Fishing Westport, Massachusetts
January 31, 2011
Tautog tend to herald the start of the Westport fishing season for many local anglers. These hard-fighting bottom fish move into the river beginning in April and stick around though early June. ‘Tog can be taken all the way north to the Hixbridge Road bridge, and will hold around rocky structure, shellfish beds or pilings. Ship Rock, the Rte. 88 bridge, Fishing Rock and Lee’s Wharf are perennial hot spots.
Outside the river mouth, you can find ‘tog around virtually any type of bottom structure, and the area is loaded with prime rockpiles and ledges. Cutty Wow Rocks, Two-Mile Rock, Mishaum Ledge, Hens & Chickens, the “Cement Barge”, and Pinetree Ground are all good spots to find tautog from mid-May through mid-June, and again starting in October and running through early December. Anchor over the rocky bottom and fish green or Asian crabs. If you don’t get bit within 10 minutes, try another part of the structure, or move to a new spot.
The Westport River holds stripers all season long, although the late spring/early summer period is generally best. School bass get active inside the river beginning in late April, with mid-May through June being prime time. During midsummer, focus your efforts at night. You can catch schoolies around virtually any type of structure, with the outgoing tide usually being most productive. Poppers, Bomber plugs and soft-plastics fished around boulders, islands, pilings and marsh banks will take their share of fish as long as the current is flowing. If you like fly casting, try 2/0 Clouser Minnows and Deceivers.
Keeper bass enter the river in late May to chase the herring that are moving upriver to spawn and then dropping back to the ocean. These bigger bass, which can top 30 pounds, are best targeted at night or just before dawn. They will take soft-plastic baits (Hogies, Slug-Go’s and Ron-Z’s), swim shads, large herring-imitating flies and swimming plugs fished around pilings, deep holes and channel edges.
As the river warms in June, the waters of Buzzards Bay begin to heat up. The aforementioned structure spots favored by tautog will hold stripers through June. For the best action, concentrate your efforts around dawn. Poppers, flies and big soft-plastics work very well in the early-morning hours. Once the fish hold deep, live-baiting with bunker and eels, or slow-trolling with leadcore or wire line, is the way to go. Tube-and-worm combos and parachute jigs are proven fish-catchers in this part of lower Buzzards Bay, but 9ER rigs and old-fashioned Danny plugs trolled on wire are effective as well. The main requirements are getting your lure close to the bottom and fishing areas of strong current.
Chunking with fresh bunker over the local ledges and near points of land can be very productive too. Just be sure you’re the first boat on scene before dropping anchor or you may end up watching the other guys have all the fun. Good chunking spots include Mishaum Ledge, Mishaum Point and Warren’s Point, as well as Coxens Ledge, Sow & Pigs and Ribbon Reef. However, it all depends on where the fish are holding on a particular tide.
Of course, many Westport anglers also head for the hallowed striper haunts of Cuttyhunk (Sow & Pigs Reef), Martha’s Vineyard (Devil’s Bridge, Squibnocket) and Nomans Island for a shot at a trophy. These spots are all conveniently located near the Westport inlet.
Fluke are another major target species in the Westport area. You can find plenty of keeper-size fish just outside the inlet, with the outgoing tide producing best. Set up a drift over uneven sandy bottom and send down a squid strip on a jig or a ThomCat rig, but be prepared to weed through lots of small fish before you land a keeper. The true “doormat-hunters” often fish live baits around the edges of rocks, wrecks and ledges. You won’t catch as many fluke this way, but the ones you’ll score will tend to be big!
If you’re looking for some fun, fast daytime fishing that kids will love, try targeting black sea bass, scup, cunner and other assorted bottom fish over hard bottom in 20 to 50 feet of water. Check out a chart and you’ll see plenty of “high spots” in Buzzards Bay that will hold these species throughout the summer. All you need to score is a basic high-low rig weighted with a four- to six-ounce bank sinker and a 3/0 or 4/0 hook baited with clam or squid. Anchor up and lower your rig to the bottom. An even easier method, especially if you don’t feel like dealing with bait, is to send down a 4-ounce diamond jig and hop it up and down a foot or so above the bottom.
False albacore and bonito often show just outside the Westport inlet and along the nearby beaches beginning in late August. These fish can be hard to catch, but lots of fun when you do hook one. Best lures include small KastMasters, Hopkins No=Eqls, and Deadly Dicks, although it’s hard to beat a four-inch white Slug-Go. Flies also take their share of fish; good patterns include small Skok Mushies and white Bonito Bunnies.
Westport is popular among offshore fishermen, too, as it puts them relatively close to the 20- and 30-fathom lines south of the Vineyard, where bluefin tuna, white marlin, dolphin (mahi) and sharks begin to prowl starting in July. In fact, school bluefins, mahi and skipjack sometimes venture remarkably close to Westport, putting them within range of small-boat anglers.
Bait & Tackle
- Watch Out Fish, Capt. Ned Kittredge (508) 998-7965
A Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit is required to fish the marine waters of Massachusetts out to 3 miles from shore. Cost is $10 for both residents and non-residents. The permit expires on December 31.
No permit is required for the following individuals:
- Persons under 16 years of age.
- Persons fishing on a charter or partyboat.
- 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 license online: