Chatham, MA Fishing: From Beautiful Coastlines to Top Fishing Spots

Chatham, MA Fishing: From Beautiful Coastlines to Top Fishing Spots
Published: Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021
Updated on: Friday, April 16th, 2021

Chatham, named after a town in Kent, England, is a coastline town and historical fishing community situated on the southeast tip or “elbow” of Cape Cod in the state of Massachusetts. It is known for having pristine beaches and beautiful coastline scenery, making it a popular tourist vacation spot. It has six major beaches offering sweeping views of Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Chatham is a small rustic town whose population can easily reach up to 25,000 during the influx of tourists. The most popular destination to visit here is Chatham Lighthouse, built in the 19th century and remains active by the Coast Guard Station today. Visitors often come to walk the shoreline and swim in the Chatham Lighthouse Beach’s waters, where they can occasionally spot seals breaking on the surf.  

Chatham is known for its various water sports activities, such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and boating. Fishing is one of the most popular activities in this area, whether inshore, offshore, or surfcasting on the beaches. Chatham Pier is a popular commercial fishing area, and it's famous for the seals that come close by to feed on scraps. This town has various nature trails and parks, especially down south, where Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge is located.

Chatham Fishing

Chatham’s beautiful coastlines make for some of the country's best angling conditions, and fishing is a way of life in this quiet town. Cape Cod is an angler’s deep-sea fishing haven, and Chatham is at its heart with easy access to offshore waters. Hiring a charter with a seasoned captain is the best way to navigate the deep waters and hook some beautiful fish.

Two small boats docked on Chatham Port

You can land bluefin tuna and sharks not far from the shore during the summer, while cod and haddock are plentiful year-round. However, Chatham (and basically the entire East Coast) is primarily known for its striped bass, which has been fished in these waters since the Colonial period. They are so plentiful you can catch them either by trolling or surfcasting, inshore, or nearshore. Big stripers can reach more than 50 inches in length. 

While Chatham has freshwater fishing covered with its ponds, such as Oyster Pond and White Pond, anglers primarily look for big fish. They should travel out deep into Georges Bank, a bustling aquatic ecosystem hosting a hundred different fish species. The Labrador Current and the Gulf Stream, intertwining along with the warm mid-depth waters, help propagate species for spawning and feeding. Out here, you can find the best cod, haddock, and flounder

If you’re looking for bottomfish, you’ll have your fill of bluefish, flounder, black sea bass. Anglers can find black sea bass just minutes from the shore. But if you’re going for the prized offshore fish such as tuna, which Chatham is known for, having a seasoned captain to take you out on a full-day charter is your best bet, and they’ll make sure to take care of your license as well.

Crab Ledge, located only 6-miles east of Chatham Inlet, is a hotspot for bluefin tuna. Since it’s located nearby, small boats can easily travel to this area and may be populated with other anglers looking to score some tuna. It’s often been called “tuna country” and what makes it popular is the plentiful baitfish in this area. 

If you want to go farther offshore for tuna, you can ask your charter captain about The Regal Sword, a shipwreck located around 35 nautical miles east of Monomoy Island. There are many wrecks and various other structures to be found out this far out, which provide a great habitat for fish. This area is particularly popular for its bountiful cod. Again, you'll need an experienced captain, as the currents are strong and the waters can get rough. 

One of the most popular fishing spots Chatham'sis Morris Island, featuring various waterways nestled within sand bars and occasional drop-offs. Sand eels are abundant here, providing plenty of forage for stripers. The area where the Oyster River spills into the Stage Harbor on the southern tip is a great area to start. When the season is right, you can sight cast for striped bass right from the shore, but casting while wading is the popular method in this area. Locals suggest starting at the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and trailing along the coast until the Oyster River, casting your line out to the darker water areas. 

 

Seasonal Fishing in Chatham

Aerial view of Eastward Road, Chatham, MA

The winter months in Chatham are considered an off-season for tourism and angling. It remains homely and rustic, but most businesses shut down due to the cold. Freshwater fishing is still good during this time, and you’ll find that even cod and pollock, which boast year-round seasonality in Chatham, are still plentiful with lesser numbers of Atlantic mackerel and haddock.

The fish populations start to pick up in spring as striped bass and tautog start to appear in the waters. Fluke is peaking during April, and good numbers of shad are around as well. When May comes around, the cape starts to get more lively as tourists start to arrive and charters start to head back out into the water. Striped bass, cod, flounder, haddock, Atlantic mackerel, and tautog are all biting. Squid jigging is popular during this time, but it’s best to hire a charter for the best spots.

Black sea bass make their appearance on the north Atlantic coast in late May and early June, lasting until August, so it's best to make the most of their short seasonality. Nantucket Sound is a good place to spot some sea bass. Bluefish migrate during early summer. Light tackle and fly fishing by the harbors are recommended during this time. Sight fishing for striped bass is excellent, especially on the flats of Monomoy and the southern beaches of the cape. 

When July and August hit, shark and tuna season is in full swing offshore east of Chatham and is the best time to hire a charter with an experienced captain. A variety of sharks can be had, such as blue shark, mako, porbeagle, and thresher. As for tuna, you’ll have the usual suspects of bluefin and yellowfin

In August, surf fishing hits its peak, so the beaches and coasts will be crowded. Seasoned anglers who want more peace and quiet can take this opportunity to go offshore for the big monsters since sharks and tuna fishing are still hot. Bonito and false albacore make an appearance during this time, and striped bass and bluefish are still going strong along beaches and the Monomoy Rips.

The beginning of autumn is a great time for fly fishing, as the shallows have bluefish, striped bass, and weakfish. However, September is known as the high season and is perfect for bluefin tuna that come closer to the shore. All popular fish species are in the waters and will be around until October, which is the last push for the high season. By November, Chatham becomes more peaceful once again as tourists leave, but the ever-faithful cod and pollock are still biting.

 

Top 10 Fish Species in Chatham

The top 10 fish species you can catch in Chatham, MA are striped bass, bluefin tuna, black sea bass, cod, pollock, flounder, bluefish, sharks, false albacore, and tautog.

Chatham, MA Fishing: From Beautiful Coastlines to Top Fishing Spots Fish species
Black Sea Bass

Habitat: Offshore, Onshore, Nearshore, Wreck, Reef

Weight: 2 - 9 Pounds

Length: 10" - 26"

Bluefish

Habitat: Nearshore, Onshore

Weight: 3 - 15 Pounds

Length: 15" - 51"

Bluefin Tuna 

Habitat: Offshore

Weight: 200 - 600 Pounds

Length: 78" - 180"

Tautog 

Habitat: rocky outcrops, boulders, jetties

Weight: 1 - 3 Pounds

Length: 1" - 36"

Pollock

Habitat: Offshore, Nearshore

Weight: 20 - 35 Pounds

Length: 24" - 42"

Atlantic Cod

Habitat: Offshore, Ocean Floor

Weight: 4 - 103 Pounds

Length: 48" - 60"

Striped Bass

Habitat: River, Lake, Onshore, Near shore

Weight: 10 - 81 Pounds

Length: 20" - 55"

Shortfin Mako Shark

Habitat: Offshore

Weight: 150 - 300 Pounds

Length: 72" - 150"

Fun Things to Do in Chatham

 

1. Chatham Fishing Charters

Red car parked outside the yellow Chatham Railroad Museum
Chatham Railroad Museum

Cape Cod is known for its fishing, and Chatham is no exception. Whether it's exciting and tasty inshore species, or going for pelagics or sharks offshore, it's smart to consider hiring a charter captain ensure you take advantage of the top local fishing spots.

2. Chatham Lighthouse and Beach

Take in a little history by visiting the Chatham Lighthouse, alternatively known as Twin Lights, which has stood watching over the waters since 1808. It’s a fully operational National Coast Guard Station today. You can book a scheduled tour and traverse the 44 steps and ladder to reach the top of the lighthouse for some spectacular views. When you’re done exploring the lighthouse, you can walk along the beautiful beach. 

3. Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

Enjoy the outdoors by visiting this protected area that spreads across 7,604 acres of land and bodies of water. Five endangered species of birds nest at this refuge, and if you visit in the right season, you can witness up to 50,000 seals on the shore that come to sunbathe and give birth. 

4. Chatham Railroad Museum

The Chatham Railroad Museum first opened its doors in 1960 but is located in a railroad depot that has been around since 1887 and stopped operating in the 1930s. It holds various relics and antiques related to trains and is a fun and interesting activity for the whole family.

Fishing Techniques
Fly Fishing
Surf Casting
Trolling