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Gloucester, Massachusetts, is a city nestled on the eastern end of Cape Ann, right in between Ipswich Bay to the north and Massachusetts Bay to the south. It takes less than an hour to get here from Boston. Dubbed as “America’s oldest seaport”, Gloucester is known for being one of the most important ports in the world during the latter half of the 19th century, as well as a significant shipbuilding center where the first schooner was purportedly built.
As part of Massachusetts’ North Shore and with its enviable location directly on the Atlantic Ocean, Gloucester is not just a fantastic fishing center but a famous summer destination as well. To this day, the town continues to attract many visitors from all over New England and beyond for its beautiful vistas, amazing beaches, and maritime historical landmarks.
Artists are some of Gloucester’s biggest fans. Since the early 19th century, painters have flocked to the town, inspired by its scenic waterfront and stunning nature views. To this day, the city continues to host a thriving arts community while paying homage to its history with its wonderfully curated museums.
It’s not just artists who have made an indelible mark in the town that persists to this day. In the latter part of the 19th century, many immigrants from Portugal and Italy made their way to Gloucester, searching for a livelihood in the city’s thriving fishing industry. Because of this, there’s a strong Catholic influence that’s strongly felt all over Gloucester. It is most evident in the many festivals that the town hosts throughout the year, the biggest of which is St. Peter’s Fiesta. St. Peter, after all, is the patron saint of fishermen. During this massive celebration, fishermen — many of whom are descendants of the Portuguese and Italian immigrants who brought the Catholic influence over to Gloucester — carry oars that represent the fishing vessels of the town to honor St. Peter.
Today, Gloucester remains one of the country’s most active fishing ports. So if you’re looking for a new North Shore destination to fish and explore, this is the city to start with.
Fishing in Gloucester is for the angler who wants to try a little bit of everything all in one locale. Though it's most widely known for being featured on the Wicked Tuna TV show, Gloucester fishing is more than that. It has excellent opportunities for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, whether it’s inshore, nearshore, and offshore, as well as a few productive fishing piers.
Inshore, you will find yourself catching plenty of mighty and trophy striped bass. Over on the north side of Brace Cove or Norman’s Woe, make sure to check out the holes for this prized catch. A local guide will come in handy on the boulders of these areas as they can be quite dangerous. The best time to catch them is at night, but be sure to scope out the waters during the day. Other inshore fish species to target alongside stripers are bluefish, black sea bass, sea trout, and flounder.
Fly fishing for striped bass is the way to go in Straightsmouth Island. It may get a little crowded because of how productive it is, but it is still a worthy shoreline to check out. There are plenty more rivers and ponds to check out such as the rocks on the south side of Annisquam River, the boulders on the upstream entrance of Essex River, Halibut Point, and the mouth of Ipswich River if you want to experience the best of what Gloucester has to offer in terms of inshore fishing. These are great places to practice jigging or trolling.
Gloucester is a great jump-off point for nearshore and offshore fishing on the North Shore. Venture out three miles from the town on a fishing charter or boat and head towards Stellwagen Bank, where you will find yourself surrounded by diverse marine life, including trophy catch such as blue shark, black sea bass, haddock, halibut, mako shark, bluefin tuna, and cod.
If you’re looking to drift fish specifically for haddock, cod, and pollock, brave the 20 to 30 miles offshore towards Tillies Bank and Jeffreys Ledge. The waters at Tillies Bank are 150-ft deep, with a drop that goes as deep as 250 feet, so you know it attracts plenty of fish. JeffreysLedge is also just as deep with even more changes on the surface around its edges. Aside from the top three, you will find a variety of sharks here as well, including mako and thresher. Using live bait on them or trolling for them might be a great way to challenge yourself with these sharks.
Gloucester fishing, though, is most well-known for its bluefin tuna, so if you want to challenge yourself with these hard-fighting fish, get yourself a pro guide. Trolling with live bait and chunking are great techniques to use on this prized catch.
Don’t miss out on the surf fishing and pier fishing in Gloucester as well. Find yourself on the Jodrey State Fish Pier and Niles Beach and target some stripers, bluefish, and sometimes some trout, and even a few summer flounder and winter flounder as well.
Seasoned anglers often go on marathons and multi-day deep-sea fishing trips here as they can be quite productive, especially if you’re looking to beat your record tuna catch. But if you want to take your tuna fishing to the next level, consider joining the next Bluefin Blowout Tournament. It’s the biggest bluefin tuna tournament in all of New England, attracting some of the east coast’s best tuna fishermen, so if you’re looking for your next challenge, this might just be the ticket.
Gloucester fishing comes alive from July to October because it’s the peak season for tuna, striped bass, and bluefish. Bluefin tuna and cod are available all year round, though of course, catching tuna is highly regulated so come here when the tuna season opens in June. Other summer-to-fall catch include summer flounder, bluefish, pollock, false albacore, and blue shark.
Gloucester is a charming seaside town with plenty of sights and activities for travelers of all interests and ages. It will particularly appeal to those who want to immerse in the maritime history of the country and art aficionados looking for a unique art colony outside of the usual ones we know about.
There are so many offshore fishing opportunities in Gloucester that it’s quite impossible to tackle them all. But with a fishing charter, you can try. Book a full day out, or if you’re a seasoned angler looking to beat your record, consider marathons or multi-day trips out in the water.
Learn more about the Gloucester arts community and visit the Cape Ann Museum, which holds an extensive collection of pieces from artists who have called the town their home. If you’re interested in interior design, hop on over to the Sleeper-McCann House, the retreat house of one of the country’s first interior designers. The house itself has a great collection of folk art and other artifacts. If you want to do as the artists do, visit the Rocky Neck Art Colony, one of the oldest art colonies that still operates to this day.
Gloucester takes pride in its long maritime history, so visiting some of its maritime-related landmarks is a must on your visit. First, take a picture in front of the famous Fisherman’s Memorial, an 8-foot tall bronze statue honoring the sailors and fishermen of Gloucester. It is right on the harbor so it’s hard to miss. Up next, learn more about the town’s history at the Maritime Gloucester indoor museum. You will be in awe of the Schooner Adventurer, a national historic landmark docked at the museum. It is reportedly one of the only three schooners to travel the Grand Banks.
Book a guided four-hour tour with the Seven Seas Whale Watch tours to explore the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary for a chance to see humpback whales and sunfish dolphins.