Saturday, March 3, 2012

North Shore Saltwater Fishing

tight lines
From Pete's Bait & Tackle


One of the most sought after sport fish in Massachusetts is the Atlantic Mackerel. The numbers of fishermen that fish for mackerel and the numbers that they catch indicate that the mackerel is an important part of the local sport fishery. On average, anywhere between 15 and 25 % of the mackerel caught in Massachusetts waters are caught by recreational fishermen.
The months of May and June are generally the peak spring period for mackerel in and around Mass Bay. The first mackerel of the season can be spotted as early as April depending on weather and water conditions. Once the fishing fraternity is notified about the return of mackerel, they are quick to respond as scores of fishermen head to the water armed with light rods, buckets, a good supply of mackerel trees and small shiny mackerel jigs.
During the summer mackerel leave local waters and spent the warm months of summer in the cooler northern waters of Maine and Canada. Once local waters start to cool, the mackerel returns kicking off mackerel mania once again. Their return stay lasts from the end of September through October and if conditions permit, later. Once again fishermen are driven into a frenzy with all the big mackerel that are around in the fall.
Mackerel are not only a great sport fish but an important component of the food chain. Larger fish such as striped bass, bluefish and sharks rely heavily on their numbers for adequate forage. Fishermen are quite likely to "stock up" on mackerel when they are plentiful, freeze them and utilize them later in t he season when stripers and bluefish arrive.
As table fare, mackerel are best when they are eaten as soon as they are caught. Their flesh is oily and tends to deteriorate when frozen for any length of time. To insure, at least, acceptable quality, mackerel should be frozen no longer than three months.
Mackerel spend their winters in the southern, offshore and migrate into the northern inshore waters during the warmer months. Mackerel, a schooling fish, can be found at all levels of the water column. Few fishermen realize that mackerel can be found as deep as six hundred feet and on the surface as well.
Schools of mackerel, sometimes made up of over a thousand individual fish, can be seen roaming the open water or invading local harbors. Schools of mackerel have been known to beach themselves when chased and corralled by savage bluefish. Usually, mackerel of the same size will make up a school.
Mackerel are sought after by both shore and boat fishermen. Shore anglers look for productive piers to work jigs and trees. Often times they will fill buckets with impressive numbers of these incredible speedsters. Pier fishermen generally agree that first light is the best time to fish for mackerel.
The tackle required for mackerel fishing is quite simple. A light rod and reel combo, spooled with eight pound test, a supply of mackerel jigs and a few different mackerel trees. The original multi colored trees work well and are a standard. There are now Silver mylar trees that have been extremely effective and the third tree that has become very popular among local fishermen is the feathered tree. This tree took a long time to catch on but when the mackerel are finicky, the feathers seem to turn them on. Some times two different sizes of hooks are to your advantage. Tinker’s are more readily to go after the smaller trees while, jacks go after the larger tree. Mackerel trees are also referred to as Christmas tree rigs.
Small jigs are also very popular among mackerel fishermen and attract good numbers of mackerel. Jigs can be combined with mackerel trees or they can be rigged in tandem. Most fishermen prefer jig weights from 1/3 to ½ ounce when rigging the singly or in tandem. For the most part, jigs weighing an ounce or two are used at the bottom of a mackerel tree rig.
As mentioned earlier, shore fishermen seem to prefer fishing from local piers. Many of the popular piers are public or located within marinas. Fishing is not limited to piers as there are good numbers of fishermen that cast jigs from beaches, points and jetties.
Within the city of Boston, there is one very popular pier. It is the Castle Island Pier. During a mackerel invasion the Castle Island Pier can be "shoulder to shoulder" with "pumped up" anglers. The Castle Island Pier is open 24 hours a day and there is adequate parking in the area. There are no fees to be paid and the fishing can be terrific.
Numerous other piers are located in the area and are quite popular. The public pier located in Lynn by the General Edwards Bridge is one such pier. A short walk from the parking area is required to get to the pier. Jutting out into the channel, the fishing is usually quite productive.
Other popular fishing locations for mackerel include the Salem Willows Pier, the Beverly Fishing Pier, the pier behind the Manchester Police Station and the Gloucester Breakwater.
Boat fishermen are blessed as they can travel to where the mackerel have been active. Boat fishermen generally make use of mackerel trees, sometimes rigging them two or three at a time. Catches numbering well into the hundreds are not uncommon for boat anglers. Often times anglers will haul in numerous fish at a time.
The first mackerel of the season will arrive at Stellwagen Bank. These first of the season arrivals will generally stay on the bank for some time. Fishermen can score big during this period by drift fishing and making use of chum to hold the schools close to the boat. When using chum use a frozen block of chum and put it into a me sh bag or bucket with holes and tie it off on one of the cleats at the head of the current. This technique allows you to control the flow of chum and keep it close to the boat.
Boat fishermen can generally score nicely during the spring and fall runs at the following locations: the East end of the Cape Cod Canal; Stellwagen Ledge; Minot’s Ledge just outside Cohasset; Thieves Ledge off Point Allerton; Graves Ledge, Boston; the Boston Dumping Grounds; and many locations within Boston and Salem Harbors.
When the mackerel arrive in full force, this is the time to break in a new fishermen. Don’t forget that these powerhouses will return in the fall and provide exceptional action when other sought after species are starting to migrate south.
This is the perfect time to introduce youngsters to the fast action of mackerel fishing. They will remember the experience and hopefully begin a successful and fun-filled fishing career..


Now that the summer season has come to a close and most of us are not quite ready to surrender our rod and reel combinations for shotguns and yard work, why not squeeze that last bit of fishing out of the season and shoot for good, old-fashioned flounder? The waters have started to cool, flounder have moved into shallow waters and they are actively feeding. Droplines, hooks and sinkers, and bait are the implements needed to pursue this delicate gastronomic delight.
For years, flounder have been taken for granted by most recreational fishermen. Over fishing and loss of habitat are only two of the culprits that are responsible for the decline in the numbers of flounder in local harbors during the past decades. With current regulations and strict conservation measures in effect, we are now starting to see a slow reversal of the downward swing in populations. The current regulations call for a minimum length of 12 inches and a maximum bag limit of 10 fish per person.
Despite the gloom and doom reports of many fishermen, flounder fishing in the Salem area has staged a comeback. Though the numbers are not what they were in the heyday of flounder fishing during the sixties, there are sufficient numbers of flounder so that anglers are satisfied. The bonus is that fall flounder are generally the heaviest of the catches of the year. Many fish weigh in excess of two pounds.
For those fishermen that throw the hook over and wait for the flounder to come to them, fishing is usually a disappointment. In order to be successful, fishermen must work for their catch. If you choose to still fish, at least use a spinning rod and cast and slowly retrieve your bait along the bottom in a systematic manner so that you cover all the water around the boat. Once you have completed the initial pattern then a move might be mandated.
BOAT LAUNCHING: There is no problem for fishermen that want to launch a boat late in the season. There is a launching facility located at Winter Island that remains open throughout the year. The ramp is paved and accessible during all tides. Fishermen can also launch their boats at Pope’s Landing in Danversport.
POPULAR LOCATIONS: Flounder can be plentiful without having to travel great distances. The first locations to try are found just inside the Salem/Beverly Bridge at the mouth of the North River and at the mouth of the Bass River. These areas are well protected and can be fished during a slight blow. Depending on the tide, the currents generally favor drift fishing.
Moving out of the river and into Beverly Harbor, the next stop should be at Tuck’s Point. The channel is often a good location for picking up a few flats. Some of the most productive areas are where the channel makes a cut as flounder will lay in the quiet water of the curve waiting for bait to pass by.
Moving on, the next stop should be at Monument Bar. This is a favored location by scores of fishermen. Fish at halftide or better. The whole mooring area from Monument bar to the Salem Willows should be worked systematically to produce the greatest numbers of fish.
Can numbers three and five located in Beverly Harbor have almost always produced flounder. When there were half day flounder boats in the harbor, Captains sometimes found it difficult to make fishermen realize that it was not necessary to travel to deep water to catch flounder. These locations almost always produced flounder.
OUTSIDE WINTER ISLAND: Two other productive spots that are located a short distance from Winter Island are buoys 18 and 22. These locations were always favorites of mine and generally produced well. Lining up the buoys between you and the power plant always seemed to be the right combination for success. Position yourself on the shallow side of the channel.
Heading further out is another location that was always good. This area is known as the Middle Ground. Work this area right over to the Haste. This is best fish by drifting. If the drift is running a bit too fast, throw over a five gallon bucket and secure it to the transom. This should help to slow you down to the proper drift speed. By the way, Great Haste is the location of the outfall pipe of the South Essex Sewage District. Any fisherman that spent his childhood fishing for flounder is quite aware of the reputation of the Haste. Some of the largest flounder were always caught in this area.
Many anglers like to fish in the area between Cat Island and the mouth of Marblehead Harbor. Even though flounder fishing can be good on all sides of the island, most fishermen prefer the Marblehead side. Hefty flounder are common in this area and it should not be overlooked.
RED ROOF MARKS THE SPOT: The stretch of water between Curtis Point and Mingo Beach has always been a favored location for hard core flounder fishermen. This is one area that produced good numbers of hefty flats during the fall months. Just a short distance away is the yellow house with the red tiled roof that is a marker for fertile flounder waters. When the drift is right, resist the urge to throw over the anchor. Fishing in depths of twenty to thirty feet seems to be preferred by most anglers. Chum pots or mesh bags filled with crushed sea clams are very effective in attracting flounder to the area.
Of all the flounder locations located within Salem and Beverly Harbors, Manchester Bay is probably the most productive and favored overall. It attracts all fishermen from the serious to the worm dunker that enjoys relaxing in "Cocktail Cove". Even the most laid back fisherman will generally score on fat fall flounder.
The mouth of Manchester Harbor draws fishermen from all around. It enjoys a reputation for holding fat fall flounder. On many occasions fishermen report limit catches from this area.
House Island is a great location for catching flounder all throughout the season but is particularly productive late in the season. This is another area that lends itself well to drift fishing if conditions allow. For the most part early fishermen score best.
BEST TIME: Just because the Labor Day holiday has come and gone. the Columbus Day holiday is nothing more than a memory and Veterans Day has slipped by doesn’t mean that the flounder fishing has also passed. This is generally considered to be the best flounder fishing of the year. It is also a pleasure to get out an extra day or two before winter grips the area.
It may be difficult to find sea worm this late in the season but that hardly presents a problem because there are other baits that are just as effective. Strips of clams will attract flounder as will night crawlers. I know, night crawlers are a fresh water bait. Crawlers are washed into the harbors during heavy rains and flounder will feed on them. The biggest drawback to using crawlers is that they will "bleach out" on the hook faster than a sea worm an=d require more frequent bait changes.
When the days are warm and the night brisk, brightly colored leaves tell us we should be getting ready for winter, I say play hookey for the day and convince a friend to do the same. Head to the harbor for one last try. Who knows, you just might catch enough flounder for a good meal and a few fillets for the freezer.


As we have mentioned many times before, Massachusetts offers anglers a wide variety of species of fish from small panfish to striped bass to giant tuna. Once the waters of Massachusetts Bay have heated up to the point that tuna start to congregate in Mass Bay to feed on populations of baitfish, tuna fishermen start to gather along the many locations that traditionally attract good numbers of giant tuna.
Tuna fishermen start their season by catching and preserving huge amounts of mackerel. The mackerel came and fishermen scored nicely and with the arrival of tuna, they can enjoy the fruits of their labors. The mackerel that was so carefully prepared will be cut into chum and painstakingly sewed into daisy chains to attract hungry tuna.
LEARN THE HARD WAY: Despite the often times frustrating weekend warriors that will move helter skelter through the tuna fleet, disregarding the unspoken rules of the water, tuna fishing, for many, is an enjoyable sport. For others, it is a way of life. Most tuna fishermen have had to learn the sport the hard way by trial and error as most anglers are quite close to the vest when it comes to giving out important information, such as productive baits, successful methods and important techniques. For many it is a mortal sin to divulge a productive location even though scores of fishermen know just where that location is. Any location can be hot on any given day but only experience will give you a feel for productive areas.
ON THE BANK. Fishermen from all over coastal Massachusetts seem to congregate in a limited number of locations. Stellwagen Bank, an under water bank that is rich with bait and stretches across Mass Bay, is popular among sport fishermen and is a prime tuna location. At times during the season, this underwater acreage has enough boats over it to create what looks like a small city.
One of the most popular locations on the bank is the northwest corner. This section of the bank is favored by anglers from the North Shore as the southeast corner is favored by anglers from the Cape. The bank is only fifteen miles out of Salem and a short distance from Gloucester. Fishermen arrive early on the bank so that plenty of jockeying can take place to gain a prime position. Prime spots include fishing along the edge of the bank. LORAN numbers will get you to the northwest corner of the bank but your exact position will be determined once you arrive. You may want the edge of the bank or you might choose to position your boat downstream from a well executed chum line. The numbers for the northwest corner of the bank are 13819.4 X 25668.0.
THE SOUTH END: The next important location on the bank is the southeast corner. Although favored by fishermen from the Cape and South Shore, it’s popularity is determined by the reported activity during any given period. If reports are positive, boats from all over the coast will make their way to the southeast corner and jockey for prime position. The LORAN numbers for the southeast corner are 13770.0 X 25520.0. Your exact location will have to be fine tuned.
AS THE SEASON WEARS ON: Jefferies Ledge draws tuna fishermen from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. The course for some Massachusetts fishermen is long, but the standards set by most fishermen deem the extra travel time to be worth the effort. Depend on the amount of bait in the area, the weather and the current conditions, many fishermen feel that the conditions found on Jefferies seem to favor the largest fish. For the most part, activity on Jefferies escalates as the season wears on.
Although there are numerous locations that are available to tuna fishermen, sharp anglers will keep a keen eye out for activity around them and add such locations to their log. The following locations are fished by friends of mine and they have all realized good action and tallied nice catches. The first is a hill that is generally productive. It rises to about 124 feet below the surface. A good many fish have been caught at this location and the best method of working this area has to be determined by the angler. Fish have been caught on the ball as well as by trolling. The numbers are 13725.0 X 44336.0.
ANOTHER HILL: Sharp rises and strong currents can make this next location somewhat difficult to fish. The hill rises to 113 feet and is favored by a good many fishermen. Despite the obvious difficulty fishing this hill will create, experienced and skillful fishermen will overcome these difficulties by adjusting their methods and techniques. The following numbers will get you there: 13704.0 X 44334.6.
IN THE BAY: There are a couple of other locations that don’t need loran numbers to get there but should not be overlooked. Each year fishermen locate, fight and land good numbers of tuna in Ipswich Bay. Often times anglers looking for bluefish or other species will accidently hook up with a tuna and the resulting action causes a heart-thumping, adrenaline high you could only imagine. Of course as the stories are told over and over again, anglers get pumped up all over again. Don’t overlook Ipswich Bay. Over the past few years, fishermen have observes schools of football tuna traveling in as close as Nahant’s Egg Rock. Reports of this activity seems to have increased over the past few years. Wether or not you choose to make a trip to Ipswich Bay or later in the fall to Nahant is totally up to you but I feel that fishermen should at least be aware of the potential for fish in these areas.
FIVE FISH: The next location was given to me by a successful friend of mine that has caught fish in this area throughout the season but prefers trolling during the fall months. He favors the edge of this sharp drop-off and admits holding to the edge can be difficult. He does not mind revealing the numbers of this spot despite the fact that he has taken five fish from this location.
Because conditions change frequently and fish are constantly on the move, this successful angler feels that the skill of the angler, his ability to read conditions, properly prepare and present baits and most of all his skill in handling a green fish, revealing numbers is only part of the equation that leads a fisherman to success. The numbers for this location are 13670.1 X 44332.9. When trolling in the area, try to stay close to the edges and drop-offs.
As experienced fishermen realize, numerous numbers have been proven productive by scores of anglers. A log of productive numbers should be kept and referred to during each trip. As you fish more, you will develop a "feel" for certain areas under different conditions. Keep trying and you will soon be lucky enough to experience the thrill and excitement of tight lines.


Most fishermen look forward to the time of year when the blustery winds of winter transform into the gentle breezes of spring. This is a sure sign of the beginning of the fishing season. Fishermen start to line the banks of their favorite ponds and streams in search of newly stocked trout. Bluefish anglers are forced to wait just a bit longer. For them, a sure sign of the start of blue fishing is when the spring run of mackerel starts to thin out. This indicates the arrival of the first bluefish of the season.
As with most species of fish, the migration of bluefish into the area is dependent on water temperatures and the availability of bait. Generally, the arrival of bluefish in Massachusetts takes place sometime in June. The first real numbers of bluefish caught by anglers usually happens around the 4th of July. Bluefish show up earlier along the Cape and islands.
For local fishermen. The first blues will be caught along Stellwagen Bank by anglers trolling deep=diving Rapala Magnums and Rebel Jawbreakers. Though the methods and techniques used for catching bluefish are varied, the most popular technique is trolling. Fishermen can cover a larger "patch" of water and the fish are less likely to "spook", especially during the first of the season. At times, though, problems do occur when a large numbers of boats have a school of blues corralled in a small area, The heavy boat traffic and the rumble of engines is almost guaranteed to put fish down.
Generally, the first fish of the season are somewhat difficult to locate as they can be anywhere from the surface to deep water. Moist fishermen start the season off by trolling with downriggers or wire line to get the needed depth. A good starting point is usually trolling at about 25 to 40 feet.
Some fishermen don’t like the idea of having to spent big bucks on downriggers and absolutely hate wire line, so they opt for trolling weights. For these fishermen, trolling weights seem to make sense. Most fishermen make use of trolling weights in the 2 to 8 oz. Range. The biggest drawback to using trolling weights id that not only are you fighting the weights but your fishing depth is little more than guess work. One way to help identify depth is to count as you let out line. When a fish hits, you know you let your line out to a 10 count and can repeat the count getting your line to approximately the same depth. Keep in mind that boat speed and currents will also effect the depth at which you are trolling.
If there is one thing that is very important when trolling with deep diving plugs it is that the plugs must be kept "clean". That is to say, no grass should be allowed to gather on the plug as this will effect it’s action and fish will stay clear. Watch your rod tip, this will let you know if there is grass on your plug. When the rod tip stops bouncing, it’s time to clean the plug.
Many times during the beginning of the season, bluefish will be seen "finning" on the surface. When this happens, too many fishermen will cast a large popper right into the middle of the school of fish. All this will do is spook the fish and send then deep. Instead, shut down the engin and allow your boat to slowly drift in the direction of the fish. Cast poppers to the edge of the school avoiding a "direct score" on the school. This technique is generally successful in drawing fish away from the school.
During the first few weeks after the arrival of bluefish, Stellwagen Bank is generally a "hot spot" with plenty of activity. Water temperatures on the top of the bank as usually a few degrees warmer that the rest of Massachusetts Bay. Fishing the double "L" on the bank and the edges often produce the greatest numbers of blues. The currents and up swells created around the bank hold plenty of bait and thus keep bluefish in the area.
As the season progresses, look for greater numbers of bluefish to be scattered throughout Mass. Bay. Weather conditions play a large part in just where the bluefish will be. Look for areas that water temperatures are slightly higher than surrounding areas. Keep a sharp eye out for any slick that is detected on the surface. Experience plays a part in the success of many bluefish anglers.
It is usual around the 4th of July or later when surf fishermen start their search for bluefish. Devereux Beach is generally popular location among bluefish anglers. Fishing the beach right after an easterly wind, though difficult to fish because of all the grass and debris, is very productive. Surf fishermen will also fish Singing Beach in Manchester, Revere Beach and Lynn Beach.
During a warm weather spell when winds are predominately out of the southwest, look for bluefish 3 to 5 miles out. The warmer surface waters are blown offshore and the blues will follow. During these conditions. Good blue fishing will usually occur around the "B" buoy, the old Marblehead Dumping Grounds and along the Graves. Deep diving plugs remain the best choice in these areas. When the winds shift to onshore, look for bluefish around the Pigs, Egg Rock, Revere, Lynn and Marblehead.
In Salem, two of the steadiest locations for catching bluefish have been the Gooseberries and the Breakers. For some reason, bluefish will generally hold in these areas during most conditions. Though most of the fish that are landed cannot be classified as monsters, a sufficient number of bluefish in the five to seven pound range can be caught when the area seems to be in a slump.
At the Breakers, located just outside Baker’s Island, live bait fishing is extremely productive, especially during the late afternoon into dusk periods. Live pogies are deadly. Live bait seems to produce fish that are somewhat larger than those caught on plugs. Drifting chunked bait can also be quite productive.
Drifting baits can be executed by using a plastic float, a balloon or letting the bait drift freely in the current. Night fishermen like to use balloons so they can insert a small light stick into the balloon and keep an eye on their bait.
Newcomb’s Ledge is another area that is productive for bluefish anglers. Trolling the area is the most productive method for attracting blues. Many times, huge schools of fish can be seen during afternoon periods. Fall fishing in this area is extremely productive.
Moving towards Gloucester and Rockport, bluefish have a habit of congregation around the Gloucester Breakwater. Thatcher’s Island and Twin Lights are also excellent areas for bluefish. Often times, fishermen trolling umbrella rigs have their rigs assaulted and torn apart by aggressive bluefish.
Bluefish also like the mouth of the Merrimack River where currents are strong and bait is plentiful. At times it can be difficult to maneuver a boat in the area as traffic is heavy with bluefish anglers.
`When the action pick up and the adrenalin is flowing, extreme caution must be exercised in order to avoid injury and increase the thrill and excitement of tight lines.


Many outdoors men have traded in their rod and reel combinations for shotguns but there are still numbers of fishermen that refuse to admit that the season is drawing to a close. These are the die hard anglers that realize that November is a very rewarding and productive month for the hardy cod fisherman. With the right clothing and a thermos of hot coffee at hand, small boat fishermen can consistently tally limit catches of impressive cod. Numerous near shore locations produce limits of cod so that late season anglers can enjoy a meal of fresh fish or lay in a supply of fresh fillets for the long and cold winter that lies ahead. Let’s face it, a bowl of homemade fish chowder and a slab of hot corn bread is just the right thing to take the chill out of a cold mid February night. Time spent now makes this possible.
SALEM: Fishermen work Newcomb’s, Gales, Pilgrim and Pickett Ledges with great success. Cole Ridge has also proven itself and is within easy reach of a small boat on a good day. Tinker’s Ledge gives up good numbers of cod as soon as water temperatures start to drop. On Tinker’s, both steakers and scrod cod are taken on both jigs and bait. Numerous hills between Tinker’s Ledge and Halfway Rock yield numbers of cod to jig and bait fishermen. Two other locations worth a drop are Hill #47 and Hill #101.
NAHANT: Good cod fishing can be found around Egg Rock. Successful anglers drift while bouncing jigs or presenting bait. Sea clams and shrimp are baits of choice among effective anglers. A hill that rises from 80 to 50 feet and located about a mile southeast of East Point can be quite productive. Numerous hills can be found all around Nahant. Off Nahant Rock, located in Broad Sound, there are plenty of humps and bumps that give up a fish or two before you move on to the next location.
SHIPWRECKS: There are also quite a few wrecks that are within easy reach of small boat anglers when the weather cooperates. They don’t generally produce bulging catches of cod but taken together with the rock piles in the area they can help to boost your catch to limit proportions. Some of the better known wrecks in the area are the old steam lighter Herbert, the passenger steamer Romance, the fishing boat Sweet Sue and the freighter City of Salisbury. For more information on other wreck contact your local tackle shop.
BAG LIMITS: There are limits on cod for the recreational fisherman. These limits help to reduce fishing pressure and help in the restoration process. The current limit is 21 inches in length with a ten fish limit placed on each angler. A twenty fish catch between you and your partner is not a bad day of fishing and sure beats the heck out of raking leaves all day.
Before the bitter cold of winter settles in and there are still comfortable day with warm temps, try your luck at some of these great locations.
The Loran numbers listed below are for the locations mentiuoined throughout this article. Each and every one of these locations has yielded good numbers of cod during the month of November. So if the boat has not been hauled and the urge strikes give these locations a try and stock up the freezer for the coming winter. Tight lines.

     1. Newcomb’s Ledge        13886.4 x 25809.0
         2. Gales Ledge        13885.4 x 25833.0
     3. Hill #47   13885.1 x 25816.5
     4. Hill #101 13888.5 x 25765.0
     5. Cole Ridge #1 13877.5 x 25814.5
     6. Cole Ridge #2 13882.2 x 25811.5
    7. Cole Ridge #3  13875.9 x 25810.7
    8. Halfway Rock #1          13894.2 x 25806.8
    9. Halfway Rock #2          13896.8 x 25809.5
  10. Herbert        13961.2 x 25882.4
  11. Romance13969.6 x 25813.8
 12. Sweet Sue           13979.2 x 25815.0
13. City of Salisbury13974.4 x 25808.7


The Salem area has justifiably earned the reputation as one of the best striper areas along the North Shore. With it’s many islands, shoal areas, rockpiles and bars, it isn’t hard to understand why Salem has earned this prestigious reputation.
Shore fishermen enjoy many productive locations. One of those is Winter Island where anglers cast chunks of bait into the night surf from the lighthouse, around the corner to Wikiki Beach. Both schoolies and keeper sized stripers test angler’s skills as they try to guide them away from the numerous rocks that make up the shore of Winter Island. This is especially true around the lighthouse.
Boat fishermen have an almost infinite number of locations to present a wide assortment of baits to waiting fish. Eagle Bar is a productive location where good numbers of stripers respond to tube n’ worms and umbrella rigs trolled along the face of the bar. The gut between Cat Island (now Children’s Island) and Commorant Rock usually hold good numbers of big stripers. Divers in the area have reported seeing stripers hugging the bottom that have been estimated to be as big as sixty inches. The Gooseberries are a series of small islands that always produce good numbers of fish. I don’t think I have ever been skunked when fishing along this series of islands.
Fishing the ocean side of Baker’s Island along the edge of the channel to Newcomb’s Ledge is not only productive but can be challenging as well. The rocks are numerous and caution is advised as many props have been claimed by unseen rocks that have interrupted a live lining trip.
OTHER SIDE: On the Marblehead side of the harbor, you will find one of my favorite spots, a pair of islands that hold good numbers of stripers. Brown and Gerry Islands are best fished during the late afternoon into evening with live eels. It was in this location that I experienced one of my best days of striper fishing. I landed eleven keeper sized stripers in one afternoon of fishing. At he time the length limit on stripers was 36 inches. Just a short distance away is Peach’s Point, another area that is good for bass.
Crossing the entrance to Marblehead Harbor, fishermen find themselves on Marblehead Neck. Castle Rock is a favorite among both the boating crowd and the surf fishing fraternity. Chunks work well for both styles of fishing. Moving along the Neck, the next productive area that fishermen encounter is the gut between Tinker’s Island and the Neck. This area is very tricky but well worth the effort to work it effectively. It is very rocky and caution is advised. Fishing the top of the tide is safest but good sized fish are caught at all stages of the tide. Live eels and live mackerel consistently produce year in and year out.
IN TIGHT: Rounding the Neck you come across waters that are not meant for the faint of heart. Working chunks of bait in tight to the Breakers and the Pigs will generally yield fishermen impressive catches of good sized bass. The best time of day to fish these areas is generally during the early morning. Impressive and eye opening strikes will occur on the drop as fish hit fast and fight hard. Once you are in the area, don’t forget to give Ram Island a shot. Devereux Beach is always favored by local surf fishermen. Devereux produces best during the fall.
Over to Swampscott, Little Point is a good location for impressive bass. Galloupes Point and Tedesco Rocks are great areas for presenting live baits. Hungry bass are usually quick to respond to these offerings. Surf anglers show a preference for Prescott Beach, King’s Beach and Red Rock.
JUMBOS AND SCHOOL FISH: Nahant anglers fish Egg Rock as well as Sanders Ledge. Chunkers and live liners show a preference for Castle Rock and East Point. Bass Point and Forty Steps yield good catches and are well known among the experienced striper fishermen. Every year, good numbers of jumbo bass are caught from the waters around Nahant.
Around Lynn, schoolies are caught from the Lynn Marsh Road at many of the bridges. Sea worms are generally the choice of bait for most bridge fishermen. In the harbor there are numerous rocky locations for both bait and artificial bait fishermen. Revere fishermen like to cast baits along Point of Pines and then work their way up the Saugus River. Shore fishermen cast chunks of bait from the pier below the General Edwards Bridge during the night tides. Revere Beach is also frequented by scores of local surf fishermen. It holds a reputation of being friendly to surf fishermen and impressive bass are taken each year from the celebrated location. Many local anglers like to fish the beach by Kelly’s Roast Beef. I am not totally convinced that anglers like to fish this area because of the great fishing or because of the nearby food and coffee. I suppose that any time you can combine good food with good fishing, it’s a plus.
Winthrop guys and gals fish both the Broad Sound side of town as well as the Boston side. Casters work the rocky shores and high spots with bucktails or plastics while trollers show a preference for tube n’ worm combinations, trolling bars and 9er rigs. Casters can improve their productivity by adding a strip of bait to their jigs.
These are but a few of the best areas around Salem. When in the area, give them a try it will be worth the effort.


As the summer sun causes a rise in water temperatures, the time has come when fishermen start to get ready for the offshore season. Will it be tuna or Mako shark, a species that has grown steadily in popularity over the past few years.
The fertile tuna grounds located close to Boston and Gloucester allow boats in the twenty foot range to participate in the ever growing offshore big game fishery. Gear can be a simple as a hand line or as elaborate as a custom rod equipped with a Penn International or Fin-Nor reel spooled with 130 lb. test line. Over the past couple of years, fishermen have switched from cable leaders to monofilament leaders. The current trend is towards the newly developed, high strength, nearly invisible fluorocarbon leaders. Many anglers feel that this development has been responsible for the increase in hook-up of leader-shy tuna.
Stellwagen Bank with it’s varied currents holds an incredible amount of bait and fish. Because of it’s distinctive combination of currents and structure, the up swells disorients the bait and makes them easy prey for all predators. By the time the big game season starts, the Northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank is a virtual floating city of fishing vessels looking for an opportunity to fight a giant tuna. Salem anglers only have to run to 13891.4 X 25668.0 to reach the Northwest corner while fishermen from the Cape fish the Southeast corner of Stellwagen at 13770.0 X 25520.0. Jefferies Ledge is an under water mountain range that runs from Gloucester to the Gulf of Maine. Some fishermen drift bait while others troll daisy chains and squid bars along a hill at 13725.0 X 44336.0. You might also troll along the sharp drop-offs around 13670.1 X 44332.9. The same up swell features that draw huge schools of bait along Stellwagen are also in effect along Jefferies Ledge. Massachusetts anglers might also try their luck in Ipswich Bay. Ipswich Bay seems to be most active during the latter part of summer into the fall period. More than one bluefish angler has been more than a little surprised at being spooled by an 800 lb. tuna rather than an 8 lb. Chopper. When the tuna season closes, some fishermen enjoy catch and release fishing for "football" tuna in close to shore from Halfway Rock to Egg Rock. The potential is there and if conditions are right, small;; boat anglers can find themselves in a tussle of their lives.
Most of the mistakes made after a hookup are usually due to a fisherman not being able to keep his cool. This is commonly called "equipment failure" back on the dock. But the most successful tuna fishermen are those that pick themselves up and head back out to hopefully learn from their mistakes. There is no avoiding this kind of frustration or hardship to become a successful tuna fisherman. You might get lucky once, but not year in and year out.
Another part of the offshore fishing scene that is becoming more and more popular is searching for sharks, particularly makos. This gamester shows up in our waters when temperatures rise to between 60 and 65 degrees. The Massachusetts record for this sleek and graceful predator is over 600 lbs. And caught off Nomans Island in 1987. Most of the makos we see off our shores range from pups to about 300 lbs., though larger fish are there. These sharks are attracted to this area by huge schools of herring, though at times and places, bluefish can make up most or all of the mako’s diet.
The use of tuna type gear is not necessary. Most local fishermen use combinations capable of handling 30 to 50 lb. Line on 6/0 Special Senator reels though some anglers continue to use the Penn "black beauties".
A strong wire leader is necessary to avoid cutoffs by the sharks teeth or it’s sandpaper skin. Some anglers prefer stainless steel while others opt for cable or piano wire leaders, tied to 8/0 to 14/0 hooks.Pete's Bait & Tackle
To attract the sharks to your baited hooks, many fishermen bang on the side of the boat, splash buckets in the water and otherwise create noise and disturbances in the water. In addition to the noise that is created, fishermen will also chum the water with ground up fish and sea water that is systematically ladled over the side. Once a slick is started, it is sweetened with chunks of bait including mackerel or herring.
After the shark has taken your bait, let the fish run and then strike the fish with three or four sharp jabs with the rod. Be ready for the powerful first rush and often times spectacular leaps. Be very sure that your catch is completely worn out before bringing it to the side of the boat either for tagging or capture. If you have never wired a mako before, it would be best to have an experienced shark angler on board for your firs couple of trips.
Mako steaks are a top quality product and to insure freshness, bled the fish and ice it down immediately. Any delay in preparing the fish will leave a distinct and strong ammonia odor in the flesh and curtail it’s flavor.
The mako steaks can be soaked in brine before cooking. One popular way to prepare shark steaks is to marinate them in citrus juice for a couple of hours before firing up the grill. After the steaks have been marinated, lightly rub oil on the steaks and season them with fresh ground pepper and place on a hot grill or under the broiler. Generally, four or five minutes on each side will be sufficient for a one-inch-thick steak. Serve with vegetables and your favorite wine and you will think you are in heaven.


Serious fishermen all over New England are familiar with the great fishing that takes place on Jefferies Ledge. Jefferies is a haven for sport fishermen. Private boats, party boats and charter boats make their way to these fertile fishing grounds, one of the most popular in the area.
Jefferies is an under water mountain range that starts just off the coast of Gloucester. It’s crescent shape allows it to make it’s course right into the Gulf of Maine. Because of it’s mountainous terrain, shifting currents and abundant food source, Jefferies Ledge has become a popular feeding ground for numerous species of fish. Some of the species of fish that demand the attention of sport fishermen include bluefin tuna, cod, haddock, pollock and halibut.
The most popular and productive method for fishing Jefferies is jigging. This technique has been perfected by the tremendous numbers of fishermen that work Jefferies throughout the season. Some of the individual fish that have been brought to gaff have been very impressive. Every year halibut are taken on party boats and private boats alike. Many of these prized fish will tip the scales at between fifty and two hundred pounds.
The vast majority of fishermen that fish Jefferies are mostly interested in food for the table. Although it is nice to bring a "steaker" cod to gaff, fishermen are quite happy to bring home numbers of ten pound plus cod. During the spring and late fall it is not uncommon to hook into a twenty or thirty pound cod.
During the past few years, haddock fishing has greatly improved with good numbers of haddock taking jigs and jigs, sweetened with clams. Jefferies remains high on the list of haddock fishermen. For the most part, haddock seem to average about eight or nine pounds with a fair to good numbers of fish tipping the scales at up to fifteen pounds. Although most fishermen will continue to jig for haddock but a good number of "old salts" prefer fishing with bait.
Spring fishermen are drawn to Jefferies Ledge for some great pollock fishing. Racing pollock are popular all over the ledge from spring into early summer. The two most popular techniques for attracting hungry racers is jigging and trolling. Jig fishermen have discovered that the biggest pollock are generally attracted to teasers. Rigging a single or double teaser above a jig is the accepted method. Teasers can be norwegian style worms, feathers or tinsel and flashaboo. Teasers should be rigged about twelve to twenty inches above the jig. The hottest colors seem to be fluorescent yellow and green.
Jigging is a popular technique used by most fishermen. As you can imagine this popular technique has been fine tuned. This fine tuning includes the style of jig being used, the style and number of teasers and the speed at which jigging takes place. Fishermen have experimented with many styles of jigs. Many jigs have come and gone but the experienced fishermen will generally stick with the proven Norwegian jig. The stainless steel model is preferred over the chrome plated model despite it’s additional cost. Other jigs in use include the Vike jig, a take off of the Norwegian jig, the diamond jig and numerous home made jigs. The herring jig is used and is most effective during heavy currents. It’s slim design allows it to cut through currents without drifting far down current.
Jig weight is important when fishing Jefferies as the currents created by it’s mountainous structures can be quite strong. Lighter jigs will never reach the bottom where the fish are. Even the tide can make a difference in the currents and the size of the jig that will be necessary to reach the bottom. For the most part, a jig with a weight of at least 17 ½ ounces seems to fit the bill on most occasions.
By adding teasers to their jigs, fishermen have increased their catch by many times. A teaser can be just about any material with a hook imbedded in it. Often times fishermen don’t even use a hook in the teaser and use it strictly as an attractor. Some fishermen find that using flies also works well.
One of the most popular and now what seems to be the most productive is a teaser that was introduced a few years ago. This productive jig is the shrimp tail teaser. It is made of soft plastic. It is available rigged or unrigged as a replacement.
Styles of jigging vary with each fisherman. There are slow jiggers, fast jiggers, high jiggers, low jiggers and twisting jiggers. There are also erratic jiggers and twisters. All claim to have the proper technique for attracting the greatest number of fish. I have found over the years that a deliberate slow technique with limited erratic motion will usually be very productive.
Different tricks are tried in the hopes of increasing the catch. One such trick that has proven to be very worthwhile, especially when deep water jigging is to add a small light stick just above the jig. This technique has been proven and many fishermen swear by it’s effectiveness.
Depth finders are essential for fishing Jefferies. Not only do they let you know just where the hills and valleys are but they can identify schools of fish. Loran units are very valuable as they bring the fisherman to the exact point that has been productive in the past. They guide anglers to specific points and structure.
The following are a list of LORAN numbers located on Jefferies that have proven to be very effective. On your next trip out give them a try, I am sure you will be more than satisfied.
       LORAN Numbers Location  Description
13610.0 X 44337.5        130 ft. Hill
     13709.5 X 44334.6        125 ft. Hill
     13636.1 X 44350.0        110 ft. Hill
    13612.2 X 44345.1         Hill
    13725.0 X 44341.0         Hill
   13698.4 X 44346.1         150 ft. Hole
  13670.0 X 44338.0         200 ft. Hole
 13632.1 X 44349.6          200 ft. Hole
 13689.0 X 44296.0     Tillies Bank


Labor Day has come and gone and the thoughts of this past summer are still fresh in our minds. Many people start thinking about the rapidly approaching holiday season but fishermen tend to concentrate on the third fishing season.
The third fishing season begins in local waters when the waters start to cool, the "weekend warriors" have put up their boats and the summer species have started their southern migration into warmer waters. This fruitful season provides fishermen the opportunity for some quality ground fishing as well as the chance to stock the freezer with fresh fillets for the upcoming winter months.
One area that is known to offshore fishermen all over New England, well fished by the fleet of party boats, charter boats and an armada of private vessels is a crescent shaped mountain range that starts just off Gloucester and wind up in the Gulf of Maine. It’s shifting currents and mountainous terrain provides prime feeding grounds for numerous species of fish. Haddock, cusk, halibut, wolffish and cod are all common here. This fertile fishing ground is none other than Jefferies Ledge.
Groundfish Time: Over the years, the numbers of haddock have fallen dramatically, but in the past few years the numbers of haddock have rebounded. Many fishermen have experienced the joy of catching more haddock than cod on some trips. Five to eight pound haddock seem to be the rule. Jig fishermen seem to do better than bait fishermen especially when they tip their jig with sea clams. Bait fishermen do well attracting haddock. Cod is readily available and often times fishermen tally limit catches.
During the third season, cod numbers increase as the water temperatures drop and fishermen catch sufficient numbers of fish for a good meal as well as a few fillets for the freezer. There are times that bottom bouncers will hook up with twenty pound cod and sometimes better. Third season cod have hung from the shop scales and pushed the needle of the scale well past the forty pound mark. Years before the decline of the cod fishery, many cod in the sixty pound range were weighed in.
Keep in mind that the weather during this third season can change as fast as you can change your mind. Strong winds cam blow up fast and change direction quickly. Pay attention to the limitations of your boat and keep safety in mind at all times. This is not the time of year to challenge Mother Nature, for if you do, you are sure to lose.
Methods: Jig fishermen will generally tally the most impressive catches. A wide assortment of jig are used with the Hopkins, norwegian style, kastmaster and Zing-ama-jigs among the most popular. Jig weights are usually 17 ounces or better.
Stout rods capable of working these jigs will work to your benefit. Reels capable of handling 50 to 80 pound test line seem to be the most common. The most common are 4/0 and 6/0 reels giving fishermen sufficient line to fish deep water.
Techniques and teasers: The actual technique fir jigging is just about as varied as the fishermen. There is fast jigging, slow jigging, high jigging, low jigging and erratic jigging. Each fishermen claims that he has perfected his style of jigging. Generally, a slow jigging technique with few erratic motions attract the greatest numbers of fish, and quite often the heaviest fish of the trip. The theory being that the largest fish don’t move as fast as the smaller fish and therefor will pass over a quickly moving jig.
Not only does the style of jig you choose help to attract fish but your choice of terminal tackle plays an important role in your formula for success. Whether you decide to use a teaser or not can effect the results of your trip. The added action of a teaser helps to attract fish.
Teasers come in all sorts of sizes, styles and colors. One of the most popular teasers over the years has been the norwegian worm. Placed about 12 inches above the jig or sometimes right on the swivel it often catches fish itself. One teaser that has steadily gained popularity in recent years is the shrimp tail teaser. This soft plastic teaser is made by Zing Products and is rapidly becoming a favorite among ground fishermen. Fishermen are also using a solid bodies squid as a teaser. When rigged properly, it’s tentacles move in a manner that attracts fish.
Deep water jig fishermen are now starting to realize that by adding a light stick above their jig their catch ratios improve significantly. For quite some time fishermen have always shown a preference for the glow-in-the-dark teasers but for some reason they are now finally realizing how good the light sticks work out.
Drifting is another technique that helps fishermen put more fish in the boat. A slow drift allows fishermen to cover a greater amount of ground. If the drift is right, fishermen can stay with a school of fish for quite some time.
Last items: Fishermen that travel to Jefferies will often times trailer their boat to Gloucester as it makes the run a much shorter trip. Jefferies starts just about six miles off Cape Ann. Although a good many trips are made to the edge of the ledge by smaller boats some of the best fishing takes place further out.
There are a couple of thing that you should have that will help to increase you catch substantially. A good depth finder will not only help you find the edges, drop-offs and hills but it also allows you to identify and follow schools of fish. The next thing that will help you in your quest for fish is a LORAN or GPS. These important navigational aids have come down in price and are affordable for even the small boat fisherman.
The following LORAN numbers will bring you to areas that have been productive for a good many fishermen. Give them a try and let us know what you think.
Hills: 13725.0 X 44341.0 Edges: 13632.1 X 44349.6
13612.2 X 44345.1        13670.0 X 44338.0
13662.1 X 44350.0        13698.4 X 44346.1
13709.5 X 44334.6
13610.0 X 44337.5


As the days become shorter and the temperatures cooler, fishermen think about the unpleasant task of hauling and winterizing the boat. Others look toward the shorter and cooler days as a signal to get prepared for the great fall cod fishing that is about to start.
By the time Thanksgiving rolls around most fishermen have given up the rods and reels. Despite the lateness of the season, there are still a good number of days that resemble a warm spring period. Wouldn’t be nice to wet a line on one of these days?
It is late enough in the season that we are on the verge of winter storms, but they have yet to arrive. It is a transition period. Although storms do take place, the severity of the storms are generally on the lower end of the spectrum. Quiet days. Light breezes and bright skies should be taken advantage of.
Fishermen that trailer their boats are at a distinct advantage over those that rely on commercial dock rentals. There are sufficient numbers of access point and launching facilities that can accommodate the late season cod fisherman.
Inshore locations: Salem Sound, a short distance north of Boston, is one of those spots that can be good to winter fishermen. There are numerous locations within the harbor limits that hold cod. There is generally a mix of undersized and just limit catches. One of the most productive spots is Coney Ledge. The eastern edge of this spot drops off rapidly to about 50 feet and is generally the most productive. Fishermen declare the 6 and 9 ounce norwegian style jig, rigged with a strip of bait and/or a teaser does the job of attracting cod nicely.
The next location covers the waters from Eagle Bar to Cutthroat Shoal. During the years that a party boat ran out of Salem, this was one of their favorite spots to drop a jig or bait. This location was one of the first spots that hold cod and one of the last to find the cod departing. Currents and up swells create just the right mix to attract plenty of bait. Because of the currents, jigs that are slender generally perform the best.. Hopkins and Kastmaters are among the most chosen.
Bowditch Ledge, located between the Salem Channel and Eagle Bar is another area that is usually very productive. Although fair numbers of fish are caught at both ends of the season, fishermen must realize that moves are necessary in order to be successful. The cod fishing of today is not like it was fifteen years ago.
House Ledge and Hardy Rocks are shallow areas surrounded by waters in excess of fifty feet. This was a spot that was popular among the local party boats and many of the smaller private charter boats. Today, House Ledge and Hardy Rocks still produce cod for local anglers.
Pilgrim Ledge and Gales Ledge are located just outside Baker’s Island and are very popular among the local cod fishermen. Both jigs and sea clams attract fish but the combination of jigs and clams seem to be preferred by the majority of anglers. On occasion, cod well into the teens have been over the gunwalls of private boats.
Tinker’s Ledge continues to be among the favorite cod locations among local fishermen. Both ends of the season are productive and there is usually an abundance of market sized cod. Located just outside Marblehead, Tinker’s Ledge is an easy location to reach, even for smaller boats, and is extremely popular. Most fishermen seem to prefer bait as jigs have a tendency to get hung up on the bottom. If a jig gets hung up on bottom vegetation it generally means a lost jig.
Within ten miles of Halfway Rock:  The following locations are located within ten miles of Halfway Rock. Within these boundaries there are numerous locations that have proven themselves time and time again. Hills, ledges, valleys, hard humps and wrecks all provide prime cod fishing locations.
Two of the very popular locations among local cod fishermen are Saturday Night Ledge and Newcomb’s Ledge. Both ledges hold good numbers of cod during the spring and again during the fall. Newcomb’s Ledge is located just off the "Groaner", a whistle buoy located just outside Baker’s island. Most fishermen seem to prefer jigs in these locations but bait fishermen also score well. Larger cod seem to be caught more often at Saturday Night Ledge..
Many of the hills in the area attract both fish and fishermen. When fishing the hills it is generally more productive to fish the quiet side of the hill, that is fish the inside of the hill on an incoming tides and the outside on the outgoing tide. Two of the most popular hills are Hill#47 and the 101 Hill. The LORAN numbers for these hills are 13885.1 X 25816.5 and 13888.5 X 25765.0 respectively.
Other hills that have been quite productive include the following hills; Hill #60, Hill #115 and Hill # 120. All these hills can be located on the charts and are named by the depths that they rise to. All the hills have been productive and are best fished with jigs, tipped with bait. Expect to take a couple of fish from each location but don’t expect to fill a bucket at any one spot. The LORAN numbers for hill # 60 are 13957.1 X 25793.0. Plug in the following numbers to find hill #115, 13896.1 X 25774.0 and hill #120, 13910.0 X 25776.5.
Hard Humps are other locations that can be very productive for bottom fishermen. Often time these locations are overlooked by most fishermen. Here are LORAN numbers for a couple productive hard humps. The first numbers are; 13894.3 X 25735.0 and the location of the second hump is 13892.2 X 25740.0. These hard humps are productive during the spring and fall and will continue to hold cod well into winter. Keep in mind that the strong currents created by the moving tide and the humps will require fishermen to use jig of at least 17 ounces.
December often times has unseasonably warm days. During these time why not cast a line or drop a jig for some late season cod. The January thaw provides fishermen with the opportunity to do some cod fishing from the shore as well as from boats. Some party boats in the area will start "snowball" trips during February. Winter fishing is for the hardy and the rewards are great. After all, nothing beats a hot, fresh cooked New England fish chowder on a cold winter night. This is truly the great life.


The tautog is a daytime feeder with peak feeding periods falling at dawn and dusk. The tautog, also known as blackfish, is generally found in shallow water and identifies with structure. Depending on your location, tautog can be found in waters as deep as 150 feet. Tautog move into shallow water early with peak spring fishing occurring in April and May. Fall fishing really starts to heat up as soon as water temperatures start to drop and peaks in October and November with fish being caught into December.
Locations: Tautog inhabit shallow waters that contain an abundance of structure. They are territorial and generally establish a home ground. Tautog will only move out of their claimed territory for short periods of time to feed. Their migration is limited to moving from shallow to deep water at different times of the year. Limited numbers of smaller fish will stay in the shallows all year long. As winter arrives and tautog move offshore, they will generally inhabit bottom that contains huge boulders or numerous rockpiles.
Inshore locations include rocky areas, jetties, bridge abutments, pilings, deep cutting shorelines and mussel beds. Wrecks are another location that is popular among blackfish.
Growth and size: The tautog has a slow growth rate and requires six to ten years to achieve a weight of between two and four pounds. It’s lifespan generally spans thirty-five years. Males grow faster and live longer than females. The number of eggs deposited by the female during spawning is in direct relation to her size.
The average size tautog caught in Massachusetts is usually between two and five pounds. Fish reaching between ten and twelve pounds are surprisingly common. The Massachusetts record stands at twenty-two pounds, nine ounces.
Tackle: When it comes to selecting tackle the choice is generally a heavy rod and reel combination capable of handling twenty to forty pound test line. Conventional gear is the preferred choice of experienced tautog fishermen as spinning gear just isn’t designed to take the punishment that is part of tautog fishing.
Terminal tackle is kept to a minimum. A basic two hook bottom rig is chosen because of the harsh conditions and rocky structure that is associated with "taug" fishing. Many fishermen choose to make their own rigs using leader material up to 100 lb. test with 60 and 80 lb. the most common. Stout hooks, sharpened to a perfect point are the most important part of the tautog fishing system.
Catching them: The most productive method for catching tautog is still fishing. Anchoring above a rocky bottom, over a wreck or up current of a bridge is the first step to a successful tautog trip. When fishing rockpiles look for the sharp drop-offs and cliff like segments. Never overlook wrecks.
Feeding tautog will often hit a falling bait or as soon as it reaches the bottom. The strike is far from explosive or even hard hitting. It is best described as a gentle tap. Oftentimes it is very difficult to determine an actual "hit. In order to determine a genuine strike and execute a successful hook-up, there must be no slack in the line. Once you detect a strike hit the fish immediately with a quick and solid motion. Any hesitation will probably result in the loss of the fish.
The quick and decisive hit is not a display of macho behavior but a technique used to successfully set the hook in a mouth full of bone and to immediately gain control over the fish. This quick action will help to prevent the fish from moving back into the structure and running the line across rocks so that he will cut himself free. Once the hook is set, start your retrieve at once. It is imperative to get the fish moving off the bottom and in an upward movement. As soon as possible.
Successful fishermen must check their lines and terminal tackle often to prevent the most common cause of lost fish, equipment failure. The term can also be translated into fishermen laziness. It’s a good idea to strip a few yards of line off your reel each time a fish is brought to gaff. A fight in the rocks is sure to nick the line and weaken it substantially. Hooks should be sharpened at the start of each trip and frequently thereafter.
Try these: If one studies the coast from Marblehead to Gloucester many locations are suitable for tautog fishing. Most of the fishing is done from a boat but there are suitable locations that can be successfully fished from shore. One spot that has proven itself time and time again is the Kernwood Bridge. The Kernwood bridge is a prime location due to it’s shallow water, abundant structure and it’s closeness to clam flats. Bridge fishermen generally use sea clams, sea worms and shrimp.
The Salem/Beverly Bridge can be another location that tautog fishermen can score. The abundance of barnacles, nearby clam flats and structure make the bridge a good location. The areas around the pilings generally prove best.
Marblehead is one of the best tautog areas along the North Shore. It sports numerous ledges rockpiles and other suitable habitat for tautog. It also appear that there are limited areas suitable for spawning.
The gut between Marblehead Neck and Tinker’s Island is a prime location for tautog. The rocky bottom and huge boulders offer good hiding places and suitable habitat for tautog. Many fishermen have been successfully using crabs in this area.
Another location that has produced good numbers of tautog is Doliber Point to Fort Sewall. This area seems to be most active during the first couple of hours of daylight. Tom Moore’s Rock, better known for it’s great striper fishing is also a good location for tautog. Sea clams and shrimp prove to be among the best baits.
Many of the rocky ledges along Manchester and Magnolia will hold tautog. Clams and crabs are a good bet in this location. In Gloucester, tautog are caught along the Gloucester Breakwater and frequently taken around the rocks of Eastern Point.
So, as fall wanes and fishing for other popular species starts to slow down, look toward tautog too fill the void. Once you have fought a good sized tautog and tasted it’s delightful fillets, I am sure you will be looking forward to the next time you hook up with a blackfish.


With the arrival of the cooler temperatures of fall fishermen are starting to think of surf fishing for cod. There are many locations throughout the North Shore that surfcasters cast generous portions of sea clams and are rewarded with keeper sized cod. Cooling waters signal a start of cod moving inshore from the offshore banks, becoming active and feeding heavily.
As we get deeper into the fall season, more and more cod will move in and create some good fishing. Cod will remain in local waters throughout the fall and winter months. Dressed against the sometimes bitter night weather, fishermen can score when they fish the night tides.
Baits for surf fishing are varied and all offerings generally translate into successful nights. Productive baits include sea clams, clam necks, squid strips, shrimp and sea clams. Strips and chunks of herring can also be very productive.
Let’s take a look at some of the popular beaches fishermen frequent during the cool and cold off season beaches..
RED ROCK: The first location that we will look at is Red Rock in Lynn. Red Rock is actually a park. It is well lighted and there is sufficient parking along Lynn Shore Drive. Fishing can be tricky as landing a fish requires maneuvering over slippery rocks. Caution is advised.
To get to Red Rock from Boston, fishermen will take the tunnel to Rt. 1A through East Boston and Revere until you arrive in Lynn. Once you arrive in Lynn, you will be on the Lynnway. At he end of the Lynnway take a right onto Nahant Street. At the end of Nahant St. take a left onto Lynn Shore Drive. Red Rock is about ½ mile away on the right.
An alternative route would be to follow Rt. 128 to Rt. 129. Remain on Rt. 129 through Lynn passing Sluice Pond and Flax Pond until you get to Lynn Shore Drive. Take a right onto Lynn Shore Drive and Red Rock will be a short distance away on your left.
DEVEREUX BEACH: The next location is Devereux Beach in Marblehead. This popular ocean facing beach is located off Beach Street. From Boston you will arrive in Marblehead by following Rt. 1A to Rt. 129. Continue on Rt. 129 until you reach Marblehead. At Beach Street, take a right. Devereux will be on your right a short distance away.
An alternative route would be Rt. 128 to Rt. 114 east. Follow Rt. 114 right into Marblehead. Take a right onto Beach Street at the firehouse and follow to the beach. There is plenty of parking but the parking lot is closed at 10 pm.
LIGHTHOUSE POINT: Just up the road from Devereux Beach is Chandler Hovey Park, also known as Lighthouse Point. This can be a very productive location but extreme caution is urged as fishermen must fish off the sometimes slimy rocks.
To get to Lighthouse Point, take a right out of the Devereux Beach parking lot, crossing the causeway to Marblehead Neck. Follow Ocean Ave. Around the Neck until you reach the park.
SALEM WILLOWS: The Salem Willows Pier is one of the most popular locations for cold weather cod fishermen. The pier is easy to locate and provides very comfortable fishing conditions. To get to the Salem Willows Park and fishing Pier, follow Rt. 128 until you reach Rt. 114. Follow Rt. 114 east until you reach the center of Salem. Once in the downtown area, go straight instead of following 114. You will enter New Derby St that will change to Derby Street. Continue on Derby St. until you reach Fort Ave. And continue on Fort Ave. Right into the Salem Willows Park. The fishing pier is located just over the rise at the end of the parking lot. The pier is wheelchair accessible.
WINTER ISLAND: Winter Island is located just before the Salem Willows. At the Marine Lab there is a fork in the road. Bear right onto Winter Island Road. Follow Winter Island Rd. Right into Winter Island Park. There is plenty of parking and spots to cast a line. You can fish along the launching ramp but I like to fish the area around the lighthouse. Further past the lighthouse is a beach that many fishermen like to fish.
BEVERLY FISHING PIER: The Beverly Fishing Pier is located just over the Salem/Beverly Bridge. To get to the pier, follow Bridge Street over the bridge. Once over the bridge, the pier is on your right. The parking lot is located right at the pier. Because there are no steps to get on the bridge, this is an excellent location for handicapped fishermen. It is wheelchair accessible.
SINGING BEACH: Singing Beach located in Manchester-By-The-Sea and is another location that can be very productive during the fall and winter period. Fishermen can find Singing Beach by following Rt. 1A to Cabot St. in Beverly. Take Cabot St. to Hale St. then to Rt. 127 which is Bridge St. in Manchester. Stay on Rt. 127 until you come to Beach Street. Beach St. will bring you right to Singing Beach.
An alternative route is Rt. 128 to the Pine St. exit. Follow Pine St. to Rt. 127 and then to Beach St.
Parking at Singing Beach is in the parking lot only. Police are very aggressive in tagging illegally parked cars.
AROUND GLOUCESTER: There are quite a few locations around Gloucester that can prove to be productive during the cold months of the year. Some of these locations are the Gloucester Breakwater, Good Harbor Beach and Long Beach. The Breakwater can be found by following Rt. 128, through both rotaries to East Main St. and then to Eastern Point Road.
Good Harbor and Long Beach can be found by following Eastern Ave. to Marina Drive. Marina Drive will take you to Thatcher Rd. Where you will turn left. Good Harbor Beach is a short distance down the road.
Long Beach is just a short distance further up Thatcher Road. Many fishermen follow Thatcher Road to locate secluded and productive fishing locations. Almost hidden access points can be found leading to rocky areas.
These are just a few of the many spots frequented by local fishermen and visitors to the area. When the colder months start to wear you down, grab a rod and bait for an enjoyable change of pace.


Summer is now only a memory and the fall fishing has been better than expected with great bass action, superior mackerel catches and an increased number of cod. Flounder numbers have been strong and most of all fishermen have been happy. Many of us have hauled our boats already but aren’t quite ready to hang up the rods and reels. As the fall season lengthens, fishermen will start searching popular shore locations in search of smelt.
Smelt fishermen can be seen at many fishing piers and jetties, huddled over Coleman lanterns, catching dozens of feisty little fish that make great tablefare. Gear is simple consisting of a bamboo rod, light line, a supply of split shot sinkers, small floats and a supply of size 8 or 10 Aberdeen hooks. Despite the gear’s simplicity, the challenge lies in the ability to hook and land these feisty little powerhouses. The rewards are simple: a very satisfying meal of fried smelt.
With this simple form of fishing in mind, let’s take a look at the numerous locations along the coast where fishermen cam pursue these feisty little fish.
Cape Ann - Manchester: Starting in Gloucester, one of the most popular locations for smelt fishing is the Eastern Point Breakwater located off Eastern Point Boulevard. To get there, follow Rt. 128 into downtown Gloucester. Pick up Main St. to Eastern Point Boulevard to the breakwater.
Manchester anglers make use of the municiple pier located behind the Police Station. To get to this popular smelt spot, follow Rt. 128 to the Pine St. exit. Follow Pine St. to downtown. The pier is right behind the station but keep in mind that it is hauled out later in the season.
Beverly: Among the North Shore smelt locations, Beverly rates tops among the area’s smelt fishermen. With the numerous piers along the shore, fishermen admit the one of the reasons that Beverly is so popular is because of the comfortable fishing the piers provide. The public pier located behind the old McDonalds building is probably the most popular.
To get to the Beverly waterfront follow Rt. 128 to the Rt. 62 exit. Follow Elliot St. into Beverly. Once into downtown Beverly take a right onto Rantoul St and follow it to the waterfront. Another way into Beverly is to follow Rt. 1A through Revere and Lynn.
The Rivers: Danvers smelt fishermen generally praise the Danvers River. Activity is generally pretty good throughout the river. Some of the more popular areas are around Pope’s Landing and Lancott’s Marina. The town owned floats at the end of McDewell Ave. Also draw numbers of smelt fishermen. To get to this area, follow Rt. 128 to the High St. exit. Follow the signs to Pope’s Landing. Once on High St. continue until you reach the set of lights by the Diner. Take a left at the lights to find Pope’s Landing. To get to McDewell Ave. go straight thru the lights a short distance and McDewell will bo on your right.
Salem fishermen will generally find smelt along the South River. Fishermen will fish off the wall behind the Goodyear Tire store on Derby St. and at the Congress St. Bridge by Pickering Wharf and Derby Wharf. To get to Salem, follow Rt. 1A from Lynn or follow Rt. 128 to the Rt. 114 exit into downtown Salem. Once downtown get onto New Derby St. by the Bank. The next intersection is Derby St. and the second intersection is Congress St.
Marblehead to Boston: Marblehead fishermen make use of the public floats located at the end of Commercial Street. To get to Marblehead follow Rt. 114 into town and Atlantic Avenue. Take a right onto Atlantic onto Commercial Street and follow until you reach the floats.
In Lynn, fishermen make use of the public pier that is located off the Lynnway and just east of the General Edwards Bridge. The bridge crosses the Saugus River. There are numerous other locations along Rt. 1A where fishermen fish from floats at local yacht clubs. It is advisable to check with the yacht club regarding their rules for fishing and if they charge a small fee.
Locations in Winthrop are generally limited to the public landing. To get to the landing follow Rt. 145 from Revere and continue along Shirley Street past the Winthrop Yacht Club to the public landing.
Locations in Boston are simply too numerous to list. Some of the general locations can be found along the bridges that cross over the Fort Point Channel and wharfs along Northern Avenue. Fishermen also fish along the Charlestown Bridge as well as at the mouth of the Charles River.
Quincy to Duxbury: In Quincy, fishermen will fish the public landing located off Edgewater Drive. Reports indicate that many of the yacht clubs allow limited smelt fishing by the public. Before fishing check with the club for any regulations and/or fees. The yacht clubs can be found along Edgewater Drive, Shore Avenue and Quincy Shore Drive.
In Hull, two popular locations are the A Street Pier and Point Allerton. Hingham seem to prefer fishing the town dock and the Broad Cove Marina, both located on Rt. 3A. Crow Point, another Hingham location can be found along the yacht clubs.
Smelt locations can be found in Scituate at the pier by the Harbormaster’s shack. The town pier also offers some good smelt fishing along with the area behind the Pier 44 Restaurant. When fishing these locations please show respect for the property of others.
In Duxbury, fishermen fish from the town pier and by the Harbormaster’s Shack. Both locations can be found by following Rt. 3A to Harrison Street. Another location that is popular is Mattakeeset Court. This spot can be found at Washington Street.
Plymouth locations are numerous and just about all the waterfront docks along Water Street can be fished. Some of the preferred locations are behind McGrath’s Restaurant on Water Street, the town pier the area around Captain John’s Boats and off the breakwater. Warren’s Cove off Rt. 3A and behind Bert’s Restaurant are two additional smelt spots.
A few more locations that promise good smelt fishing are the East Breakwater of the Cape Cod Canal, the Pilgrim Station jetty in Manomet, the jetties at Green Harbor located off Webster Street and finally the Wessequsset Yacht Club located off Rt. 3A in Weymouth.
As the cooler temperatures grip the local region look for the glow of Coleman lantern along many waterfront pier, docks and jetties. A night of productive smelt is rewarded by a bucket of smelt that can be enjoyed in a number of ways


The years of sacrifice by fishermen have finally paid of with a tremendous comeback of the striper populations. Conservation efforts and strict enforcement have been responsible for the dramatic return of this majestic species. The current condition of the striper populations have not been seen since the sixties. Along with the increased activity come a thirst for knowledge in order to make each trip successful.
One of the most productive areas for local fishermen has been the Danvers River. The Danvers River system includes the Danvers River, the Porter River, the Crane River, the Waters River, the North River and the Bass River. All these rivers enter the Danvers River and dump into Beverly Harbor. For the purpose of this article, I will refer to the whole system as the Danvers River.
Access: Although much of the Danvers River is bordered by private property, public access by means of bridges, marinas and parks is relatively good. For the most part, fishermen make use of the tree major bridges that cross over the river; the White Fuel Bridge, the Kernwood Bridge and the base of the Salem/Beverly Bridge.
There are two city-owned launching facilities located on the river. The first is located in Danvers on the Porter River. The popular launch is known as Pope’s Landing. It is located just off Rt. 128 and there is plenty of parking for cars and trailers. The launching ramp is paved and accessible during all tides.
The second launching facility is located in Salem on Kernwood Ave. The Kernwood Marina is closer to the harbor, has a paved ramp that is accessible during all tides. Parking is sufficient but can be crowded on weekends.
There are also numerous private facilities located along the river.
Sam and Joe’s Pool: Starting in Danversport the first location that we will look at is easily accessible for shore fishermen and is referred to as the Sam & Joe’s pool. Located behind the restaurant, the pool is not heavily fished but is very productive. Most of the fish that are caught are schoolies but keepers are also taken. Fishermen work all sides of the pool. Do not park in the restaurant as the parking there is limited and they need it for their customers.
White Fuel Bridge: The next location further down the river is known as the White Fuel Bridge. This is one of the most popular bridges and fishing location on the river. The bridge crosses the Waters River and is located next to the gas company. Fishermen work both sides of the bridge depending on the tide movement. Good numbers of schoolies are consistently taken as well as good numbers of keepers. Numerous baits are successful at the bridge. Sea worms and strips of mackerel and herring are productive baits that are drifted in the current. Night fishing is most productive. At times throughout the summer the bridge can be shoulder-to-shoulder with fishermen.
Kernwood Bridge: Moving downriver the next popular location among the area’s fishermen is the Kernwood Bridge and the Kernwood flats. The flats are accessible by wading and are located next to the Kernwood Country Club. This area is quite productive and will often times give up a keeper. This is also a very popular area for fly fishermen.
The Kernwood Bridge is another location that is in the area. Anglers drop chunks of mackerel and herring over the side of the bridge and like to position their baits close to the bridge abutments. Many times, tautog will take baits meant for stripers. Limited pressure is present for blackfish. Clams and crabs are best for tautog.
Another Bridge: The Salem/Beverly Bridge is located at the mouth of the Danvers River. Although you can’t fish off the bridge itself, fishermen do cast baits from the base of the bridge along the old access road. This is one of the better area for catching big stripers and the night fishing is best when baits are cast near the abutments. Boaters can get right into the thick of things during the top of the tide.
The Beverly Fishing Pier: The fishing pier is located just about a stone’s throw away from the Salem/Beverly Bridge. Bass are taken at times but the pier is best known for it’s incredible squid fishing during the season.
Clam flats: One area that is very productive and quite popular among local bass fishermen. These clam flats are located within the river across from what is known as Peabody Beach. These flats are visible during low water. At the top of the tide, trolling sea worms and eels can be deadly. Tubes, trolling bars and swimming plugs have been proven over and over again as bass catchers.
The Kernwood flats are generally productive for shore fishermen. Boat fishermen will work the edges of the flats with great success. Sea worms and chunks of bait top the list of productive baits.
A bit further down the river is another area of productive flats. These flats are located at the mouth of the Bass River and are heavily worked by boat fishermen. The assortment of baits that entice fish include sea worms, sea clams, mackerel, herring and squid.
One of the most popular areas for boat fishermen is the railroad tracks at the mouth of the Danvers River. Working the riprap with live baits generally promoted fast action especially after dark.. Live eels in this area are productive. Pay attention to your line as a striking fish will quickly head for the rock looking for a fast break away.
Many fishermen will reluctantly admit that traveling the channel and casting jigs, such as the Hopkins and Kastmaster, will produce good numbers of fish. Angling skill is required in order to control the fish so it does not wrap itself around the many moorings in the river.
The next time you are looking for a quick fishing trip, give the Danvers River a try. I’m sure you will enjoy it.


If there is one thing that most fishermen have in common, it is their continuous quest for knowledge. Not only is this a search for knowledge about the different species of fish and their habitat, but it is also a thirst that is looking to be quenched by the knowledge of the many different areas to fish, along with the different methods of catching fish that have been successful among anglers. There is an abundance of knowledge to be learned just by asking. Some of the best sources of this knowledge comes from fishermen themselves. Most fishermen are cautious about asking questions for they feel that they will look inferior in their own education. This is far from the truth as most fishermen are constantly looking to expand their information. Many times anglers are simply looking for information to increase their knowledge of successful methods, techniques and baits to use in a particular area.
Whenever a fisherman tries out a new area, he should start by talking to the local anglers. There are generally two types of fishermen that are available to talk to: the experienced fisherman and the kids. Often times, but not always, the experienced fishermen will hold information "close to the vest" for fear that additional anglers will invade his territory. On the other hand you are quite likely to get good information from the kids as they fish often and are not afraid to divulge information.
Cod fishing on Plum Island generally starts as soon as the spring weather starts to moderate. During the summer, the cod fishing dies off as other species enter the area and cod move off to deeper waters. By the time fall arrives and the waters start to cool off, the cod return and will stay throughout the winter. Prepared for the cool weather of fall and the cold weather of winter, anglers cast a variety of baits from the beach and score nicely all through the remainder of the season. The bulk of the catch consists of small and market sized cod with an occasional "sneaker" hauled onto the beach.
The methods for fishing along the beach are relatively simple. Most anglers use bait and the preference is generally for sea clams, clam necks, shrimp and squid. Tackle requirements are basic with fishermen opting for a gold hook, rigged with a sliding sinker, a tandem rig or a scotsmen’s rig. Hook sized generally run from a 4/0 to a 7/0. Many fishermen seem to prefer the tandem rig as this popular rig allows anglers to use two different baits. The most popular seems to be a generous portion of sea clam on the bottom and a shrimp on the top hook.
Spring and fall are the most popular months for fishing for cod along Plum Island’s long stretches of beach. Although some anglers do catch cod during the day, the best cod fishing takes place after the sun drops below the horizon. The glow of the many Coleman lanterns signals activity on the beach. Usually, the better the action, the more lights that can be seen.
Some of the better areas to fish during the cooler months are located in the reserve area and along the beach where the road takes a dogleg to the left. Enter the beach at this point and start walking to the right. Off in the distance you will see a rockpile just offshore. This has proven to be a good spot over the years. The current can be strong and addition weight is sometimes needed to hold your bait in place.
Another good area for cool and cold weather cod fishing is located at the other end of the island by the old Coast Guard Station. Once in the parking lot a long trek over the sand is necessary. In this area, fishing the ocean facing beaches are much more productive than fishing the shores along the river. This is also a good area for fishing with jigs. There are less battles with the bottom when the treble is changed to a single, dressed hook.
Successful anglers will generally vary their retrieve in order to impart a somewhat irregular action to their offering. Moving your rod tip up and down and from side to side will also work to your benefit making your bait appear erratic. During the retrieve I like to use what I call the "crawl and jump" technique. This allows the bait to "crawl" on the bottom then "jump". This is accomplished by a slow retrieve followed by a sharp rise in the rod tip. It has been very effective. Sometimes subtle changes in the way you cut your bait can make a difference. Something as simple as cutting your bait into strips rather than chunks can make the difference between fish and no fish.
Late season boat fishermen will generally find cod throughout the length of the island but there are a few spots that are better than others. They consist of small hills and bumps located just offshore. Fish can generally be found on the inside of the hill during an incoming tide. The hill allows the fish to exert less energy while waiting for food to pass over.
Jig fishermen usually do very well in these areas. A slowly worked jig seems to attract greater numbers of cod and adding a bait strip or teaser to the jig generally produces even more strikes.
The next time you find yourself laid out in front of the TV and bored to tears, give Plum Island a try. You just might find a new spot worth returning to.


In this article I will answer some of the most frequently asked questions by salt water anglers. In another article I will answer questions frequently asked by fresh water anglers.
Are there any launching facilities in the Salem area?
Salem boaters are very lucky as there are three major launching areas in the Salem area. The first facility is located in the Danvers River in Danversport. It is a paved ramp suitable for launching during all tides. There is sufficient parking for cars and trailers. Pope’s Landing is located at the end of the Danvers River and is located just off Rt. 128. There is about a thirty minute down the river to the harbor. Pope’s Landing is open all year long. There is a launching fee during the season.
The Kernwood Marina is also located on the Danvers River off Kernwood Ave. in the City of Salem. It is a paved launching facility that is suitable at all tides. There is plenty of parking for cars and trailers. It is owned by the city and has limited hours of operation. There is about a ten minute run to the harbor.
Winter Island is one of the most popular launching facilities in the area. Winter Island is located by the Salem Willows off Winter Island Rd. There is plenty of parking. The launching ramp is big enough for more than one launching at a time. This popular location is right in Salem Harbor and a quick run to open water. There is a fee during the season.
The Bowl-o-Mat is located in Beverly just off River St. It is a suitable ramp for smaller boats and parking is good. A launching fee is payable at the Bowl-a-Mat. The launching ramp is located on the Bass River and is about a twenty minute to the harbor.
Are there any suitable shore fishing areas for the handicapped?
There are two fishing location suitable for the handicapped. Both these areas are wheelchair accessible and provide fishermen with plenty of activity.
The Salem Willows Pier is located within the Salem Willows Park at the end of Fort Ave. It is a popular location among local fishermen. A paved walkway leads to the pier. The pier is about three hundred feet long and provides anglers with mackerel, cod, flounder, stripers and bluefish. There is a bait shop at the head of the pier that keeps anglers in plenty of bait and tackle.
The Beverly Fishing Pier is located on the Beverly/Salem Bridge. There is parking available and the pier juts out to the main channel. Good numbers of fish are caught there every year. Good numbers of mackerel, flounder, cod, stripers and bluefish. Squid are also very popular and plentiful in the area.
Where are some of the better areas for catching schoolie striped bass?
The White Fuel Bridge located on the Danvers River is a popular striper spot. Good numbers of schoolies and keepers are caught from the bridge each season. Chunked bait and sea worms are among the best baits to use at the bridge. The bridge is generally shoulder to shoulder with fishermen throughout the season. Night fishing is generally most productive.
The Lead Mills located on Rt. 114 on the Salem/Marblehead line. This is another popular location for schoolies. Both bait and lure fishermen do well. This area is best fished during half tide or better with the best fishing taking place during the outgoing tide. Fishing right in the current and along the rocky walls generally prove best. The Forest River empties in this area and is a prime location for using "shoestring" eels.
Winter Island is Salem is a good area for schoolies. Fishing around the rocks at the base of the lighthouse can be very productive. This is also a good area for fly fishermen.
Are there any good locations for groundfish within the harbor limits?
There are a good number of locations that a suitable for groundfishing. Flounder can be caught in near limit and limit numbers along the Beverly shore in front of the yellow house with the red tiled roof. The area at the mouth of Manchester Harbor yields good numbers of flats along with the waters around House Island The spring and fall yields the greatest numbers of fish.
Cod fishermen can score nicely during the spring and late fall right from the Salem Willows Pier. Fishing the islands yields good numbers of cod at both ends of the season but undersized fish are common. Cutthroat Shoal, Cat Island, Eagle Bar and Hardy Shoal can be very productive during spring and fall. Sea clams are always a good choice for bait. Night fishermen score best.
Are teasers really as effective as fishermen claim?
They certainly are! Fishing a jig without a teaser will take fair numbers of fish. By adding a teaser, tour catch ratio should increase substantially. The additional movement provided by the teaser will quickly catch the attention of passing fish. I have seen many times when a teaser will catch more fish than the jig. Teasers are available in many different sized, materials and colors. Norwegian style worms are effective and preferred by many cod fishermen. Some fishermen prefer the snapper zapper which more closely resembles a fly. Some anglers like to use plastic worms or shrimp. Teasers can be rigged singly or in tandem.
Are there any books on the market that will show fishermen where to fish and some of the different methods and techniques that are successful?
There are numerous books on the market that will give you bits and pieces of information. Most of the books that have been written are very general in providing information. Some of the best sources of information are your local tackle shop, local outdoors writers and fishing magazines that cater to local anglers. Some local tackle shop put out newsletters or fishing reports. Your best source of information remains the local tackle shop. Information can be found on the Internet and this is really helpful if you are planning a vacation or fishing trip.
What are the length limits for the fish that I am liable to catch?
Limits will change from year-to-year. Your local tackle shop should be able to provide you with a list of regulations at the beginning of the year. These regulations are published by the Division of Marine Fisheries and can be obtained through them if not available through your tackle shop.
How late in the season can you fish and what species are available?
Fishermen can fish right through the winter months provided they dress warm. Every year is different as far as how long popular species will remain in the area. As a general rule, the first nor’easter signals the start of the southern migration of most species. Flounder and cod can be caught right thru the winter months. Stripers and blues generally are gone by November sometime. Mackerel varies from year to year. Today there is no need to hang up the rod and reels for the winter.
If you have any other questions feel free to e-mail us for a quick answer. We may use you questions in a future article.


Now that the summer breezes have changed into the cooling winds of autumn, the return of the cod to inshore waters is truly a welcomed change. Good sized cod have returned and fishermen all over the North Shore are bouncing jigs and drifting bait in search of that elusive "steaker" or whale cod. As the local waters start to cool down from the summer heat, more cod will enter the realm of the small boat territory. Some of the most productive cod waters lie within easy reach of small boats. These fertile waters are comprised of bottom structure that gives the cod a sense of security. Some of the best cod fishing along the North Shore takes place along the many ship wrecks that decorate the bottom.
With the arrival of the LORAN and GPS, fishermen have been able to pinpoint these wrecks with relative ease and increase their daily catch of cod manyfold. No longer are the benefits of the satellite systems restricted to the larger vessels and the commercial fishing boats. Small boat skippers are now realizing the benefits of such devices. Many small boats now rely on the information that LORAN and GPS now provide.
These satellite systems will guide fishermen to the exact spot they are looking for. Fishermen can find wrecks by simply entering a series of numbers called waypoints or LAT and LON numbers. Once the numbers are entered all the fisherman has to do is follow the prompts and they will be right on their target.
Once you arrive at your chosen wreck you can start fishing. Most anglers prefer to use bait as it is less likely to hang up on the wreck. Sea clams are the most popular offering among recreational fishermen. A generous offering of sea clams will generally attract a few good fish. Some fishermen will also use sea worms and squid and report success with each.
Jig fishermen will slowly bounce a jig just off the bottom with great success. A jig that is worked in a relatively fast basis will generally yield good numbers of smaller cod. This is largely because smaller cod are much more willing to chase a fast moving jig. Slowly worked jigs will attract larger cod more often than not. The larger cod are less willing to expend the energy that is required to chase a fast moving jig.
One trick for jig fishing in areas where there is an abundance of structure that is liable to cause hang-ups is to add a strip of bait to the hook of the jig. This will protect the hook so that it is less likely to hang on the bottom. The added bait does not hinder the action of the jig nor does it prevent the hook from penetrating the fish’s mouth upon a strike.
When fishing wrecks, many fishermen like to drift over them while jigging. If drifting over r the wreck make sure you throw over a marker right over the sunken vessel so that it easy to keep track of. I prefer anchoring above the wreck and adjusting the scope of the anchor line so that the boat lies right over the wreck. The scope can be adjusted to allow for any current in the area.
Now that the preliminaries have been covered, let’s look at some of the wrecks that are located within reach of small boats out of Salem and Marblehead. There is a popular wreck among local fishermen that is located just off Nahant. The wreck is the Herbert and she lies relatively close to the posh peninsula. This wreck is most productive during the spring and fall months and is generally most productive for bait fishermen. The Herbert is located at 13960.72 X 25822.02.
The next series of wrecks are located around the Graves. The first wreck is the one that treats fishermen nicely during the fall is the Sweet Sue. She is located in relatively shallow water and produces nicely. But don’t expect to fill the boat with cod. Generally a few good sized fish will be the catch until more fish start to inhabit the wreck which can take place in as little as a few hours. I have fished this wreck and stopped by later in the day during my return trip only to boat a few more cod. The Sweet Sue is located at 13979.20 X 25815.00.
Close to the Sweet Sue is the wreck City of Salisbury. She is located close to the Graves and is a very productive wreck. Although there are some good sized fish that inhabit the wreck, many of the fish that are caught there are scrod cod. These smaller fish are generally more delightful to the pallet and make for unbeatable table fare as baked or stuffed cod fillets. The City of Salisbury is located at 13974.40 X 25808.70.
There is another wreck that is located bu the Graves. She is a fishing boat that has been pretty well flattened. Although not rising much above the bottom it does supply habitat for cod. This flattened fishing boat is located at 13978.50 X 25810.30.
There is a tanker that is located just outside Gloucester. This popular wreck is split into two sections and is quite productive during the spring and fall. Not only do cod hang around this wreck but I have caught cusk and pollock on her. The bow section of this tanker is located at 13819.00 X 25790.00 while the stern section lies a short distance away at 13840.90 X 25802.30.
The last wreck we will look at in this article is the Romance. She is popular among the areas recreational fishermen and carries the reputation of being one of the most productive wrecks around. The Romance is located at 13969.64 X 25813.89.
When the weather permits and before the snow falls, why not try one of these productive wrecks. Who knows, you just might make a limit catch of cod and put enough cod fillets away for a couple of meals or a good and tasty fish chowder. Chowder weather is just around the corner.


Smelt fishing along the North Shore of Boston remains a very popular fall and winter activity despite the decline in fishing over the past couple of decades. This popular activity still draws good numbers of anglers from all over the area looking to shake the cobwebs of winter inactivity. Though not a gamefish, smelt is a popular activity from Plum Island to the South Shore.
Over the years, smelt fishermen have noticed a severe decline in the numbers of smelt that are available during an autumn night tide. Not too many years ago the numbers of smelt caught during a tide could easily number well into the hundreds. Presently, the numbers of these delicate fish seem to run into the dozens during a tide. Still enough to make for a good meal or a bountiful snack while watching T.V. Pollution, loss of habitat and a decline in spawning fish have all led to the decline of local smelt populations.
Smelt can be caught during any time of the day but are generally much more active during the evening into night hours. This is the time of the day when the largest concentrations of smelt will enter the coastal rivers and streams.
The smelt is a voracious minnow feeder and is no means shy. It is quick to take offerings of small, live minnows and will strike hard and fast. Other popular offerings include sea worms, shrimp and small jigs. Jigs are more effective when they are tipped with a small strip of fresh bait. Although smelt prefer live offerings of silversides and killifish, they seldom refuse dead baits.
In the coastal river and streams, smelt are generally more aggressive during the incoming tides. They can be caught in all depths of water but seem to prefer the bottom third of the water column. Usually, fishermen will set out a series of lines at different depths until they discover what depth the smelt are traveling. At that point, they will adjust their lines to the most productive depth.
Most smelt fishermen will make use of the popular bamboo poles rigged with a line clip and, most often squidding line with monofilament leader. Poles generally run from eight to twelve feet. A good supply of gold aberdeen hooks in the smaller sizes round out the tackle needed for a smelt fishing outing. A couple of other thing that are nice to have are a Coleman lantern that will supply both light and heat for chilled hands and a five gallon plastic bucket with a cover for sitting and holding your catch. Many fishermen cut a square opening at the top of the bucket to insert caught fish so they do not have to get up and keep their rythem in tact. Some fishermen wall opt for the use of a small float to keep track of their bait’s movement and the initial strike of the smelt. A good supply of small split shot in various sizes round out your tackle needs.
Many fishermen will be quick to admit that all the tackle and lanterns and buckets are only a small part of the equipment that is needed for a good night of fishing. According the most smelt fishermen the most important item an experienced smelt fisherman can bring along on every smelt trip is a large thermos of pipping hot coffee. They will all admit that a hot cup of coffee during a cold night of fishing is worth more than most anything.
The methods used for catching smelt are really quite primitive despite all the high tech gadgets that are now available to today’s fishermen. Basically, you are doing nothing more than simple still fishing. Remember those days when you were a kid and would spend hours sitting on the bank of your favorite fishing hole and drifted worms all day long? Well this is the same enjoyable task that is performed during smelt fishing. Maybe this is exactly why smelt fishing is so enjoyable and relaxing.
When the fish strikes, it is not necessary to set the hook as though you have a trophy sized bass on the end of the line. A steady lifting of the rod and a constant pressure on the fish is all that is needed to successfully hook the fish. This simple motion makes landing a smelt a simple and fluid exercise designed to maximize the productivity of smelt fishing.
Even though the bulk of smelt fishermen will line local docks and piers, many fishermen will extend their smelt fishing well into winter making it necessary to fish through the ice. This is also productive. Local fishing clubs will sponsor ice fishing smelt trips to the frozen waters of New Hampshire and Maine where "smelt towns" are firmly established on coastal waters. When up north, smelt fishing is generally considered a social event that takes place within the comfort of ice houses. Some of these shanties are equipped with generators and pot bellied stoves.
When using sea worms for smelt fishing, it is a good idea to thread the worm on the hook so that a bit of tail extend beyond the barb of the hook. The small piece of tail is left wiggling and will trigger the curiosity of the smelt and ultimately hit the bait. Small killifish should be hooked through the back so that it can swim naturally.
Jig fishing has a little different technique. Small jigs such as the Sweedish Pimple and the Zing-ama-jig should be worked in a slow but erratic motion. It is also productive to add a strip of bait to the jig as the added scent and movement will help to attract hungry smelt. Another bait that is highly prized is the grass shrimp that can be found in most pet shops.
Some of the better smelt spots that can be found in the local area include many of the marinas that are located on coastal rivers. Some of these marinas will charge a small fee in order to use their piers. The Mystic River, the Neponset River, the Fore River, and the Charles River are all good locations for smelt fishing. Moving up the coast, the Saugus River and the Pines River are also good locations. There are numerous marinas along all these river and some allow smelt fishing from their docks.
In the Salem area, smelt fishing takes place in the Danvers River and the South River. Some of the best smelt action can take place deep in the Danvers River along Danversport. On any given night, the glow of Coleman lanterns can be seen all along the river. One of the better areas for smelt in the Salem area is the South River. The river runs under the Congress Street Bridge and behind the stores on New Derby St. There is easy access behind the tire store with adequate parking and plenty of room to fish the wall.
Beverly has numerous floats that fishermen can make use of and are located along Bridge St and Water St. The public floats behind the old MacDonalds building is one of the most popular and draws good crowds throughout the smelt fishing season. This is also one of the most productive floats in the area.
Manchester Harbor also has a public float that is visited by good numbers of smelt fishermen. The float is generally pulled during October.
All of the above areas can be very productive for persistent smelt fishermen. Instead of remaining in front of the television during those cool autumn nights, why not try for some smelt? The fishing is generally pretty good and the company can’t be beat. You are sure to develop new and lasting friendships. As the old saying goes, "Try it, you’ll like it!".


Fishing for cod along the North Shore of Massachusetts is a very popular pastime and a way of relaxing for many fishermen. With the cost of fresh fish on a never=ending upward spiral, it’s no wonder why fishermen place such a high regard on this delicately flavored fish. It’s white fillets can be baked or broiled and makes the best fish chowder.
Cod can be caught all along Massachusetts shores and is not limited to any particular season. With the exception of the deep winter months, fishermen can be found fishing for cod from small boats, the surf and party boats. Both bait and jig fishermen score nicely of cod.
First of all, there are regulations that must be followed when cod fishing. Fishermen are allowed 10 cod pre day and these fish are in combination with haddock. The length limit for cod for recreational fishermen is set at 21 inches.
There are a few good launching facilities in the Salem area. Small boats can be launches from Popes Landing in Danversport, the Kernwood Marins in Salem, Winter Island in Salem, behind the bowling alley on Bridge St. in Beverly at the Bass River and the end of Water St. in Beverly. Winter Island is probably the most convenient with plenty of parking and easy access to the harbor.
For those anglers that do not have a boat, skiffs are available for rent at the Salem Willows Pier. These seaworthy craft can be rented with or without motors. Many of the areas that I will mention are within range of small boats.
The first places to look for cod are right inside the confines of the harbor. These areas are best fished during the beginning of the season and again during the late fall when water temperatures are cool. Look for limited numbers of cod to be found along Cat Island and Baker’s Island. Many of the cod that are caught around Baker’s Island are rock cod. Sea clams, sea worms and jigs will attract cod. Often times during the late winter and early spring fishermen can catch cod from the Salem Willows Pier during the night tide. Most fish are under sized but they help to break the winter doldrums and cure cabin fever.
Coney Ledge, located just of Peach’s Point in Marblehead is another fairly good spot. Most of the fish caught in this area are taken on bait. Eagle Bar, located just a short distance from Coney Ledge is popular among local fishermen. Two other locations within the harbor are Bowditch Ledge and Hardy Shoals. These areas were all popular when ½ day fishing boats were common in Salem.
As we move outside the confines of the harbor, small boat skippers must take into consideration the weather. The following areas can be easily fished by small boat owners. Once again, keep in mind the weather and don’t take any chances. Each skipper knows what his boat can handle.
One of the best areas for small boat cod fishing lies just off Manchester. Gales Ledge is very popular among local cod fishermen and it is not uncommon to catch fair sized cod, sometimes approaching the teens in weight. Most of the cod fishing at Gales Ledge is done with Norwegian style jigs and diamond jigs.
To make your jig even more effective add a teaser. The teaser can be a Norwegian style worm, a plastic shrimp tail or a plastic worm. They all work and work well. As a matter of fact, many time fish will be caught on the teaser rather than the jig. The new mini, in-line chum pots have been working especially well and have attracted good numbers of fish. The two most popular blends of dry chum that have been most popular are the shrimp and all purpose blends.
One of the techniques used when fishing a hill, bump or ledge is to drop a marker buoy over the hill and move up current and drift over the hill. As soon as you move over an edge, the fish start to bite.
Gales Ledge has a depth of anywhere between 5 and 17 feet of water and is surrounded by 20 to 30 feet of water. The Tds for Gales Ledge is 13885.40 X 25833.00.
The next ledge that we will look at is Newcomb’s Ledge. Newcomb’s a bit further out and is considered prime cod waters by many fishermen. Good numbers of market sized cod are taken at Newcomb’s Ledge every year. Some fish will reach weights into the teens and all are healthy looking cod. Jigs are most effective at Newcomb’s but become even more productive when a strip of bait or a mini chum pot is added. A navigational buoy nicknamed the "Groaner" that marks the edge of the ledge and this makes it easy to drift fish over the ledge.
Though most of the cod fishing at Newcomb’s Ledge is with jigs, bait fishermen do quite well. Some of the baits used att he popular ledge include sea worms, sea clams, clam strips, squid strips and crabs. Herring chunks have also been known to take cod in the early spring. Bait rigs are simple rigs consisting of tandem rigged hooks some with fish finders, other without. Bait fishermen generally find that 6 to 8 ounces of lead will hold the bait on the bottom. The LORAN numbers for Newcomb’s Ledge are 1388680 X 25809.00.
The numerous hills and bumps around Halfway Rock can be quite productive. Both jig and bait fishermen score nicely. There are p-plenty of hills between the rock and Tinker’s Ledge. Drift fishing the area allows fishermen to cover the most ground and id quite productive.
Tinker’s Ledge is another area that is worthwhile for small boat fishermen. Jigs have always been best at Tinkers. There is one problem at Tinker’s that is very frustrating. On the bottom, there is vegetation that is known as strawberries and have a root system that seems to go all the way to China. If your jig catches one of these strawberries, you are sure to lose your jig. One way to beat this problem is to tie the hook to your jig with a lighter line than your running line. That way, when you hook up with the bottom the lighter line will break first and you only lose the hook. You get to keep your expensive jig. Just keep in mind that the lighter line will wear and will need to be checked often.
The next location is the 101 Hill. This is a very popular location and seems to give up fish when there just doesn’t seem to be any cod around. This hill is best drifted over as you bounce jigs off the bottom. There are times during the summer months that dogfish take over the area and cod are almost non-existent. The numbers for the 101 Hill are 13888.50 X 25765.00.
Hill #47 is located just off the Breakers and is another popular cod spot for fishermen all season long. This is a small area and would be difficult to find without a LORAN. This is a prime location for dropping a marker buoy and drift fishing. If you don’t mark the hill, you are sure to lose it. The numbers for Hill #47 are 13885.10 X 25916.50.
All of these locations are considered to be good for cod and for the most part are best during the spring and fall seasons. These are also good areas for light line fishing as the water is not deep and can be effectively fished with lines as light as two pound test.
There are also numerous wrecks located from Nahant to the mouth of Boston Harbor. All the wrecks will usually hold cod and anglers can take one or two fish off each wreck before moving on to the next one.
One of the best things you can do to insure tight lines is to keep a detailed log of all your fishing trips. This log will become invaluable from year to year as your search for fish continues.


When people speak of Marblehead, most think of a quaint little village located on the coast just north of Boston. Others think of the numerous small shops nestles within the boundaries of this New England town. Still others think of Marblehead as the sailing "capital" of Massachusetts with thousands of sailing vessels moored within the small, picturesque harbor that has been the subject of many photographers and story tellers. These are not the only visions that come to mind when Marblehead is brought up in conversation.
For many fishermen, the topic of Marblehead usually stirs up memories of many nights in the surf of Devereux Beach. Others think of the great striper fishing that takes place along the rocky shores of Marblehead Neck. For generations, fishermen from all over the North Shore have frequented the shores of Marblehead in search of cod, flounder, mackerel, stripers and bluefish. Devereux Beach has a good reputation among sportsmen. Other spots along the Marblehead coastline remain fairly undisturbed in comparison to the beach. Lighthouse Point, Castle Rock and some of the remaining "rights of way" do experience some fishing pressure.
Devereux Beach is unique in many ways. Usually considered a "late" producing beach by the area’s many fishermen, Devereux will generally produce fish during any time of the year. The best time to fish the beach is generally right after an eastern blow. Though somewhat difficult to fish during these periods due to the vast amounts of sea weed and debris that is pushed onto the beach Devereux usually produced best under these conditions. This is largely due to the winds pushing the warm surface waters in to the beach and along with the warm surface water comes the bait and along with the bait comes the big fish.
There is a town owned parking lot located at the beach and is patrolled by the local Police Department. This parking lot is generally closed down around 11:00 pm and parking becomes difficult. A food stand is located on the beach where light meals are served. Soft drinks and coffee are part of the menu and can be welcomed on a summer night. Surf fishing on the beach can start as early as late March by fishermen looking for cod. Stripers and bluefish are popular species at the beach and often times predators will "coral" bait fish in the corner pocket created by the beach and the Neck. A favorite location for surf fishing is the third light pole.
Chandler Hovey Park, otherwise known as Light House Point is popular among shore anglers. Casting from the rocks can be dangerous as they can be slippery. This is generally a good location for stripers. During the spring and again during the late fall, cod can be caught by fishermen casting sea clams and squid strips. The bottom is rocky and you must be prepared to lose some gear. When fishing this area, tie on your sinker to your bait rig with a line that is lighter than your running line. If your sinker gets hung up, the lighter line will break and you lose a sinker not your entire compliment of terminal tackle. Bank sinkers are best for the rocks.
By the time the forth of July rolls along, the beach and many of the rights of way are loaded with fishermen looking for stripers. Castle Rock is a favorite of many striper fishermen. Casting chunks of mackerel and herring to the swirl created by the incoming and outgoing tides is a favored technique exercised by many fishermen. Boat fishermen cast plugs right up onto the beach and start their retrieve in an erratic motion. Plugs work well in this area as long as there is a slight chop.
Striper fishermen scout out any area that looks like a right of way. Night fishermen "crawl" around the Neck casting live eels to rocky points and quiet coves looking to hang that trophy bass. The gut between Marblehead Neck and Tinker’s Island is a great location for hooking into good sized bass. The gut is a tricky location loaded with rocks that has claimed many lower end units and bent more than one prop.
Moving a bit further around the Neck, fishermen do well at Ram Island and the Pigs. These areas are best fished during the rise or fall of the tide. Ebb tides create little activity. Casting live, fresh and frozen chunks of bait entice stripers into hitting. Morning and evenings are generally the best times to fish these areas.
When the bluefish arrive, so do the fishermen. Scores of fishermen descend upon local beaches, points and rights of way in the hopes of doing battle with a good sized tackle buster. Most fishermen cast baits from shore while boaters troll Rapala Magnums, Rebel Jawbreakers and Cordel Red Fins. Blues are apt to be found anywhere within Marblehead waters.
Boat fishermen troll at the mouth of Marblehead Harbor, along Children’s Island and from the mouth of the harbor to Tom Moore’s Rock. Another good location for bluefish is generally around the Aquavitaes. This area is usually good for smaller bluefish, but these are the fish that are best for eating. Small bluefish can also be found along Waterside Cemetery and at times along the West Town Landing.
Bait fishermen, fishing from boats or shore, are now starting to realize the benefits of the circle hook. This hook is designed so that the majority of hook-ups that take place are "lip" or "jaw" hook-ups. Very seldom does a striper or bluefish "swallow" the hook and become "gut" hooked. This makes it much easier to release the fish unharmed. This is especially beneficial when there are a lot of schoolies in the area. Some fishermen find it a bit more difficult to bait the hook but this can be made easier if the hook is offset just a bit.
The biggest problem with circle hooks is that most fishermen still want to set the hook. This will pull the hook right out of the fish’s mouth. When you get a hit, relax. Let the fish take line on his own. M Keep a tight line on the fish and the fish will set the hook itself. Start your retrieve.
Whether you fish Devereux Beach, Castle Rock, Light House Point or Tom Moore Rock, come to Marblehead armed with plenty of jigs, poppers, chunked bait and live bait. Once you have fished the area, I am sure you will return again and again. You will become part of the brotherhood that fished picturesque Marblehead.


As the days of summer draw to a close and the cool autumn nights start to lengthen, striper fishermen all along the Atlantic coast start to have visions of trophy fish being brought to the boat or the surf. While a good many fishermen are pulling their boats for the season, the striper fisherman is just getting prepared for the most productive part of the striper season.
Even though stripers have been in the area for a few months, most fishermen realize that a summer full of feeding on eels, pogies, mackerel and squid only helps to add bulk and weight to the muscular frames of the mighty striper. During the fall months when stripers are feeding heavily in preparation for their southern migration, trophy fish are most likely to be caught. Though good sized bass are caught from shortly after their spring arrival in may, the biggest fish of the season are generally caught under the harvest moon.
One of the greatest pleasures of fishing during the fall months is that fishermen are not bothered by the small boat maniacs that take pleasure in buzzing anglers, excessive speed and a general disregard for others. Beach fishermen have little trouble claiming a small piece of real estate to work plugs or cast a bait to the foaming surf. By this time most fishermen have laid their rod and reel combinations to rest for the long winter months. The waters and beaches belong to those that realize the joys of late season bass fishing.
There are many different baits for attracting fall bass. One thing that I have found over the years is to slightly cripple the bait when using live offerings. Large stripers seem to be lazy and don’t like to chase after a lively bait. When the bait is exceptionally lively, smaller and more energetic stripers will be the first to take advantage of it. When presenting pogies, for example, clip the pectoral fins. This forces the bait to swim in a lopsided and erratic manner making it easier for the striper to hit it. Some of the other baits that can be effective are sea clams, mackerel, herring and squid.
One of my favorite fall fishing experiences is to fish the rips. The Deer Island Rip just outside Boston is one of the most productive striper spots around. On just about any moonlit night boats can be seen working the rip. Anchoring above the rip and working a bait into the rip has proven to be a successful method for many a bass fisherman. Good sized bass have fallen victim to any one of a large variety of large plugs that are worked on any given night.
Some of the best plugs worked under the harvest moon at the rip are the Stan Gibbs, Goo Goo Eyes and Big Momma plugs. Some fishermen take the time to turn out copies of these proven fish catchers. Other fishermen prefer to present large spoons such as Pet Spoons and Bunker Spoons.
Stripers are nocturnal feeders and the best chances for catching a keeper fall during a night tide. When fishing the rip, work your trip so that the moving tide will create the strongest currents at he rip.
Fishermen will argue back and forth about the use of a leader at the rip. Most are in agreement that a leader should be used but frequent active debates occur when the use of a steel leader is brought up. Longer leaders are generally preferred when using spoons.
There are other areas that produce great harvest moon stripers. The Winthrop shoreline is one of these areas. Consisting of numerous rocky stretches and prime bass habitat, Winthrop draws fishermen from both the North and South Shores of Boston. Bait can be successfully drifted into the rocky shores with ease. Generally because of the shallow and rocky waters, fishermen prefer to use heavier gear so that the fish can be controlled and brought to the boat in a short time. The longer the fish is allowed to fight the greater the odds of a break-off and lost fish.
Because of the somewhat difficult terrain within this area, it is advisable for fishermen to make a dry run during daylight hours to familiarize themselves with the area.
Along this area, the best catches seem to be made during the hours of midnight to four in the morning. It appears that the largest of the bass are the most active during this period. A large number of anglers prefer the incoming tide despite the numbers of bass that are caught during the outgoing.
Crossing Broad Sound, Nahant is also prime striper grounds for late fall stripers. Bass Point is one of the heaviest fished locations in Nahant. Many stripers are landed during the moon tides and some of these fish will approach the magic fifty pound mark. Both fresh and artificial baits have been responsible for catching the attention of these trophy fish. Despite the difficulties in parking and in some areas the complete lack of parking, surf fishermen can be seen casting baits to the night pounding surf.
Late night boat anglers can be observed working the areas around Joe Beach Ledge and Shag Rock. Drifting live baits in these areas often time prove to be a deadly technique. Bucktail jigs, tipped with a strip of squid, mackerel or herring also produce good numbers of heavy stripers. Be prepared to lose some equipment as the bottom claims it’s share of gear every trip.
The best jigs seem to be those that sport a big black eye, often surrounded by a red circle. It never hurts to modify your offerings if it poses the slightest possibility of success
If conditions are right and there are not too many lobster pots in the area that you choose to fish, try using a tactic that is popular and productive among Great Lakes salmon fishermen, the side planner. This will allow you to get your baits very close to the rocks without the fear of grounding out. This tactic has become more popular as fishermen learn that these planners can deliver the bait without spooking the fish.
These are only a few of the areas that will produce heavy harvest moon stripers. Instead of putting the boat up for winter early and becoming a living room quarterback during Monday Night Football, why not try casting a plug or delivering a bait to a waiting striped bass. Who knows, you just might land that trophy of a lifetime. Tight lines!


The lure of the offshore fishing grounds, with the promise of catching big fish, attract many fishermen. Each year, fishermen in small boats, sport fishermen and party boats make use of these fertile fishing grounds. Many hours are logged and many fish are boated. On a good day, it’s not uncommon to land a hundred pounds of fish and still be withing the 10 fish bag limit established to facilitate the rebuilding of cod stocks. Catches include cod, haddock, pollock, cusk, wolffish and even an occassional halibut. The three major offshore fishing banks that are situated fairly close to salem are Stellwagen Bank. Jefferies Ledge and Tillies Bank. All three fishing grounds are very productive and within reach of medium sized boats.
Jefferies Ledge is a large crescent shaped mountain range that starts about 6 miles off Gloucester coastline and runs up into the Gulf of Maine. The ledge consists of a large variety of bottom structure and will support many different species of fish. This area is fished heavily by serious recreational fishermen and party boats. Most anglers target cod and haddock with the hopes of catching a large racing pollock or the dream of hooking into a halibut. Jefferies Ledge is generally productive for the best part of the fishing season. The largest of the cod are generally caught during the spring and late fall when water temperatures are in their favorable range.
Tillies Bank is located to the south of Jefferies Ledge and is surrounded by somewhat deeper water. The peaks and valleys are much more pronounced that what is found on Jefferies Ledge, thus making it a bit more difficult to fish. Because of thye sharp drop-offs and deep holes. Combined with the high peaks, fishermen at Tillies experience swift currents and any knowledge of currents and their reactions to deep waters will be of great benefit to Tillies fishermen.
Stellwagen Bank is southeast of Salemand is the closest of the three major offshore fishing banks. Stellwagen is a bank that consists of more gentle slopes and sharp drop-offs. Not only are bottom fish plentiful at Stellwagen, but the bank is also a favborite location for tuna. Whales are also plentiful at Stellwagen Bank. Many species of fish including cod, pollock, bluefish, mackerel, tuna and whales take advantage of the unique currents and upswells that provide predator species with an abundance of bait fish that thrive along the bank. For a couple of weeks in June, Stellwagen Bank is transformed into a striped bass heven where stripers gourge themselves on an abundance of sanr eels. Despite the ban of striped bass possession in federal waters, fishermen catch and release some of the biggest bass of the season during this period.
Most fishermen prefer a 6 to 61/2 foot jigging rod of medium to heavy action for fishing the offshore banks. The rod is matches with a 4/0 or 6/0 reel spooled with 30 to 50 lb. Test line. When jig fishing most fishermen opt for a jig weighing anywhere from 14 to 26 ounces with 14 and 17 ½ ounce jigs the favorites.
When fishing areas of strong currents, fishermen should opt for a thin diameter line that is not buoyant. The monofiliment line fits this bill nicely. Braided lines are braided together and the process allows for pockets of air to be built into thw line making it bulky nad thicker. The strong currents will drag this line well down current making a retrieve more difficult and increase the chances of tangling up with another fisherman on the boat. Lighter lines can be a benefit when working hard running currents as the line "cuts" through the water much easier and creats far less drag.
When fishing Jefferies Ledge, look for the pronounced hills and drop-offs. These are generally productive areas that are sure to hold good numbers of fish. The fish take advantage of the currents and are protected by the hills while lying in ambush for it’s next meal. As water temperstures fluctuate so will the desired depth for fish. All fish seek certain comfort zones and are very temperasture sensitive.
I generally like Tillies for lake spring and early summer fishing. When on tillies, look for the sharp drop-offs and the edges of the bank. I usually prefer fishing near the top of the tide or close to the bottom as these are the times when the current is not as strong. If I fish during the mid tide period when currents usually run the strongest, I like to use thin profile jigs such as the Hopkins. Teasers are always rigged just above the jig.
Stellwagen Bank is populae among all types of fishermen. It is generally defined by the section of the bank that is being fished. The "double L" stands for the area located around the "LL" in Stellwagen as it appears on the chart. The Middlebank represents the middle section of the bank and the Northwest and Southeast corners refer to the corners of the bank.
Stellwagen Bank has more gemtle slopes and is, overall, much shallower in depth. Because of it’s shallow nature, water temperatures can be significantly warmer during the fishing season. The first major fishing effort that takes place at Stellwag3en Bank is for cod. This happens through the month of April. By the end of May, mackerel will invade the bank making it a mackerel haven where fishermen can score catches of mackerel well into the hundreds. The next burst of activity happens for a couple of weeks in June when the stripers arrive. Big bass are sought after by fishermen. Usually around the 4th of July the bank is taken over by bluefish. Huge schools of bluefish feed on an abunbance of bait. Tuna and whales move in and feed heavily on the enormous schools of sand eels that can be found along the bank.
As soon as the weather breaks and allows you to travel offshore, any one of these three productive fishing grounds is sure to keep you happy and your fish box full.


Massachusetts fishing is great! We can fish for a wide variety of species and many of them can be found close to shore. Anything from flats to giants cruise the coast from the Cape to New Hampshire. Fishermen enjoy the challenges of fighting a striper on a fly rod to wrestling a giant tuna to submission. You can do it all.
Now that the waters of Massachusetts Bay have risen sufficiently to the temperatures that are favorable for the giant tuna, fishermen have started searching for this prized gamefish. Not only do tuna present a challenge for even the most experienced fisherman but they reward the successful fisherman with a sizeable payday.
Preparations for the start of the tuna season have already been made. Gear has been checked and made ready but most important, it was just a short time ago that tuna fishermen stocked up on mackerel, prepared it for freezing and filled freezers for the season. It will be used for chum and some of it will be sewed into daisy chains.
Each year new fishermen to the sport make their presence known by disregarding the rules of courtesy that have been established by generations of tuna fishermen. To many, tuna fishing is a sport that is very enjoyable, but to others it is a way of life. They make their living chasing these prized fish.
Because there is so much involved with tuna fishing, including a large investment in equipment and time, many fishermen refuse to divulge and secrets including techniques and locations. Locations are somewhat easier to learn as a large congregation of boats will signal something going on.
Many fishermen claim that Stellwagen Bank is one of the best locations for tuna fishing. The unique structure of the bank with it’s various currents holds huge amounts of baitfish. As the season progresses, the Northwest Corner of the Bank is like a small floating city with anchored boats as thick as a swarm of bees. Jefferies Ledge, an underwater mountain range that is crescent shaped and is spread out from just off Gloucester well into the Gulf of Maine is another popular location for tuna fishermen. Ipswich Bay is another area that tuna fishermen have scored nicely in. Later in the year, "football tuna" have been caught throughout Ipswich and often times just off Marblehead.
For fishermen in this area traveling to the Northwest corner is a relatively short trip. Located about 15 miles out of Salem, the LORAN numbers for the Northwest corner are 13819.4/25668.0. These numbers will get you to the bank but you will have to jockey for prime locations.
Good numbers of tuna fishermen set out for the Southeast Corner of Stellwagen which is another good tuna location. Although the southern section of the bank is more often frequented by fishermen from the Cape, fishermen from the North Shore also take advantage of the good fishing in this area also. The numbers for the Southeastern corner of the bank are 13770.0/25520.0. Your exact location will have to be fine-tuned.
As the season progresses, more fishermen start to work Jefferies Ledge. The Ledge is popular among Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine fishermen. Despite the lengthy travel time required for many local fishermen, Jefferies remains high on the list of productive tuna grounds. With conditions lining up just right, bait concentrations, currents and weather conditions, many fishermen feel that Jefferies is the prime area for the largest of the large tuna.
There are a couple of locations on Jefferies that have been good to fishermen. One is a hill that rises to about 125 feet. Quite a few tuna have been hooked, fought and brought to gaff in this location. Different techniques seem to work equally well for most fishermen. This area is a spot to try trolling. The numbers are 13725.0/44336.0
Another hill that stands out for tuna fishermen because of it’s sharp rises, usual bait concentrations and strong currents rises to about 115 feet. Some fishermen will find this area difficult to fish for the same reasons it is draws fish, namely strong currents. Experienced and skilled fishermen will adjust methods and techniques so that conditions will work in their favor. The numbers to this location are 13704.0/44334.6.
The numbers 13670.1/44332.9 mark the location of a popular and productive location on Jefferies. Fishermen like to troll the sharp drop-offs in this location. Skill in boat handling is required in order to stay tight to the edges. Currents along these sharp edges create unique currents and produce good bait concentrations that translate into prime tuna locations.
The above Jefferies Ledge locations are fairly close to one another and can be fished separately or together. Most fishermen, especially those that like to troll, will cover as much ground as possible hopefully increasing the odds of encountering a tuna.
In recent years, fishermen have seen more and more fish inside Ipswich Bay. Though no numbers are required to work the Bay, this area should not be overlooked. Though the area can be productive at any point in the season, more often than not Ipswich Bay seems to produce much better in the fall. Many a bluefish angler has experienced the surprise of being "spooled" by a tuna.
Another area that does not need a set of numbers to find is located close to shore. Fall fishermen have observed schools of football tuna traveling in as close as Halfway Rock and Nahant’s Egg Rock. Fishermen should be aware of the potential for tuna in these areas. If conditions line up right, there could be some exciting times for small boat fishermen.
Keeping a sharp eye for fishing activity and a keen ear for rumors and reports will all help you to locate other areas that will produce tuna. The skill in tuna fishing lies in the ability to read conditions, prepare and present baits and most of all handle a green fish. More fish are lost to the inability of the fisherman to handle a green fish than to what most refer to as equipment failure. Each fisherman must gain valuable experience in handling a fish and this can only be accomplish by hard fishing and learning from mistakes. Every successful tuna fisherman has "paid his dues" and now enjoys the fruits of his labor.
The exact positions of productive locations will generally change from trip to trip. These locations have been productive for fishermen and are meant to be added to your own list of favorite spots. Try your luck at some or all of them, you may be surprised.


When fishermen think of cod fishing, some anglers immediately bring to mind thoughts of scotchmen’s rigs, tandem cod rigs, sea clams, clam necks and sea worms. Other anglers think of traveling to the offshore fishing grounds on party boats or private vessels. They also think of bouncing 17 ½ to 24-ounce jigs off the bottom.
Equipment requirements are varied but most fishermen look for a stout rod that can handle plenty of weight and a reel that is capable of holding two to three hundred yards of fifty pound test line. If there were such a thing as standard, this would probably be as close to that "standard" as you could come. This combination is strong enough to handle the heavy jigs used for deep jigging as well as any big fish that you hook into.
Even though this combination is accepted among cod fishermen, there is an alternative. The alternative is a light combination that requires much lighter rod and reel combinations and lighter jigs. The combination that is right for you can be determined by how light the gear you are comfortable with. For some fishermen the rod and reel system might be as light as two pound, while others will find that combinations that handle eight to ten pound are right for them.
There are distinct advantages to using light gear when fishing, but there are things that you must realize and understand before you make the decision to "lighten up". The first and most important thing that you must realize is that you will not be able to "horse" the fish in. Depending on the lightness of the line you choose, you may not be able to set the hook. No matter how light you go, setting the hook so that you "cross the eyes of the fish" will have to be eliminated. Hooks must be maintained so that they are always as sharp as possible. This necessitates sharpening before each use as well as right out of the package. Drag systems must be smooth. When fishing with light line you will want to tip the scales in your favor as much as possible.
Another thing that you must understand is how your drag system works. It is not something that you tighten until no line is able to pay out. The fish must be able to take line when he runs, otherwise your line will break and it could cost you a trophy fish. When you understand how you drag system works, you will e better able to control your fish.
Once pressure is applied to the line and the fish starts to run, the drag starts to release line that allows the fish to run and not break the line. With light line the fish will make a fast run and enough pressure can not be applied to slow the stop the fish. As the fish runs, the spool spins, oftentimes at an incredible speed. As the spool spins, the drag washers are doing their job of applying some pressure to the spinning spool. Heat is created by the spinning spool thus causing the drag washers to expand. Ass the drag washers expand, additional pressure is applied to the spool and the amount of drag that is applied is increased. If the drag is not backed off, the additional pressure will almost always cause line failure.
Therefor, drag setting becomes critical for light line fishermen. Drags should be set at no more than twenty percent of line strength. Some fishermen will set their drags at higher settings but I have found that twenty percent works well. Line strength of eight to ten pounds requires a drag setting of about one and a half to two pounds. Use a scale to set your drag. Run the line through the guides and then attach it to the scale before you get a reading.
The choice of jigs with light line fishing is relatively simple. You will be looking for a jig that will not create a lot of drag in the water. We want the jig to drop to the bottom in as straight a line as possible. The jigs that I have found to be acceptable choices are the Hopkins jigs, the Kastmaster Jig, the Bridgeport Eel jig and the Deadly Dicks. There are other jigs that will work but these are the ones that worked well for me. Other lures will work very well depending on the size of the line that you finally chose. Lead heads rigged with soft plastic baits such as tubes, grubs and worms. The size of the jigs and baits will finally be determined by the size of the line you are using.
Another thing that should be kept in mind is the speed at which you work your jig. Monofiliment line has a built in stretch factor that can be used in your favor. Mono line works like an elastic when jigging. It stretches out then "shoots" back to its original position. By using a slow jigging technique the sharp return is transformed into a much more acceptable motion. This not only eliminates the possibility of "spooking" fish by sharp and unexpected movement by actually makes it easier for the fish to strike the "injured baitfish".
As crazy as it sounds, ideally you would like to hook up with a rogue fish. Any time you get into school of fish the possibility of a "break-off" increases dramatically. This will generally happen when a fish in the school "bumps" the line that is already stretched out as tight as a guitar string. This bump into the line is usually enough to cause a "break-off". Watch your depth finder to see if you are dealing with a school of fish or a limited number of individuals.
Once you have hooked into your fish, the fight begins. There will be no horsing in the fish, no quick hook sets and the exercise of patience becomes mandatory. Attention must be paid to details in order for you to come out on top. The first rule is to keep a tight line but always allow the fish to take line. As long as the fish can take line, the line won’t break.
When fighting a fish, the retrieve must consist of a pumping action. Pull up on the rod and reel on the down-stroke. Don’t try to retrieve line by cranking when the fish is running or there is no pumping action. The only thing this does is manage to create an incredible amount of line twist. With patience, you will meet the challenge of beating a fish on light line.
Once you have mastered the basics of light line fishing you will want to try other species of fish. How about a striper or a bluefish.


Not everyone is lucky enough to own a boat and therefor lots of fishermen have to fish from beaches, points and jetties. At times, this type of fishing can be somewhat frustrating as we can see fish breaking just out of reach. For those anglers that are restricted to shore, the following locations can be productive.
For the purposes of this article we will start in Lynn and work our way north. We will look at some of the more popular locations as well as some of the lesser-fished locations. We will skip over those locations that can not support a lot of fishermen or display difficulties parking. For some of these more restrictive locations, stop by the shop for more details.
The first location we will look at is the fishing pier located just off the Lynnway at the General Edwards Bridge. The pier juts out into the channel of the river and can be quite productive. Fishermen have caught many species of fish at this location including flounder, bluefish and bass. Most fishermen will use sea worms, mackerel chunks and herring chunks for bait. Clams and squid are also used. Because this location is secluded and somewhat off the beaten path, it should be avoided after dark.
The next spot is obvious, well fished and productive. Lynn Beach is popular among both bass and bluefish anglers. There is plenty of room to spread out but the beach can become crowded on a warm summer night when the bluefish are making their presence known by slashing through schools of bait. Often times when the bluefish are in fishermen can observe schools of blues travel the length of the beach.
Red Rock is a popular location among local fishermen throughout the fishing season. Anglers start the season by casting generous portions of sea clams to the active surf in the hopes of landing the first cod of the season. Often times, the first fishermen of the season can be seen by the beginning of March if weather conditions are not too severe.
King’s Beach in Swampscott draws fishermen from all local communities. Once again, the beach can be crowded during a bluefish run. Often times, you can observe fishermen casting mackerel jigs, rigged in tandem of singularly, to schools of fast moving mackerel during their peak runs in the spring and the fall.
Devereux Beach in Marblehead is one of the area’s most popular surf spots. Fait to good numbers of bass are caught at both ends of the beach on all baits, from chunked mackerel and herring to live eels. This is also the location of the popular Kid’s Fishing Derby, sponsored by the Marblehead Surfcasters. This popular event takes place in June and draws kids from all over the state. Fishermen start looking for cod by the end of winter then change gears and work the beach for stripers and bluefish right into fall. Devereux is generally regarded as a late producing beach.
As difficult as it is to fish during an easterly blow, this is usually when Devereux becomes a "shining star" among popular beaches.
Chandler Hovey Park, otherwise known as Lighthouse Point can be a great place to cast a line. Its rocky bottom usually holds good numbers of striper, though not always of keeper proportions. If you decide to fish with a bottom rig, be prepared to lose some gear.
The old Lead Mills is extremely popular during the beginning of the season. Fishermen line the banks and cast small plugs, shad darts and tiny tubes to the edges of the current, scoring on schoolies and hickory shad. At times this location can be difficult to fish as fishermen jockey for a prime piece of real estate.
Winter Island, otherwise known as the old Coast Guard Station is one of the most popular locations in Salem. The rocky shores of the island make for prime striper waters and attracts fishermen from all over. The lighthouse is a prime spot for anglers casting chunks of mackerel and herring during the early morning and evening hours. There is a "top notch" launching facility with plenty of parking, campsites and a secure perimeter. It’s a great family location.
The Salem Willows Pier is an easy place to fish. The pier juts out into Salem Sound and can be the location of some fast action. The pier is extremely popular among mackerel fishermen. Spring and fall anglers arrive at the pier early in the morning, as this is a prime time for passing schools of mackerel to invade the area around the pier. Persistent anglers score on mackerel, flounder, cod and stripers. Small boat rentals are also available at the pier for short money.
The Beverly Fishing Pier is another location that is easy to fish and popular among families blessed with young anglers. The pier extends to the edge of the main boating channel to the entrance of the Danvers River. Mackerel fishermen make good use of the pier, as do night fishermen looking for squid.
There is a small beach at the end of Water St. in Beverly that is popular among a limited crowd of fishermen. At the edge of this small each there is a breakwater and a small launching ramp. During the summer months fishermen manage to catch fair numbers of stripers in this location. Each year, some angler will hang a trophy-sized linesider.
Singing Beach in Manchester is a favored location among striper anglers. During the course of the season, good numbers of hefty bass attack offerings of mackerel chunks, herring chunks, squid and sea clams. The best areas of the beach are generally around the rocks at each end of the sand. As with most beaches, daytime fishing is restricted when swimmers are present.
There are a number of beaches in Gloucester that are both popular and productive. Cape Hedge and Good Harbor beaches are among the most popular spots. These beaches give up good numbers of bass each year to persistent fishermen.
Of course, Plum Island is well known throughout the region and visited by hundreds of fishermen each year. Impressive numbers of stripers are brought to gaff by both novice and experienced fishermen alike. Popular areas of the island include the Coast Guard Station and the jetty. All sorts of baits are cast to the surf as well as clouser, shrimp and eel fly patterns.
These are some of the best fishing locations that the North Shore has to offer and at any given time are capable of bestowing a trophy sized fish on a devoted fishermen. Fish these areas long and hard and you just might be rewarded with the catch of a lifetime.


Salem Harbor is not only a beautiful harbor surrounded by a city rich in history, but is a harbor where many of today’s local fishermen were introduced to the exciting sport of salt water fishing. For many of us it was the fascination of catching fish, sometimes BIG fish, that draws us to the ocean. For others it was a ritual, in which a father brought his son to the shore in order to introduce him to the marvels of Mother Nature. It is thanks to this ritual that we got to spend quality time with our Dads and the hopes that we can spend the same quality time with our kids.
For generations Salem Harbor has been a great fishing harbor. Today, the tradition continues with a limited commercial fishing fleet and an ever growing recreational fishery. As the waterfront real estate evolved from factories and warehouses to prime marina space, Salem drew sport fishermen from all over the state. Most marinas have waiting lists as Salem has the reputation of being a convenient and well sheltered harbor that is close to the productive offshore fishing grounds.
Most local "Old Salts" were introduced to salt water fishing by dropping hand lines in the harbor in search of cod and flounder. We have seen many changes in the flounder and cod fisheries with fish stocks becoming dangerously depleted. Both species are now enjoying a slow recovery with fishermen observing strict limits and "catch and release" fishing. Cod fishermen score nicely during the spring season and again during the fall. Cod fishing starts before the March winds subside and continue until well after the Thanksgiving turkey is stuffed.
Cod will generally live in a variety of habitats and prefer water temperatures in the 35 to 45 degree range. This gives fishermen a good idea just where they are apt to find cod. In the full-blown heat of the summer, it is understood that cod fishing in the harbor will be almost non-existent where water temperatures will soar to neat 70 degrees. Fish, as well as fishermen, will move to the offshore grounds of Stellwagen Bank, Jefferies Ledge and Tillies Bank.
Cod enjoy a wide and varied menu. Their food preferences include clams, mussels, small lobsters, crabs, shad herring and mackerel. They are very opportunistic feeders and will generally feed upon just about anything they can get in their mouths. Although most fishermen don’t associate chumming with cod fishing, it is very effective. The chum has to be delivered to where the fish are and this can be done with the new In-line mini chum pots.
Fishermen will use a wide variety of baits that include squid strips, clam bellies, herring fillets and chunks and sea worms. Many fishermen will use jigs and rig them with teasers. Teasers can be Norwegian style worms, plastic shrimp tails, plastic shad bodies or bait stripes. When jigging for cod, drifting fishing allows fishermen to cover a greater area and is generally quite productive.
During the first of the cod season, small boat fishermen can find and catch good numbers of cod within easy travel time of local boat ramps. Both Winter Island and Pope’s Landing are available for launching all year long. Parking is plentiful at both locations. Winter Island is generally preferred by most fishermen because it puts fishermen right in Salem Harbor and only a short distance from good cod fishing.
Boat fishermen from all over the state will arrive in Salem ready to go fishing. Once the boat is launched, there are many suitable locations to test. Small boats can operate well within the range of safety and protection by staying within the harbor. Fishing around any of the harbor islands can produce cod but fishermen will experience a good many "throw-backs". White bellied cod are the most common but fishermen will also catch "rock" cod. More rock cod seems to be caught around Baker’s Island.
Eagle Bar and Eagle Island can be productive areas for small boat fishermen. Just off Eagle Bar is Chappel Ledge and Kettlebottom, both good areas. A short distance away is Cutthroat Shoals a favorite of many old time party boat skippers. Haste Shoal, Hardy Shoal, Bowditch Ledge and Whaleback are on the Beverly side of the harbor and generally will produce cod.
There are many productive locations just outside the harbor islands and are both within easy reach of small boats and productive. Pilgrim Ledge, Pickett Ledge and Gales Ledge are celebrated among local cod fishermen. These areas are fisher with jigs and bait, sometimes combining both to make a smorgasbord offering. Halfway Rock, Newcomb’s Ledge and Tinker’s Ledge are well-known for their productivity. There are many bumps, hills and ledges between Halfway Rock and Tinker’s Ledge that provide fishermen with excellent fishing. Generally a couple of fish are caught from each bump before moving to the next rise. Hill 47 and the 101 Hill have proven to be good areas for cod time and time again. Saturday Night Ledge is popular among locals.
Early season cod fishing is not limited to boat fishermen. Although the shore fishing is not as productive as boat fishing, many anglers cast a line to the late night tides in the hopes of landing a fish or two. Shore fishermen can do well from the Salem Willows Pier and Winter Island. Fishermen will also try their luck at the Beverly fishing pier.


Fishermen all along the North Shore have long recognized the importance of the recreational fishing industry in the City of Salem. Located just seventeen miles north of Boston, Salem is close to the hustle and bustle of city life, but also retains it’s small city charm. For as long as there has been a Salem, city residents have worked in harmony with the ocean and it’s splendor. Salem is a sea-side community that has roots that run deep into colonial times with it’s heritage tied to the ocean.
For generations residents have been introduced to the wonders of the ocean by way of fishing. For a good many fishermen, the bright orange skiffs that are rented at the Salem Willows were their introduction to fishing. On any given weekend, these brilliantly colored vessels can be seen dotting the harbor, spending untold hours bouncing jigs or drowning worms fishing for cod, flounder, pollock and mackerel.
As with many of the sought after species of fish, the hickory shad fishery was discovered by accident. Fishermen fishing for "schoolie" bass discover a new species of fish that provided them with a challenge and plenty of action. It didn’t take long for this news to spread throughout the fishing community. Stories were being told of a small fish that was a tremendous fighter, performed acrobatic flips and jumps and challenged fishermen’s skills to the maximum. It was described as a light line "tackle buster". It wasn’t long before more and more fishermen could be seen casting small lures and testing their skills. As it turned out, the discovery of the hickory shad was the "old timers" best kept secrets. In years gone by, fishermen would catch hickory shad and freeze them for later use as striper bait.
Little did these fishermen realize that a whole new fishery would open up to the recreational community. The hickory shad is a smaller version of the American shad and can be found in many rivers. Hickory shad is a member of the herring family and looks quite similar to the american shad, with the exception of faint dots that run along it’s side.
Each spring hickory shad run up fresh water rivers to spawn. They will generally arrive in the rivers just before american shad. These little "powerhouses" will seldom reach weights in excess of 2 ½ lbs., but don’t let their small size fool you. On light tackle this species is truly a game fish. It is not uncommon to see this fish pull off some impressive aerial maneuvers during a battle. Many fishermen have stood by the shore with a confused look on their face as they have realized they just lost their fish. These impressive fighter think nothing of charging a fisherman in mid air, rising a couple of feet out of water before twisting and turning it’s way to freedom. It generally takes fishermen a few "hook-ups" to learn how to battle these "sticks of dynamite".
The terminal tackle and methods for catching hickory shad are really quite similar to the techniques and tackle used for catching american shad. Shad darts are great bait, but unlike fishing for american shad they are not used in tandem. For some reason, single rigged shad darts are more effective. "Bumpers" are not necessary for hickory shad.
The hickory shad are fished at the edges of the fast current. Twitching the rod and making the lures dart upon retrieve is a proven method of success. Other types of lures are also common and include Roadrunners, Kastmasters and Panther Martins.
One thing that is important to the hickory shad fisherman is the time of day he fishes. Fishermen generally experience the greatest degree of success when they fish for hickory shad during the incoming night tide. The most productive tides are those when the high tide is between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. as the action generally starts at dusk or about two hours before high tide. Productive fishing continues until about two hours after the high tide. Very few fishermen have reported any action during daytime high tides but this could vary at different rivers.
The best fishing for hickory shad in the Salem area is at the old Lead Mills located on Rt. 114 at the Salem/Marblehead line. Look for the old railroad bridge on the harbor side of the road. The stone support structure provides a good "stand" for casting and will support about a dozen fishermen. Plan on arriving early to "stake out" a prime piece of real estate. Once you have secured your bridge position, cast your line to the edge of the current. Once the tide starts to run out, this is easily distinguished. Retrieve your lure in an erratic motion, allowing your lures to drop close to the bottom before speeding your retrieve and lifting your rod tip. Always pay attention as hickory shad will generally strike on the drop and hit the lure hard. Set the hook with a quick, sharp set being careful not to set too hard as you will pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth. The hickory shad has a somewhat delicate mouth.
Another technique that has proven effective is to cast across the current and let your lure drop back as it crosses the current during the retrieve. Due to the limited access in this area, fly fishermen will have to make use of the roll cast and always be in control of their line. Small attractors and streamers have been effective for fly fishermen. The use of fluorescent colors and a bit of tinsel is recommended. Generally, aberdeen hooks in gold in sizes 6, 8 and 10 are best for all fishermen.


The tautog, more commonly known as the blackfish in this area, is a popular game fish that inhabits the rocky, inshore coves and bays. The fish is highly sought after along the Cape but it’s range covers South Carolina to Nova Scotia. The heaviest concentrations of blackfish are from the Cape to Delaware. During the spring, many fishermen head to the Cape to do some serious "tog" fishing. Not only does the fish provide excellent angling excitement, but the flesh has a mild flavor and is highly acclaimed as table fare. It makes an excellent chowder and is hard to beat when baked or broiled.
The best tautog fishing begins in early April and continues through May. It picks up again in early fall and continues late into the season. Depending on where you fish, tautog will inhabit waters from 30 to 150 feet. Generally, the further south one travels the deeper the tautog will be.
On the North Shore, blackfish are generally overlooked by local fishermen. I feel that this is largely due to the fact that most fishermen have not been properly introduced to this great game fish. Over the past few years, increased numbers of tautog have been brought in to the shop for identification by puzzled fishermen. With the proper background and a willingness to learn the tautog’s habits, fishermen can be introduced to a new species of fish that will provide some of the first action in the spring and the last fight in the fall.
The tautog is a fish that identifies with structure. They will be found around rock piles, deep cutting shorelines, pilings, jetties, bridge abutments and mussel beds. Wrecks are another popular home for blackfish. Try fish any one of the wrecks that are located off Nahant and the entrance to Boston Harbor. Generally, tautog prefer water depth of 60 feet or less. Tautog will also establish a home ground that they will identify with and remain within certain limits only to venture outside to feed. Tautog generally do not migrate but move into shallow waters during the spring as waters warm and offshore to deeper waters during the winter. Some of the smaller fish will remain in shallow water year round. When tautog move offshore during the winter months, they will generally inhabit water up to 150 feet and a bottom that is covered with large boulders or rock piles.
The average size blackfish caught in Massachusetts will generally fall in the 2 to 5 pound class, although fish in the 10 to 12 pound size are caught with some regularity. The largest tautog caught in Massachusetts on rod and reel weighed in at 22 lbs., 9 oz. Fish of these proportions are the exception rather than the rule.
The tautog is a rather ugly fish by most fisherman’s standards. It does not have the streamlined body of the bluefish nor does it sport the beauty of a striper. Instead it boasts a body that is more compressed, a sign of strength, it has a blunt head and a ver thick set of lips. It’s coloration is dark in most instances black with slightly lighter coloration on it’s underside. Most fishermen are a bit cautious when they find themselves looking at a set of nasty teeth the tautog displays. These teeth are a good indication of the kind of diet the tautog is used to. It takes the tautog 6 to 10 years to reach weights from 2 to 4 lbs. This slow growing fish has a relatively long lifespan at about 35 years. The males will generally live longer and grow faster than the females. The number of eggs deposited by the female during spawning is relative to the size of the female.
The tautog is a daytime feeder with peak feeding times at dawn and dusk. During the nighttime, tautog will lay almost dormant on the bottom and in their homes around rocks. They enjoy a wide and varied diet that consists of mostly shallow water invertebrates. Some of the tautog’s favorite food are mussels, clams, crabs, shrimp, small lobsters and barnacles. Fishermen generally prefer clams and crabs for attracting blackfish. If you examine the teeth of the tautog you will note that they are very suitable for a diet of this kind. Their oversized teeth and powerful jaw make small work of breaking open clam shells, crab shells and lobster.
Tautog are hard fighting and can be deadly and destructive when it comes to destroying tackle. Fishermen must be quick when setting the hook as those tuff fighters are well known for their ability to steal a small piece of bait. Their mouth is very hard and a substantial hook set is necessary to drive the point home.
One of the most successful methods of fishing for tautog is still fishing. In most cases it is far more productive to anchor your boat over structure that is suitable habitat for tautog. In general it will be an area of substantial rocks in up to 50 feet of water. Look for sharp drop-offs and cliff like shores. Those will generally indicate suitable bottom. Feeding tautog will often hit the bait on the fall or as soon as it hits the bottom. The strike is far from explosive and more in tune with a gentle tap. It is quite similar to that of a carp. It is extremely important to keep a tight line. Once you feel the gentle tap, hit the fish with a sharp and solid set. Any hesitation or timid strike will translate into a lost fish. Hooks must be sharpened and even new hooks should be "touched up". A solid strike will help to keep the fish out of the rocks. Strike the fish "hard enough to cross his eyes" and start your retrieve immediately.
Besides sharp hooks and a quick response, fishermen must pay attention to detail. Leaders must be checked frequently as nicks will weaken line and facilitate escape.
One thing that is rarely mentioned when talking about tautog is the fact that the cunner, or sea perch, is a cousin of the tautog and likes the same habitat as it’s cousin the tautog. This closely relates species is much smaller than the tautog but exhibits many of the same characteristics. Cunner are generally found in the same locations as the tautog, even during their retreat to deeper waters during the winter months. They prefer the same rocky habitat and enjoy the same diet as the tautog. Often times fishermen will divert their fishing efforts away from areas that cunner are present, when, in fact, these little "bait stealers" can lead fishermen to blackfish.
Now that we have studies some of the background and characteristics that will inevidabally lead you to tautog, let’s look at some of the locations that blackfish are caught. If one studies the coast along Salem, Marblehead, Manchester, Magnolia and Gloucester one is sure to determine that there are a number of suitable locations for some good tautog fishing. Most of the fishing is done by boat, but there are a few areas that will enable surf fishermen to catch tautog. One particular location that comes to mind is the Kernwood Bridge in Salem that crosses over the Danvers River. The bridge abutments, the barnacles and the mussel beds in the area all contribute to the possibility of good tautog fishing. Each year good numbers of tautog are brought into the shop by bridge fishermen not knowing just what they have caught. This will only come to life when fishermen make a conscious effort and target tautog. For years a few local fishermen have fished these areas with great success. It’s almost like the tautog fishery is one of the best kept fishing secrets on the North Shore.
Marblehead is one of the best locations for blackfish action. It has numerous ledges, rock piles and other suitable habitat for tautog. It also appears that some areas will support spawning activity. Some of the most popular areas in Marblehead have been along Tinker’s Island Gut, Tom Moore’s Rock and the area between Dolliber Cove and Fort Sewall. Once in a while the area around Little Pigs Rocks will provide good tautog action. As you become familiar with the area, more likely spots will become apparent to you. At times. Just drift fishing over an area will be enough to catch a fish or two.
When you are in the area and the fishing is slow for the more popular species of fish, why not bait a hook with a clam or crab and drop it to the bottom and try to catch a blackfish. Who knows, you just might discover another species of fish you will enjoy fishing for.


As the winter snows and chilling winds fade into a distant memory, we look forward to a spring ritual that has become just as important as the opening of the Salem Willows, spring training and ice cream cones. That beloved ritual is casting an assortment of baits in the search of the first schoolie of the new season.
The consumer fishing shows have come to a close and our fishing gear is cleaned, checked and ready to go. Temperatures have been slowly climbing and there is a distinct scent of salt water that drifts over the coastal communities. We patiently wait for the news that the schoolies have returned to the area.
One of the first locations that schoolies return to is the Danvers River. The Danvers River is a system of rivers that fishermen refer to that incorporates the rivers west of the Veterans Memorial Bridge that connects the cities of Salem and Beverly. The rivers that make up this popular area include the North River, the Bass River, the Waters River, the Crane River, the Porter River and the Danvers River.
Along the Danvers River there are numerous locations that are both productive and provide access for shore fishermen. The Kernwood Bridge crosses the river above the Bass and North Rivers and is generally a great location for fishing. Fishermen generally use chunk and strip baits as well as artificial baits that include jigs and soft plastics.
Just below the bridge is an area that is referred to as the Kernwood Flats. This area is just as productive as the bridge and allows fishermen to cast baits to the bridge abutments. Bordering the Kernwood Country Club, the flats provide easy access for fly fishermen. Casting flies to the edge of the channel keeps fishermen busy. Some fishermen will fish along the golf course with great success.
Moving up the river a bit more, the next location is commonly referred to as Peabody Beach. This is not a beach like Devereux, Nahant, Lynn or Revere but it is an area that comes alongside the river and is the only waterfront in the City of Peabody. Access is gained by cutting through St. Mary’s Cemetery. It entails a bit of a walk and fishermen must respect the conduct that is expected in a cemetery. This is a good location for strip and chunk baits.
One of the most popular locations along the river is the White Fuel Bridge. As the season lengthens and the word gets out that there are stripers in the river, this spot can be very crowded. Fishermen are generally shoulder to shoulder during the striper season and fishermen are advised to arrive early enough during their preferred tide to stake out a small chunk of real estate from which to cast. Along with plenty of schoolie action throughout the season, each year there are good numbers of keeper sized stripers that are brought to net by persistent fishermen.
At the White Fuel Bridge, bait fishermen present chunks and strips of bait along the edges of the current. Fishermen not only fish the bridge but there is enough room on each side of the bridge to accommodate good numbers of fishermen. A fish finder rig increases the chances of hooking up. Most fishermen like the new circle hooks as undersized fish can be easily released.
The pool behind Sam & Joe’s Restaurant is a good spot for shore fishermen. Access is good along the back of the restaurant and behind the storage facility next door. Sam & Joe’s has requested that fishermen not park in their parking lot during peak business hours. This request must be honored if fishermen hope to keep this access point open.
Many fishermen will fish some of the marinas located further up the river with great success. In order to insure future access through private property, marinas and other businesses it is mandatory that fishermen keep the areas clean and carry out their trash. Old bait must not be left in barrels, on floats or in parking areas. Remember, a few thoughtless indiscretions can lead to the closing of these productive locations.
When the word leaks out that the stripers have arrived in the river, try fishing for them with light tackle and have a ball. Stop by your local tackle shop for more information on the river. We have maps of the river that shows fishing locations. Tight lines!


For the past thirty plus years, I have chased fish from Boston to Plum Island and from the Graves to Jefferies Ledge. Many things have remained relatively the same but there have also been a great many changes. Some of these changes have been positive while others have had a negative effect on fishermen and local fishing waters. Let's take a look at some of these changes and what they have meant to us.
FLOUNDER: Flounder fishermen have dwindled to a mere fraction of what they were thirty years ago. Salem Harbor was once one of the best flounder fishing harbors anywhere along the coast of Massachusetts. Years ago, flounder fishermen were so plentiful throughout the harbor that kids would sell bait rowing from boat to boat. They made a pretty good profit from a weekend on the water.
Fishermen would spend a good part of the morning anchored over a flounder "hot spot" and then would complain all afternoon about having to clean their fish. Because flounder were so plentiful during those days, fishermen often times "tuckered out" from skiving and filleting flats causing many of the day's catch to wind up in the garden as fertilizer.
Flounder fishermen found fertile waters all over the harbor and the Middle Ground was among the best. Although it was not really necessary to find a "secret hole" some fishermen would line themselves up between buoy 22 and the power plant smokestack or position their boat 50 yards off buoy 18. The Willows was always a "hot spot" for those fishermen limited to shore. The best area in the harbor for catching "doormats" was the Haste, better known as the "Honey Hole". This was the sewage outfall pipe.
During the 80's, flounder fishermen were scared off by the discovery of liver cancer in some fish and the ulcers and tumors found on others. Though there were many theories about why these diseases were showing up, it was agreed that the harbor was not as clean as it should be. During this period Salem Harbor gained the undeserved reputation as being the second dirtiest harbor in the country. Over-fishing, disease and dirty waters combined to cause a decline in the flounder populations.
Strict fishing limits, even stricter anti pollution laws and a strong enforcement monitored by many watchdog groups have now put Salem Harbor on the track to recovery. The water is cleaner than it has been in years with a new sewage treatment plant going on line shortly. Flounder populations appear to be slowly building with many fishermen telling of better catches of quality fish. Under water photographers have documented many areas supporting new life where only a short time ago were found to be barren.
COD: Cod fishing in the Salem area has followed the same course as flounder. Thirty years ago cod fishermen scored on plenty of fish with some individual catches reaching weights into the teens, and these fish were caught around the harbor islands. Night fishermen took home plenty of cod when they cast clams from the Willows Pier. Over the years, cod fishing has declined to the point that the species is now in serious trouble. Overfishing has taken it's toll on this popular ground fish.
New limits are now in effect to start the long process of rebuilding stocks. Only time will tell if our efforts will be successful.
Some of the better areas that were found within the harbor are now not much more than hit or miss locations.
Fishermen that work the fishing grounds located a few miles offshore have found the fishing to be better than a couple of years ago but no where near what it was 30 years ago. Throwback ratios have been high which can be frustrating.
The offshore fishing grounds of Stellwagen Bank, Jefferies Ledge and Tillies were once so loaded with fish that it was nearly impossible for fishermen to work these locations and come home with less than a couple of fish boxes full of fillets. Now, the fishing is good compared to today's standards but fishermen will come home with small fish and at times, hardly enough fish for the freezer. Party boats have found their catches on the decline for years but manage to catch enough fish to survive and bring customers back every year.
STRIPED BASS: Thirty years ago stripers were one of the most sought after fish along the Massachusetts coastline. Fishermen scored on plenty of fish and did not need any great knowledge of the fish's habits or habitat. Stripers could be found all over the harbor. If a fisherman cast a bait or drifted a seaworm, he generally scored. Back in those days, the legal length limit for stripers was only 16 inches. As Overfishing, loss of habitat and pollution took it's toll, stripers started their decline.
Pushed to near extinction, stripers reached their lowest point during the 80's. Strict laws designed to stop overfishing with increased length limits slowly helped the striper to recover. The practice of "catch and release" caught on and further helped the stripers recover. It was a long process with great sacrifices on the part of fishermen and today we are enjoying the rewards of our sacrifices.
In the thirty years that I have been chasing stripers, I have never seen striper fishing like we have enjoyed over the past couple of years. Years ago, we had to "pay our dues" before we started to catch bass. Today, all fishermen have to pay is a couple of bucks for bait and hooks and the experience of striper fishing is enjoyed.
Because striper fishing is so incredible, a new series of opportunities have opened up to fishermen. No longer is the need to catch a striper so imbedded in fishermen as it was during their decline. Today the numbers of stripers that inhabit local waters allow fishermen to enjoy light line fishing as well as fly fishing to entice this majestic fish.
Instead of introducing kids to salt water fishing with a hand line and a box of seaworms bottom bouncing for flounder, they are introduced with a spinning rod, a chunk of mackerel and the strong possibility of catching a striper. There is nothing more rewarding than to see the face of a young, first-time fishermen hooking up with, fighting and landing a schoolie bass. The experience is multiplied a hundred fold when they land their first "keeper".
BLUEFISH: Thirty years ago nobody along the North Shore fished for bluefish. Anyone interested in catching these tackle busting beauties made the trip to the Cape. As it turned out, bluefish became the salvation for striper fishermen.
As stripers declined, bluefish started to show up in local waters around the early 70's. At first there was a fear of these fish because they had a reputation for attacking fishermen with their mouthful of razor sharp teeth. Once fishermen realized that these stories were exaggerated, the bluefish became an exciting fish to go after.
As more bluefish showed up in the area, fishermen started to realize what a great gamefish it truly is. Bluefish were at a peak during the 80's and helped fill the gap that was created by the decline of bass. Everyone had bluefish fever.
Today, the bluefish have been on the decline and take a back seat to the striper.
HADDOCK: Believe it or not, just 30 years ago, haddock was plentiful and easily caught as close as Halfway Rock and Egg Rock. Fair to good numbers of haddock were caught by ground fishermen bouncing jigs and drifting clams. At times, you could almost catch as many haddock as you could cod. The decline in haddock was slow and before anyone realized it, fishermen had to travel to Jefferies and Tillies to catch this New England favorite.
SMELT: Smelt fishermen were out in large numbers up and down the coast. Fishermen scored on huge numbers of smelt during the fall months. The Danvers River was one of the top smelt locations in the area. Fishermen would line the dock of the river with their Coleman lanterns providing not only light but heat for those cold fall nights. The biggest change in smelt fishing over the last few decades has been that fishermen look for smelt earlier. In years gone by no one would start smelt fishing until Thanksgiving. Smelt fishermen could always be found along the South River off Derby Street.
OTHER INTERESTING THINGS FROM 30 YEARS AGO: There was a half-day fishing boat that left the Salem Willows Pier and fished in the harbor for flounder and cod. Good numbers of fish were caught.
There was a building on the Willows Pier that housed the Salem Willow Boat Livery and a gift shop. That building and most of the pier was lost during the Blizzard of '78.
The fishing pier located in Beverly was not there. Port Marine's big red boat storage building wasn't there either. The Tuck Point Condominiums were not there, the sight was a chemical terminal. The Beverly shoreline had a completely different look.
The Salem/Beverly Bridge was still in the talk stages.
There were only a few small marinas along the Danvers River and boaters could actually see and recognize the channel. There were far fewer boats moored along the river.
The harbor was full of mud hake and silver hake. No one has seen any hake for years.
You could rent an aluminum boat and motor for harbor fishing at the Congress St. Bridge, what is now part of Pickering Wharf.
Winter Island was a Coast Guard Station. Bluefin tuna sold for an incredible price of 2 cents per pound. Ocean sunfish were more common and basking sharks were more frequently spotted.
A lot has changed over the past 30 plus years. Even though some thing were disappointing, many things changed for the better. We have become more aware of the importance of clean harbors, fish habitat and conservation efforts. Above all, hopefully, we have learned that the oceans can only support a limited number of fish and each species is important for the overall health of the seas. Fish are a limited natural resource that must be protected.


The summer flounder, or fluke, a flatfish noted for it’s fighting ability and flavor, is found in coastal waters from the southern Gulf of Maine to Florida. Important recreational and commercial fisheries for this species takes place from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Like other species of flatfish, the fluke has both eyes on the side of it’s head and rests on the ocean floor on it’s side. The fluke is called a left handed flatfish because both of it’s eyes are on the upper surface of the body when the fish is facing left. This species has a very large mouth that extends below and beyond it’s eyes. The left handed windowpane flounder differs from the fluke in that it has a much rounder body, in addition the anterior rays in the dorsal fin of the windowpane are branched, forming a conspicuous fringe, and the posterior outline of the tail is rounded. The physically similar fourspot flounder differs from the fluke in having four large dark spots encircled by faint pinkish rings on the body.
Summer flounder are called the chameleons of the sea because of their ability to change color to match the bottom on which they are found. Generally, they are white below and darker above, but they can turn various shades of grey, blue, green orange and almost black. The upper part of the fluke’s body is marked with scattered spots that are darker than the general body color.
The angling record for fluke caught in Massachusetts is just over 21 pounds. Although the largest fluke may weigh as much as 26 pounds, the average adult weight is 2 to 5 pounds. A 15 to 16 inch fish weighs about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds, a 20 inch fish weighs 3 to 3 ½ pounds, a 30 inch fish weighs 10 pounds and a 37 inch fish weighs 20 pounds. Females may live up to 20 years and weigh more than 20 pounds, while males rarely live longer than 7 years and weigh more than 3 to 5 pounds. Both males and females mature at the age of three.
Summer flounder inhabit inshore waters of Massachusetts during the warmer times of the year. Fluke prefer eelgrass beds and pilings because of the protection they offer. When threatened, they bury all but their beady eyes in the sand or escape at surprisingly fast speeds. In the summer, small and medium sized adults are found on the sandy and muddy bottoms of bays, harbors and along open coastline. Most of the larger fish tend to stay in deeper waters between 50 and 60 feet. With the approach of fall, summer flounder migrate to more offshore waters in depths from 150 to 500 feet.
Reproduction takes place in the fall, as soon as the fish start to migrate to wintering grounds. Peak spawning activity takes place from early September to early November in water temperatures from 53 to 66 degrees and in depths of 60 to 160 feet. The center of spawning activity takes place off New York and New Jersey, with less activity taking place along southern New England.
The eggs float in the water column, hatching 72 to 75 hours after being laid. After hatching, the larvae are carried into bays and estuaries where they will spend the early portions of their lives. Autumn water circulation patterns in southern New England tend to distribute surviving larval fish southward along the coast, resulting in the virtual absence of young summer flounder in Massachusetts waters.
The summer flounder, which depends on sight to capture it’s food, feeds most actively during daylight hours. Juveniles feed upon small shrimp and other crustaceans, while adults eat a variety of fish, including small winter flounder, menhaden, sand lance, red hake, silversides, bluefish, weakfish, mummichogs, as well as invertebrates such as blue crabs, squid, sand shrimp, oppossum shrimp, and mollusks. Adults are very active predators, often chasing schools of small fish to the surface and leaping out of the water in pursuit of them. This behavior clearly distinguishes the summer flounder from the other more sluggish species of inshore flatfish.
Fluke are known for the aggressive way they take the bait and the battle they put up when they are hooked. The offer a particular challenge to the angler that dares to use light tackle. The average sized fluke, sometimes called flatties, weigh about 2 to 4 pounds, while the aptly named doormats weigh 8 or more pounds and provide memorable battles for the angler lucky enough to hook one.
Summer flounder start moving inshore in July and provide plenty of action until the waters start to cool near the end of September. They can be found on sandy or muddy bottoms in many inshore habitats and are particularly abundant in fast moving rips that gather debris and baitfish.
Anglers troll, chum, still-fish and cast for fluke, but the most popular method is drifting the bait along the bottom. When drifting, the bait of the reel should be open and the line held by the angler. Once the line stops drifting and is tugged, it should run free for a moment to let the fish get the bait in it’s mouth before the hook is set. Casting a red and white bucktail from a boat or shore can be very productive. The jig should be retrieved with a slow, pumping action. When a fluke grabs the rig, the rod should be lowered to slacken the line and when the line tightens again the time has come to set the hook.
Commercial rigs with spinners are used by many anglers. Weighted bucktails and ball jigs are used in combination with strips of bait with squid a proven choice among many. There are probably as many variations of baits and presentations as there are fluke fishermen and most anglers report success with their favorite choice.
The white, flaky meat of the summer flounder is highly rated due to it’s delicate flavor and texture. This versatile fish provides delightful dining when steamed, poached, baked, broiled, sauteed, fried or microwaved. Large doormats can be steaked and grilled over charcoal or gas.


The winter flounder, one of the most popular recreational species in New England, is highly favored because of it’s excellent flavor and it’s thick fillets. It ranges from southern Labrador to the waters of South Carolina and Georgia and is most abundant from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Chesapeake Bay. The species’ name is derived from it’s tendency to move during the winter months to shallower, inshore waters, where it is easily caught. It is frequently called a "blackback" when it is less than three pounds and a "lemon sole" when it is larger.
Like all flatfish, the winter flounder has both eyes on one side of it’s head. A newly hatched flatfish larvae has one eye on each side of it’s head, but within months it adapts to a bottom dwelling lifestyle, by which time one eye has moved to the other side of it’s head. Unlike most other bottom dwelling fish that rests by lying on it’s belly, the flatfish lies and swims on it’s side. Having both eyes on one side of it’s head enables the flatfish to rest on the ocean floor and direct it’s eyes upward.
The winter flounder is referred to a right-handed flounder because the eyes are located on it’s upper surface when the fish is pointing to the right. This species is oval in shape, with a body the is about two times as long as it is wide. It’s small mouth does not extend backward to below the eye. The lateral line, a series of pores to detect local turbulence in the water, runs in a nearly straight line from the head to the base of the tail. The dorsal fin originates opposite the forward edge of the eyes and follows the length of the body in a uniform height. The anal fin also extends the length of the body, but is noticeably higher near it’s midpoint.
The color of this species is highly variable, since the winter flounder can change color to mimic the bottom on which it rests. However, the scaled upper side of the body of most individuals range from a muddy or reddish brown to black, and the scales underside is white. Smaller fish are generally paler and have a less uniform color pattern than larger, older fish.
The largest winter flounder caught by a commercial boat weighed 8 pounds and was 25 inches long. The fish was taken on George’s Bank, where many of the larger winter flounder are caught. The Massachusetts angling record which was caught in Mass Bay stands at 6 pounds. Female winter flounder grow faster than males and attain larger maximum sizes. Both male and female winter flounder attain maturity at about 3 years of age.
Winter flounder are caught in most any shallow bay or estuary where the bottom is sandy or silty. The frequently move into the brackish water of river mouths and also range into the deepest waters of the Nantucket Shoals region and the shallower waters of George’s Bank. When they are on soft bottoms, the lie buried in the mud, dashing out occasionally to feed on invertebrates moving close by.
This is one of the most stationary of fishes, displaying a very limited seasonal migration. Fish overwinter in inshore areas. As summer approaches, the shallow inshore waters become warm, and the larger fish move offshore into deeper waters. Juveniles will remain in estuaries for up to three years, moving offshore as they grow older. Although a given population remains fairly stationary, there is evidence of wide scale movement of some individuals, perhaps in search of food.
In New England, reproduction occurs in estuaries from January to May, with peak activity taking place during February and March, when water temperatures are the coldest of the year, ranging from 32 to 39 degrees. Evidence suggests that some individuals return to the same site year after year to spawn.
Unlike the floating eggs of all other flatfish, eggs of the winter flounder clump together in masses on the bottom. Eggs, usually laid on clean sand, hatch 15 to 18 days after being released. By the time the larvae are 1/3 of an inch long, they have gone through a complete change, the left eye migrating to the right side of the body. Mortality is highest during the larval stages, partly due to predators such as striped killifish and jellyfish.
Larval and juvenile winter flounder feed on the egg, larval and adult stages of various invertebrates. Adults feed on a great variety of organisms including shrimp, clams, worms, fish fry and bits of seaweed. Winter flounder will bite almost any bait, provided the hook is small enough. The feed mainly during the daylight hours and are more active during flooding or ebbing tides than during slack water periods.
Inshore flounder fishing generally starts in early spring and last until the end of May or June when the flounder start to move further offshore. When flounder return to inshore water during September, anglers fish for them until the weather becomes too uncomfortable during late fall. Anglers pursue flounder for docks, piers, jetties, party boats and private boats in nearly all Mass bays and estuary mouths. Areas characterized by sandy mud bottoms with patches of eelgrass provide anglers with the greatest opportunity for success.
Winter flounder provide the most enjoyment when caught on light tackle. Most anglers use 12 to 15 pound teat line on light spinning combinations or small boat rods. Most seasoned flounder fishermen opt for the handline. Generally, size 7, 8 or 9 Chesterton hooks, a narrow gap hook, is best for flounder fishing. Sinkers will vary in size according to depth and currents in the waters being fished. Some anglers make use of spreaders that allow them to fish two hooks and some also feel that adding yellow beads above the hooks or painting the sinkers yellow helps to attract flounder.
Many anglers practice chumming and feel it is beneficial to attracting flats. Chum consists of crushed clams or mussels in a mesh bag or chum pot/ Corn from a newly opened can is also a favorite among chummers. Sand worms are considered to be the best bait for flounder in the local area but bloodworms and clam strips are also very effective. Night crawlers have also become a popular flounder bait. The key is to use very little bait with about an inch of bait on the hook. Blackbacks can quickly and quietly sneak in and take bait before inattentive fishermen realize what happened. The bait should be frequently raised to check for fish as well as attract them.


The haddock, a member of the cod family renowned as splendid table fare, inhabits waters from the Grand Banks to Cape Cod in the summer and extends it’s range during the winter to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Haddock, like the closely related cod, pollock and tomcod are easily distinguished from other Massachusetts coastal fish by their three dorsal and two anal fins. The front dorsal fin is triangular in shape and taller than the other two. The posterior two are squarish, the middle dorsal being slightly larger than the last. Of the two anal fins, the second or posterior one is a mirror image of the third dorsal fin. Haddock can be distinguished from other closely related members of the cod family by a black lateral line and a large spot on each side of the body over the pectoral fins.
The top of the head, the back and the upper sides are a dark purplish grey. The lower sides are shiny grey, tinged with pink and the belly and lower head are white. The haddock has dark dorsal fins, pectoral fins and tail. The anal fins are pale and spotted with black at the base.
The largest haddock recorded, which was landed by a commercial vessel, weighed 37 pounds and measured 44 inches in length. The Massachusetts angling record is 20 pounds and caught on Stellwagen Bank with another fish that tied that catch caught at Boston Light. It generally takes about 7 or 8 years to reach the legal Massachusetts length limit. Maturity ir reached within 2 or 3 years.
Haddock inhabit deep, cool waters, rarely entering estuaries or river mouths. They are primarily found at depths of 150 to 450 feet and generally avoid depths of less than 30 feet. Haddock prefer bottoms consisting of gravel, smooth rock or sand littered with shells. The preferred water temperature range is between 35 and 50 degrees. They migrate seasonally to areas that provide optimal habitat conditions. In winter, haddock move to deep water where the temperature is warmer and more constant than in shallow areas. Most spend winters from southern New Jersey to Cape Hatteras. By early spring they seek more northerly areas off New England, moving into more shallow areas of the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, where they remain all summer.
The haddock off Massachusetts reproduce on sandy, rocky or muddy bottoms from January to June, showing the greatest activity in March and April. Spawning occurs offshore at depths of 100 to 600 feet and at temperatures of 35 to 45 degrees. Georges Bank is the most productive spawning area for haddock in the northwest Atlantic. The buoyant eggs drift in the water, hatching in about 15 days. Young haddock will float near the surface for up to 3 months after hatching, drifting in the prevailing currents. Subsequently they will move to the ocean floor where they will spend the rest of their lives.
Haddock suffer extremely high death rates during their early years. Many die from starvation and predation by species such as cod and pollock. However, the number of larvae that survive in a given year is often determined by their location when they are ready to become bottom dwellers. Haddock populations characteristically suffer through extended series of years when few fish survive early life stages. Recreational and commercial harvests have a great effect on the species since individuals removed from the population are not necessarily replaced by reproduction.
Before descending to the bottom, haddock larvae feed upon microscopic copepods. Bottom dwelling juveniles and adults feed upon almost any slow moving invertebrate including small crabs, sea worms, clams star fish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and occasional squid. Herring, sand lance, small eels or other young fish only rarely occur in their diets.
Few fish are more delicately flavored or finely fleshed than the haddock. Traditionally, haddock fillets are marketed with their distinctively colored skin intact as a sign to consumers that the high price they are paying is indeed for the highly regarded haddock.
Haddock are caught from spring to fall, with fishing activity greatest during August and September. Anglers pursue this deep water fish from private, party and charter boats. A medium action, 8 foot boat rod with a fast tapering tip is preferred by most party boat fishermen. A sensitive rod is necessary to be able to feel the light taps the haddock creates when the haddock takes the baited hook. Generally, heavier line than is necessary is used as fishermen never know just what will take their offerings in this deep water habitat. Many old-timers prefer the low stretch qualities of braided lines over monofilament for their hook setting ability.
The typical haddock rig is a two hook rig with a swivel to prevent twisting and a sinker clip on the bottom. Leader material is generally 40 or 50 pound test and preferred hooks are wide gapped and in sizes of 5/0 to 7/0. Many anglers like to add yellow or red surgical tubbing to the shanks of the hook. Depending on currents, usually a 12 to 20 ounce sinker is required to hold the bait on the bottom. Fresh clams and squid are the preferred baits by most haddock fishermen. Others will use jigs, tipped with the popular baits.
After the baited rig is lowered to the bottom, all slack line should be retrieved. Unlike the cod, which gives a sharp yank, haddock bite in a series of soft bumps. These slight taps can best be felt when the line is held between the thumb and forefinger. Because haddock have soft mouths, they are easily lost if not properly played after being hooked. When the strike id felt, the hook should be set with a steady pull rather than a sharp snap. Retrieve should be steady instead of the pumping action required by other species.
The meat of the haddock is lean and white and less firm than cod but flakes beautifully when cooked. Haddock is excellent when baked, broiled, poached, microwaved or used in a chowder or stew. New Englanders seem to prefer frying the fillets or baking them after stuffing them with a seasoned or spiced stuffing.


Perhaps more than any other member of Massachusetts’ rich array of natural resources, the Atlantic cod is recognized as a symbol of the Commonwealth’s natural heritage. This species, so entwined in the early history of the settlement of coastal Massachusetts, that a model of the "sacred cod" hangs in the statehouse and is native to most of the North Atlantic
Cod are easily distinguished from most other marine fish by their three dorsal fins and two anal fins that are mirror images of the second and third dorsal fins. They also have a prominent barbel on the chin. Cod lack the large black spot on the side that is characteristic of the closely related haddock. The square or indented outline of the tail differs from the rounded tail of the tomcod. The cod also lacks the long, slender extensions of the pelvic fins characteristic of the tomcod.
Individual vary widely in color. Most cod are grayish green to reddish brown on their backs and sides and white on their bellies. They are spackled on the upper portions of their body, the sides of their heads, and their fins and tails. The lateral line, a series of pores that allows the fish to detect disturbances in the water, is much lighter than the dark sides of the body.
Cod occasionally reach lengths in excess of 5 to 6 feet. The heaviest fish on record, caught off the Massachusetts coast by a commercial vessel, weighed over 200 pounds. The Massachusetts angling record was caught on Jefferies Ledge and weighed in excess of 85 pounds. In recent years, cod weighing over a hundred pounds are rarely seen and 50 to 60 pound fish are fairly common despite the decline in cod numbers during the past. Through strict conservation methods and limits imposed on both recreational and commercial fishermen, recreational anglers have been reporting increased numbers of cod. Offshore cod tend to be larger than the cod found in inshore waters. Inshore individuals typically weigh between 6 and 12 pounds while offshore fish reaching 25 pounds. Spawning generally occurs at the age of 5 or 6.
Atlantic cod live in a variety of habitats but generally are found at depths of 200 to 350 feet and in temperatures ranging from 34 to 46 degrees in summer, and at depths of 300 to 450 feet and in temperatures from 36 to 39 degrees during winter. They are seldom found in depths deeper than 650 feet.
Cod undergo seasonal migrations in their more northerly and southerly reaches of their range. N Generally, fish that inhabit the waters between Nova Scotia and Massachusetts exhibit predictable migratory patterns. Some move considerable distances in search of food or in response to overcrowding along spawning areas. Cod do not swim in large schools but will travel in small groups or "pods" when searching for food.
The cod is a winter spawner and reproduction generally takes place during November and December along the southern coast of New England. Spawning takes place at depths of between 43 and 350 feet, with the greatest activity taking place at about 200 feet. Adults inhabiting inshore waters will usually move offshore to spawn. Larvae hatch from 10 to 40 days after spawning, depending on water temperature. After 2 or 3 months, juvenile cod move to the bottom where they feed and hide among the rocks and algae until they are large enough to swim away from predators. The small bottom-dwelling cod feed upon small crustaceans such as shrimp and amphipods. Adults will eat almost anything small enough to fit in their mouths. Their menu includes clams, mussels and other mollusks as well as crabs, lobsters and sea urchins. Adults also pursue schooling fish, eating substantial numbers of herring, capelin, shad, mackerel, silver hake, young haddock and other species. Voraciously feeding on a variety of food, cod will occasionally dine upon some very exotic items. Some of the items found in the stomachs of captured cod include ducks, shoes, jewelry and rope.
Many anglers fish for cod along the offshore banks in private boats as well as party boats. Offshore anglers prefer a 7 ½ to 9 foot rod with a stiff action and a 4/0 reel spooled with 50 lb. test monofilament line. Some anglers like to use squidding or dacron line. Many anglers prefer to use jigs and jigs rigged with teasers. Teasers can include Norwegian style worms, plastic shrimp imitations and bucktail flies. Some anglers show a preference for the old Bridgeport diamond jigs. Depending on water depths and currents, jigs will weigh between 14 and 26 ounces, the most popular being 17 ½ ounces. Hook sizes will vary according to angler preferences but the most common sizes in use remain betweem 8/0 and 10/0. When using teasers, don’t be surprised if the cod take the teaser rather than the jig.
Although good numbers of cod are taken on jigs, bait fishermen do extremely well also. When rigging for bait, attach a 10 TO 20 ounce sinker to a three-way swivel with a section of line that is somewhat lighter than your running line. This allows the angler to get back his rig, less the sinker, if the rig hang up on the bottom. Tandem rigs are the choice of bottom fishermen and are sometime referred to as top and bottom rigs or Scotsman rigs. The rigs are generally made up of 50 to 80 pound test monofilament line with two 6/0 to 8/0 gold hooks with a colored piece of surgical tubing on the shank of the hook. Choices of baits are as varied as the fishermen that use them and include clam necks, sea clams, sand eels, mackerel, herring strips and other fish. Crabs can also be used as bait successfully.
During the late winter and early spring, anglers can be seen lining the beaches during a night tide casting generous portions of sea clams to the surf. Generally, smaller hooks are used from the surf with 3/0 and 4/0 hooks the most popular. Only enough weight is used to hold your bait stationary on the bottom.
Cod should be iced down as soon as they are caught in order to retain their delicate flavor. If using a cooler, leave the drain open so melted water can drain off so as not to diminish the quality of the fish.
The white, flaky meet of the cod can be baked, broiled, poached or fried, made into fish cakes or chowder, and salted for long term storage without loss of flavor or nutritional value. To poach, add cod fillets and slices of lemon to rapidly boiling, lightly salted water. When the water returns to the boil, remove the pot from the heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes until the meat flakes. Drain and cover with your favorite sauce or add melted butter or margarine. For an excellent baked dish, stuff the cod fillets with a mixture of hot breakfast sausage mixed with Italian bread crumbs or mashed potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees until the cod flakes. Cod also make for a tasty fish cake. Take the flaked, cooked meat and mix it with mashed potatoes and onions. Dredge the cakes in bread crumbs flavored to your liking and pan fry until golden brown. Serve with baked beans for a traditional, New England Saturday night meal. It just doesn’t get any better than this!


The American shad is an adadromous fish and like the salmon it ascends coastal rivers to spawn. The American shad generally tips the scales at between 11/2 and 8 pounds with a maximum weight of about 12 pounds and prefers main rivers. The American shad has become a popular quarry for spring anglers and provides great sport.
Although shad are found as far north as the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the sport really has it’s roots in Connecticut. The Salmon River in Leesville and the Connecticut River north of Hartford are the meccas of shaddom. In Massachusetts, the Merrimack River draws good numbers of fishermen as soon as the word is out that the shad have returned. American shad can be found all along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Florida. Shad spawn earlier in the southern states, usually during March and later in the north, usually in May. Migration of the fish is triggered by water temperature
Shad enter the sport fishery during their spawning runs. Generally in their southern reaches shad reproduce only once but in their northern reaches a large population of shad spawn two or three times. Tagging studies have revealed that a large number of shad return to their parental streams but a significant number of fish exhibit no migratory patterns. Shad tagged in the Hudson River have been recaptured in the Bay of Fundy and shad tagged in Maine have been found in different river systems from Connecticut to Georgia.
Newly hatched shad will generally spend the summer in the river they were hatched in. During the fall they will leave the river and enter salt water where they will spend the next 2 to 5 years before returning to fresh water to start the cycle all over again.
American shad are caught in a number of different ways depending on the location and type of waters they are fished. Trolling with spinning or bait casting tackle is a popular method is some locations. The standard procedure is to troll with small silver spoons. The spoon is presented close to the bottom and manipulated with short, snappy jerks. However, casting can be just as effective and allows for the angler to impart a much wider variety of erratic movements to the lure. When fishing the faster currents of many northern rivers experienced anglers prefer to let their lures "hang" in the currents.
Fly fishing for shad has steadily gained in popularity since shad were first discovered inn local waters. Many times a shad fly is presented by anglers using light spinning gear. Most feel that this technique is the best of both worlds. Fly fishing is most effective in the shallow rivers that have fast running currents. A wide variety of shad flies have grown from the original patterns. Flies with white wings and tinsel bodies are popular in some areas while brightly colored flies are popular in other locations. Flies in sizes 2,4 and 6 are the most effective. The traditional shad fly makes use of a red bead. It was once believed that the red, glass bead was necessary to attract the shad. Today it has been proven that the red bead is really a fisherman’s preference. One of the reasons that fishermen were convinced that the red bead was needed was probably due to the fact that the bead caused the fly to sink faster and remain in deeper water. Current anglers will add 2 or 3 beads to their leaders and report great success. Red, orange, orange-red, pink and yellow beads are all acceptable choices. Even beads followed by a bare hook will attract shad.
Fly fishermen generally prefer weighted flies. Most wrap the shank of the hook with lead or copper wire before creating their favorite fly pattern. Sinking fly lines and fast sinking line are an advantage for fly fishermen working rivers. The fly is generally cast up and across the river letting the current sweep the fly across the river. The fisherman must also work the fly imparting short, swift jerks. A fly rod designed for bass bugging is generally a good choice as flies are weighted and the fish can run big.
There are no establisher equipment requirements for the taking of shad. A five foot bait-casting rod with a compatible reel is the choice of many. The reel should be spooled with 12 lb. braided line or 6 lb. monofilament line. If your choice is braided line then the addition of a 24 inch mono leader is dictated.
Spinning gear choices are usually a 6 to 61/2 foot rod equipped with an appropriate reel and spooled with 6 to 8 pound monofilament line.
A wide variety of lures are used in the pursuit of shad. In this area the use of shad darts is very common. White and yellow are common but many fluorescent colors are used. Combinations of colors are preferred by many anglers. Although white or yellow bucktail tied to the dart is considered to be the norn throughout many areas, local anglers prefer a variety of bright colors. In the local area, tandem rigged darts and darts rigged with a dropper are the most popular choices. The dropper used in the local fishery is both effective and simple. A size 2,4 or 6 gold aberdeen hook with a piece of red yarn wrapped around the shank of the hook is all that is required for this very effective dropper. The dropper should be positioned about 20 inches behind the shad dart.
In this area the most popular location for shad fishing is the Merrimack River. The first fish of the season will be caught along the Rocks Village section of the river. Fishermen line the banks casting a wide assortment of lures to moving fish. As time moves on, fish move up the river. Just below the Essex Dam in Lawrence is a very popular location and fishing conditions, at times, can be quite crowded. Fishing the main river currents are productive but the currents created by the discharge of water at the sluiceways is also very worthwhile. Not only do shore fishermen do well in this area, but boat fishermen using car toppers also work the river. The area below the Rt. 495 bridge is also popular and productive. There is a small ea behind the restaurant that is also productive.
This is a fishery that provides anglers with plenty of action and a great challenge. Don’t be surprised if you lose a few fish before you finally catch on the angling techniques necessary to master the shad. Keep you eyes open and don’t be afraid to experiment. The more time you spend on the river the more fish you will bring to net.


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