A Fresh Angle
With freshly stocked kettle ponds all across the Cape, there’s no time like the present to cast a line and get the first bite of the season.
The Cape’s waters are famous for saltwater fishing, from fighting ferocious blues in the surf to landing lunker stripers into the boat. But tucked behind curtains of pine trees in the Cape’s interior are waters that are equally rewarding for fishermen, although these quiet, often unknown places offer very different fishing from the open ocean.
The freshwater kettle ponds of the inner Cape are trout and bass-filled glacial waters. There are more than 360 of these landlocked ponds throughout the Cape. Ponds larger than 10 acres are called great ponds. Though not highly publicized, many of these seldom-fished ponds have public access.
“The ponds are a secret fishery that don’t get a lot of attention,” says Scott Dietrich, president of Cape Cod Trout Unlimited. “It’s a completely different experience from saltwater fishing, and the ponds are fishable pretty much year-round.”
In April, freshwater fishing for bass is a favorite as well as going for trout and salmon in kettle ponds stocked by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. At Peter’s Pond in Sandwich and Sheep’s Pond and Cliff Pond in Brewster, fishermen try to land big salmon. Anglers savor the timeless return of herring to Cape Cod streams and lakes. In May, blue-wing olives, hex flies, mayflies, and caddisflies hatch out, which again bring trout to the surface.
“You can go for warm-water bass and cool-water trout in the same pond,” Dietrich says. “It’s quiet, still, and secluded on the ponds, and the fishing is a lot more subtle.”
Cape Cod was carved into its 412-square-mile, bicep-flexing form by glaciers during the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. As the glaciers receded, chunks of ice broke off and were surrounded by sediment. The ice melted into self-made holes, and the ponds were formed. Today, the acidic pH of any decaying organic matter in the water is offset by the basic pH of the sandy lime soil, leaving the water clear and healthy for a number of fish species. The sandy pond bottoms are relatively free of algae and hook-snagging vegetation, thanks in part to environmental measures that limit phosphorus discharge and water-quality checks by towns. These kettle ponds, as their name implies, are kettle-shaped, sloping from banks to deep depressions in the middle.
Due to a gradual slope toward a deep middle, the ponds support a diverse mix of both warm- and cold-water fish. Smallmouth and largemouth bass, perch, pickerel and sunfish prefer the warmer water near the shore, especially under the cover of plants and tree branches. The rainbow, brown, and tiger trout that are stocked in spring and fall in many ponds like to stay further down in the cooler, deeper water during summer, and come closer to the surface during chillier months.
Dry flies work well for trout in cooler temperatures. During the warmer months, weights or a sinking line are recommended to get your fly down to the cooler water of the 20-foot depth zone, where streamers, wooley buggers, and nymph patterns are a good choice. Bass can be played year-round with poppers, clousters, and wooley buggers. Warm-water fish can be found schooling 10 or so feet from the shore, especially around partially submerged trees and brush. Docks, diving platforms, and other structures are also great places to cast flies to schooling fish.
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