Striped Bass Fishing at Scorton Ledge

By Captain Ryan Collins

Scorton Ledge is one of the most well known fishing locations on Cape Cod. Almost everyone who wets a line in Cape Cod Bay has at least heard of the Ledge. So far in 2011 the Ledge has already coughed up another 50 pound bass to one fortunate angler. Again it is no surprise the massive striper was caught on a red tube and worm.

If history repeats itself, those two 50 pound bass are just the tip of the iceberg. Most Cape Cod fishermen know the Ledge produces big bass. Yet the reason why bass "stack up" on the Ledge is an entirely different matter. There are a lot of theories floating around as to why bass flock to the area one day, and then are gone the next. Scorton Ledge does have a mysterious side to it.

Why is the Ledge such a productive area? What attracts the enormous schools of big bass each summer? How come trolling tubes works so well? Are there other methods that work too? Why do bass stack up on the Ledge during the late summer and early fall? The list of unanswered questions continues. A general understanding of the Ledge will, however, at least improve your chances of being there when the fishing is hot. There does seem to be certain criteria to a successful Scorton fishing trip.

From what I have been told by divers, the Ledge is actually more of a hump. The Ledge rises from about 40 feet on its outer edges to less than 15 feet. On a full moon low tide, the very top of the Ledge may sometimes be less than 10 feet deep. My unscientific opinion is that the Ledge was formed by glacial activity, like many of the kettle ponds here on Cape Cod. Scorton Ledge has a muddy bottom that is littered with rocks and boulders. The structure makes it a fantastic area for sea bass and lobster. During the summer, the Ledge is covered with lobster pots. The lobster pots, along with drastic depth changes make Scorton Ledge a tough place to fish. Add to the equation the mass of boats that descend on the Ledge when the fishing is hot and you have yourself quite the challenging place to troll a tube..

The trick to beating the fleet to the bite lies in an angler's ability to predict when the bass will appear on the Ledge. From my experience, spring-time fishing at Scorton is more consistent than during the summer and fall. Sometimes in the spring it is possible to pick a few fish off the Ledge before heading off to more productive areas. The bass don't seem to "stack" up on the Ledge as often at this time of the season. However this luxury of finding at least a fish or two on the Ledge fades as summer approaches. Last summer we did not catch a single bass on the Ledge during the month of July.

Towards the end of summer, things start improving again at Scorton. The bass' behavior seems to change as summer gives way to fall. At this time of the year, bass will often "stack up" on the Ledge. An entire school of stripers will appear out of nowhere, and remain on the Ledge for a tide, day or week at a time. This usually occurs after three or four days of a brisk onshore breeze. There are a lot of theories floating around as to why this happens. Some fishermen believe bait gets "blown" onto the Ledge. The bait in turn convinces large schools of bass to stack up at Scorton. Others believe it has something to do with bait being flushed out of Scorton Creek-which is located just to the south of the Ledge.

My theory is based around worms. I think bass stack up on the Ledge to feed on the plethora of sandworms that call the Ledge their home. Sandworms are a staple part of a sea bass' diet (not to be confused with striped bass). This could help explain why the Ledge is often covered with sea bass. Because sandworms are a staple part of a sea bass' diet, the presence of so many sea bass on the Ledge indicates there is a strong possibility that the Ledge is also home to thousands of sandworms.

If bass are focused on sandworms while at the Ledge, then this could explain why tube and worm rigs work so well. Sandworms can grow to be as long as four feet and are often red or orange in color. I believe striped bass mistake tubes for large worms. Bass have a tendency to move closer to shore towards the end of summer and start of fall. This tendency, coupled with a brisk onshore breeze, may help to draw bass to the Ledge. The onshore wind will kick up the Ledge's muddy bottom. Waves and currents help to stir up the sediment. The constant pounding of waves and currents over the Ledge disturbs the sandworms that are usually hunkered down in the mud, making them more vulnerable to attack by large stripers.

It is my understanding that sandworms usually spawn during the spring, however I am not going to disregard the possibility that a spawn also occurs on the Ledge late in the summer-around the same time that Cape Cod experiences brisk northwest winds. When spawning, mature male and female sandworms leave their muddy boroughs. Multiple male worms swim through the water column in pursuit of a female sandworm, hoping for the chance to reproduce.

If sandworms are spawning around the same time that a brisk northwest wind hits during late summer, it could help to explain why such enormous schools of bass flock to the Ledge, when just days prior not a single bass could be seen in the area. Sandworm spawns could also help explain why bass prefer a tube and worm rig at the Ledge. On most trips, the fish refuse to hit anything but a properly trolled tube.

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