Fishing New Bedford

Black sea bass are plentiful in Buzzards Bay just a short run from New-Bedford. Photo/New England Boating, Tom Richardson.
Black sea bass are plentiful in Buzzards Bay, just a short run from New Bedford. Photo/New England Boating, Tom Richardson.

While New Bedford is primarily associated with commercial fishing, the harbor also makes a great launching pad for recreational fishermen looking to tangle with a wide variety of game and food fish. Black sea bass and scup are high on the list of target species, and both can be found in abundance off Cleveland Ledge, in upper Buzzards Bay. Late-May through mid-June is prime time for this fishery. Simply drift along the hard bottom north of the ledge, in 30’ to 40’ of water, and hop a 2- to 3-ounce bucktail jig tipped with a squid strip over the bottom. If targeting scup, use a small piece of squid on a 2/0 hook and send it to the bottom on a light bank sinker.

Naturally, striped bass and bluefish are top on the list of local game fish, and both species can be taken just outside the Hurricane Barrier, as well as inside the harbor, beginning in mid-May.

Fluke can be taken nearby, as well, both inside Buzzards Bay and in nearby Vineyard Sound. A good place to catch a lot of these tasty fish (although many will be “shorts” under the minimum size) is Lucas Shoal in the Sound. The west end of the Cape Cod Canal, the edges of Mishaum Ledge and the deep trench between Naushon Island and the Weepecket Islands are other productive spots, but you can find fluke over just about any stretch of bottom with good current flow and an abundance of bait. Set up a slow drift and bait up with squid strips, fluke-belly strips, bluefish strips or live snapper blues and killifish. Fish deeper water as the summer progresses and you should do well, and remember that big baits catch big fish.

May and October are prime months for catching tautog over the shallow (10’-40’) ledges scattered about the harbor and Buzzards Bay in general—but get out early before the good spots get picked over. Use sections of green or Asian crabs fished on a dropper-loop rig or a more specialized 2-hook ‘tog rig and medium-heavy conventional gear. Precise anchoring is often the biggest trick to scoring well in this game, and don’t forget to keep trying different spots until you hit the jackpot.

Naturally, striped bass and bluefish are top on the list of local game fish, and both species can be taken just outside the Hurricane Barrier, as well as inside the inner harbor and Acushnet River, beginning in mid-May. The rocky, shallow ledge opposite Butler Flats Light known as Egg Island is a great spot to fish light tackle on a rising tide in the spring. The rocks in front of Fort Rodman also hold bass and blues in May and June. For exciting bluefish action, try tossing poppers in the very northeast corner of New Bedford’s Outer Harbor. All of these spots fish best on a rising tide and a southwest wind. Lastly, Dumpling Rocks and Mishaum Point can be good spots to toss plugs or eels for stripers in the spring and early summer.

Later in the season, you’ll generally have to fish at night or fish deep to score with larger bass. Trolling wire line around Mishaum Ledge, Sow & Pigs Reef off Cuttyhunk or through the Elizabeth Island “holes” can produce some nice fish through the season. Closer to home, try drifting live eels at night near the numerous ledges and rocks just outside New Bedford Harbor.

Bait & Tackle:

  • CMS Tackle (508) 995-2372
  • Uncle Ken’s (508) 991-3022

Charter Boats:

Bounty Hunter (508) 748-3474

Capt. Leroys (508) 992-8907

State License Requirements; Catch & Size Limits

State of Massachusetts Requirements