The Monomoy Shoals #461

boat spots hankercheif


The Monomoy shoals include Handkerchief, Stonehorse, Little Round and Bearse shoals.  These
sandy shoals lay just off 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. This highly fishy area spans approximately a 2x6nm area. Monomoy
Shoals are the most Easterly of the “Sounds” Spots and nearest ports include Bass River,
Harwich Port and Chatham. Now that boats have trended bigger and faster, it is not uncommon
to find boats here from Falmouth, Mashpee and Nantucket. To put it into perspective, it is about
a 24nm run from Falmouth, and about a 13nm Run from Nantucket.

On trademark Feature about the shoals on Monomoy is that there is something for everyone. As
far as species are concerned, you’ll find Monster Sea bass, fluke, scup, bluefish, stripers pretty
much throughout the entire season, with some period being better than others. The icing on the
cake happens in September when the Albies show up! The “something for everyone” feature
doesn’t just end with species. In the massive fleet that is often associated with this spot (good
thing it’s a big area so everyone can spread out) you will find anglers vertical jigging, casting
top water plugs, softbaits and swimmers, fly-casting, trolling topwater lures, lead core and wire
line. Trolling lures include plugs, tubes, umbrella rigs etc.

Why is this spot so prolific? The simple answer is that it holds massive amounts of bait which
include sand eels, squid, mackerel, pogies, herring, crabs, silverside… List goes on. I don’t think
you can find a baitfish that resides on Cape Cod that does not show up here at some point in the
season. (Forgot butterfish!) I think so much bait congregates in the area because the Monomoy
shoals serve as the intersection point between the warm waters of Nantucket Sound and the Cool
“Labrador Current” waters east of the Cape. Essentially two borders penning in the bait.

The shoals start fishing well around the third week of June on average and continue to fish very
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

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.

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.

A few Tips to Get You Started:

1. Troll The Rips: There is plenty of trolling in the rips of Monomoy. Historically. Trolling
at Monomoy is associated with heavy wire line but that’s not my gig. As a light tackle
guy, I have more palatable methods to get down deep with jigging rods. But I still do love
trolling at Monomoy, just the topwater variety with Squid Plugs or Poppers in the rips. In
the video below with Capt. Lundholm, we are stemming the tide in front of the rip and
sliding squid plugs back into the rip. We were keeping the boat in gear to hold our
position. We would slide laterally to investigate other “spots” in the rip. If we hooked a
big fish, we would drift back to land it. It’s important to mention here that rips can get
very vertical here, so be careful not to swamp your boat. Be safe!

2. Bird Hop: As mentioned above, Monomoy is a massive area. One method is to scan for
birds and look for clusters vortexing. Often you can find your only school of fish. This
phenomenon often happens when stripers are keyed in on sand eels. In this video, we
would creep up on a pile of birds. And plunk a Hogy Protail right into the area and fish it
on the drop. What a great day!

3. Swing Plugs: Fishing large topwater plugs in the rips of Monomoy has become quite a
popular method. This technique is very similar to the rip swinging video below,

but rather than tumbling a jig on the bottom, you are working a topwater bait as it swings into the
rip. Strikes can be fantastic! The most popular color is bone white but pink and amber
plugs are outstanding color choices as they imitate squid.

4. Bottom Bounce the rips: 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.
In this video we filmed 4th of July Weekend several years ago, we had great success using
this technique larger 2oz Hogy Epoxy Jig lures. The stripers were keyed in on sea herring
that day in the rips but were being very finicky due to the boat traffic. The fish were very
dialed in on herring that PARTICULAR day but could have easily been squid or sand
eels that time of year. A complete arsenal for this occasion would include a selection of
pink, olive and silver versions. Matching your lure’s color correctly can make a huge
difference. 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. Obviously, an olive presentation would
best replicate a sand eel.

5. Timing: 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.

  • 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.