Current Waters: Striped Bass Everywhere (And Whales!)

Capt. Carl Bois •

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Striped bass continue to steal the show. They’re selfish. They want all the attention. Everywhere you want to go you’ll find stripers. So get out there.

Bluefish are still here. They seem to be a little grumpy with the easterly wind. However, there has been some success with bluefish from the beach. I had a gentleman on my boat this week who has been visiting and fishing Nantucket for 30-plus years. He told me that one of his best days of bluefishing ever with a fly rod was from the shore this past week.

There have been reports of bluefin tuna being caught in Massachusetts. It’s off and running now! Looking forward to another great season of tuna fishing. I’m sure there will be more to report in the coming weeks.

I suspect that when we break out of this annoying easterly low-grade wind, with tides getting larger the fishing will continue to stay strong. Some new flushes of fish are coming in. By next week’s report, I suspect inshore fluke will be on the menu.

It seems that orcas are all anyone wants to talk about lately. New England Aquarium scientists spotted four orcas south of Nantucket last week during an aerial survey. During the same survey, they also saw minke, finback, and humpback whales, but the orcas steal the show. Just like at SeaWorld, I guess. While I haven’t had my own encounter with a killer whale just yet, we’ve had plenty of whale sightings.

With the abundance of inshore baitfish, we’ve been able to see some whales even inshore. We’ve been fortunate to witness finback whales a couple of times this week. One finback was seen in the Great Point rip while we were fishing out that way.

Finback whales are also known as Fin Whales. They are the second largest whale behind the blue whale, which is pretty amazing. We saw a pair off Topspin in deep water earlier this week. The one I just saw recently was a smaller one, about 30 to 40 feet and had the fast behavior typical of the species. It was bigger than my boat, anyway. Finbacks are actually one of the fastest of the baleen whales.

Usually found in deeper water, the finbacks, like many species, follow the food. Their primary food is krill and small schooling fish like sand lance, herring, and young mackerel. They’re moving around in response to food movement. This is where the life is, where the bait is. It can also be a good indicator for where the bluefin tuna are. One of the known predators of finbacks are actually orca, so maybe the orcas are just following the food as well.

Many people reading this article right now have seen a finback and might not even know it. The whale skeleton at the Nantucket High School (NHS) that we all walk under when going to vote or to Town Meeting is thought to be a juvenile finback that washed up onshore in 1967. You may remember the Nantucket Current story from September when Smithsonian scientists sampled the NHS whale skeleton thinking it could be a new whale species or a hybrid between a blue whale and a finback. The jury is still out on that one for now.

How to tell a finback whale from a minke or a humpback? The finback has a V-shaped head which is flat on the top, and has a slender, streamlined body. The back and sides of the finback are black or brownish-gray and the ventral surface is white. They have two distinct blowholes on the top of its head, with a prominent splash guard in front of them. Their streamlined build allows them to swim much faster than humpback whales despite their size, and they can live up to 80 or 90 years.

You never know what you’re going to see. That’s why you gotta leave the dock whenever you can.

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