Fishing Nantucket

Nantucket is the place to go for striped bass. Photo/New England Boating, Tom Richardson.
Nantucket is the place to go for striped bass. Photo Tom Richardson.

As elsewhere along the coast, striped bass and bluefish are the most popular inshore species off Nantucket, and both can be found in abundance from May through October.

Anglers in shallow-draft skiffs can sight-cast for stripers up to 40 pounds on the sand flats behind Tuckernuck Island, west of Madaket. And the turbulent waters of Great Point Rip, Old Man Rip, Bass Rip, and Miacomet Rip can produce awesome casting and trolling action for big stripers and blues throughout the season. You’ll often see these fish holding in the first wave of the rip line, waiting for squid to wash past. Toss ‘em a big pencil popper and you should get an exciting show.

When the fish are holding deep, use wire line to reach them. Local charter skippers like Capt. Bob DeCosta slow-troll parachute jigs on 150 to 200 feet of wire to score consistently during the midsummer months. Places like Sankaty and other rip areas in 15 to 30 feet of water are prime wire-line zones.

Bluefish can usually be trolled up on light gear throughout the summer and early fall along the 40-foot contour line from Nantucket Harbor to Great Point. A Rapala CD-16, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow, Bomber Long-A or similar swimming plug trolled at three to four knots should do the trick. Keep an eye out for packs of surface-cruising blues as you troll along, and be ready to throw them a popper.

Another good spot for casting to bluefish is the backside of Tuckernuck Island. Blind-cast with big popping plugs until you locate a concentration of fish. The famous Great Point Rip also holds blues all season. Keep an eye out for diving birds to lead you to the action along the rip line. False albacore can also be found off Great Point from late August through September.

The famous “Bonito Bar” (not its official name) off Smith Point typically attracts a crowd of anglers who fish for the hard-fighting—and good-eating—“bones” starting in August and running through September. The drill here is to anchor on the ocean side of the bar and blind-cast or wait for a school to pop up within range. Running-and-gunning is definitely frowned upon. The Bonito Bar also holds big stripers and blues. Indeed, some anglers drop anchor and fish chunk baits on the bottom for stripers while waiting for bonito to swim within casting range.

Fluke are another popular recreational species, and the sand shoals and channels south of the island hold some real whoppers. To catch them, set up a slow drift over uneven bottom and send down a heavy jig sweetened with a squid strip, fluke belly strip, whole live snapper blue, or other small live bait.

Bluefin tuna can be available near the island from midsummer on. Many local anglers run north to the waters off Chatham and points east to tangle with these awesome game fish. The Regal Sword and the BE Buoy are perennial hot spots, although the fish can sometime run closer to the Cape shore. Nantucket anglers are also well positioned to reach the shark, white marlin, and tuna grounds south and east of the island. The Dump, The Star, The Claw and other well-known spots are a relatively short run.

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