Marblehead Means Fish

Bluefish patrol the contour lines and ledges outside Marblehead Harbor. Photo by ## Tom Richardson##

The many rocks, ledges and islands outside Marblehead Harbor provide dependable summer fishing for the whole family. Harbor pollock, cunner, cusk and other light-tackle bottom species can be found over shallow, rocky areas such as Coney and Gooseberry Ledges, and are easily taken on small pieces of clam or seaworms fished on a high-low rig weighted with a small sinker. Just anchor up and have at it!

For more mixed-bag bottom fishing, try the high spots east of Tinkers Island in 30 to 40 feet of water, where you stand a better chance of connecting with larger fish. The area between Tinkers Ledge and the “R4” buoy to the south is also loaded with humps that hold larger cod and possibly haddock, pollock and the occasional tautog, especially early (May) and late (October) in the season. A good depthsounder is a must for finding the productive pinnacles, though. Other hotspots include Halfway Rock and the 47-foot “hill” off the “C3” buoy, about 4 miles northeast of Marblehead Neck.

Most years the bass invade the rocky inshore waters in early June and stay through September.

If you like winter flounder (by no means the surefire fishery it once was) you may be able to catch a few for dinner by fishing seaworms or mussels along the mud-bottom areas in 10 to 20 feet of water at the mouth of Marblehead Harbor. The 10-foot contour line northeast of Eagle Island is another good spot, as is the channel edge west of Naugus Head on the Marblehead side of Salem Harbor.

Of course, striped bass are the most coveted inshore game fish. Most years the bass invade the rocky inshore waters in early June and stay through September. Large fish (20-plus pounds) can be taken around virtually any rockpile, point or ledge throughout the harbor, but popular spots include Gooseberry Ledge, Cormorant Rock, Childrens (Cat) Island, Tinkers Island, Coney Ledge, Fluen Point and Peaches Point. Use caution when fishing these areas, especially if a swell is running, and be sure to cast your bait, fly or plug as close as possible to the base of the rocks if you want to score. Night fishermen often do well by soaking bait chunks and live eels in deep holes surrounded by structure. Other productive spots include the Aquavitae Rocks, Triangle Rocks, Sellman Berth, Kettleman Rock, Satan Rock and Haste Rock.

If you want to tangle with bluefish, try the area between Newcombs Ledge, the “N2” buoy and Halfway Rock. You can either troll back and forth here with lipped swimming plugs or look for baitfish being chased on the surface. Another good trolling spot, particularly in a dropping tide, is the 60-foot line between Cormorant Rock and Satan Rock as well as the area between Bakers Island, House Island and Great Misery. Proven lures include the Manns Stretch series, Bomber Long-A, and Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow.

In terms of big game, bluefin tuna usually arrive in late June or July and stick around through November. While most anglers head for the Northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank or Jeffreys Ledge to find them, bluefins can be encountered surprisingly close to shore. In the early 2000s, fish in the 100- to 200-pound range could often be found a few miles off Cape Ann in 150 to 300 feet of water. Best bet is to keep an eye out for birds working over bait.

Casting metal and soft-plastic lures (and even flies) is one way to hook up with these fish, but only if you have adequate gear and know the drill. Newbies are better off trolling squid bars and Green Machines or drifting live baits, such as mackerel and pogies. Check in with the bait shops below for current info on where the fish are showing and what they are eating.

Bait & Tackle:


License Requirements

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.

For more information:

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries: Permits

To purchase a license online:

Mass Fish Hunt License System

Seasons, Catch & Size Limits

For a current list of fishing regulations, by species