Now's the time to fish for Massachusetts' big striped bass from shore or boat. Our expert has the story on where to find and fish for these saltwater lunkers this month.
Photo by Tom Migdalski
By Tom Migdalski
July marks the middle of the fishing season and the beginning of the summer doldrums in southern New England. Hot days, increasing water temperatures and incessant boat traffic begin to impact the habits of striped bass in the Bay State this month. But if you are willing to invest some time and effort, good fishing is still available in many locations.
To be a successful striper fisherman in July means adapting your tactics to the summer season. For the most part, stripers have settled into specific low-light feeding patterns. And although at times they seem scarce, they are still present and active.
"The one key for success this month," said Capt. Pete Rowney, a local striper expert, "is to wake up early. Those crucial pre-dawn hours will provide your best chance for hooking into bass when area water temperatures are pushing into the high 60s."
Seasonal fluctuations aside, the Northeast's striper population appears strong. Massachusetts has the largest recreational striped bass fishery in the country. And, according to Capt. Rowney, the large number of recreational anglers in the Bay State is a direct correlation to the number of stripers in our waters.
"Through sound resource management," he said, "striped bass stocks appear to have rebounded from the dark days of the 1980s when they were virtually nonexistent. The diversity of habitat and many sources of food make our coastal waters a magnet for stripers and striper anglers. The fishing possibilities are limitless for at least six months of the year."
Capt. Rowney and several other top local guides were asked to share their secrets and steer Bay State anglers toward the best hotspots for Massachusetts stripers this month. Here's a look at what our pros recommend:
Cape Cod is, of course, one of the top surfcasting locations on the East Coast. But with over 300 miles of shoreline along the Cape, anglers sometimes can't decide where to fish.
Many of the best fishing beaches are also popular public-access tourist spots, and the majority of these stretches offer excellent opportunities for surfcasters. Here's a look at some of the top waters on Cape Cod.
At the north tip of the Cape is Herring Cove Beach, which is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown. This is a great place for bass with a good chance for bluefish, too. Access is available from a parking lot at Herring Cove Beach at the end of Route 6. Expect in-season fees. The area is open from about sunrise to midnight. However, no overnight parking is permitted.
For local information, try Nelsons Bait and Tackle at (508) 487-0034. For a closer look, check DeLorme's Massachusetts Atlas and Gazetteer, map 60.
On the outer Cape, you can fish the open Atlantic on Nauset Beach in Orleans, which ends at Nauset Harbor inlet. As with any unprotected waters, conditions can become rough here, with onshore winds of 15 knots or more. But there's a very good chance to find big bass and bluefish here.
Like most other striper locations, the best fishing is early and late. There are about 2 1/2 miles of fishable water north of the parking lot. For more details, See DeLorme's Massachusetts Atlas and Gazetteer, map 61.
For access from Orleans, take Main Street east and bear left on Beach Road at the fork. The parking lot is attended 24 hours a day in season. Expect to pay about $8 to park. For information, call Goose Hummock Outfitters at (508) 255-0455.
Along the midsouthern Cape is West Dennis on Nantucket Sound, which has an excellent public-access fishing beach. There's a long stretch of sand that runs from the entrance toward the Bass River. Walk to the right when facing the river and you'll find a side bay with nearby marshes that produce forage for predators. Be cautious of sudden drops near the main channel.
West Dennis Beach is off Lighthouse Road after traveling south on Lower County Road. Like the other public beaches, expect a day-use fee of about $10 per day. Anglers aren't allowed to fish where people are swimming.
For local information, call Bass River Bait and Tackle at (508) 394-8666. For topographic details, see DeLorme's map 66.
If you're going to be near Cape Cod Bay, try the town beach in Sandwich on the north side of the Cape. The famous Cape Cod Canal is on the west side of the beach. The fishing is best here at dawn and dusk.
Find the Sandwich town beach off Route 6A from Town Neck Road and Freeman Avenue. Expect to pay a $5 parking fee in season. The gate may be unmanned in early mornings and late afternoons. Check DeLorme's map 59 for more details.
Chatham boasts miles of crystal-clear flats surrounding North Monomoy Island, where anglers can sight-cast to fish in as little as 3 feet of water. Flats surround the entire island, but the north and south ends are near larger channels and moving water.
"Anglers should fish the edges of the flats," advised local Capt. David Sanderson. "Look for the fish to swim into the shallows on an incoming tide. Sometimes you may see one giant fish cruising alone and sometimes you may see a school of over 100 fish. Your most important piece of gear will be polarized sunglasses.
"When wading any of these flats, always know the tides because they flood quickly and you could get caught in the rising water. Also, bring a compass in case thick fog rolls in and you need to find the shore," he warned.
The next stop in Chatham is South Beach, a four-mile-long sandy peninsula extending from the elbow of Cape Cod about one-quarter mile east of North Monomoy. The western side of South Beach has excellent flats. The eastern side features several miles of classic striper surf.
"You will find good moving water along the beach," Capt. Sanderson noted, "with good bowls and sandbars every couple of hundred yards. On calm days, you can see stripers in the curl of the waves within 10 feet of the beach."
The southern tip faces Nantucket, and by late July, you may even hook a bonito here. South Beach fishes very well at night in July, but if the wind has been blowing out of the east or northeast, there may be seaweed on it, whic
h can make fishing difficult.
According to Sanderson, anglers must take a shuttle from Outermost Harbor Marina to North Monomoy or to a drop-off point about three-quarters of the way down the western side of South Beach. The ferry runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs $15. Free parking is provided for customers.
For Outermost Harbor information, check the agency's Web site at www.outermostharbor.com, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (508)-945-2030.
To find Outermost Harbor from Route 6, take Exit 11 (Route 137 south) and turn left off the exit. Turn left onto Pleasant Bay Road. Follow this road 1 3/4 miles to the end and turn right onto Route 28 north toward Chatham. Continue 3 1/4 miles through the traffic lights to Shore Road. Continue straight to the lighthouse and then bear left onto Morris Island Road. Follow the signs to Outermost Harbor. Check DeLorme's map 67 for more details.
For visitor's information, contact the Chatham Chamber of Commerce, (508) 945-5199 or (800) 715-5567. Or try the agency's Web site at www.ChathamInfo.com.
For local fishing information, tackle and supplies, visit Goose Hummock Outfitters, Route 6A in Orleans; call (508) 255-0455 or visit their Web site at www.goose.com.
"The waters surrounding Plymouth still hold bass in July," Capt. Pete Rowney said, "and you can't beat it for access. For boaters, there is a good ramp with plenty of parking. Once you're on the water, there are plenty of fishing opportunities. Try the end of Plymouth Beach, Gurnet Point and Browns Bank. Don't overlook all the finger channels that cut through the many flats in Kingston and Duxbury bays. These can often hold fish in July."
To find the ramp, take Route 3 to Exit 6A (44 East) into downtown Plymouth. After crossing Route 3A, you will come into a traffic circle. Go three-quarters of the way around the circle and follow Water Street. The entrance to the ramp will be about one-quarter mile on the right. Expect a daily launch fee of $5, or anglers may purchase a season pass for $50.
"For shore-anglers," Capt. Rowney said, "Plymouth Beach offers 2 1/2 miles of fishing opportunities. The rocks and jetties in front of the seawall provide some structure and are always worth a few casts.
"Work up the beach looking for signs of fish that, at times, can be very subtle, particularly if the bass are holding tight to shore while feeding on sand shrimp. Don't be afraid to walk and cover a lot of water. There is very little wave action here and very little structure to hold fish, so keep moving until you find fish."
To reach Plymouth Beach from Plymouth central, follow Route 3A south for about three miles. The entrance to the beach will be on the left.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there is a $5 daily parking fee on weekdays and an $8 fee on the weekends. However, arrive early and you can often avoid these fees.
For visitor information, log on to www.pilgrims.net/plymouth/. For tackle and supplies, call M&M Plymouth Bay Outfitters at (508) 747-6338, or the Bears Den Fly Shop at (508) 977-0700.
For area details, see DeLorme's map 59.
Far north of Cape Cod is Plum Island, which is part of Ipswich Bay and offers good striper fishing from shore. Try the south end of the island at Sandy Point and the Parker River. Access is through the Parker River Wildlife Refuge.
At the island's other end - about 10 miles away - is Plum Island Point on the Merrimack River. This spot is best on the last three hours of the outgoing tide as forage is flushed into the bay. Some stretches of beach are closed to the public during June for the nesting of endangered piping plovers. However, these usually reopen after the birds leave in July.
For information on refuge access and closures, call (978) 465-5753. The area is detailed in maps 19 and 30 in DeLorme's Massachusetts Atlas and Gazetteer.
Local fishing information and supplies are available from Surfland Tackle on Plum Island at (978) 462-4202.
Besides being one of the most popular and affluent summer vacation resorts in the Northeast, Nantucket Island, two hours off the Massachusetts coast, is also one of the region's top striper-fishing destinations.
For anglers who transport a small boat via the Nantucket Island ferry, there are two trailer access points on the island for launching. The first is in town near the ferry dock at Children's Beach. The other is in Madaket on the south end of the island. The Madaket public landing, also called the Walter Barrett Public Pier, is on F Street off Madaket Road. The ramp accesses Hither Creek, which flows into Madaket Harbor.
"For fishermen who don't have a boat and want to surf-cast," said Capt. Hal Herrick, a top Nantucket guide, "a 4wd makes the island more accessible. The most popular spots are Great Point, Smiths Point, Eel Point and the south shore beaches from Cisco Beach to Surfside Beach. Evening fishing off the south shore beaches can be very good."
During July, most of the stripers head to the colder waters off the east end of the island, according to Herrick. They gather in rips such as Old Man Shoal, McBlairs Rip and Fishing Rip. The temperature of the water in these deeper rips generally stays in the low 60s, the comfort range for big bass.
"Good fishing in July occurs in the early morning and late afternoon," Capt. Herrick said. "Evening fishing is generally the most productive. Our water temperatures are warmer now, but those who put in the time will be rewarded. Night-fishing anglers can also find large bass off Brant Point Lighthouse in the entrance to Nantucket Harbor. Bluefish blitz the beaches early in the morning and around sunset, which provides great bonus action if the bass are slow."
For supplies, directions and more information, visit Barry Thurston's tackle shop at the marina in town or call (508) 228-9595.
Ferries depart from Hyannis, Massachusetts, several times daily for the two-hour ride. Vehicle reservations are required. For more information, call Hy-Line Cruises at (508) 778-2600.
The new high-speed ferries make the trip in half the time, but they don't take vehicles. Call the Fast Ferry at (508) 495-FAST(3278). For more visitor information, call the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce at (508) 228-1700 or go to www.nantucket.com.
For a close look at the island, see DeLorme's maps 70 and 71.
The middle coastal area of Massachusetts is another striper haven.
"The mouth of the Essex River,
" according to Capt. Ned Kittredge, "is one of my all-time favorite striped bass haunts. On the flood tide, a shallow sandbar creates a terrific rip on the western side of the river. The bar is a submerged extension of Crane Beach, and as the large volume of water from Ipswich Bay forces its way into the narrow confines of the river mouth, there's a standing rip that lasts for well over an hour.
"At times of very high tides," he said, "anglers can expect to catch school bass here in great numbers. I've had days with over 100 bass caught and released. The low light of morning or evening produces the best results, although I've caught fish here during midday as well."
Boat anglers can anchor just below the rip and cast to it with spinning gear. Or make the long walk to the eastern end of the beach from the Crane Beach reservation parking lot. A small fee is charged, but there's ample parking for this hotspot.
A free public launch is available at the junction of routes 22 and 133 in Essex. For area charters, contact Capt. Kittredge at (508) 998-7965 or you may e-mail him at kittredge65@ comcast.net.
For more details, check DeLorme's map 30.
Massachusetts allows two bass of 28 inches or more. For more regulations, visit www.state.ma.us/dfwele. For lodging information, contact the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism at (800) 447-6277. For waterproof navigation charts noting fishing hotspots in the above areas, contact Capt. Segull's Nautical Charts at (888) 473-4855 or visit the Web site at www.captainsegullcharts. com.
Now is the time to grab a rod and get in on Massachusetts' July bass bite. Striper fishing can be excellent this month from these and many other beaches and flats in southern New England.
Make an effort to get up before sunrise or stay until sunset for the best fishing action and the least contact with beach-goers.
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