Massachusetts' Cape Cod shoreline continues to provide some of the best summertime striper fishing in the Northeast. Here's how you can get in on the action this month! (July 2006)
Cape Cod has long been a Mecca for saltwater fishermen, and the most sought-after fish in New England's coastal waters is the striped bass. A 2005 Massachusetts Striped Bass Report indicates that the annual striper harvest over the past several years is up significantly from the 1990's. Gary Nelson, senior fisheries biologist at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, believes that 2006 will be another good year for Bay State striper anglers.
Among other positives, Nelson pointed out that during the 2005 season, the commercial striper quota was reached in just 19 days despite additional commercial restrictions that were introduced last year.
You need not venture far offshore to find great bass fishing on the Cape. There are numerous opportunities for the shore-bound angler: beaches, jetties, estuary creeks, salt ponds, flats, inlets, harbors and rivers all contain fish. Whether you prefer to drift live bait, sight-cast to cruising stripers on the flats or sling hardware into the surf, you'll find what you're looking for on the Cape.
There are always some holdover fish, but the Cape's primary striper fishery is largely seasonal. Schoolies typically appear in late April, while the larger bass usually show up in mid-June and remain there through October.
In Massachusetts, the minimum legal length on stripers is 28 inches, and there's currently a two-fish limit.
Popular baits include chunk mackerel, porgy, eels, sea worms and sand eels, which are especially effective on the bay side. Kastmasters and Hopkins have traditionally been two of the more popular sinking lures, and over the past several years, a number of fishermen have changed over to soft plastics. These life-like lures are a staple in my tackle box. Swimming plugs, Clousers, Deceivers, and sand eel imitations are also popular.
Take note that many beaches and public parking lots charge fees during the tourist season, which runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. During the peak tourist months of July and August, many anglers prefer to fish early and late in the day to avoid crowds and boat traffic. Because the water is cooler, these times are typically the most productive for fishing during this time of year. Fish may be taken throughout the day in some locations, however, depending on conditions and tides, so fish when you are able!
The following 10 areas are proven Cape Cod hotspots. Before heading out, visit a local bait and tackle store for an up-to-the-minute report on how the fishing is going. These shops can provide a wealth of information on where the fish are being taken and what they're hitting.
The Cape Cod Canal is one of the more popular upper Cape spots. There's some great access along the canal's shoreline, much of which is paralleled by bicycle paths.
One of the best areas on the mainland side of the canal is Scussett Beach State Reservation in Sandwich, which has some 1.5 miles of frontage along the eastern end of the canal, including two well-known spots, Pip's Rip and Murderer's Row.
Walking toward the canal from the parking lot, Pip's Rip is on the left. Unlike much of the canal, the bottom in the Pip's Rip area is mostly sandy, and it's one of the few spots along the canal that offers some limited wading. Murderer's Row is about one-half mile west of Pip's Rip.
Present parking fees are $7 per day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Non-campers are not permitted in the lot after 8 p.m. You can obtain directions and more information on the Web at www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/scus.htm, or by calling (508) 888-0859.
Another popular area is the tidal flat in Bourne, on the opposite end of the canal on the Cape side.
Take Shore Road in Bourne and turn onto Bell Road into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' parking lot.
The area to the left of the parking lot is a particularly popular spot for stripers because it holds good numbers of baitfish. The shoreline here offers a sharp contrast to the rock-strewn surf that is typical along much of the canal, and this area offers some limited wading for anglers who'd like to wade-fish.
Also worth trying is the railroad bridge section to the right of the parking lot. The best fishing will typically be on the down-current side of the railroad bridge.
The Corps of Engineers maintains many of the parking areas and access points along the canal, and there are a number of other areas with good access between the Bourne bridge and the Sagamore bridge. Some of these areas appear on a map online at www.nae.usace.army.mil/recreati/ccc/ccchome.htm
For more information, call Canal Bait & Tackle at (508) 833-2996, or try the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center at (508) 833-9678.
Another upper Cape hotspot is South Cape Beach in Mashpee. The beach is beyond the parking lot at South Cape Beach State Park. The parking fee is $7 per day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
There's good fishing along the shoreline to the west of the parking lot, down to the jetty at the entrance of Waquoit Bay. Another preferred area is east of the parking lot in front of the New Seabury Golf Course area. The water is a good hike from the parking lot, but it can be worth the effort.
Directions and additional information on South Cape Beach State Park can be found at (508) 457-0495, or www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/socp.htm
Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable, a barrier beach between Cape Cod Bay and Barnstable Harbor, offers easy access and is popular with anglers on foot as well as those with 4-wheel drive vehicles. Off-road vehicle stickers are required and can be purchased at the parking lot gate. Many anglers prefer to walk the beach to the water east of the parking lot.
Walking the beach at low tide will provide some good insight on bottom structure, giving anglers a good indication of where to fish on the rising tide. This is true of most Cape beaches. Look for channels between sandbars, pockets of seaweed, and feeding gulls.
Approximately six miles east of the parking lot lies Beach Point, at the head of B
arnstable Harbor. Some offshore sandbars here are popular with the 4-wheel drive crowd.
To get to Sandy Neck, head east on Route 6A through Sandwich. Shortly before the Barnstable line, turn left onto Sandy Neck Road and follow that to the parking lot at the end. Parking costs $15 per day between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
For ORV sticker information and other information on Sandy Neck Beach, call (508) 362-8300.
The Brewster flats are another great bet. It has been said that Brewster has more miles of flats than any other town on the Cape. The flats are extensive, and sight-casting is sometimes possible here. Sand eels are the most popular bait and can be purchased at many of the area's bait and tackle shops.
One of the more popular areas is off Robbins Hill Beach. There's a wide sand bar offshore that parallels the beach at low tide. Stripers forage on sand eels and baitfish in the water between the bar and shore. Some anglers wade out from the beach on the falling tide, while others go via kayak.
It's important to note that the tide moves in fast on the Cape's flats. Anglers on foot would be well advised to keep a close eye on conditions because distances on the flats can be deceiving. Pack a compass or GPS unit in case of heavy fog.
Robbins Hill Beach is not far from Route 6A. Take Lower Road and then follow Lower Road, turning north onto Robbins Hill Road. Continue to the parking lot at the end. The parking lot is open by permit only from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. between June 15 and Sept. 1. You can obtain permits and a map at the Visitor Information Center at the Brewster Town Office Building, 2198 Main Street, or by calling (508) 896-4511.
Expect to pay $15 or more per day. This lot fills up fast, so it's best to get there early, especially on the weekends.
Paine's Creek Beach, west of Robbins Hill Beach, is a top Brewster flats bet. The conditions are similar to those at Robbins Hill Beach, as are the parking regulations. You may use the same parking sticker in the parking lot here.
There's some great flats fishing in front of the beach at low tide. On the early outgoing tide, the mouth of Paine's Creek, to the left of the parking lot, can be a productive spot for stripers. To get there, turn north onto Paine's Creek Road from Route 6A in Brewster and follow it to the parking lot at the end.
The town of Chatham abounds with opportunities for the shore-bound angler, and Hardings Beach is one of the more popular spots. Heading east on Route 28 in Chatham, turn right on Barn Hill road and follow it for approximately one-half mile. Turn right on Hardings Beach Road and follow to the parking area at the end. From early June through Labor Day, the parking fee is $15 per day between 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The area southeast of the parking lot down to Stage Harbor Light House is a good place to start your search for stripers. Concentrate on the channels between sandbars.
Sand eels are effective bait here during the summer months. For local information, contact Chatham Bait and Tackle at (508) 945-9779.
Off the coast of Chatham lies North Monomoy Island, which is part of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. The extensive flats off the western shore of the island draw stripers (and many fishermen). It's all sight-fishing, except for the deep holes on the north tip and the east side of the island, according to Capt. Keith Lincoln of The Monomoy Island Ferry, one of two local shuttle services that transport anglers to and from the island.
Early to mid-July is typically a peak time for stripers in this area. Capt. Lincoln notes that the early incoming tide is best on the flats. Anglers fishing the flats here should pack a compass or GPS because the fog sometimes rolls in fast and thick.
Call the Monomoy Island Ferry office at (508) 945-5450, or log on to www.monomoyislandferry.com. Rates are in the $15 to $20 range per angler, round trip. Outermost Harbor Marine, another shuttle service, can be reached at (508) 945-5858, or online at www.outermostharbor.com. Their fee is $20 per angler, round trip.
Each of these outfits can refer you to reputable guides that specialize in fishing this area. Hiring a guide for that first trip is highly recommended.
North of Chatham lie the "outermost beaches" of the Cape Cod National Seashore, from Nauset Beach in Orleans to Race Point in Provincetown. These windswept Atlantic beaches offer a sharp contrast to the tranquil beaches on the bay side. There's typically deep water just offshore, and some of the Cape's largest stripers are taken off these beaches each year. The 73-pound state-record linesider was taken off Nauset Beach in 1981.
To reach Nauset, head north on Route 28 in Orleans and take a right onto Main Street. Follow Main Street to Beach Road and watch for signs to Nauset. The parking lot is at the end of Beach Road. The parking fee is $15 per day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from early June through mid- September.
Nauset is one of the most popular Cape Cod beaches with tourists, so many anglers prefer to fish at sundown, when the visiting crowds have dispersed. The mile or so of beach to the left of the swimming area is a productive spot.
The coastline here is constantly changing, but look for small points that jut off the beach. There are also some sandbars and clusters of rocks just off shore. Find these locations at low tide, and then give them a try on the incoming tide.
For up-to-date information on fishing Nauset, call the Nauset Angler tackle shop at (508) 255-4242, or go online to www.nausetangler.com. The Nauset shop also offers guide services via 4-wheel drive.
In Massachusetts, the minimum legal length on stripers is
28 inches, and there's currently a two-fish limit.
North of Nauset lies Coastguard Beach in Eastham. From the traffic lights on Route 6 by the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitors Center, turn onto Nauset Road. Head east onto Doane Road to the parking area. From early June through mid-September, parking is $15 per day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Many fishermen prefer the area south of the parking lot. This stretch of beach runs for approximately two miles before ending at the entrance to Nauset Inlet. There are many deep holes and troughs offshore along this stretch. The tip at the inlet is a great spot, too, though it's quite a trek over the sand.
For additional information, contact Blackbeard's Bait and Tackle Shop in Eastham at (508) 240-3369.
Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown has some great fishing and it's a great backup spot for those occasions when the water around the outer beaches becomes choked with seaweed.
One of the preferred spots is the area by the mouth of Hatches Harbor, less than a mile to the right of the parking lot toward Race Point Light. This can be an especially effective location on the outgoing tide, when stripers congregate here to gorge on baitfish and sand eels being swept out of the harbor.
To reach this beach, simply follow Route 6 to the end. Head north for approximately one-half mile on Province Land Road to the parking lot to the left. From early June through mid-September, parking is $15 per day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Race Point in Provincetown is one of the best-known surfcasting spots on the East Coast, and is particularly popular among the 4-wheel drive crowd.
To get to Race Point Beach from Route 6, turn north onto Race Point Road and follow it for approximately 2 1/2 miles to the Cape Cod National Seashore parking lot. From early June through mid-September, parking is $15 per day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
On the way, stop by Nelson's Bait and Tackle at 43 Race Point Road. For up-to-date fishing information, call them at (508) 487-0034. For information on off-road permits, contact the Cape Cod National Seashore at (508) 349-3785.
The area to the left of the parking lot and swimming area, down to the point, is where most anglers focus their efforts. There are many small rips just offshore, and you'll sometimes see boat fishermen in close proximity to the shoreline here.
Additional information on Cape Cod fishing, including a list of bait and tackle shops, charter boats, and boat launch ramps, can be found in the Massachusetts Saltwater Recreational Fishing Guide. You can view a copy of this publication online at www.mass.gov/dfwele/dmf, or obtain a copy by calling (617) 626-1520.
For lodging and other information on the Cape, call the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce at (508) 362-3225, or you can visit them online at www.capecodchamber.org.