Why is spring such a great time for fishing in Buzzards Bay?
After spending a long winter in the Hudson River, Chesapeake Bay, and North Carolina, stripers begin to migrate up the East Coast once water temperatures warm in spring. They follow the food as they swim north, gobbling up smaller forage fish such as river herring, shad, and menhaden. The first big schools of striped bass usually begin migrating through Buzzards Bay around mid-May – where anglers await their first big catch of the year.
In late April, schools of juveniles (called “schoolies”) are usually the earliest stripers to reach Buzzards Bay’s shores. Schoolies are on the hunt for river herring that are heading upstream this time of year, so they’re often found where harbors, coves, and estuaries meet the Bay.
Stripers are Buzzards Bay’s most prized and popular sportfish. But they’re not the only fish you might catch around here in spring:
- Tautog usually start running around April, moving into estuaries and rivers when water temperatures rise. Look for tautog in rocky areas such as jetties, bridges, reefs, and ledges.
- Small, plentiful scup are a favorite catch for new anglers because they’re fun and easy to catch. You can fish for scup from most piers and boats around Buzzards Bay starting in May.
- Black sea bass season opens in early to mid May. You’ll find these striking blue-black fish in similar areas as tautog and scup: around bottom structures like rocks, reefs, and wrecks.
- Ravenous schools of bluefish are more common in summer and fall, but you can sometimes catch some big blues starting in late May.
- Buzzards Bay is home to summer flounder, more commonly called “fluke.” Search for these flat bottom-dwellers in shallow bays and estuaries over sandy or muddy bottoms.
What do I need before I go fishing?
The most important thing you’ll need to go fishing is a recreational saltwater permit, which you can easily order online or by phone. For just $10, you’ll be able to fish all year long!
You should also make sure you know the regulations for saltwater fishing in Massachusetts. For instance, any striped bass you keep must be between 28 and 35 inches, and you’re only allowed to keep one fish per day.
And of course, you’ll need the right gear and bait. In addition to a rod and reel, you can use either artificial lures or natural bait to catch stripers. Not sure which one’s best? Here’s a top 10 list of striper baits and lures to help you get started.
Early morning is generally the best time to go fishing, but tides are even more important to watch: a high tide is best when fishing from the beach or along the coast; from a bridge or a pier, try fishing when the tide is changing directions from low to high.
For some more basic advice on gear, lures, and other essentials of saltwater fishing, we recommend you read Marc Folco’s outdoors column in The Standard-Times. When you’re ready to take the next step, head over to a website like New England Boating for in-depth advice on gear, techniques, and places to go fishing.
Where should I go fishing on Buzzards Bay in the spring?
Whether from the shore or on the water, Buzzards Bay has countless great fishing spots. If you want the latest intel on locations where local angers are catching stripers, tautog, and more in spring, check out Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod fishing reports and forecasts from sources like On the Water, Salty Cape, and My Fishing Cape Cod.
There are some perennial favorite places where you can try your hand at reeling in a spring catch. Here are 10 spots to check out this spring:
1. Westport River (Westport)
The marshy corners of both branches of the Westport River provide great habitat for schoolies in early spring. Along rocks, pilings, and bridges, look for tautog running through the estuary this time of year. In May, larger stripers arrive as they chase herring up the river.
Surfcast from scenic Cherry & Webb Beach, or cast a line from the Route 88 bridge or the Hixbridge Road bridge. If you have a boat, launch from the state boat ramp to reach nearby destinations like Ship Rock and Gooseberry Island, or to head out into Buzzards Bay’s open waters.
2. Apponagansett Bay/Padanaram (Dartmouth)
Apponagansett Bay in South Dartmouth is another popular spot for fishing, especially from shore. Head to the Padanaram drawbridge to catch stripers, tautog, or scup, or try surfcasting from the beach along Smith Neck Road. Or embark by boat from the town landing at Apponagansett Park to fish in the harbor or just outside the mouth.
3. Dumpling Rocks, Great Ledge, and the Sandspit (Dartmouth)
If you have a boat, then you have even more options for great striper fishing. One place to try this spring is actually a trio of spots known as Dumpling Rocks, the Great Ledge, and the Sandspit. These rocks and ledges just off Round Hill in Dartmouth hold some stripers starting in spring. Nearby Mishaum Ledge is also worth a visit. You can launch from Westport, Dartmouth, or New Bedford to reach these waters.
4. Fort Taber Park (New Bedford)
The fishing pier and rocky shoreline at Fort Taber Park provides plenty of access for anglers to the mouth of New Bedford Harbor, where stripers and tautog start running in spring. You can also launch from the nearby East Rodney French Boulevard boat ramp to reach excellent fishing spots like Great Ledge just offshore.
Before you go fishing in New Bedford Harbor, take a glance at the EPA’s fish consumption rules for fish and shellfish caught in the harbor. Because scup, tautog, and fluke are bottom feeders, they’re susceptible to toxic PCB pollution that lingers in the bottom of New Bedford Harbor, so the EPA does not recommend eating them.
5. West Island (Fairhaven)
For spring tautog, West Island is the place to be! These fish favor rocky bottoms and shores like those found here in Fairhaven. From land, you can cast a line from the West Island causeway or try surfcasting from the town beach. Boats can launch from Hoppy’s Landing to anchor off the island and fish its rocky ledges.
6. Ned’s Point (Mattapoisett)
Enjoy the view of Ned’s Point Light while fishing the waters of Mattapoisett Harbor from this scenic spot. Stripers usually arrive here in early May, and there’s plenty of shoreline access to try and catch one. Nearby Angelica Point is another place to look for stripers starting in May. To fish offshore, launch from the boat ramp at the Mattapoisett Town Wharf.
7. Weweantic River (Wareham)
The Weweantic River has been a popular fishing destination for years, and with good reason. Early in the season, you can expect to find schoolies that provide fun fishing, if not record sizes. Bluefish, which generally arrive in late May, and scup may also be caught here. Plus, access is easy: fish from the bridge and rocks on Route 6, or launch a boat from the state ramp at the I-195 East rest area.
8. Wareham River Sportfishing Pier (Wareham)
Near The Narrows in Wareham, the public fishing pier at Besse Park provides excellent access for anglers to the Wareham River. In spring, look for schoolies and bottom-feeding tautog here. If you prefer to explore the Wareham River by boat, you can launch just across the river at Tempest Knob.
9. Cape Cod Canal (Bourne)
The shores of the Cape Cod Canal are a mecca for local anglers trying to catch a striper in spring. There’s plenty of access and space here – just park at any of the recreation areas along the canal and find a spot on the rocks to cast a line. In addition to stripers, you’ll also find tautog, bluefish, fluke, and scup, plus many other unique species that pass through.
The Herring Run Recreation Area is an especially popular place to fish along the Cape Cod Canal. River herring gather here in spring to migrate up the fish ladder on their spawning runs, which attracts large numbers of stripers – and eager fishermen.
10. Old Silver Beach (Falmouth)
In the summer, Old Silver Beach is popular for swimming. But in spring, before the water warms enough for beachgoers to gather, it’s also the spot in Falmouth to go surfcasting for stripers. There’s a tidal creek just behind the beach where lots of herring migrate in spring, and stripers of all sizes (and maybe a few bluefish) follow them to catch their next meal. Don a pair of waders and walk out to the sandbars to cast in the surf.
11. Quicks Hole (Gosnold)
Quicks Hole is a narrow strait between Nashawena and Pasque islands in the Elizabeth Islands chain – and it’s also a major destination for anglers in Buzzards Bay. Swift currents sweep small fish through this passage between the Bay and Vineyard Sound as the tide moves in and out. This funnel effect attracts stripers, tautog, and blues starting in spring.
12. Sow & Pigs Reef (Gosnold)
Like Quicks Hole, you’ll need a boat to reach Sow & Pigs Reef, but this famous striper spot in the Elizabeth Islands is worth the trip. (It’s so good, we named a beer after it!) Whether you’re coming from nearby Cuttyhunk or all the way across the Bay in Westport, this reef provides excellent fishing for those willing to navigate its rocks and riptide. Although it’s known for striped bass, you can also catch tautog here.