Fishing Provincetown, MA

A keeper bass taken off Race Point. Photo Tom Richardson

You don’t have to be an expert fisherman to see why Provincetown is such a great fishing spot. After all, many species of migratory game fish—including striped bass, bluefish, sharks and bluefin tuna—have to swim past the tip of Cape Cod as they make their way to and from their summer feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine.

Hardy souls can enjoy early-season (April and May) action with haddock. These tasty bottom fish can be caught relatively close to shore in many spots off P-town, with the southern part of Stellwagen Bank serving as the leading hot spot in spring. Simply sending a jig-and-teaser combo to the bottom in 70 to 120 feet of water can produce good results. As a rule, the majority of haddock moving steadily eastward to deeper water as summer approaches. A good depthsounder and GPS will help you find concentrations of fish and sand eels on the bank edges.

Striped bass have long been the main draw along this part of the Cape, and P-town offers world-class action with trophy fish from June to October. Best of all, good fishing is just a short run from the harbor. Traditional grounds include the turbulent waters off Race Point and the steeply sloping bottom from Wood End to Race Point, as well as Peaked Hill Bar. Expect the first push of big fish to arrive by June, setting up in the rips or hitting on big schools of bait. Trophy fish can be taken on topwaters, soft-plastic baits, and flies at this time, even during the bright, mid-day hours. However, early-risers still stand to enjoy the best fishing.

If the fish are holding deep, trolling parachute jigs, bucktails, swimming plugs, and umbrella rigs on wire line often turns the trick. A popular method is to slow-troll (one to two knots) a 3 1⁄2- to five-ounce black, green or purple bucktail (adorned with a long strip of pork rind) in 25 to 35 feet of water on 250 to 300 feet of wire. The key is to let out enough line and set the trolling speed so the jig swims just above the sandy bottom, where the fish are holding. Another way to reach these big fish is to drift and vertical jig with braided line and a heavy butterfly, bucktail or diamond jig.

Perennial striper holes in the P-town area include the area off the bathhouse west of Herring Cove Beach, and inside the lobster trap lines. As in most places, a moving tide produces best. Come fall, migrating stripers can be encountered in open water and along the beaches as they chase the bait south. If you encounter large flocks of gulls or gannets, you’ll most certainly find action.

Bluefish are another favorite sport fish, and big ones can be taken throughout the day on topwaters and swimming plugs in the same spots as the stripers. A 7-foot popping rod loaded with 12- to 15-pound test and a heavy pencil popper or metal lure is usually all you need to catch these fish if you find them feeding on top. Trolling a deep-diving plug at 3 to 4 knots along contour lines, steep drop-offs or around schools of bait marked on the sounder is another good way to catch fish that are holding deep.

Bluefin tuna from school fish to giants are also available off the Cape starting in June and running deep into the fall, but the fishery can be hit or miss, and you never know which size class of fish you’ll encounter. Live-baiting with menhaden, bluefish and mackerel on heavy conventional gear often works well, as does deep-jigging with butterfly jigs, giant RonZ soft-plastics and Slug-Go’s. Tried-and-true methods such as trolling squid bars and Green Machines will also take fish. If the fish are school- and medium-size, they can be taken on spin gear. Stellwagen Bank is a go-to spot for tuna, but you can also find them throughout Cape Cod Bay and along the “backside” of the Cape.

If you’re looking for some laid-back fishing closer to shore, fluke can be taken inside the protected confines of Provincetown Harbor and along the channel edges out to Long Point. Doormats are relatively scarce these days, but there are plenty of fish in the two- to four-pound class. A good approach is to drift sand eels and one- to two-ounce bucktails on high-low rigs along drop-offs in 10 to  30 feet of water. Keep your line as vertical as possible and make sure your rig taps bottom at all times. Also, remember that a strong to moderate current usually offers the best action. Fluke fishing is solid through the summer, with the end of September sometimes producing the best action of the year before the fish head offshore.

Bait & Tackle

Charters

License Requirements

A Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit is required to fish the marine waters of Massachusetts out to three miles from shore. Cost is $10 for both residents and non-residents.

Exemptions:

No permit is required for the following individuals:

  • Persons under 16 years of age.
  • Persons fishing on a charter or party boat.
  • Persons who possess a saltwater fishing license from Connecticut, Rhode Island or New Hampshire.
  • Persons who, regardless of age, otherwise meet the definition of a disabled person.
  • The permit fee is waived for anglers 60 and older; however, these individuals must still register with the state. A small fee will be charged by the vendor to process the permit if purchased online.

 

Purchase a permit online.