The Monomoy Shoals

boat spots hankercheif

The Monomoy shoals include Handkerchief, Stonehorse, Little Round and Bearse shoals.  These sandy shoals lay just of the elbow of the Cape off the tip of Monomoy point.  There are several other shoals that could be included in this section but they lay outside of the 3 mile limit and are not legal to target stripers.

While they all hold monster blues in the summer, the main focus for these shoals is the amazing striper fishing when the squid are running.  The shoals start fishing well around the third week of June on average and continue to fish well into July.  Massive currents and steep drops make these shoals stand up and get noticed.  So much so in fact, that they can be downright dangerous when the wind and tide conspire against you.  Small boats can access these shoals and the great fishing they offer from any of the Chatham area ramps.  But those small boats are the ones that find themselves in trouble quickly when the tide turns and runs into the stiff afternoon SW winds this area is known for.

If you pick your weather window and find moving water these shoals can offer some of the most exciting and dynamic striper fishing you could ever hope for.  Huge numbers of big bass launching out of the face of the waves after squid is something to behold.  The best way to fish these shoals is to find moving water and then look for birds, bait and bass on the surface.  Casting big soft baits in white, pink and amber is one of the most exciting ways to fish these shoals.

Watching the big bass smash the rubber lures as they dart across the surface is my personal favorite method when I’m in the shoals.  Extra-large squid flies tossed into the standing white water can button the savvy fly angler into bass that will test even the best 10wt fly rod.

However, if you ask the old time, hard core anglers around Chatham they are going to tell you to pull wire.  Without a doubt snapping wire with big bucktail jigs that imitate the squid in the rips is a home run for catching tons of big bass and it has been the go to method for decades.  It’s also a great way to locate the fish when they are not showing well on the surface.

Topwater Casting for Stripers at Monomoy

Starting in late June and early July, large schools of striped bass migrate more heavily into the shoals just off the coast of Monomoy. There are miles upon miles of rips in the area, including Handkerchief, Bearse’s, and Stone Horse Shoals. It can be intimidating at first to figure out where to begin fishing this large area, so here are a few tips to help you catch striped bass (and bluefish) by casting jigs and softbaits into the rips using light-tackle outfits. For more on the area, check out our Monomoy Shoals spot profile.

Recommended Outfit: 7′ Shimano Terez Rod with a Shimano Saragossa SW 5000 reel. This light tackle outfit will give you extra action when you twitch your baits and extra sensitivity when feeling the initial strike. Plus, its a blast when you inevitably hook a 30+” striper or 8+ pound bluefish in this area.

Technique: The name of the game here is bouncing around from rip to rip until you find the one that’s holding the most life. The idea is to hang with the engine running right after the first couple waves of the rip or just in front in the slick water. Once your boat is in position, cast up tide and twitch the bait as it tumbles back through the rip. This diagram should help:


Recommended Tackle: Medium-sized softbaits and larger Epoxy Jigs seem to do the trick here. The fish are dialed in on different baits at different times of the season so make sure to match your lure’s color correctly. For example, if you’re seeing squid, try pink Epoxy Jigs and pink or amber colored soft baits. During the video shoot above, the fish were keyed in on herring, so silver-colored presentations were most effective. Also, the water is typically quite cold and clear at Monomoy, so going with larger and more colorful baits can attract fish from further away.

2oz - 4oz Epoxy Jigs
2oz – 4oz Epoxy Jigs

7" SE Barbarian Jig
7″ SE Barbarian Jig

Recommended Time of Day & Tides: Typical of striper fishing on most of the Cape, low-light conditions that coincide with strong tides produce the best striper fishing. When the rips aren’t standing up, it can be very difficult to locate both the rips and the fish as the shoals shift significantly over the course of the year, making chart data inaccurate.

  • NOAA chart number: 13237
  • Lat & Long:  41°32’ x 70°03’
  • Best tide:  Either; action slows at slack.
  • Hazards:  Strong rip, large ocean swells at times, frequent dense fog in the summer, moderate boat traffic. Grey seals are numerous and will tear hooked fish off hooks.
  • Link To Tide Chart: Click Here
  • Link to marine weather: Click Here
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