The summer sun may be fading, but the saltwater fishing is still heating up.
Early autumn is a sublime time for fishing around Yarmouth and much of Cape Cod, with stripers and bluefish feeding in schools before heading southward to warmer waters. There’s also plenty of action on the bottom, if you want scup, tautog, black sea bass and flounder – all feeding and fattening up for winter. Yes, all those “little ones” that were tossed back during June and July because they were too small, are now bigger and fatter. After Labor Day, the piers and boat launches are less crowded, too – especially on weekdays.
Yarmouth has plenty of great fishing spots where the big ones are biting – off the piers, off the jetties, along the beaches and even around the 127-acre man-made reef – a “haven” for sea bass, scup, tautog and other bottom-feeders.
Well I’ll be… an ‘Albie’
All the varied habitat in Yarmouth makes for intense rod-and-reel action. But the biggest prize for autumn anglers is the electrifying strike of an “albie” or its close relative, the bonito. False albacores (“albies” for short) and their cousins, bonito, show up with flashes of splashes along Yarmouth’s warm-water shorelines every September, chasing silversides, peanut bunker (menhaden), and other small bait fish. Those who hook into one can look forward to the fight of a lifetime, with long, line-stripping runs that put both your fishing gear and your biceps to the test.
The fast-moving fish can show up anywhere along the jetties or shoreline of Yarmouth’s south-facing beaches, especially in the early morning and evening, says Garrett Kinnen of Rivierview Bait and Tackle in South Yarmouth. He recommends following the birds to find the fish, then casting epoxy jigs or small “metals” with a fast retrieve.
You’ll also need more finesse than when fishing for bass or blues. Bonito and false albacore have outstanding eyesight and will ignore lures that are clipped to the end of a conspicuous steel leader. The most successful fishermen use light tackle and tie their lures directly to a nearly invisible fluorocarbon leader.
Stripers and bluefish are still active into October, so keep a rod rigged for those prime gamefish, too. Find out more about albies, bonito and other fall fishing targets, along with the best gear for catching them by contacting Riverview Bait and Tackle.
Reef fishing in Nantucket Sound
If you’re more inclined to fish the bottom with baited hook, try Yarmouth’s man-made fishing reef – aka the Tire Pile. Of course you’ll need a boat, as the site is located roughly 2 miles due south of Bass River.
The artificial reef was created in 1978, using cement-filled tires that were strapped together to prevent them from drifting, said Yarmouth Director of Natural Resources Karl von Hone. More materials have been added to the reef in recent years, but now the debris is limited to environmentally-approved materials like clean concrete and granite, he said.
The water in Nantucket Sound is about 35 feet deep, and the bottom is flat and sandy, von Hone explained, noting the artificial reef creates shelter for baitfish and marine invertebrates, which in turn attract the bigger fish that feed on them.
What kind of fish? Not only tautog, scup and other bottom-feeders, but occasional stripers, bluefish and false albacore. One fisherman even reeled in a Spanish mackerel at the site, he said.
The added structure at Yarmouth’s fishing reef only raises the bottom by 4-5 feet, so it isn’t a navigation hazard, von Hone said. Similar reefs have been created in Massachusetts waters since Yarmouth’s pioneering effort, including structures in Dartmouth, Boston Harbor and nearby Harwich. Learn more about Yarmouth’s fishing reef here.
Yarmouth also has public fishing piers along Bass River at Wilbur Park and Smuggler’s Beach. There’s easy access and parking, especially at Smuggler’s Beach (aka Bass River Beach). Find more information at the Town of Yarmouth website. Or check out a statewide map of fishing piers and boat landings here.
Party boat fishing is less crowded
If your vision of deep-sea fishing is a crowded gunwale with frazzled deckhands untangling crossed lines, think again.
When recreational fishing boats were allowed to operate this year, they had to follow stringent guidelines for social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant limiting the number of passengers (fishermen) on board, which ensured plenty of space for safe social distancing. A side-effect of the state policy is a whole lot of elbow room.
Hy-Line Cruises operates two popular fishing excursions from the Ocean Street Dock in Hyannis. There’s a six-hour trip, which uses a 49-passenger boat, and four-hour bottom-fishing trips that use a 65-person boat, said Pat Conklin, operations manager for fishing and sightseeing at Hy-Line. This year, the 49-passenger boat is limited to16 fishermen and the 65-person boat carries just 20 customers, Conklin said. The result is plenty of space for social distancing and even more elbow room for fishing.
“People are just ecstatic about having the extra room,” Conklin said.
The trade-off for so much space is a higher price per person, as operators adjust the math to cover their expenses. But the trips are still a bargain at $80 for four hours and $125 for six hours – especially when you consider that the price covers tackle, bait, expert advice, and even cleaning your catch on the ride back to shore. Plus, the fishing boat captains know where the big ones are biting, and boats are equipped with the latest fish-finding equipment to ensure a more successful excursion.
Safety is a top priority on board the deep-sea fishing boats, Conklin said. Customers are required to wear face coverings while using indoor areas, and surfaces are cleaned and sanitized on every trip.
Conklin said Hy-Line will be running its fishing trips through September, but you’ll have to check the Hy-Line’s website for the latest information. The site also lists rates and offers brief descriptions of fishing trips.
You can also find deep-sea fishing excursions with Helen H Deep Sea Fishing, which operates five boats out of Hyannis. The company offers trips to local waters, as well as longer excursions to Georges Bank for cod and haddock, according to its website. Find more information, including vessels and descriptions of trips at HelenH.com.
Specialized fishing trips
Yarmouth and surrounding communities also support a number of fishing guides, who can take you on a more personal adventure. You’ll pay more for the privacy of fishing in a small boat with an expert guide, but the experiences are certainly memorable, according to testimonials from repeat customers posted on the guides’ websites.
Private guides provide diverse experiences – from chasing bonitos and false albacores with light tackle to fly fishing for stripers or testing your strength and stamina fishing for giant Bluefin tuna and sharks.
Depending on the guide and type of trip, you may be charged by the day, the half-day or the hour. Many boats are large enough to accommodate a small group – allowing a family outing or a few friends who can pitch in to share the cost. It’s best to contact several guides to find the right person who can take you on the fishing trip that suits your wishes. Also, check with individual companies for their COVID-19 policies.
Here are a few individual charter companies in Yarmouth to help you get started: Bass River Fishing Charters at 10 Pleasant St., South Yarmouth; Emmajack Cape Cod Fishing Charters with Captain Mike Harney, also at 10 Pleasant St., South Yarmouth; Pythias Sportfishing with Captain Damon Burden at 7 Captain Chase Road in South Yarmouth; and Shark Shark Tuna with Captain Shane Quenneville, at 17 Neptune Lane in South Yarmouth.
Find other outfitters in Yarmouth, Dennis and nearby communities, and check websites for prices, trip descriptions and testimonials by using your favorite search engine to locate “Yarmouth fishing guides” or a sport fishing website such as Fishing Booker.com.
Andy Tomolonis is a nonfiction author, travel writer and multimedia journalist.