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Scup........A Sportfish


If you were to take a survey of the most fun fish to catch in the Northeast, I'm going to guess that the Scup (or Porgy) probably won't make the Top 10. Surprising in some respects, because Scup are abundant from the New York tr-State area all the way up through Massachusetts, they eat a lot of different baits and they can be a lot of fun to catch.

A Scup caught on a Jig with an Assist Hook on Buzzards Bay

Despite being a great fish to catch, Scup are often overlooked or looked at as a bit of nuisance when fishing for other species such as Fluke or Black Sea Bass. Similar species of fish caught in the southern part of the country are prized, yet here, they are seen as just another fish caught on a trip. Perhaps a full cooler of them at the end of a trip is the only thing that is impressive.


A traditional high-low Scup rig

My introduction to Scup came at a young age in the Marmara Sea where my father and I would catch them on hand lines with small hooks, a small weight, and a small amount of mussel. A fish that darted every which way after getting hook was a challenge to bring in on a handline in a row boat. As a teenager fishing for them on Cape Cod using a spinning rod, the same baited rig setup caught a lot of fish but at times it lost it's 'sport'. Over time, I still fished with traditional rigs and caught many Scup, but I often wondered how I could bring some of that childhood back into fishing for them. The answer for me started coming clearer when I started thinking about them more of a 'target' than a by catch.




In the video above provided courtesy of MyFishingCapeCod TV, Ryan Collins and his wife Lauren are catching Scup in the shallows using high-low rigs. This video provides a great illustration of a traditional method of catching Scup using bait on a rig.


My approach and attitude towards Scup and also Black Sea Bass changed once I considered the use of Jigs to catch them. Using small jigs also meant downsizing my tackle also. Advances in modern technology have really made this possible. Scup often live and feed within structure and current. Wind and current and some of the more 'nautical' conditions in the ocean can make for light tackle, finesse style presentations to be more difficult. My solution to this was to use thinner, slimmer jigs that would get to the bottom quicker. The trick is to stay low in the water column and create a vertical display for the fish while jigging.


Slim Profile Jigs - Consider a jig with a slender thin diameter profile that will quickly get you to the bottom and not scope out too much in current. Many different colors will work. Consider a single inline hook or an Assist hook for easier dehooking

When it comes to shapes and colors of jigs, I found that a lot of different combinations worked in large part because the Scup are not very picky eaters. They have diverse diets feeding on an array of small crustaceans, mollusks, and other small fish. They do not shy away from prey with shells and they also don't seem to shy away from prey targets that are large relative to their size.

After looking at a variety of different jigs, I finally realized that some of my favorites came in either thin metals or jigs that were epoxy or resin coated. Most of my preferred jigs for scup are slender allowing them to get quicker to the bottom.


When I was working on the design of the Slim Profile Hard Shell Jigs, the jig even with the resin coating had to look and act as thin as possible in the water column. That slender, sleek profile makes it one of my favorite jigs to fish vertically in the spring and I fish them with hooks on the end of the jig and with Assist Hooks.


As many folks who follow Monomoy Tackle know, I am a big fan of Assist Hooks for many reasons. There's a separate Blog post for Assist Hooks, but here it bears mentioning that if you want to increase the fun factor and sporting nature of fishing for Scup, have a direct connection between your hook and your main line is a big factor. Consider that in freshwater applications with crappies and panfish, the jigs are really, really small because they can be in freshwater. In a saltwater situation with the current, you need a jig of a certain weight to get to where these fish are and once the bite happens, the jig can get in the way of the fish fight. Assist Hooks help with that, because once the fish takes the hook, the jig is effectively out of the way.


For Rods and Reels, I think your choice in Rod is more important than your choice in Reel. a 3000 size spinning reel or a 200 size baitcaster in the Penn line is plenty. For the rod, it is important that the tip of the rod have some give so that you are not taking the hook completely out of the mouth of the fish. The bend also helps with this fun factor being developed.


A light or medium strength rod will likely do fine. I am asked often if a 'Slow Pitch' designated rod works for this type of fishing and my answer is typically yes, however you have to be mindful that you may not be exercising all of the principles of slow pitch jigging when fishing for Scup.


I have settled upon a spring fishing set of rods and reels that I use for Scup and black sea bass jigging that work for me both in terms of budget and in terms of being to use for me and children. These setups below work well with a certain range of jig weights that I need to use in parts of Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound to be able to present the lures effectively. If you fish out of a kayak or more protected waters, lighter setups than what is listed below certainly can work.


Casting Setup

Rod - Shimana Talavera - Type J - Medium, Fast Action

Reel - Penn Squall 200 Low Profile Bait Caster


Spinning Setup

Rod - Shimana Talavera - Type J - Medium, Fast Action

Reel - Shimano Nasci 3000 (a Stradic will do well for this as well)


20lb braid is usually enough in these types of applications.


SCUP GAMEPLAN


Scup can be caught during most any period in the tide and most any time of day. You could be fishing for Sea Bass or Striped and be done with that part of your day and switch gears to target Scup. Know that you Scup target is not that picky.


Scup typically congregate and school based on size. If you drop down and get hits but no hookups, you may be in a school of smaller fish and you may want to move. If you find a spot where smaller Scup are prevalent, use your electronics and plotter to locate a drop-off nearby. It's likely that there are larger Scup in the area.


When looking for Scup I am looking for moving water and bottom features that are more sand than gravel or rocky. As with most fishing this is not a hard and fast rule, but I find that with sandy bottom the ratio of Scup to Sea Bass tilts in favor of the Scup.


Last season on a memorable trip with Ryan Collins of My Fishing Cape, we ran into some Scup that averaged in the 13" range and topped out at a specimen at 15 1/2". On a jig and an Assist Hook, that Scup was a tremendous fight and tremendous for the young man, Jason Sawyer, that reeled it in.


It's easy to look past the Scup when considering your options for fishing. It's also easy to simply put on your high-low rig and catch them two at a time. Catching them in large numbers can be a great day with friends and a good story. Try finesse fishing for them with a jig on some lighter gear. You may catch a few less of them, but you'll cull out a larger fish from the group and have a tremendous experience doing it.


Ryan Collins holding a 15"+ Scup caught last season on a Tano80 Jig.

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