Nantucket is sort of a lost world among Northeast fishing destinations. Things happen out there that have no bearing on the action along the mainland, and word of these events does not often filter back to the rest of the fishing community, especially since few small-boaters are able or willing to make the long run to ACK.
As elsewhere along the coast, striped bass are the most popular species. Many visiting anglers choose to target them from shore at spots like Smiths Point, Great Point, Eel Point, the harbor jetties and virtually any place along the open beaches that holds bait. Early morning and night often yield the best action during the summer, with fall and early spring providing great daytime sport.
The famous “Bonito Bar” off Smiths Point typically attracts a crowd of anglers who fish for the hard-fighting—and good-eating—“bones…”
Boat fishermen can sight-cast for stripers up to 40 pounds on the sand flats behind Tuckernuck Island, west of Madaket, but you’ll need a shallow-draft boat for this pursuit. The turbulent waters of Great Point Rip, Old Man Rip, Bass Rip and Miacomet Rip can produce awesome casting and trolling action for big stripers, as well as bluefish, throughout the season. You’ll often see both species holding in the first wave of the ripline, waiting for baitfish and squid to wash past.
Bluefish can be trolled up throughout the summer and early fall anywhere along the 40-foot line that runs from Nantucket Harbor to Great Point. A Rapala CD-16, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow, Bomber Long-A or similar swimming plug trolled at around 4 knots should do the trick. Keep an eye out for packs of surface-cruising blues as you troll along and be ready to throw them a popper.
The famous “Bonito Bar” (not its official name) off Smiths Point typically attracts a crowd of anglers who fish for the hard-fighting—and good-eating—“bones” starting in August and running through mid-October. The drill here is to anchor on the ocean side of the bar and blind-cast or wait for a school to pop up within range. Running-and-gunning is definitely frowned upon. The Bonito Bar also holds big stripers and blues. Many anglers anchor above the bar and fish chunk baits on the bottom for stripers while waiting for bonito to pop up within casting range.
Fluke are another popular recreational species, and the sand shoals and channels surrounding the island hold some real whoppers. Set up a slow drift or drop the anchor, then send down a jig sweetened with a squid strip or small live bait.
Bluefin tuna are available from late summer on, sometimes very close to the island, and offshore fishermen are well positioned to reach the shark and tuna grounds south of the island.
Bait & Tackle
- Barry Thurston’s Fishing Tackle (508-228-9595)
- Capt. Shawn Bristow (603-498-9518)
- Capt. Tom Mlecsko, Capt. Tom’s Charters (508-228-4225)
- Cross Rip Outfitters (508-228-4900)
A Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit is required to fish the marine waters of Massachusetts out to 3 miles from shore. Cost is $10 for both residents and non-residents. The permit expires on December 31.
No permit is required for the following individuals:
- Persons under 16 years of age.
- Persons fishing on a charter or partyboat.
- Persons who possess a saltwater fishing license from Connecticut, Rhode Island or New Hampshire.
- Persons who, regardless of age, otherwise meet the definition of a disabled person.
- The permit fee is waived for anglers 60 and older; however, these individuals must still register with the state. A small fee will be charged by the vendor to process the permit if purchased online.
For more information:
To purchase a license online:
Seasons, Catch & Size Limits
For a current list of fishing regulations, by species
- Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries: Fishing Regulations