Oak Bluffs, MA Fishing: An Idyllic Summer Getaway Frozen in Time

If you're looking for a bountiful fishing destination that can also take you back in time, Oak Bluffs, MA, is the place to go.

Oak Bluffs, MA Fishing: An Idyllic Summer Getaway Frozen in Time
Oak Bluffs, MA Fishing: An Idyllic Summer Getaway Frozen in Time
Team Guidesly

September 6, 2021, 6 min read

Updated on September 8, 2021

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On the idyllic island of Martha’s Vineyard in Dukes County, Massachusetts, is the quaint town of Oak Bluffs. This sparsely populated summer destination is home to several inshore and offshore fishing locations, including the largest recreational fishing pier in Massachusetts.

The town was first inhabited by the Wampanoag people, who called the place “Ogkeshkuppe”, meaning “damp woods”. In the 1640s, Europeans arrived and settled in the town, which was assimilated into Edgartown, until the late 1800s, when it was established as Cottage City. In 1907, the town was reincorporated and given the name Oak Bluffs for its famous oak grove that lines the Nantucket Sound.

Much of the town’s historical structures and cottages from the mid- to late-nineteenth century remain well-preserved to this day, making the town both a lovely postcard and a gripping history lesson. Oak Bluffs is known for its Gingerbread Cottage Village, often referred to as “the quaintest place on Earth”. The gingerbread cottages are part of the town’s well-preserved picturesque Victorian homes, embellished with lacy gingerbread adornments and painted in whimsical color palettes right out of a childrens’ storybook. These homes initially served as seasonal residences for Methodists, who flocked to the town’s Wesleyan Grove every summer for camp gatherings.

With Martha’s Vineyard being a well-loved summer getaway for the well-to-do, Oak Bluffs has its fair share of the island’s most beautiful attractions. Among these are its breathtaking fishing locations. Apart from the Oak Bluffs pier, the town has access to some of the best fishing spots on Martha’s Vineyard, such as Wasque Shoal, Squibnocket, and Hedge Fence.

Oak Bluffs Fishing 

Martha’s Vineyard is known for its inshore and offshore fishing, as well as its deep, cool waters that are ideal for large game fish hunting for prey. The Oak Bluffs fishing pier was built in 2014 to provide better public access to the waterfront.

The inshore waters of Oak Bluffs are home to many species of prized game fish, such as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white catfish, bluegill, scup, black sea bass, rainbow trout, and brook trout. Many of these are so prized because they are fast swimmers and tough fighters. Largemouth bass are known to put up a fight when reeled in. These fish have an eye for color, so some of the most effective lures include flies and streamers in bright - preferably red - and shiny colors. They typically feed on gizzard shad and golden shiners, but are also partial to bats, frogs, and mice. Because largemouths are excellent at picking up vibrations in the water, topwater poppers are another excellent lure, as they mimic the movements of frogs and other topwater prey.

Like their largemouth relatives, smallmouth bass are fighters too. They are a favorite catch among anglers because of their abundance. In contrast to other game fish, they like to swim in open water on bright and sunny days, but will still swim towards the cover of rocks or vegetation when they want to ambush nearby prey. Smallmouth bass are a popular species for fly fishing and can be caught with small fish, insects, and crayfish.

Apart from smallmouth bass, Oak Bluffs waters are home to other fly fishing favorites, including false albacore, brook trout, and rainbow trout. False albacore - lovingly nicknamed “albies” - are pelagic fish that travel in schools. Their prey - squid and crustaceans - also travel in schools. Using their large numbers, a school of these fish will drive their prey to the surface to concentrate them by swimming around them. Any time you’re fishing at Oak Bluffs and spot a school of crustaceans just below the surface, there’s likely a school of albies nearby. You can also find them swimming in jetties, sandbars, and inlets. Brook trout and rainbow trout can be caught with spinners and plugs. Brook trout feed on worms, crayfish, mice, and amphibians. Apart from fly fishing, you can catch rainbow trout by drifting. Their preferred lures include spoons, plugs, flies, roe, and worms.

Another species you can catch at Oak Bluffs is white catfish. These bottom feeders tend to be more active from dusk into the nighttime, but can still be caught during the day. They feed on worms, small crustaceans, and chicken liver. The most effective techniques for these fish are bottom fishing and baitcasting. While smaller white catfish are more commonly caught, bigger fish of this species are a dream for many anglers.

Offshore fishing at Oak Bluffs offers opportunities for catching prized deep sea catches such as tuna, sharks, and white marlin. Yellowfin tuna are found offshore all year round, with the most effective techniques being trolling and jigging.

It makes sense that Martha’s Vineyard is a great place to catch sharks, as the island served as the principal filming location for Steven Spielberg’s 1975 summer blockbuster, Jaws. To have a fighting chance at catching one of these predators, you’ll have to head further offshore. True to the film, great white sharks are sometimes spotted at the offshore waters surrounding Oak Bluffs. Also on the roster are mako sharks. At the 2001 Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, angler Luke Sweeney caught a world record mako shark weighing a whopping 1,221 lbs. The fight reportedly lasted three hours, and what makes the catch even more impressive is that Sweeney caught the shark while aboard the smallest boat at the tournament.

While Sweeney was able to catch a large shark while aboard a small vessel, bear in mind that offshore giants such as mako sharks are best caught on bigger boats. When hooked, they often jump onto boats in an attempt to break the line, in turn causing injury to anglers and damage to their boats. Use heavy-duty equipment - preferably a 50lb class rod and reel or heavier - as these can withstand the creature’s strong pull and incredible size. They are best caught with a chum or live bait.

Oak Bluffs is part of several fishing tournaments on Martha’s Vineyard each year, including the Oak Bluffs Blue Water Classic in July and the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, one of the oldest and most popular fishing tournaments in the country. It spans five weeks from September through October. 


Top 10 Fish Species in Oak Bluffs, MA

The top fish species in Oak Bluffs are largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black sea bass, false albacore, white perch, bluefish, striped bass, rainbow trout, brook trout, and fluke.

Seasonal Fishing in Oak Bluffs

Thanks to its access to deep water fishing spots, Oak Bluffs offers excellent fishing for most of the year, with the bulk of the excitement happening from spring to early fall. Around late April or early May marks the arrival of striped bass, which dominate much of Martha’s Vineyard until July and love to hide under covers as they wait for their prey. False albacore begin to appear around late August or early September, but true to their elusive nature, they never stay for long. If you’re looking to catch yellowfin tuna, the best time of the year to try is from mid-July to early September. Offshore fish like this require a full-day charter as they can fight for hours once hooked.


Explore the Ethereal, Old-fashioned Landscape of Oak Bluffs

1.Fishing Charter

Explore the waters of Oak Bluffs through fishing charters.

2. Travel Back in Time at the Cottage Museum

A trip to Oak Bluffs isn’t complete without a visit to the Cottage Museum. Take a tour of the interiors of a typical Oak Bluffs gingerbread house, furnished with antiquated fittings and decor that will take you back in time. 

2. Admire the View at East Chop Lighthouse

Visit one of the five historic lighthouses located on Martha’s Vineyard. East Chop Lighthouse makes a picturesque landscape worthy of being on a postcard and on many of your vacation photos.

Fish in Oak Bluffs and beyond.