Cape Cod Fishing Report- December 14, 2023

Freshwater anglers ply the ponds for trout, bass and chain pickerel with live bait, jerkbaits and scented artificials, while others gear up for shellfishing.

Cape Cod Fishing Report

A few years ago, I would scoff at the idea of using live bait in freshwater. It just didn’t seem necessary. It was my firm belief that you could usually dupe a fish or two into eating a plug (like a jerkbait or jointed Rapala), a well-placed jig, or a spoon/spinner in almost any conditions. One or two outings this week proved the opposite. Whether it’s the cranking wind, frigid temperatures, or just fishing in the wrong spot, it’s not always easy to convince a fish to take your lure. Live bait, in some cases, is the best way to get bit, and there’s no 2 ways about it. As someone who prefers to fish artificials whenever possible, that was tough to come to terms with, but I’m glad I set aside my indifference towards using bait in freshwater.

(If you’d like to contribute to our weekly fishing reports this winter, email me at with a brief report of your day on the water and what you caught, or message me on Instagram @matthaeffner.)

That’s not to say live bait is the only thing that will get bit this time of year, but it is certainly a nice fall-back plan when lures just ain’t getting it done. With less daylight on our side, much of my fishing during the week has been reserved to lunch breaks at the office, or night fishing. At night, especially, live bait tends to outperform lures. But during the day, those cold water classics like spoons, suspending jerks, and finesse presentations—like a hair jig beneath a bobber—have been bringing fish to hand.

Earlier this week I made a fruitless attempt for some holdover stripers on Cape with my friends Ryan and Hunter. We fished the top of the incoming tide through the switch with no action, but man was there a ton of bait. Silversides were plentiful, but I also noticed some smaller baitfish that looked like either juvenile sea herring or juvenile hake (whiting). They dimpled the surface as far as we could see, and we tried to match our small soft-plastic jigs and flies to the forage, but to no avail. No matter—holdover season has just begun. There’s still plenty of time to hunt for stripers this winter.

Maybe it was the striper skunk, but I found myself yearning for a big fish the next day, and I didn’t care where it came from. The hunt began with spoons, spinners and small jerkbaits on a local trout pond, but after nearly 2 hours of no activity and covering several stretches of shoreline, I decided to change species. It was a cold, windy and gray morning, so white perch were naturally the next target. I find the most productive perch outings to be under cloudy, overcast skies. They’re a great Plan B when conditions are less than ideal for other freshwater species. But, after an hour wading my favorite corner of this small salt pond, not a single fish had taken my jig. I slipped a bobber onto my 2-pound test line with a green Bass Pro marabou crappie jig beneath it, and on the first cast a 10-inch perch slurped it down. The first-cast-curse got the best of me though, and a 10-inch perch didn’t exactly satiate my hunger for a big bite. A 14 incher would have been nice. So I pressed on.

This silly little white perch slurped down a green hair jig beneath a bobber, but none of its larger cohorts seemed interested.

The final stop on Sunday morning, Plan C, was a pond near home where I’d throw jerkbaits for chain pickerel. It was now late morning, the wind was honking at a solid 15 knots out of the southwest, and still climbing. The bite window was closing and I could sense it, as white caps developed on the small pond before me. Despite my better judgment, I fished the wind-blown side of the pond and set up near a deep channel where tall grasses bordering the channel create a “hallway” of sorts. Usually, there’s a few pickerel or bass lingering on the edges of those weeds, and I wouldn’t need to cast far. I pitched a suspending Yo-Zuri jerkbait out to the edge of the weeds and slowly twitched it back in. Through the choppy waves I could make out a dark figure nosing my lure, so I twitched it again and watched the gaping mouth of a chain pickerel curiously swipe at it and miss the hooks. It followed the lure to my ankles, so I began a figure-8, like muskie and pike fishermen do, and watched it miss the lure a second time before spooking back out into deeper water. “Welp, there goes my shot”, I said aloud. Still hopeful for a big bass at least, I cast out twice more, and on the second twitch of cast #2, my line jumped and I set the hook… In previous weekly fishing reports, I noted how I had yet to be plagued by pickerel in my bass fishing efforts, but I finally connected on this cast, indicating the official start of the winter pickerel season. The fish was well over 20 inches and gave a great fight, pulling some drag despite hitting the lure only 15 feet in front of me. It wasn’t a striper, nor a trophy largemouth, but it was the size I was looking for, and that was more than enough to put a smile on my face.

This pickerel made a beeline for the dense weeds lining the channel after realizing it was hooked.

Suspending jerkbaits are so deadly, and I’m not the only one at the OTW offices that found success with one in the ponds this week. King of the lunch-break lunkers, Anthony DeiCicchi, was fishing a pond near the office on Wednesday when he stuck a 21-inch-plus largemouth bass on a Shimano World Minnow—another top-tier suspending jerkbait. Whether he was looking for smallmouth or a rogue brown trout, I don’t know, but I do know that a 21-inch bass in mid-December is enough to make anyones day.

OTW’s Anthony DeiCicchi caught and released this fat largemouth bass during his lunch break this week. (@cheech232323)

Anthony also managed a hefty smallmouth bass during lunch last Friday on the same Shimano World Minnow. And OTW’s Robbie Tartaglia placed 2nd in a local bass fishing tournament on Sunday, falling short of 1st place by only 0.7 ounces with a 15.72-pound bag. Robbie said that the bass were absolutely dialed in on jerkbaits, and mentioned that he and his partner were also weeding through a ton of pickerel in the process. Read Robbie’s full report of the tournament here.

Safe to say it has been the week of the jerkbait on Cape Cod.

It would be awesome to entice a brown trout, or a smallmouth or largemouth bass, into eating a suspending jerk at night, but that has proven particularly challenging. In fact, that struggle is what forced me and Connor Swartz from Red Top Sporting Goods in Buzzards Bay into fishing live shiners late last night. Even with live bait, the fishing was slow. We ducked out of the wind and watched our battery-lit bobbers dance across the glassy pond for a solid 2 hours without a bite. When Connor was about to call it, I plopped one more shiner out and it immediately began to swim more frantically than any of our baits had all night. 10 minutes passed and something was still chasing around my shiner, which had gotten significantly closer to shore. “It’s probably a yellow perch. Anything else would have eaten it by now,” I said to Connor. Finally, the bobber dipped under just long enough to reel down on our only bite of the night, and I came tight. The fish was too heavy to be a perch and not fighting enough to be a big bass, so when Connor spotlighted a decent brown trout approaching the shore, we were ecstatic. It was my first brown trout on Cape Cod since moving here just over 2 years ago, and it was safely pinned right on the roof of the mouth. The fish wasn’t big, which explains why it took so long to eat; it had to get the whole bait in its mouth, and when it finally did, we were relieved to find anything but a perch on the hook. Waiting for that bite took some serious patience. But, such is the nature of winter fishing. Sometimes you’re out there in the cold fishing for just one bite.

My first Cape Cod brown trout was a small one, leaving plenty of room for improvement this winter.

The ponds are full of life, from stocked brown and rainbow trout to bass, pickerel, perch and more. With no skim ice out there this past week, it was a good week to bounce around and survey the bite for a multitude of species.

While out fishing on Wednesday night, I talked to Connor from Red Top Sporting Goods about what they’ve been hearing from customers down at the shop this week. It’s the holiday season, so many anglers are preoccupied with family events while others are still taking a breather from the end of the striper season and/or tog fishing. They haven’t seen the winter freshwater rush just yet, but there is a heightened interest in trout and bass from anglers with a case of early winter cabin fever. Connor said that there are a couple shop regulars coming in for freshwater gear, and those guys are catching mostly largemouth bass and some cookie cutter rainbow trout when fishing PowerBait on bottom rigs. He did add that there are still tons of mackerel for the taking in the East End of the Canal, but mind your 20-fish limit! They haven’t had any reports on tog fishing as most boats have been pulled for the winter, and anyone who is still togging is heading down to Rhode Island. Connor also mentioned that they just started carrying Megabass products, so if you’re interested in fishing some quality suspending jerkbaits or getting first dibs on wake baits for the spring, swing by the shop and check out the selection.

Evan at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle in Falmouth said it’s the same story as last week with lots of shellfishing gear going, but not so much freshwater fishing tackle/gear. He said West Falmouth is still loaded with oysters and clams, and that the town is doing a great job of keeping the area fully stocked, so shellfishing should be good until oyster season closes sometime in mid-March. He has live shiners in stock for the freshwater crowd, as well as a selection of artificials for the bait-stubborn crowd (like me).

Amy at Sports Port Bait and Tackle in Hyannis said the fishing patterns are very similar to last week, although a lack of skim ice on the smaller ponds has made it easier to find fishable water. She said that most of their customers are trout fishing and finding success on gold spoons. She also noted that they’re selling through lots of nightcrawlers and fewer live shiners, which could be due to fish holding deeper or looking for smaller, subtle baits. I mentioned last week that fishing nightcrawlers on a bottom rig is something I’ll have to try in the trout ponds, especially after seeing a fellow angler clean up on smallmouth bass and rainbow trout while I went fishless with spoons. She said kettle ponds from Marstons Mills to Nickerson State Park are fishing well, but other than the trout fishermen, there hasn’t been much going on. They’re getting a lot of customers coming in for Christmas gifts, and others who are picking up shellfishing gear. If we get a stiff, sustained south wind over the next week, check your local beaches for bay scallops!

Cape Cod Fishing Forecast

Over the next week, the coldest temperatures in the Cape Cod forecast look to be in the mid-30s, so take advantage of the open water while you can. Jerkbaits and finesse soft-plastic jigs, like Ned Rigs or small PowerBait scented lures, can catch both trout and bass. Floating and slow-sinking jerkbaits will work, but the neutral action of a suspending jerk is killer in cold water. Under sunny skies, fishing highly-reflective lures like spoons and spinners will be a productive tactic for pickerel and trout, and many suspending jerkbaits come with a reflective foil interior, which bounce light even when sitting stagnant in the water column. A little tip: pause the lure for 5 seconds between each twitch, and if it’s not getting bit, increase your pause by 5 second increments. It sounds silly to wait so long between twitches, but there are times when a 30-second pause produces a bite.

Mild temperatures will have bass more likely to feed this week, especially in the late afternoon before sundown when shallow areas have been warming under the sun. Give it your best shot, because you never know what’s biting this time of year until you go. And in the worst case scenario, you can always resort to fishing with live shiners or nightcrawlers to hook a few fish. Don’t knock it til you try it.

If you’d like to contribute to our weekly fishing reports this winter, email me ( with a brief report of your day on the water and what you caught, or message me on Instagram @matthaeffner.

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