You don’t have to be an expert fisherman to see why Provincetown is such a great fishing spot. Many species of migratory bait and game fish—including striped bass, bluefish, sharks and bluefin tuna—have to swim past the tip of Cape Cod as they make their way to and from summer feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine.
Hardy souls can enjoy early-season (April and May) action with cod and haddock. These tasty bottom fish can be caught close to shore in many spots off P-town, although stocks are a shadow of what they were 50 years ago. Simply sending down a heavy jig-and-teaser combo baited with clam can produce good results in 90 to 120 feet of water off Race Point, the edge of Peaked Hill Bar and down to Highland Light. If you can get the numbers of some productive wrecks, you’ll improve you chances considerably. A bit farther out, Stellwagen Bank also yields cod and haddock in the spring and early summer, with the fish moving steadily eastward to deeper water as summer approaches. A good depthsounder and GPS will help you find concentrations of fish holding over rocky structure on the bank edges. Use the same jig and teaser combos mentioned above to score.
P-town offers world-class action with trophy stripers from June to October.
Mid-June usually marks the arrival of bluefin tuna off P-town. This fishery has been the “big news” in the last decade or so, drawing anglers from around the world who want to tangle with tuna by casting lures to them on relatively light spinning gear. Last season saw many fish in the 160- to 200-pound range show up in the waters off Peaked Hill Bar, Race Point and Stellwagen Bank. These fish tested the spinning gear of many anglers, and many were lost to parted lines, bent hooks and other tales of tackle woe. Whether these same fish show up next year as 200-pound-plus fish is anyone’s guess, but if that happens, spinning gear may be rendered ineffective. Of course, live-baiting with menhaden and mackerel on 50-pound-class conventional gear also works well, as does deep-jigging with butterfly jigs, giant RonZ soft-plastics and Slug-Gos. Such tried-and-true methods as trolling squid bars and Green Machines will also take fish, especially at first light and around slack tide, when the tuna feed closer to the surface.
Striped bass have long been a major and highly accessible draw along this part of the Cape, and P-town offers world-class action with trophy fish from June to October. Best of all, good fishing is just a short run from the harbor. Traditional grounds include the turbulent waters off Race Point and the drop-off from Wood End to Race Point. However, big fish can be taken close to the beaches almost anywhere along the Outer Cape, as any seasoned surfcaster will tell you. Expect the first push of big fish (20 to 50 pounds) to arrive by June, setting up in the rips or hitting on big schools of bait. Some trophy fish can be taken on topwaters, soft-plastic jerkbaits and flies at this time, even during the mid-day hours. However, early risers still stand to enjoy the best fishing. In recent years, sand eels have been remarkably abundant off P-town—one reason long, thin lures and flies have proven highly effective.
If the fish are holding deep, trolling parachute jigs, bucktails, swimming plugs and umbrella rigs on wire line often turns the trick. A popular method is to slow-troll a 3 1⁄2- to 5-ounce black, green or purple bucktail (adorned with a long strip of porkrind) in 25 to 35 feet of water on 250 to 300 feet of wire and a long (15 feet) fluorocarbon leader. The key is to let out enough line and set the trolling speed so the jig swims just above the sandy bottom, where the fish are holding. Another way to reach these big fish is to drift and vertical jig with braided line and a heavy bucktail or diamond jig.
Perennial striper holes in the P-town area include the area off the bathhouse west of Herring Cove Beach, and inside the lobster trap lines. As in most places, a moving tide produces best. Come fall, migrating stripers can be encountered in open water and along the beaches as they chase the bait south. Look for large flocks of gulls or gannets and you’ll almost certainly find action.
Big bluefish are another favorite sportfish, and can be taken throughout the day on topwaters and swimming plugs in the same spots as stripers. A 7-foot popping rod loaded with 12- to 15-pound test and a heavy pencil popper or metal lure is usually all you need to catch these fish if you find them feeding on top. Trolling a deep-diving plug at 4 to 5 knots along bottom-contour lines, steep drop-offs or around schools of bait marked on the sounder is another good way to catch fish that are holding deep.
If you’re looking for some laid-back fishing closer to shore, fluke can be taken inside the protected confines of Provincetown Harbor and along the channel edges out to Long Point. Doormats are relatively scarce these days, but there are plenty of fish in the 2- to 4-pound class. A good approach is to drift sand eels and 1- to 2-ounce bucktails on high-low rigs along drop-offs in 10 to 30 feet of water. Keep your line as vertical as possible and make sure your rig taps bottom at all times. Also, remember that a strong to moderate current usually offers the best action. Fluke fishing is solid through the summer, with the end September sometimes producing the best action of the year before the fish head offshore.
Bait & Tackle
- Nelson’s Bait and Tackle (508-487-0034)
- Olde Cape Cod Tackle Box (508-487-4578)
- Goose Hummock Shop, Orleans, (508-255-2620)
- Reel Deal Charters, (508-487-3767)
- Lighthouse Charters (845-224-4616)
- Beth Ann Charters (508-487-0034)
- Ginny G. Charters (508-246-3656)
- Fin-Addiction Charters, (508-349-1404, 508-360-2037-cell)
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