Destination Cape Cod: Upper Cape Part 1
By Gene Bourque
South Cape State Beach, Mashpee, MA
South Cape Beach is perhaps the best known fishing area along the south-facing shore of the Upper Cape. In fact, it was the first place I fished the Upper Cape when I moved here. You can be sure you’ll have plenty of company on the beach close to the parking areas (one controlled by the State, one by the town of Mashpee – be sure to check the latest regulations regarding parking times and/or residency requirements) but that’s usually not where I like to fish.
South Cape is famous for being a great early season schoolie bass area and in May the bluefish put in their first area appearance here and to the east toward Cotuit. I prefer to walk in either direction away from main parking areas. Be aware that the sand is soft and trying to go any distance in neoprene waders or with heavy clothing can be exhausting. If I decide to walk to the left (facing the water) I won’t begin fishing until I round the first bend in the beach. A long sandbar extends from the beach in that area and the fish will often stack up along the down-tide side. There is a surprisingly strong tidal flow over that bar, so be very careful is you decide to wade in and fish. You often don’t have to wade though; the fish are often right in the wash at your feet. If I’m feeling energetic I’ll fish this rip for a while, then continue down the beach along the New Seabury golf course and fish the bowls between the small points. Stick to shallow or medium running lures here, or surface stuff because the water is quite shallow and often weedy. That can be the case along most of South Cape Beach, by the way, especially if the prevailing southwest breeze has been blowing for a few days.
My other option is to walk west from the parking lot but I don’t attempt that walk along the beach itself. At one time a road ran down the middle of the peninsula that extends to the west toward the jetties that mark the entrance to Waquoit Bay and that road is now a walking trail that is much, much easier to negotiate than the soft sand. Yes, there is a possibility I’ll miss blitzing fish along the beachfront but I’m willing to take that chance because I have another plan in mind. After walking for 10 or 15 minutes I’ll be close to the bay side of the peninsula. To the right is a large salt marsh with a small opening and stripers will sometimes feed near that opening and all along the beach on the bay side. This is a great place to work a shallow running soft plastic bait or a topwater lure.
I’ll cut over and continue walking along the bay shore, fishing my way toward the jetties. Anywhere I see areas with grassy patches on the bottom with clear sand nearby are worth a few casts. I’ve caught some surprisingly large stripers along this shore and I hardly ever see anyone else fishing. Eventually I’ll reach the place where the beach curves toward the foot of the jetty. That bowl is a fantastic spot after dark when the boaters are done for the day. A few years ago I fished this bowl during an outgoing tide with large black soft plastics and caught four bass over twenty pounds. It’s a good hike, but it’s worth the effort.
The jetty itself is popular with the bait fishing crowd who catch scup and tautog. I don’t usually fish out there but I’ve seen plenty of schoolie blitzes in the channel between the jetties. I do always make a point to check the area on the Sound side where the jetty meets the outer beach however because sometimes bass and blues push bait right into that corner.
Menahaunt Town Beach in Falmouth
If you don’t opt for South Cape Beach, you could try Menahaunt Town Beach in Falmouth. Again, expect most of the fishermen to be working the beach and the two small jetties adjacent to the parking area but you’d be wise to extend your range a bit if you value a more solitary fishing experience. The salt pond behind the beach (Bourne’s Pond) is a favorite spot of fly-fishermen but the wading can be treacherous due to soft mud in many places. If you happen to see someone who’s obviously familiar with the area wading out to fish, follow his lead if you want to fish inside. This can be a great spot in the fall when the baby menhaden are around and occasionally a very large fish is caught from right beneath the bridge. When I fish Menahaunt is usually work my way along the beach to the east, fishing each little jetty (if it’s not posted), eventually ending up at the jetty that marks the entrance to Eel Pond. This spot is very good unless there is boat traffic.
Falmouth Heights, Falmouth, MA
If you drive from Menahaunt toward Falmouth Heights you’ll cross a bridge at Green Pond. Bottom fishermen used to line up here for flounder in the spring but those days are long gone. Continuing west the next inlet you’ll cross is the entrance to Great Pond. The jetties there are good bets at times but parking and access is no longer available unless you’re lucky enough to know someone who lives in the area and allows you to park.
Eventually you’ll pass over Falmouth Heights (the rocky shore below the Heights can feature some good fishing early and late in the season and parking is available on the street) and if you continue to the entrance of Falmouth Harbor you’ll find some parking at the town bulkhead. In the spring before the harbor gets too active with boat traffic and the annual squid run is going on, the water below the bulkhead can hold some amazingly large stripers. They’re there because the commercial squid boats off load their catches there and some discard falls into the water to the waiting lazy bass. You can sometimes take a few schoolies or bluefish off the jetty here, but this area is just too busy for my liking.
Surf Drive, Falmouth, MA
On the other side of the harbor is Surf Drive, which runs west toward the point you’ll see in the distance crowned by Nobska Light. I’ll talk about that area in a minute, but as you drive along Surf Drive you’ll see some small jetties and outflows from salt ponds. There are a couple parking areas along the road and although the beach front here is rather nondescript, big stripers often work along this shore after dark. Trying big, black or purple Hogys here after dark or in the predawn hour.
Just after Surf Drive crosses the Bike Path it intersects with Oyster Pond Road. Proceed a couple hundred yards west on what is now Oyster Pond Road and you’ll see a dirt road on your left. This leads to a parking area adjacent to a small outflow called Trunk River. This is perhaps the most famous herring run in Falmouth, and although the taking of herring is now prohibited and the run has been way down in recent years, bass and bluefish still hang out in the vicinity and this is a very popular spot. You even have a chance (albeit a small one!) at catching a false albacore from shore along this beach in the fall. There’s plenty of parking here too, and as of this writing you can still park here at night and there is no charge.
I don’t usually spend much time fishing near the parking area though. In my opinion, the shoreline from Trunk River all the way down to Nobska offers the best shore fishing on the Upper Cape throughout the season. This is because there is plenty of current (more as you approach Nobska), and the rocky and weedy water is just what stripers like. I’ll walk down the Bike Path for about a quarter mile, then cut down to the water near the first jetty and begin fishing. A word about the jetties along this stretch. Some are open to fishing; some are private and posted as such. Obey the signs, stay below the high water line and you are perfectly within your rights to fish this shore, although it is dotted with million dollar homes and posted private property. Obey the shore fisherman’s Number One Rule of not drawing attention to yourself and you should have no problems.
To be successful along this mile or so of shoreline it’s very important to keep moving and casting. Some places are easier to fish than others, but anywhere you find dark water and rocks can hold huge stripers. Plan to start fishing before the sun comes up and I can tell you that black, amber or purple Hogy softbaits are absolute killers here.
Nobska, Falmouth, MA
Eventually you’ll reach Nobska but if you’d like to just fish that area and forego the long walk, there is parking for a few cars at the foot of the lighthouse. Parking is tight during the day but in the early morning, evening and after dark you should have no problem. Nobska is the best known big fish spot on this corner of the Cape for good reason, but it is not easy to fish. A small broken down jetty on the east side is the preferred casting spot but there is only room for one angler. If you’re lucky enough to be that person you are in easy casting distance to a huge rip that is an absolute fish magnet. All my biggest shore-caught stripers so far this year have come from that spot, all caught on amber and bubblegum 10-inch Hogys.
If that spot is occupied, follow the rip-rap around the foot of the hill and cast wherever you can find some open water between the boulders, keeping mind that you will definitely have your hands full if you tie into a big fish and it decides to head into the boulder field. Stick to shallow running soft baits or surface plugs here. The live eel slingers do well here after dark, too.
On the west side you’ll see a more substantial jetty but this one is private and posted.
Don’t fish there, no matter how tempting it looks. The beach beyond looks good too, and parking is possible in the off hours but I’ve never caught more than small schoolies there. Maybe you’ll have better luck, because with the huge rip at Nobska on one side and Woods Hole Passage not far away on the other, there must be big bass there at one time or another.
Woods Hole, MA
has fantastic fishing but unfortunately it is pretty much the domain of the boat fishermen. There is one jetty in the downtown area that some people fish (and is another decent possibility for albies and bonito later in the season) but you’ll have to deal with metered parking, and the jetty itself was heavily damaged in a huge storm last fall. In any case, there is only room for a couple fishermen there and I just don’t fish there as much as I used to years ago. Back when menhaden were thick in our waters, the areas around the docks were virtual slaughterhouses as huge bluefish would push the pogies in and literally turn the water red. Perhaps that will happen again someday and I’m pleased to note that we are seeing a modest resurgence in the menhaden population so it’s worth keeping an ear to the ground this summer and fall for reports from this area. Overall though, just about all the shorefront in Woods Hole is inaccessible to shore fishermen.
In the next issue of Hogy Lures e-magazine we’ll look at some places around the corner along the Buzzards Bay shore of the Cape down to the West End of the Cape Cod Canal. You can also order my book Fishing New England – A Cape Cod Shore Guide for more information and places to fish throughout the Cape. If you’re a boater and coming to this area, you can also order Fishing New England – a Boater’s Guide to Cape Cod and Islands, which is filled with information on fishing locations around the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and my absolute favorite area for trophy stripers, the Elizabeth Islands. If you’re coming to the Cape for our world-class fishing, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to give you an up to the minute report on the fishing.
Good luck & tight lines!
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