Fishing Chatham

The many rips off Monomoy hold stripers through the season. Photo Tom Richardson

The powerful currents and shoals off Chatham that have spelled the doom of so many mariners over the centuries also make this area an incredibly productive fishing ground. During summer, the chill, nutrient-rich waters of the Atlantic and the warmer waters of Vineyard Sound clash off Chatham to spark plankton blooms that in turn feed a variety of baitfish. These draw larger predators, most notably striped bass, bluefish, false albacore, and tuna.

Stripers can be found almost anywhere around Chatham, including the protected waters of Pleasant Bay and Stage Harbor. The former tends to fish best in late spring and early summer. Look for bass to work their way well into the marshes and creeks at this time, where they can be taken on a variety of poppers, stick baits, soft-plastics and flies. Work these lures around mussel beds, deep holes, channel edges, creek bends and pilings—any place the stripers can lurk to ambush a meal. The expanse of flats south of Broad Creek and east of Hog Island may also hold fish in the early season. Set up a drift and fan-cast the area with the aforementioned artificials as you move along. The area near the mouth of the bay should be avoided, however, as the seals here make landing a fish virtually impossible.

Later in the season, most bass anglers turn their attention to the ocean waters, where a concentration of large stripers often gathers in deep water east of North Beach, drawing a fleet of boats that can easily be seen from the bluff above Lighthouse Beach. This area produces what is perhaps the Cape’s most consistent summer action with big bass, which will readily take diamond or butterfly jigs yo-yoed near the bottom in 50 feet of water or more.

The turbulent rips off Monomoy Island, such as Bearses Shoal, Handkerchief Shoal, Stone Horse Shoal and Pollock Rip, also hold large stripers, as well as bluefish, through the summer months. Here, the standard technique is to fish parachute jigs or plastic squid on wire line to reach fish holding near the bottom in the swift current. Caution is required when fishing these shoal-water areas, especially if a swell is running. If you’ve never done it before, you might want to hire a guide to show you the ropes.

Albies often roam the beachfront drop-offs and rip lines off Monomoy and Stage Harbor starting in September.

If it’s bottom fish you seek, black sea bass and scup can be caught over hard-bottom areas throughout nearby Vineyard Sound virtually all season long. The edges of Kill Pond Bar and the manmade reef off Herring River can be productive. All you need to score with these good-eating fish is a light jig tipped with some squid.

Bluefin tuna action east of Chatham Harbor can also be outstanding, but it’s anyone’s guess as to where these fish will take up station in any given year. Many times, boats have to steam far east to the Regal Sword, Crab Ledge or the BB or BC buoys to score, while other times good numbers of fish can be caught within sight of shore. Trolling squid bars and daisy chains is often most productive, but tuna can also be taken on topwater plugs and jigs if they are feeding on the surface. The best advice is to monitor the network of hardcore tuna fishermen and be ready to roll when the bite materializes.

The Monomoy area can also be a great place to chase false albacore, which normally show up in September and linger through mid-October. The speedy fish can be taken on small flies, spoons, and soft-plastics (try small Slug-Gos and Zoom Flukes), but will often prove maddingly selective. Look for them near inlets, along beach fronts, and in the rip areas.

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