Boating the Bay

Fishing Options for a Small Boats on Cape Cod Bay

By Capt. Phil Howarth
Cape Cod Harbors, Launch Sites and Fishing Ground
Cape Cod Harbors, Launch Sites and Fishing Ground

Cape Cod Bay is blessed with many options for safe fishing from a small (sub 18’) boat. Striped Bass, Bluefish, Sea Bass, Scup, Flounder and even giant Bluefin Tuna can be found within the bay at certain times of year. Many of the parking areas a the launch sites can fill up quickly. The earlier you can get on the water the better, tide permitting.

There are 5 launch points into Cape Cod Bay, these are:

Barnstable Harbor, on Millway at Blish Point

Great access for fishing in the harbor, the fingers and around the entrance to the canal. Parking is restricted and it can get very crowded during the high season.

Sesuit, on Cold Storage Road in Dennis

Fantastic launch point giving access to most of the bay, ample parking, new ramps and great facilities.

Rock Harbor, on Dyer Prince Road in Eastham

Beautiful location but with limited parking and access to bay is severely restricted at hours before and after low tide.

Wellfleet Harbor

Great access to the Harbor, but can be very busy in the summer months, good ramp. Be careful as there are many very shallow parts of the harbor at low water.

Pamet, on Depot Road in Truro

Another scenic beauty on the Cape, if you are looking to fish around Race Point in Provincetown, this is the location. Get there early as the lot fills up quickly.

To overlap the potential launch locations, let’s take a look at some of the fishing grounds that they serve best.

Barnstable Harbor

This is a great spring spot (May thru early July) for Stripers as they rest up from their journey through the Canal into the bay, they will be feasting on sand eels, mackerel and other bait fish washing out on the falling tides. Try catching mackerel at the one mile can outside the harbor, then live line them for explosive action as stripers chase them all round the boat. Lures such as RONZ and Daiwa SP Minnows also work well. Look to move the boat along the edges of the flats and cast into the deeper holes.

The Fingers

The fingers is a patch of water due north of Barnstable Harbor, easily seen on the chart as it marks the drop off onto deeper water, it is only a short run from Barnstable and Sesuit. This location can be fished using several techniques. If you see the birds working and fish moving on the surface then throw unweighted soft plastics such as Sluggo and GotStryper, surface poppers from Gibbs, Guppy and Tsunami can lead to frantic crashing onto lures as stripers ‘tail slap’ baits to stun them before turning to strike again. Sometimes the fish are deeper at this spot and you will be a need a vertical jig to get down to the fish, try Daddy Mac and Jetty Ghost jigs as well as the old favorite, the A series. If the fish are proving elusive try using lead core line with the ‘tube and worm’ technique to slowly troll around the area to tempt the finicky fish.

The Rockpile

Situated between Barnstable and Sesuit and identified by the buoys dotted around its location, you will find a patch of rough ground which can produce some great action for Sea Bass. These extremely tasty and sporting fish are great fun to catch with the family, a simple rig consisting of a jig at the bottom and HiLo hooks further up baited with strips of squid is all you need. Bounce the jig on the bottom and wait for the fish to pounce on the squid.

Capt. Phil taking advantage of the Blues off Brewster Flats.
Capt. Phil taking advantage of the Blues off Brewster Flats.

Brewster Flats

Situated just NE of Sesuit, the flats are an iconic Cape Cod Bay fishing location, from May till mid July when the water heats up and the fish head to deeper water, the flats provide fantastic top water action and give you the ability to hunt for the fish and ‘sight cast’ to them using unweighted soft plastics, surface hard plastics and wooden plugs. The flats are also an excellent place to cast a fly, with clousers and sand eel patterns being the flies of choice.

Billingsgate Shoal

The shoal is good all summer long as a destination for boat anglers in the bay and is easily accessible from Sesuit, Rock Harbor and Wellfleet. Tube and worm, wire line jigging and trolling Hoochies and diving plugs are popular and productive techniques. Troll along the edges and on the drop offs of the shoal. At times the Bass and Bluefish will be smashing sand eels on the surface, moving quickly over the top of the shoal to provide bursts of activity before they run deeper to chase the next pod of sand eels to the surface to gorge again. In this instance, try and work out which way they are running then position your boat in front of them, cast RONZ, pencil poppers and even try casting a fly to them if you have a rod on board.

The Path and Wellfleet Harbor

The path is located just north of Wellfleet, and provides some of the best fishing for monster Bluefish in the Bay. If you want to try and catch these toothy critters that fight like demons, use a heavy fluorocarbon leader (60#+) or wire to tie to your bait; they will cut through mono in an instant. While you can loose fish with Fluorocarbon, you still have the chance to catch Striped Bass which are line shy and do not often take a lure attached to wire. Trolling diving plugs such as Bombers, or Hoochies work well also. If you see a slick on the water or smell fish oil, that’s a great sign that Bluefish are feeding in the area, break out hard plastic and wooden plugs and test cast a few times, if the Bluefish are in the mood they will aggressively attack your lure. Finally handle Bluefish carefully, use a net or fish grip to help land your catch and use long nose pliers to remove hooks from their mouths!!

Race Point

The race can provide some incredible fishing but please be very careful when fishing from a small boat, the rips around the point can be very strong and rise and fall considerably depending on the state of the tide. Live lining mackerel can be very productive, fresh bait can often be found tight to the beach near the Wood End lighthouse. Vertical jigging is also very popular.

So there you go, a whistle stop tour of some of the places to fish in Cape Cod Bay, it’s a great summer fishery. If you want more details come in and speak to the team at the stores in Orleans and Dennis, keep an eye on our Facebook and for our regular fishing report all summer long.

Tight Lines!! Capt. Phil