Top 10 Southeastern Mass. Launch Ramps
February 18, 2011
As many of you know, I trailer my 33-foot Contender center console all over Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts in order to put my customers on the best possible fishing. Over the years I’ve trailered and launched everything from 14-foot tin skiffs to the big Contender at pretty much every ramp in the area, and I have learned which ones are good and which ones are not. Here’s my list of the top area launch ramps, along with a brief description of their advantages and limitations, and some info on the waters and fisheries they provide access to.
1 Bass River, Dennis/Yarmouth
I started using the Bass River ramp, located at the mouth of Bass River on the south side of Cape Cod, several years ago while fishing a tournament. We planned to fish Nantucket, and it seemed like the closest place to run across from. To my surprise, I found a massive parking lot with a great deep-water, double-wide ramp and floating docks. The fee to launch is $10 a day and around $70 for a season pass. This has become my “go to” ramp for fishing Chatham, Nantucket and even the eastern canyons. It is ideal for large trailerable boats, has a very short no-wake zone, and even has a fish pier with running water and cleaning stations when you return with your catch.
2 Falmouth Inner Harbor, Falmouth
This ramp provides great access to the waters of Martha’s Vineyard, the Elizabeth Islands, Nantucket and the western canyons. I generally launch here in the early season when chasing stripers and blues in Vineyard Sound or along the Islands. Later, I use this ramp when running to the canyons and offshore areas south of the Vineyard or to access some of the Cape’s hottest albie and bonito spots. The Falmouth ramp has good free parking, but it fills up during peak times, so get there early. The ramp is a very deep single ramp with nice floats on both sides. The run to open water is short, but use caution, as the harbor sees a lot of boat traffic in season.
3 Westport River, Westport
This ramp offers excellent access to the Elizabeth Islands and the offshore waters due south. It’s my primary launch point if I plan to fish Rhode Island waters such as Newport or Block Island. This ramp was the gateway to “Tiny Tuna Central” several years ago when the waters from Martha’s Vineyard to Newport swarmed with albies, bonito, skipjack and juvi bluefin tuna. The parking is split between the main lot and a larger dirt “overflow” lot a short walk away. The ramp is a double-wide ramp that will accommodate all but the largest boats. The ramp fee is $10 a day. Use caution as you run out to the main channel of the river. Large rocks lurk just outside the docking area, on the left. Given the strong currents of the river, a wrong move can get you in a lot of trouble fast. It’s a long, winding, no-wake run to the mouth of the river, which can also be hazardous when there’s a large swell running. Despite its potential hazards, the ramp is still a strong choice if you want to fish the areas listed above.
4 Plymouth Harbor, Plymouth
Plymouth is a great ramp on the western side of Cape Cod Bay. Both Plymouth Harbor and neighboring Duxbury Bay offer great fishing for bass and blues. Plymouth is also a great jumping-off spot for trips to Stellwagen Bank, some 20 miles away, and offers a straight shot across to Race Point and Provincetown. The ramp has a very large parking lot and a nice double-wide ramp with an excellent floating dock system. Despite its size, the lot does fill up in the summer due to its outstanding location. The ramp fee of $5 can be paid via the vending machine-style ticket dispenser, but be sure to have some singles handy, as credit cards are not accepted (yet). Also, make sure you’re on your game when launching here, as it’s not uncommon to have a large crowd watching and critiquing your launching and trailer-backing skills.
5 Taylor’s Point Marina, Bourne
Taylor’s Point, or Bourne Marina, is one of the best ramps to use if you’re planning on fishing any of the areas near the West End of the Canal and upper Buzzards Bay. A huge parking lot and double-wide ramp make this a go-to ramp for the largest boats. Even the commercial boat-haulers use this ramp due to its deep drop-off. The ramp fee is $10 per day, with an annual fee running several hundred dollars. It’s not cheap, but if you frequent the area it’s worth the money. Once you clear the marina, pay attention as you run out past the Mass Maritime Academy campus. The channel is very narrow and shifts from year to year. Although the channel is well-marked, it can get dicey when 2 boats pass each other, especially at low tide, as neither boat is more than a few feet away from running aground on the large sand flats.
6 Green Pond, Falmouth
Green Pond was always one of my favorite ramps when I was running smaller boats, mainly because of its location. It’s one of the best ramps for the small-boat angler to use because it offers quick access to the many small salt ponds on the south side of the Cape, where you’ll find bass, blues, bonito and albies. It also offers a short run to areas like Waquoit Bay, Hedge Fence and of course the Vineyard. The parking lot is small and fills up quickly due to its size and lack of a fee. The ramp itself is a small single ramp that drops off quickly. Years ago this ramp was notorious for its sudden drop-off that would leave trailers hung up on the square edge at the bottom of the ramp. I’m told this issue has been resolved, but I have not used the ramp in several years since it’s not big-boat-friendly. Use caution until you’ve checked it out for yourself.
7 Sandwich Marina, Sandwich
Sandwich Marina might well have the best ramp on the Cape, period! It offers just about everything a trailerboater might need, all for $10 a day or $100 per season. Its several huge parking lots will handle nearly any crowd a hot Saturday in July can throw at it. A deep, double-wide ramp with long floats make this another top pick for commercial haulers. During daylight hours the ramp is managed by a harbormaster and often several assistants, depending on seasonal activity. These guys to a great job of keeping things flowing, even during the busiest of times. The harbor is adjacent to the East End of the Canal, offering fast and easy access to Cape Cod Bay and Stellwagen Bank. Several things to keep in mind when launching out of Sandwich: the Canal entrance can be a treacherous place in a north or east wind, especially when the current is ripping eastward. Watch out for large ships and barges in tow as you leave the basin and enter the Canal. Also, very early and very late in the season, the ramp will close for several days to allow commercial haulers to launch and haul big boats. The marina generally posts signs a week or more in advance alerting the public to the upcoming closures, but a call to the harbormaster before trailering your boat there is advised.
8 Pamet River, Truro
Pamet used to be a “half-tide” ramp until a few years ago, when it was rebuilt and the channel dredged to allow even large boats (up to 26 feet) near full-tide access to the harbor and Cape Cod Bay beyond. Pamet is one of the closest ramps to the tip of the Cape. There are a few other ramps, including P-town harbor, that can get you a little closer, but Pamet’s ease of access make it the clear winner. The $10 ramp fee is collected by a harbormaster and several assistants, some of whom have a reputation for being “difficult”. This, combined with limited parking and the long haul involved, keeps many people from taking advantage of what the ramp has to offer, but in my opinion it’s worth the effort.
9 West Falmouth Harbor, Falmouth
West Falmouth is a hidden gem. It’s a free ramp on the east side of Buzzards Bay, about halfway between the West End of the Canal and Woods Hole. The ramp is a shallow single ramp with no floats. It’s best used when 2 people are launching, so one person can run the boat once it’s splashed and take it to the nearby pier, where the rest of the crew can hop aboard. At first glance there appears to be no real parking for any vehicles, let alone a truck and trailer. However, a few hundred yards up the road is a large gravel parking lot for the ramp. I’ve never seen more than a dozen rigs parked there, even on weekends. Once you’re in the water and your crew has been picked up, it’s a fairly short run to open water via the narrow, winding channel. If you have a shallow-draft boat or kayak, you can stay inside the harbor and explore the creeks to the south, where fish and wildlife abound. Larger, deeper-draft boats will want to head into Buzzards Bay. From the mouth of the harbor, some of the bay’s best bottom fishing is located nearby, especially during the spring sea bass run. In late summer and fall, the east side of Buzzards Bay often hosts some excellent hardtail fishing, just minutes from West Falmouth.
10 Blish Point, Barnstable
“Barney” is a great ramp on the southern shore of Cape Cod Bay. It has a good-size gravel lot, which is generally managed by someone collecting a few bucks for the launch fee. The ramp is long and shallow, with a nice float on one side. At low tide the ramp can be a bit tricky for larger boats. In a pinch there is a second “old” ramp a bit farther into the harbor on the same side. It’s very steep and narrow, but drops into deep water quickly. If you are skilled at trailering and have a strong 4×4, the “old” ramp can often get you out of the water while others wait for the tide at the main ramp. The payoff for launching out of Barnstable is access to beautiful beaches and sandbars, along with miles of shallow sand flats that produce great sight-fishing for bass and bluefish all season long. A favorite of fly anglers and bait fisherman alike, the harbor gives up stripers from school-size on up to cows nearly every month of the season. Once outside the outer harbor, it’s a short run to the late-summer tuna grounds.
Bonus Ramp! Woods Hole, Falmouth
This small ramp might not be considered a “bonus” ramp by many anglers. However, I’ve used it for years, and feel it needs to be on my list. The ramp is tucked way in the back of Woods Hole village, right next to the commercial pier and the Woods Hole Aquarium on Albatross Street. The ramp is fairly deep and abuts the pier. There is almost no parking to speak of, however. Parking meters and residential driveways limit the parking to a few select spots, and only a handful of early birds get this worm. Heavy crowds and traffic in the summer can make trailering here a headache. So why include this ramp? The simple answer is location! Once you launch, you are pretty much right in the middle of Woods Hole and within shouting distance of many fishy locations. While Woods Hole is certainly one of the busiest and more confusing pieces of water in the Northeast, it is also one of the best fishing spots on the Cape for everything from bass and blues to bonito and albies. If you don’t want to brave fishing among the roaring currents and ledges of the Hole itself, you can run into Buzzards Bay, over to the Vineyard (this is the closest ramp to MV on the Cape) or head southwest along the Elizabeth Islands.
Are there any ramps you’d like to add to this list?
Tell us where they are and why in the space below.