Fishing Boston Harbor

Winter flounder are big, abundant—and safe to eat—in Boston Harbor.

Boston Harbor used to be reviled as a filthy cesspool where only fools or the very hungry would dare to eat the fish it produced. But now the waters have been cleaned up and the fish are safe to consume. And there are lots of options!

Let’s start with striped bass, which can be found inside the harbor beginning in May. Indeed, many big fish are taken right below the Charles River locks at this time as they wait for herring to enter and leave the river. Later in the season, trolling tube-and-worm combos around the islands, shoals and drop-offs in the harbor is a good way to pick up a keeper. Faun Bar, off Deer Island, in particular usually holds fish through the early season, as does Hospital Shoal.

Drifting clams, chunks and live bait near structure and in deep holes is another productive technique. Hull Gut is a famous bait-fishing spot, as is Point Allerton and The Narrows, between Georges Island and Lovells Island. Use mackerel and bunker, the fresher the better.

Big bass can be taken throughout the harbor on lures and live baits.

Casting plugs and flies around any rocky point (there are no shortage of these), epecially at dawn, is a good way to score with schoolies and the occasional larger bass. The shallows around Nixes Mate, Faun Bar, Hangman Island and Sculpin Ledge are great spots to cast, but use caution when approaching, especially at low tide.

As summer waters warm, the bigger fish move out to deeper water, and you’re likely to find some patrolling the depths off the Graves, the Brewsters and the numerous deep ledges outside the harbor. Again, live bait and chunks are the best ways to score in these spots.

If you run across a school of menhaden, you’re really in luck! Snag one of the baits and let it swim around the school. Chances are you’ll score a big striper or monster bluefish. Speaking of blues, you can often find them by trolling plugs and tube lures around deep (15 to 30 feet) ledges and channel edges through the season. And sometimes you’ll see them feeding on the surface below working birds. This can set up some exciting light-tackle action with topwater plugs.

Perhaps no Boston Harbor species boasts a better comeback story than winter flounder. Once so abundant they drew busloads of anglers from New York, winter flounder (a.k.a., “blackbacks”) were decimated by pollution and overfishing in the ‘70s and ‘80s. But now they’re back, and you can easily catch several meals worth of these tasty flatfish in just a few hours if you know where to look.

From May to July, virtually any stretch of flat, mud bottom in 10 to 30 feet of water will hold flounder, which will eagerly take seaworms fished on a small Chesterton or Virginia-style hook. It’s easy, fun fishing the whole family can enjoy! Good blackback spots include the Deer Island Flats, Hospital Shoal, Georges Island and Portuguese Cove.

Bait & Tackle

  • Fishing Finatics, Everett, (617) 381-1997
  • Fore River Fishing Tackle, Quincy, (617) 770-1397


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