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The Forgotten Cape
by Frank Daignault

ll you ever hear about is the beach fishing on Nauset and in Provincetown. These spots are okay, I'll admit, but let's talk about the forgotten Cape, the part of Cape Cod that is often overlooked. Fishing Cape Cod without a buggy, daytime angling in a small charter boat, fly fishing the Monomoy flats, walking an unfettered shoreline with light tackle in the deep night. These are examples that you either rarely hear anything about or that haven't gotten a lot of ink in the magazines. They are, in the words of people out looking for something different or engaged in a commitment to finding stripers when things go bad (which can happen anywhere), "side trips."

Scorton Creek. Just east of the Canal opening at the east end is Scorton Creek, which is another estuarine outflow that tolls stripers in from Cape Cod Bay. Remember that these estuaries have been heated during the day and the difference in temperature, when combined with the scent of bait, tells bass how to get there.

Scorton is also close enough to influence Canal stripers so there is always a chance of linesides showing up from "the Ditch." All of it is in the heart of striper country. Just keep in mind that for shore fishers it is always a better idea to fish in the darkness. You can find and utilize Scorton by taking Route 6A in East Sandwich until you reach a north turn onto Roos Road a half mile until you reach North Shore Boulevard, then right or east about a mile. Depending upon season and your discretion, parking and access is controlled more by where you park.

Brewster Flats. Miles of the inside of Cape Cod Bay either go dry or are so shallow at low tide that they are unproductive. For shore fishermen a dangerous lure in the promise of memorable striper fishing appeals to wader clad anglers who follow the tide down. The trap in fishing the the most dangerous surfcasting situation that I have ever known, is that you can be lost in a fog on the flatsespecially at night -- and lose your way back to shore. Once the tide begins its rise, you face deciphering the escape puzzle with a time limit. After that, assuming you know which way is out, it is either a deep walk or a long swim back. But it doesn't have to be that way.

A number of charter boats operate out of nearby Cape Cod Bay ports for the precise purpose of fishing the Brewster Flats from the safety of a moderate sized boat. Jon Hyde offers sight fishing with light gear and fly tackle having specialized in the Brewster Flats for 30 years. (508-454-7272) Competent guides, who know both the nuances of how the water moves and where stripers and blues are when not on the flooded flats, offer guided boat trips to this area for day time fishing. Sight casting for stripers is their specialty either with light tackle or fly fishing and all do so well that it is necessary to book charters way in advance.

Herring Cove/New Beach. On the literal end of Route 6 in Provincetown, it is possible to park in the lot of a public beach and walk the shore in either direction and find stripers, often in the first wave. The area is managed by the National Park Service, and you will need a permit for after hours parking from them. Use of a buggy or oversand vehicle is not an option in this area, so all surf fishing is done on foot. The good thing about that is that no one is going to drive up on you with headlights if and when you hit fish. If you head right or northwest when facing the water, there is about a mile of open beach before you arrive at the outflow of Hatches Harbor. It is only possible to cross this estuary at low tide and if you do decide to cross be certain that you have the timing of the tide or you won't be able to get back. My advice would be to avoid crossing if you lack experience with this area.

Note that to the northwest you can see the revolutions of Race Light. This is clear indication of some of the finest shore on the Striper Coast. These warmer waters of Cape Cod Bay seem to draw and hold sand eels which keep the stripers around. I would go there any night that I had the time, but I think that the lower ends of the drop or rise low water have an edge. Watch the brink of the surf for evidence of sand eels panning from the last wave. If there is bait, it is a good idea to listen for the sounds of feeding, the slurps and slaps of bass whacking bait. Water drops off quite fast so the best place for a lineside to feed is right on the edge, two feet from the wet sand. When a fisher walks the beach, it is possible to flush the close in stripers with the grinding sound of your boots in the sand. Anytime that you hear a "thunk" up close, you just scared one. Don't worry, they come right back; besides, there are others.

With right or north running shore a best choice, I would still keep the left or south part of this beach as a viable option. You can listen and walk for another 1-½ miles to Wood End Light and if you are still frisky after that there is another mile plus to Long Point. Years ago both of these lighthouse locations were popular bait fishing waters with sand eels and I don't see why it would have changed. It is all striper water and they have to be someplace.

Methodwise, I like floating versions of the Rebel, Red-Fin, Rapala genre of Finland plug tied direct with no wire leader. You might want to have a wire leader in your kit on the chance that you run into a school of blues, but don't use wire until you have to if you want to catch stripers. Simple Deceiverish sand eel patterns work for fly fishermen, and we fly fished this area for years with a few white saddle hackles lashed to a hook.

Pamet River. Just about everyone knows that both Nauset and Chatham Inlets hold stripers. Not as many are familiar with the Pamet River where a 10-foot tidal exchange empties from under a mile of river and estuarine marsh between a pair of jetties and where the water flies. When there is sufficient bait, stripers from Cape Cod Bay will gather at the opening, usually during a dropping tide. When the tide is low and the water is slacking, these linesides, and sometimes bluefish, will come up closer to shore on wadable flats for shore fishermen. The situation here is startlingly similar to that of Scorton Creek in that the longer the tide has run, the more likely that it has drawn bass.

Brewster Flats, easily Click for Full Size Image in a New Window Keep in mind that there is a lag of a couple of hours here where the tide does not even start out until at least two hours after high tide. We have seen linesides at high water around the jetties, but the best time is low tide on the Boston tide chart. Two things seem to happen in striper movement: Bass that have gone up into the marsh during the tide flood will be dropping down; and, fish from Cape Cod Bay will often gather in the outflow. You can get there from Route 6 in Truro going left or west onto Corn Hill Road. At the end of the road, go south or left down the beach for about a half mile until you reach one of the jetties that flank the Pamet River Inlet.

Monomoy and Monomoy Flats. NOTE This southeast corner of the Cape hosts the confluence of the Vineyard Sound, the colder outside east of Monomoy, currents out of Stage Harbor, Nauset Beach and even the sun warmed waters from Pleasant Bay. A unique situation springs from this area which has drawn the attentions of both light tackle anglers and fly fishers in sight fishing the flats. In this area it is possible to see stripers, some as big as any available coastwide, cruising sandy tidal flats. Baits that lure linesides to these shallows are variable, but the most common forage is sand eels. These amphibians will vary in size from 1 inch to seven inches and can present themselves in huge blankets which darken the water or "dig in" dispersed in an area forcing bass to dig for them. When depths are right, it is possible to see stripers "tailing" in the shallows where they are rooting the bottom with their chins while their tails swing back and forth in order to maintain equilibrium. Any time you catch a striped bass with abrasions on its chin, the buggar probably got scratched up foraging on the bottom. Linesides exhibiting this behavior are best fished with Deceiver type fly patterns which resemble slim sand eels on deep dredged sinking fly lines. You'll want that fly at the stripers eye level and, when their tails are sticking out and up, that level is on the bottom sands. However, don't be overly sidetracked by the search for sand eels, as they are not always the ticket. There can be a worm hatch of small sea worms or there can be some very large sea worms which no self respecting lineside would ever pass up.

Each summer there is excitement over a crab hatch that seems to draw and hold bass on the Monomoy flats. When this happens, it seems that only a crab pattern will move them in the daytime. Suitable crab flies for stripers are highly individualized and, if you have the right one, you can really clean up. Competent flats guides, and these days there are many, all seem to know what works and when to use it. It is a case of having a guide who fished yesterday and is up to speed on striper preferences and their behavior. Things are always changing. The guides also have options in deep water for days when bass are not cruising the flats, so a "flats trip" could well end up being in deep water. They do what works.

An interesting option is available where you can take a day trip from a ferry service from Outermost Harbor Marine for $20 per day. Their advertising offers three boats and claims there is no waiting. I have never done this but there is some talk about it and it is done in the area that this is about. It might get an adventurous person started.

Chatham Inlet. Across the street from the Coast Guard Lighthouse in downtown Chatham, you can walk down the stairs to the inlet that feeds Pleasant Bay. Fish this area after dark when bass are more likely to be feeding in the shallows of the inlet and when parking is allowed. Low tide has an edge because it confines feeding stripers to the smaller channel which is a couple of hundred yards wide. At high tide, when there are just as many bass around, they could be anywhere in the mile wide inlet opening and thus less confined which slows the fishing.

After dark every thing works in Chatham Inlet, which is the true test of a memorable hot spot. We've seen people fish the bottom with chunks and sea worms. Others plug or drift eels. Fly fishing is popular here. There is easily over a half mile of shore to walk and try your favorite striper method. Heading seaward, don't overlook South Island on the right which is covered with bars and structure that can lure and hold stripers. Just try to match up a night when the low tide is late so that you will have both low water and darkness. First or last quarter of the moon will provide that. These are all things we have done over the years when the beach hot spots were cold.

EDITORS NOTE: There is a short but interesting article titled the Monomoy Disaster which occured in 1902. The link to it is at www.mychatham.com

Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Frank Daignault, All Rights Reserved

Frank Daignault is the author of Striper Surf, Twenty Years on the Cape, Striper Hot Spots, The Trophy Striper, Eastern Tides and Fly Fishing the Striper Surf. Autographed books can be purchased directly from Frank; Order Form »

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