to shore except for one UDL... I used to work in a more north-south orientation staying more in the skinny water and always saw fish in close. I used to always see fish on the first flat near the dropoff point, at different tide stages. In fact more than once I've seen/caught fish behind people fishing the outer edge of this flat. This year I have yet to see a fish on this flat.

The last time I went (last weekend) I didn't see any sand eels for the first time this year but I did see small bunker breaking water. Not huge clouds of them like before, but they were there. I haven't seen any shrimp either.

The water doesn't seem to be any warmer than in the past (I wet wade) so I don't think that has anything to do with it. There is a lot less water movement however.

If there's no food then why are the fish even bothering to go up on the flats? That's what I don't understand. Yet, in years past when there were a lot of fish and bait on the flats, they would refuse everything some days, so they couldn't have been feeding then either.

BTW for an extra $25 Keith carried me up the stairs.....

tight lines and sandpaper thumbs

08-04-2006, 08:00 AM
In my opinion, the fishing inside the refuge has stunk in general this year. Major lack of eels = less fish. Less current = less fish. Fewer places for fish to enter and exit the flats = less fish...

Garry this is just a random observation but I think the schools of smaller fish tend to use the flats to get away from the seals at high tide. People interpret these fish as having "lockjaw"or whatever but I think the indifferent schools you see up there are just tyring to stay alive. I have seen many a schoolie get picked off by a seal in the shallows over the last few years. You used to be able to use the seals to find fish - always stacked up between J and K on the ebb. Not the case this year (although there have been some fish there). So maybe the lack of seals is leading to less fish on the flats as well...

08-04-2006, 09:05 AM
Dave, you raised a good point, especially after losing a striper to a seal a few weeks ago.

Here's another thought; this year there are a lot more people/boats out clamming the flats than I remember seeing. I don't know if this true during the week. Could all the boats along the edge of the flats and all the noise and activity of the clammers leaving be keeping the stripers away?

08-04-2006, 11:45 AM
Great thread!

Garry -

A few years back when I was full time on the flats and I adopted certain beliefs that were hard to deny at least from my own perspective.

One was that the shrimp bring more fish onto the flats in mid-summer than anything else, and also that when they are focused on them they tend to refuse most anything else because it's super-high protein without any ability to escape when the current moves them.

So I believe it's not that they are not feeding when you saw them and they denied everything, it's that they are not feeding in a manner amenable to our catching them. Just like the bass gulping micro herring in the canal right now, it's hard to present a cloud of bait.

As I've posted before my theory is that the shrimp are available in clouds, not as individuals and thus having one perfect shrimp fly is like having a single kernel of popcorn to catch a couch potato during the superbowl. And most of the time it's not even in the bowl with the other kernels.

Spending all that time in frustration with loads of fish "mumble mouthing" around (the way they eat shrimp) verses other prey I found two things to be repeatable - (1) occasionally even shrimp feeders will snap out of it and take a finfish fly and (2) I am better off to abide by my "order of precedence" rules...

most important - presence of fish
next - mood of fish
then - presentation
last - fly

but they all matter, it's just that many tend to see the order backwards.

We'd have a pod of shrimp eating keepers, stop and I'd show my clients the fish. I'd say go ahead and take ten casts, maybe more if they needed the practice - a perfect opportunity for that. Sometimes they'd even eat. Not often though.

Then I would yank them from the pod (kicking and screaming) and we'd go catch 20 or 30 fish that were in the mood not far away. Flashing, slashing eaters of the fly.

On the way back, we'd stop and ask the other anglers how they were doing with those mumblers and the replies were usually "$%#&*&^%$#@!!!". :hihi: Of course on any given day these fish could be caught, but the odds are low and not a good as the 20 or 30 other fish who came to the flats to play hardball.

So IMHO the absence of shrimp and seaworms is the key to why the fish are not so flats oriented this season. I could be up my kazzoo, but I believe this is the reason until proven otherwise. You should see the shrimp up north. The kids are filling their sand buckets with them using dime store nets. The stripers are cruising next to their legs in the tide pools.

I am going to research the way grass shrimp move along the coast, I am starting to believe they are north -> south movers instead of south->north like the bass. Who knows, but it's interesting in any case.

Anyway with the current YOY herring and bunker arrivals the fish will be present wherever the bait roams, and they roam into the refuge fairly often. When you are in the mix you will find lots of action, when you are not well you are left with fewer fish that have fewer reasons to come onto the flats. Nothing like a blitz in water too shallow to hold the fish.

So when is the next big easterly storm going to blast a hole through the third washout? I would LOVE to see that big creek turn into a BIGASS CREEK. In fact, if it does (and my fingers are crossed) I propose we name it BIGASS CREEK. :D

08-04-2006, 12:56 PM
Juro it may differ on the flats than in the rocks or estuaries but shrimp feeding is not necessarily cloud feeding. At least in rhody. In fact a shrimp pattern is my number 1 fly by far this year taking 75% of my fish according to the logs. It is mainly an issue of preseting the fly correctly more than anything else. You really need a floating line and to swing the fly almost dead drift to get the fish to take. Intemediate or sinking line presentations just do not present a shrimnp fly naturly enough IMHO nor do most people present them correctly regardless. It is old shcool line control and presentation tactics that are needed. I defintely think the the fish will eat. It still may be tough fishing but it sounds like fun to me.

Maybe there is a lack of shrimp food now that the current flow is turning into a trickle. Maybe there are out looking for other places to feed as well.

I thought shrimp were pretty much around all year and do not migrate much. Sounds like I could be wrong on that assumption...


08-04-2006, 03:17 PM
We netted grass shrimp for bait April through December in the Acushnet river by jostling the grass with the net when I was younger Fisher...I don't we tried Jan thru March..

08-04-2006, 04:05 PM
It's usually not a good approach to assume there are absolutes to anything in nature, I certainly do not. Just because they get swarm-centric at times by no means implies they absolutely do that always, one behavior is not mutually exclusive of another by any means. It just means they do it often enough to be mentioned numerous times by a large cross-section of veterans who frequent the flats.

On topic, most studies I've found so far on migratory behavior of grass shrimp are focused on the Gulf of Mexico and Florida, Carolinas - however they do record distinct movements to the north in summer as do other species (like stripers). If movements are based on temperature then I would guess that with the way it swings around here (vs in the south) the movements could potentially be much more emphatic; just a guess. Not a lot of people tracking the little critters it seems.

Anecdotally speaking, my eyes tell me the shrimp are not on the flats in early spring and November (I don't fish past that) but they typically are there in numbers during the main season. I am not talking about a few enclaves but serious biomass. That's only one set of eyes, but they are eyes that are looking.

Who knows, if you don't like the theory go dream one up and have fun proving it to yourself! I sure do. If you're lucky some of them, whether coincidentally or not, may lead to better results for you and thus warrant continued monitoring. Others, well you can dump them out with the stripping basket water.

08-04-2006, 04:44 PM
There was a biological report that was sponsered by the ma. dept. of marine biology several years ago concerning the feeding and specific prey of striped bass in massachucetts waters,the # 1 species was shrimp followed by crabs, fin fish were very low on the list.

08-04-2006, 04:56 PM
I can testify to the abundance of lady crabs on the Monomoy flats- last time I was out I skewered one while stripping in my fly, and had a heck of a time freeing it from the hook. I've begun tying up some EZ-Body Crabs similar to those Adrian posted a while back, and will give those a shot next time I'm out.

08-05-2006, 10:15 AM
Ok ,I was on the Flats this past week and got one fish in the weeds. There was a lot of small 1/2 bait fish around. Toward the end of the week after the heat wave I saw a couple of fish feeding. I think that water temperature , wind and lack of current has a lot to do with what's happening.
This Fall will be the test as to how bad it really is on the Flats.

08-05-2006, 01:19 PM
Sounds like South Beach is the only place in the North East where there 'aint too many fish right now :lildevl:

Seriously, much as I love the place, there are lots of other places and lots and lots of fish - big ones too :)

Maybe they just dont want to travel North for some reason?

Dog days? What dog days? :smokin:

08-05-2006, 02:14 PM
Just because the once conspicuous cowz are somewhere else...
Do you REALLY want to miss out on the GridLocked Bridges, the MidCape madness, and rt28 bumper carz?...
Sun in the eyez both coming and going...What's not to like ?! :eek:
And, lest I forget, having to deal with the high price of fuel AND the unique drivers you meet along the way ?! :Eyecrazy:
Personally...If I still lived in Central MA...It would be hard to drive by Napatree and the breachways...
Fishers Island and Sugar Reef by boat would be my first choice !

08-05-2006, 03:33 PM
Breakfast at Larry's is worth the drive:eek:

08-05-2006, 04:24 PM
Basser, how was the albie tide? Should I bring some gear home for an evening weeknight sortie?

Pete, you feeling better?

Unless we get some nasty weather to reshuffle the deck the SB/north monomoy flats complex is going to continue to go to mud and marsh. Not necassarily a bad thing for fisher people who like to figure it out, the crowds will get smaller. If we do get that "perfect storm" and the exuberance about the new structure can be kept off the internet there might be some cool fishing without the crowds for awhile. Some seal culling wouldn't be a bad thing either.

Bayside shore fishing is in the typical mid summer doldrums. Window has closed down but if you can fish the window it can be good. As we get to the end of the month I think I'm going to change up and explore the rocks and bolder fields west of my home waters. Hope I don't sprain an ankle.

Other than that, I'm thinking about taking up sailing.

08-05-2006, 05:33 PM
Fred latest tide this week is 3 pm to 6 pm no evening tides are available this week..I think you should carry your rod home match it up with that new reel:Eyecrazy:

Ah Breakfast at Leo's tomorrow:roll: they have a Basser special:tsk_tsk:

08-05-2006, 06:26 PM
Personally...If I still lived in Central MA...It would be hard to drive by Napatree and the breachways...
Fishers Island and Sugar Reef by boat would be my first choice ![/QUOTE]

I was on Sugar Reef last Saturday morning. Mayhem!!!!!!! Fifty square yard rafts of medium sized bluefish finning on the surface. I've never seen anything quite like it and the bait appeared to be half inch sized butterfish. Millions of um. When the school spooked from the food chain below the sound was incredible. We have lots of fish in the Rhoddy/Ct. waters and the salt ponds are also fishing well. Early morning is the key to success. Rocky shorelines are giving up larger fish.


08-05-2006, 07:29 PM
Several hundred bass seen today, quit at 2pm due to circumstances

Lots of big fish in some spots

South beach different but still quite good

What a bluebird day

08-05-2006, 11:19 PM
some details...

certain UDL's were just loaded with bass, flashing slashing and cruising for a bruisin in shallow water and classic sight fishing lasting for hours, finally we walked away from that to find other challenges; it was almost too easy there.

Void in between but found the next active flat, fish cruising behind, ahead, close in and far away. Mostly keepers and some quite dark backed and easy to see even at 50 yards. My guest was not seeing the close fish and backcasting in high-pressure situations was quite challeging in the increasing wind as well here so we went to shallower flats where lots of big fish were up buzzing last time out there, about a mile hike.

Tide timing was not accomodating on these shallower brighter flats which started to get bare as the wind also kicked up (north). Water temps in areas out of main surge ridiculously warm, almost hot. Much too hot for stripers. Pretty weak tide overall. Rather than hiking back, we called it a day and headed for the bayside for awhile.

In summary given the right approach SB was as pretty HOT. Many of the formerly productive areas were duds, but other areas were really kicking butt. No complaints. Overall a GREAT fishing day on SB and I can't wait to get back out.

Biggest new observation:

Clouds of pea bunker over the flats at times, bass showing no restraint on them busting in mid-day. Exciting.

Looked hard but not one grass shrimp to be seen today.

Obvious mix of dark backed and blondies on the flats today; I thought SB rocked today.

08-06-2006, 08:12 AM
And so it goes. I have seen grass shrimp on the Flats and they are very tiny. I have also seen empty shells of the molt that the larger shrimp have gone through. Agree with Juro that the honey spots are void of fish but the cooler spots still have plenty of fish.
Gas prices have a huge effect on ones fishing. I have noticed a drop of anglers on the Flats. There is a silver lining to all of this , we'll explore new waters and the Flats will be less crowded. FishHawk

Rip Ryder
08-07-2006, 08:39 PM
The lift up the stairs has gone up in PRICE!!!

The Capt. has not been the same since the stair excursion:eek:

Oh my aching back!!!:Eyecrazy:

08-08-2006, 12:32 PM
I was out on SB Sunday for the incoming tide. What a difference! Compared to two weeks ago, when I only saw 4 fish up on the flats during the same tide, I saw around 100 fish during a 3-4 hour period. It was so refreshing seeing them. Definately the same observations as you Juro, saw both the easy to spot, and spooked the stealthier 'blonde backs'. I caught two dark fish on a 3-4" sandeel, and had a couple refusals as well. It was classic Monomoy, flawless conditions; with only one other fly fisher out there with me....

08-08-2006, 02:12 PM
IMHO sometimes we're looking in the wrong places. The main tide push moves in a different direction and something I saw on North Monomoy recently makes a lot of sense now, suddenly the pieces come together.

It very well could be that the ol' reliable flats which we know and love are in a shadow of flow, a "top of the tub" warm up effect that has been worsened this year and was bad last year too. I have to say the two days I had guys out there in cold rainy weather those flats were exploding with fish, so they would be in the kitchen if they could stand the heat. Made me want to get back out there in the next storm. We got yanked mid-day due to lightning though.

Anyway, that section makes up a huge part of the SB experience and thus as creatures of habit it makes a huge impression on us I think. Certainly did on me and it sounds like others felt the same way.

Some exploration away from conventional thinking has revealed that this greenhouse effect (pun intended) with the vegetative bloom, stagnant rafts of jellyfish and bathwter temps is localized and the flow doesn't really die there it just plain misses it.

That's all I will say on line besides the bulk of hot weather is waning and the bunker are in, and before this can all be digested we'll be into the early fall fishery and these nuggets of wisdom will soon be forgotten. Makes me want to run down there fast before things get better, if that makes any sense - now that I have a hypothesis to prove to myself.

Fishing is for me about deciphering the little nuances that reveal themselves only when earned. For instance, if we all took a day to ride the flood with temperature gauges on float tubes and compiled the readings, we've have a better idea of the flow pattern. One thing I've found out for sure, stripers follow that pattern.

Meaning no offense, but we often take the paths we have learned over the years and expect things to comply when in fact they are much changed. When the paths don't map on top of ours we assume there are no fish. I am not convinced. Certainly there are less fish overall, but every time out I've explored I've observed a lot more fish in places I would not have expected and seen less where I did expect them.

Perhaps I need to find more fish where I didn't expect rather than spend another minute where I expect them to learn what's really happened. I think that's a good way to play the game until something breaks (literally).

This is one of the most diverse pieces of real estate on the coast, no wonder many of us feel personally attached to it. The confluence of the atlantic and the gulf stream on a snag-free sand spit split sliced up into interesting pieces with twisting channels and flats where the imagination can get lost wandering about within the way things were, almost exactly - before civilization bulldozed the striper coast around it.

It's good fishing.