Back in the summer of 2006 I was trying to nail down my jigging technique in the Cape Cod Canal. This was before the big blitzes began and before the great angler migrations of the ‘twenty-teens’ when it was not uncommon to see license plates from every state on the Striper Coast in the Canal lots whenever the breaking tides came around. This was also a time when there was a small contingent of hardcores that knew the place cold and kept their knowledge secret. There was one little clique of guys among them that included the late Steve Shiraka and someone who has been a longtime friend of mine, Bruce May.
Bruce was the first guy to inaugurate me into Canal fishing, this was back in 1998 when I was driving to the Canal three nights a week (or more) from my parent’s house in Westboro, 80 miles to the west. He showed me how to jig, even though the gear I was using was far from up to the task of jigging in the Canal. He told me that jigging was the best way to catch numbers and sizes of fish in the Canal, and that statement stuck with me for a long time.
Somewhere in the eight years that followed, I set myself up for jigging and started to have some scattered success. Bruce was there again to clue me in on a reliable spot that was easy to fish and impossible to miss.
It was September and I arrived at the Canal around 7:30 p.m. Back in those days we used to have some awesome nights throwing swimmers in the area of the herring run. The fishing that night was good but it was short-lived. And, once the bite subsided, I fished for another hour and decided that my window had closed.
I drove to the Scusset lot, set an alarm on my flip phone, pulled my fleece blanket out of the back and slept for two hours. In that time, the west current continued to empty the Canal until it was around half-tide. My alarm jingled and I switched seats again and zoomed to the Sagamore Bridge lot on the mainland side. It was around 2 a.m. and I was the only car in the lot. This would never happen nowadays.
I tied on a 4-ounce Smilin’ Bill bucktail with a red pork trailer and hummed it out into the hard west tide. It took me a few tries to get the swing right, I was casting to about the 10 o’clock position and the jig was hitting bottom right in front of me. Once I started getting the cadence down, I felt like I was fishing instead of ‘feeling’ for the bottom. Within a few casts of feeling like I was doing it right, my jig swung into the shadow of the bridge and there was impact, my rod bent and my line whistled in the autumn wind. The standoff lasted about five seconds before the fish tore drag like a tuna in low gear. That fish measured 44 inches and probably weighed close to 35 pounds.
On my next cast, I hooked a fish of nearly identical length but skinnier, maybe flirting with 30 pounds. For an hour I had fish or hits on almost every cast, most of them right around the 18- to 22-pound mark, the first one was the biggest and I lost a few that I swore were bigger. Every time I went there, I seemed to hook up and I caught some really nice fish over those first few years of jigging.
Back then we just called it “The Sag”. But it has earned its new name, “The Bus Stop” because so many people fish there now. When the bite is on you will see the lineup increasing in size by the minute, to the point that you would swear a bus had just dropped off a new load of anglers. I don’t fish there anymore, I can’t get into the crowd mentality and it takes the fun out of it for me. But whenever I ride by chasing fish on my bike, I always think back to that night, the generosity of Bruce May and how different the Canal was just 16 years ago. But if you’re looking to hone your jigging skills, shoulder into the Bus Stop during the last three hours of the west tide, it’s a great spot to learn and it holds lots of fish.