What to Do

Fishing on Nantucket

The waters around Nantucket are teeming with a variety of game fish, sure to please anglers of any stripe. When fishing on Nantucket, it’s important to match your expectations with the proper tackle and location.

Brian Quinn of the Nantucket Tackle Shop offers an important bit of advice to both novice and experience anglers: Invest the time. He says the biggest mistake that inexperienced anglers make is to give up too quickly. In fishing, patience is a virtue.

If you are willing to invest the time, you are sure to find fish whether you choose a pier, jetty, beach or boat for your fishing platform.

Prime fishing season on Nantucket begins in early May and runs through early November. Tide and time are important yardsticks for experienced anglers, but for the less experienced, anytime is a good time to give it a shot.

The youngest fishermen might be most successful bottom fishing from a dock or beach jetty. To set up a bottom rig, tie a lead weight or sinker to the end of the line with a hook 18 inches above. Toss the line in the water, trying to keep the sinker on the bottom while keeping the line taught. Using this rig, you can count on catching scup, fluke and even the occasional sand shark. Claims, frozen squid or sea worms are the preferred bait.

Older youngsters capable of handling a surfcasting rod might want to try their hand fishing from the beach. Quinn suggests Dionis Beach as a great spot for the inexperienced. The water us shallow with a gentle drop and surf is seldom a problem. The preferred method here is cast and retrieve. Using surface plugs, crank bait or any top water method is the best way to catch the forever hungry blue fish.

There is much discussion about their place on the dinner table, but there is no dispute about the fun they will produce at the end of a fishing line. Pound for pound they provide the toughest fight this side of a heavy weight ring. Blues must eat their own weight daily and are almost always feeding. One caution in landing blues, they have a mouth full of razor sharp teeth and will snap at anything. Make sure to use long-nose pliers or hook extractor and keep your fingers clear.

If blue fish are rock and roll, striped bass are classical music, to be savored and enjoyed. While occupying the same waters as blues, attracted to the same baitfish, stripers are far cagier and more difficult to catch.

They prefer to feed nearer the bottom and while they won’t mix it up directly with the blues, they can be often found at the edges of a feeding group of blues, waiting for the occasional straggler.

While feeding blues will hit anything they see, stripers are far more fussy. Live eels, sea worms, and lures fitted with scented bait all have their adherents. Each bait requires a different technique, and no one method is guaranteed to work every time. Particularly in the summer, bass prefer to feed at night, so early morning or evening is prime time.
While more difficult to catch, the rewards at the dinner table could not be greater.

If you are hoping to increase your odds, or the size of your prey, consider bringing in the professionals. Cross Rip Outfitters on S. Water Street is among the businesses that can link you up with a seasoned fishing guide who will bring you to where the fish are. This frequently requires a journey by four-wheel drive vehicle to an out of the way beach. You will find fishing guides in our directory, or in the phone book.

If you don’t want to limit yourself to the fish that happen along the shores of the island, you will need a boat, either your own or one operated by one of the dozens of charter captains who make their home on Nantucket.

If you have your own boat on the island, Bob DeCosta, skipper of the charter boat Albacore, offers a few suggested places to try: The waters around Great Point are usually productive, as are the waters in the chord of the bay, south of the line between Great Point and Nantucket Harbor entrance along Cotue's northern shore. For the more adventurous, cruise around the south side of the island, off Sankaty Head looking for big blues and stripers. DeCosta argues against fishing on the west side of the island without good local knowledge because of the shifting sand bars around Tuckernuck and Muskeget islands.

If you are looking for a charter skipper there are plenty of choices. About two dozen captains fish out of Nantucket Harbor, some directly from Straight wharf, and others who keep their boats on moorings. By and large, the Nantucket skippers favor trolling, although some will offer spin casting trips.

Skippers generally offer trips of 21/2 hours and five hours. Private charter boats generally carry four to six passengers in a single party. Head boats will carry as many as 20 individuals who will share fishing times.

If you are after truly large game fish, Nantucket is a good place to start, since it is closer to the offshore grounds than the mainland ports. A number of boats offer trips up to 100 miles off shore. These trips, eight hours long, target big game fish including blue and yellow fin tuna, big eye tuna, blue and white marlin, mahi mahi and offshore sharks such as mako and blue. You will be pursuing fish from several hundred pounds to as much as 900 pounds. A side benefit of the tuna trips is a chance to do some whale watching as well, since the tuna and whales often feed together.

A number of boats also offer offshore trips of eight hours or more where they target tuna, marlin, swordfish and shark 50 to 100 miles off the coast.

Another dozen skippers work out of Madaket Harbor. Many of these boats specialize in spin casting trips. A number of the boats are also rigged for flats fishing, where the skipper will pole the boat along the sandbars on the western side of the island sight fishing for large stripers, bonito and false albacore. A number of skippers also specialize in fly fishing for the truly dedicated anglers.

Whatever your skill level, you are sure to find a Nantucket fishing experience that works for you.


Fishermen try their luck along Miacomet Beach.

Inquirer and Mirror photo