Something most of you don’t know about me is that I’m a huge music fan and I’ve been playing guitar longer than I’ve been serious about fishing the surf. Music is one of the two things on the planet that can give me spontaneous goosebumps because it has struck an emotional connection with my soul (fishing is the other). About 10 years ago I wrote a song that started off with the lyrics, “I’m on the road, to the place, I feel the most at home.” That song was about my wee-hours commutes to the Cape Cod Canal and the things that went through my mind as I was speeding down the dark highway.
That’s how I used to feel about fishing the Canal. There was camaraderie in striking gold and in striking out. There was community and I was a part of it. And there was a rhythm to the season that was anchored by those big, hard-hitting quarter notes that were the breaking tides. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate.
In recent years, my interest in fishing the Canal has waned. I felt the collective attitude change, it was less fraternal and more cliquey, the unwritten rules seemed forgotten. There was an air of entitlement, if you hooked up on a fish, the guy riding by would just hop off his bike, cast over you and look at you smugly, as if to say, “Deal with it.” This really bothered me. I found myself leaving annoyed, even when the fishing was good. Finally, I asked myself, “Why am I doing this to myself? I’m supposed to be enjoying this!”
So I took a break, I only made a few trips per year and I tried to time them with tides that I knew to have a decent chance at producing, but that were almost sure not to draw crowds. On those mornings, my results were never great, but I caught fish and I didn’t have any pork-froggers sniping my bite when my rod was bent. (If you’re not familiar with what it means to get ‘pork-frogged’ it’s a Canal-specific term for when someone jumps in in on your bite while you’re hooked up. Feel free to use it as you see fit.)
Jump ahead to 2022 and I made plans with Chris Bishop, Yo-Zuri’s VP of Marketing and Sales to meet at the Canal for some fishing and to see some of their newest lures, built for the Northeast market, in action. The timing was not perfect. The big body of bass that had been staged outside the Canal had moved on and it sure didn’t seem like many of them went into the Canal! Despite finding lots of adult bunker swimming along the banks, you could count the number of fish we saw caught on those two mornings on two hands. The biggest fish we saw was a 25-ish pound bass being eaten – like an ice cream cone – by a large seal that was drifting by.
In spite of our paltry results, I felt reinvigorated by a place that once felt like a second home. I can’t say if I will ever find myself on those banks with the regularity of my early 30s, but I do think I will make more Canal trips this season than I have in the last four years combined. In spite of all its changes, the Canal really is a special place with a fishery that is 100% unique to its twin 7 mile shorelines. And it offers something that can’t often be found anywhere else when standing on the land, a legit shot at hooking a monster striped bass on topwater, every time a big moon rises in the Cape Cod sky.