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The Rips of Monomoy
Part I
by Capt. Bruce Peters
Capeshores Charters

ue south of Chatham Massachusetts, there lies Monomoy Island, a dividing barrier between warm Nantucket sound water and shallow flats to the west and cold churning ocean water to the east. Where they meet are Bearses Shoals, Stonehorse Shoals and Handkerchief Shoals.

On these shoals the currents form “rips” or wave formations as the rapidly moving water rushes over the shallower bars and shoals. I invite you to share with me the exploration of these three areas, the “Rips” of Monomoy. Because of the large amount of details to be covered, we will present the information in two parts, the first covering tide and the rips, and the second, the tackle and techniques.

At this point I would like to back up just a bit. It is important to briefly discuss the tide before we go on. For example, today's tide has eleven and a half feet of water moving between the high and the low, promising to have some velocity. By comparison, the days with the 8-9 foot highs and higher than average lows just seem to be slow in both current and fishing. It is important to keep track of the variances in the tides, if you wish to fish the Monomoy area. You cannot use a tide book that fails to show the heights of the tides. I use one that shows both the times of high and low, and the heights in feet and tenths of feet daily. With tide book in hand, you will notice the varying heights, usually in a two week cycle coinciding with the moon phases. With the tide changing four times a day, those days with an average of larger tide will have more velocity because more water has to move within a given period of time. Monomoy IslandThis greatly affects the slack, or the time it takes for the water to slow and stop, then change direction and start moving again. A small tide will have a much longer slack than a tide with with a lot of water to move and not much time to move it.

Tide off the outer Cape runs basically in two directions, north and south. I remember it as “outgoing” tide flows from the south because the word “out” is in the word “south”. Tide is named by the direction it comes from much the same as wind direction. Tide will also bend and changes direction according to the effects of the geographical features of the bottom or shoreline. You may notice this at Monomoy point. Bearses rip to the east of the island has a north / south flow and Point rip west of the Monomoy tip that has a east / west flow. This happens because the tide bends around the tip of Monomoy to fill and empty the void of Nantucket sound. The rips on one side of the island are timed a little after the other side depending on which direction the water is coming from. When the tide is coming from the north and east, a rip on the west side of the island will still have a sufficient flow to keep the fish biting as the current on the east side has slowed and the biting has stopped. The opposite is true when the tide comes from the west and south. This will take some experience to figure out, but you will find that when the fish stop biting at one location or line of rips, you can run over to the other spot and catch a few more before it stops there.

About a mile and a half north of the Pollock Rip Channel nun buoy # 8, is High Bank rip. Coming south, from Chatham, you will see this small rip directly in line with Bearses shoals. It has a depth of 12 feet at mean low water. One will find small fish here on either side of the rip and on the surface. Usually, I continue on to the first rip on Bearses Shoals.

About 200 yards north of buoy # 8, is my favorite rip. It has a wreck, eddies that keep the fish moving around and varied bottom characteristics from sugary sand to cobbles. A challenging spot, it can get very hard to fish when the crowd hits it in the morning. The depth here ranges from 2 -10 feet. The loran and GPS coordinates are: 13883.2 and 43902.5 and then 41 33 00 N and 069 58 48 W. Bearses shoals extends eastward for about three miles and has a deep channel just on its southern edge called Pollock Rip channel. In the late summer when the water temperature heats up, the fish will use this channel to escape the heat and bright daylight. Early and late in the day these fish surface onto the shoals, making for some very exiting fishing. When the tide flows to the north, it sweeps up the channel and onto the shoals bringing schools of squid into the jumbled choppy, shallows of the tide rips. I have seen many times the bass chasing the squid through the ink stained water all around my boat.

To the northeast about 3/4 to a mile is a series of small rips or “bowls” connected together like stepping stones. This is a productive set of rips especially when there is a crowd at the main rip. I like this spot best when the tide is incoming. These rips are not unbearably rough, yet still hold very good amounts of fish. I suspect it has to do with the deeper runnels in between the shallower bars. Heading again still eastward, the next spot is just at the # 6 nun. Although I have not fished this spot as much as others I have taken a few really large fish from this rip. It has a wreck in the deeper water that has masts sticking up and seems to hold some large stripers. The rip itself it a long shallow one running east and west, with a circular east end to it. It has a lot of boiling water (from wreckage ?) at this end that drops off abruptly to the channel.

The last set of rips in this Bearses shoals area is again to the east another 2 miles from the #6 nun. Here we find another buoy and two jagged wrecks. The buoy is the #4 nun, one wreck is the Alma, the other I think is the Horatio Hall. You may find them by metering the bottom east of the buoy 100 yds and south of the rip 50 to 75 yds. The rip at the buoy is pretty worthless in my opinion, unless you can find the wreckage at the drop off point on the southern edge of the rip. When the bait drifts off the bars onto the wreckage, the bass will pick it up. It is a small spot, and you must be either very lucky or very good to hit it right. From this spot, there are many very nice rips spread out in a one mile radius from north to northwest. These rips have had very little effort on them. If you hate crowds as much as I do, this is the place to check out for breathing room.

To the west southwest of Monomoy’s tip is Handkerchief Shoals. Starting at the beach tip there are many individual small rips that spread in a general westerly direction for over 4 miles. Most of these are in shallower, sandier bottom than the rips at Bearses. The rip close to the island is known as Point Rip, located at 41 32 19 and 070 00 41 or 13897 and 43902. With the right combination of wind and tide this a very nasty place to be in a boat. Remember that any time the tide is against the wind the conditions are generally three to four times worse than they were when the tide is with the wind. I warn you, do not take any chances at Point rip ! The way it breaks right up against the beach at Monomoy Point gives no channel or safe passage to get through to the sound. When its nasty, its best to go around the shoal to the southwest at nun # 14. In my experience, it is at its worst when the tide comes from the west against a strong southeast wind. However, this spot is a fish magnet. Something about the way the rips form on the edge of Butlers hole and the proximity of deep water to shallow, always holds fish. Looking at a chart of Handkerchief shoals, you may notice to the north and a little west of Monomoy’s tip, a channel running north and south. This deeper water acts like a holding pen for the Stripers that feed on the shoals. Point Rip is usually the first spot the boats will try coming from Stage, Saquetucket and Whychmere, In fair weather it is usually quite calm, and therefore attracts many small boats. Many of these boats are less experienced than boats with the confidence to go farther offshore, and will tend to crowd you if you are having some action. But since the area is so huge, you will have no trouble finding a rip off by yourself.

The third and last area of the Monomoy rips is the Stonehorse Shoal area. It starts about 3/4’s of a mile SSE from the Monomoy tip, at 41 31 41 and 069 59 49 or 13895 and 43895. It runs in a southerly direction for over two miles. The spot closest to the point is the deeper of all the rips, at about 16 feet. Since it is so deep, the current makes it hard to feel the bottom with a rig that works on the shallower spots. You may have to experiment with more weight . I have caught large fluke here in addition to some very large stripers. To the east of the ledge that runs south of the “9” can, is a basin of 30 to 40 feet. Many times I have made very long drifts with bait through this basin for over 30 pound fish.

The part of Stonehorse Shoal to the south is much shallower and forms a single long line for about a mile until it tails out at the southern end. There is has a few rips forming behind each other. I have had some great fishing here all by myself. It is around 8-10 feet deep at the high spots, and quite pebbly. The fish seem to move quite freely up and down the rip lines, occasionally dropping back or moving up to other rips. I think it has to do with the lack of structure here. Move around a lot here trying drifts at many places in the rip lines.

CONTINUED   1 | 2  Next

PS: North Monomoy is no longer an island, having closed up at the beach under Chatham Light, allowing adventuresome beach fishers to now walk to this spot.


Copyright 2000 - 2013 Captain Bruce Peters, All Rights Reserved

Captain Bruce Peters has been a commercial fisherman for over 20 years, on two coasts. He is a holder of the U.S. Coast Guard Master's 50 ton license #830067. Captain Peters is a 14th generation Cape Cod native from a long line of lifesavers, whalers and watermen.

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