look at a rip the same way as one would look at a river. At a
river, it is very easy to see how a log or a boulder changes the flow of
the water because you can see the swirls, eddies and back currents. Now
imagine the same environment, only add more water over it. This is a
rip. Like the river, it too has structure that affects how the water
flows over and around.
Rips are nothing more than sandbars or structure
shallower than the surrounding depths, with water flowing over them.
Waves that form on the surface are indicators of what the underlying
structure is like. The highest and shallowest part of the rip is where
the current is the fastest. As you drift through the rip look down its
length on both sides. You will notice curves, both concave (bowls) and
convex (points). At the ends, the current slows where the current
flows around and into the deeper water. Predatory fish use these
differences in current velocity to help them feed and conserve energy.
Visualize a wind blowing up the face of a snowbank or a sand dune. As
the wind leaves the upper part of the face, it deposits a plume of snow
or sand on the other side. Think of the wind as a water current
carrying bait or food instead of the sand or snow. It is now quite
simple to imagine where the fish will be lying - out of the wind
(current) as they wait for food to come to them.
In telling how I fish these rips, if I only was to describe what I
use, there would be a world of very productive methods that would be
left out. In addition, I am sure that a reader or two has a personal
technique that I haven’t mentioned, but I am just going to stick with
what I know to work, based on my experience. Personally, I prefer light
tackle. I use no more than 14 pound test, on a 8 foot medium action
spinning rod with a good quality reel. Based on the comments I have
received, my clients enjoy the light gear as well. I also like bait,
either freshly dead or alive. I feel it is critical to let the bait
drift in as natural a fashion as possible. Like the trout fisherman with
his dry flies the bait should be presented without excessive drag.
Usually when the tide slows, the bite slows considerably. That is the
time when a moving bait will out fish a drifted one. Trolled umbrella
rigs will work well at this time as well as wire and a lead head jig. I
have used wire and jigs, I have never used an umbrella rig. I have seen
many using umbrella rigs in the rips and have watched them take many
fish. I’ve watched many of those taken thrown back as too short. In my
experience, those same fish could be caught with a single hook and a
bait with more fun. Wire and lead head jigs are a proven method that
has worked for many years. This method must be done correctly though to
take fish of any size or consistently. The jig must be worked with the
tide, NOT against it. I have seen many boats jigging furiously against
the tide using monofilament or wire to no avail. As the tide
accelerates to maximum current I find it quite awkward to see a boat
trolling against a 3 or 4 knot tide, barely making headway, with an
umbrella rig or jig splashing on the surface. It is important to
understand the fish are either on or near the bottom and the jig must
also be there to catch fish. To do this effectively, the jig is worked
with the tide at a very slow pace or with the boat out of gear. Most
will “bump” the boat in and out of gear as they drift with the tide just
enough to keep the bow heading forward. When you get past the spot,
reel up the wire and run back up tide, turn the boat around, run the
wire out , slow down or take the boat out of gear and jig again with the
tide as the boat drifts down naturally. While jigging, the bottom
should be felt through the wire as the jig bumps and rips its way
along. When a bass hits it you will know it as the wire has no give to
it. Individuals have variations to the setup , but basically it is 300
feet of stainless single strand wire of 40 -60 pound test tied directly
to a buck tail jig of 2-5 ounces. The jigs vary in color with reds and
pinks good Monomoy area colors.
About halfway between slack and maximum current, is when the fish start
to bite. It also seems that, as the tide slows towards slack from
maximum current is when the fish really turn on. It is as though the
fish sense that soon the dinner table will be cleared and they had
better get while the getting is good. This aggressive feeding period
may only last a short while, so one must be ready with proper mind set
and with backup gear.
As I approach the rip I watch the surface action of the waves to tell
me how the current is working over the bar. I watch the skies for
hovering gulls and terns to see if there is bait moving in the rip. I
watch boats that have just gone through to see if they did catch on that
drift or did not. If they did not, is it because of their method or
bait, or is it because the fish moved ? My rods are in the holders with
the weight and bait positioned for immediate and accurate casts as soon
as the boat is positioned. I have a backup bait on the rail ready in
case I cast a one off in my excitement. I set my boat to enter the rip
bow first, to minimize both the noise of the waves slapping the sides of
the boat, and the pitching and rolling. I will sometimes shut the
engine off, especially at times of low water and calm sunny conditions.
Once the boat is positioned to drift exactly through the spot in the rip
I want, I take it out of gear and cast a line to each side of the boat
parallel to the main rip line. I will then look to see if the boat is
still positioned and drifting into the rip correctly. If not, I will
bump it into forward to ensure a bow first entry into the waves.
To be able to properly set the hook, one must be able to feel the
bottom. As the weight drifts up the slope of the rip, small stones and
cobbles cause light tapping to be felt. Upon reaching the top and then
the downside, the tapping stops as the weight loses contact with the
bottom. If there is not enough weight to match the current and the
direction of the cast, there develops a belly in the line restricting
the sensitivity as well. I use heavier weights when the tides runs
strong and lighter ones when the current slows. Using a 12-15 pound
test line I will start with 1/2 ounce. If the current is running light I
will try 3/8 oz, if running strong I will use 3/4 ounce. If using a
heavier line of 20 lb test, I would use weights ranging from 1/2 to
11/2 ounce. My rig consists of an free sliding egg sinker on the
running line, to which I tie a black swivel. This keeps the weight from
sliding to the hook. I tie on three feet of 40 lb test leader to which I
snell a 4/0 or 5/0 octopus style hook. The heavier leader is to help
handle the fish next to the boat. I use black hooks for live eels and
silver hooks for sand eels or squid. Using sand eels and squid, I have
had nearly zero hooking mortalities with this setup. Unfortunately
there is an occasional deep hooked fish with the black (live) eels. As a
result I have been using less and less every year. I have found the
stripers prefer the sand eels anyway. The sand eel is hooked through the
eyes and allowed to hang straight on the hook. Live eels are hooked
through the point of the lower jaw and up and out one eye. To grab hold
of the live slimy eel, I have found a green 3M scrub pad indispensable.
I carry spares in case one washes overboard. I hook the whole squid in
the tail once, if it is doubled over and hooked again it doesn’t fish as
well. The squid works best if it is fresh and small in size. It does
work if it is chunked, try some with the skin pulled off. I know there
are guys using live and chunked pogys or menhaden, very successfully.
They usually take bigger fish than I do, fishing the same water in the
For those of you that would rather fish a fly, sand eel and squid
patterns are the mainstay. I feel it is important to match the bait in
the water to the size of the fly. Occasionally there will be balls of
menhaden fry just outside the breakers. There always seems to be wind
at the rips. Lines should be weighted forward or of the steady sink
variety to be able to get depth quickly in the fast moving currents.
Some boats will let the line drift back into the rip, stripping steadily
as the boat holds position against the tide.
Occasionally while fishing the Monomoy rips you will witness the blitz
that we all dream of. The best ones I have seen always seem to involve
squid and coincide with a maximum current at times of low light. I have
seen squid and stripers bulging and slurping, swirling and dancing
through ink stained water many times at the Bearse’s rip. The fish will
bite any dark reddish, orange, brownish, and black pattern of fly,
rubber, plastic and natural bait at any depth at this magical time. One
day you too may witness this exiting and inspiring spectacle, but only
if you spend enough time there, on the Rips of Monomoy.
1 | 2
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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