Tuna Fishing East of Chatham #446

General Fishing East of Chatham 

There are a lot of strategies for fishing East of Chatham and guess what, most if not all work because Tuna move fast and cover a lot of ground.  Probability tells you that if you spend enough time out there you will find and catch fish.  Some long-time tuna captains will say “when in doubt, head east.”  Running east into deeper water has saved plenty of days however I think one mistake newer Tuna anglesr often make is they run too deep.  Sure, deep water can hold plenty of fish but remember the predominant bait fish found around Cape cod are typically found on the shallow side of things.  If you struggle to find what you are looking for, using a boundary few miles north of Nauset as a northern boundary and the Regal Sword as a southern boundary to focus in on 100-150 ft of water and weaving your way up or down that contour curve keeps you in high probability water passing near or over known consistently productive areas and likely to bump tuna somewhere along the way.  Grey light, or sunrise is often prime time there so if you are going to make the effort and expense to make the trip, put in the extra effort to get there early!  It is not uncommon for tuna to surface feed around sunrise and feed deeper in the water column for the remainder of the day while in other locations around the Cape and islands you can find tuna all hours of the day.  No idea why the pattern is sometimes different there.  You are more likely to encounter all methods of fishing here, kites, bait, trolling, run & gun, jigging etc.  East is a big area but can get small in a hurry when bites heat up so like anywhere else, being mindful of other boats is good karma yielding way to fellow fisherman, whales, and other life.

Once you decided where you plan to fish for tuna east of Chatham the most common way to go about it is to slow troll squid rigs.  In recent years “Splasher Bars” or squid bars with splashing birds on them has become very popular and VERY effective.  Trolling these rigs at 3-5 mph around areas of heavy bait concentration is a very good way to hook yourself a tuna.  Finding whales out east is a sure fire way to find the bait and thus find the tuna.  So out east you will often find large groups of boats in areas of feeding whales.  Another popular way to fish out east is to Run and Gun the tuna as they surface feed.  This is most popular in the near shore spots but it can be and is done in the deeper water locations.  Finding the life is the first step to the Run and Gun method.  Then running over to tuna that are visible on the surface and casting topwater plugs and large Softbaits into the melee.  A 3rd way that tuna are fished out east is by chunking and bait fishing.  This is done later in the summer and fall in the deeper water areas and primarily is the “Commercial” way to fish for giants.  In the fall the BB buoy was a very popular place for chunking but the Commercial fleet.

When gearing up for tuna east of Chatham many people opt to troll very heavy conventional tuna gear.  The mindset is there are giants in this area and the heavy gear is needed to land these larger fish.I prefer to scale down my trolling gear into the 30#/50# class since the majority of the fish are under 300# and can be easily handled on the lighter gear.

The lighter gear also makes the tuna in the 100# class much more sporting to catch and since they are often the majority of the catch gearing for them makes sense.  When it comes to casting gear, heavy spoiling rods and 20000 Class reels with 500 yards of 80-100# braid are the norm.  Tuna specific lures and hooks are a must if you plan to chase these fish on casting gear.  When the smaller fish are near 100# only the best of the best will do regarding spinning equipment.

East Of Chatham Coordinates

Tuna fishing east of Chatham covers a fairly large area but for the most part the same techniques will work in all of the locations.  The areas closest to shore are just in front of the Chatham Cuts (Inlets) and Crab Ledge.  The mouth of the inlets hold large amounts of bait and have the added benefit of the current flow dumping even more bait out of Pleasant Bay on the dropping tides.  Crab Ledge is a plateau that lies a few miles SE of the inlets and is the first piece of tuna structure you reach when heading east.  Both of these areas are readily accessible to the smaller boats and often have large crowds trying their luck on tuna.

There are three offshore areas that are often referenced when discussing tuna east of Chatham.

Crab Ledge (1)

Crab Ledge is the closest of all the Bluefin tuna spots “out East.” at approximately 6 miles East of Chatham Inlet (about 45nm from Falmouth).  The Ledge itself is a plateau and is the first notable piece of tuna structure you reach when heading east.  While productive, this area Is readily accessible to smaller boats and often have large crowds trying their luck on tuna.   I like this spot because it is relatively easy to get here for sunrise. Crab ledge holds a ton of bait and I feel like you always have a decent shot at a fish here with just about any method of catching tuna.

Note: Once you have hit the Crab ledge Area, you are in “tuna country” so anytime running to the “next spot” be ready to seize opportunities.  Keep eyes peeled and don’t ignore signs of life. Just because a spot doesn’t have a name, it doesn’t mean there can’t be fish there ;).

  • Crab Ledge Coordinates:
    • North Edge 41° 41.000′ N, 69° 47.000′ W
    • West Edge 41° 41.000′ N, 69° 49.000′ W
    • NE Corner 41° 41.000′ N, 69° 43.050′ W
    • South Edge 41° 36.000′, 69° 47.000′ W

BC and BB Buoys (2 and 3)

The BC and BB Buoys were the Boston approach buoys (hence “B”) placed in the traffic separation scheme a.k.a shipping lanes or “Lanes”.  They are no longer there and removed from updated charts but their former positions are used as reference when talking about the location of a tuna bite.  Neither buoy actually held any real amount of bait or fish but the areas around them do and with nothing else to reference for a location the buoys are the “Spots” people refer too.

The BC Buoy is about 12 Miles East/ENEAST of Crab Ledge.

  • BC Buoy Coordinates: 41° 41.390′ N, 69° 35.120′ W

The BB Buoy

The BB Buoy is the furthest South East of the 4 classic “East of Chatham Tuna Spots” and tends to get the least amount of fishing pressure.  It is due east of Nantucket which gives you an idea of how far south, approximately 40 miles from Monomoy.  Running as the crow flies crosses some gnarly shallow shoals so be aware of this when dealing with wind against tide or pre-dawn night time runs In the dark and peak currents.  I find that the BB Buoy is often the first spot where school sized tuna are caught when they depart from the South of MV bite in Early July. This bite is short lived.  Like the Regal Sword, the water is deep at about 200 ft. so bring heavy gear.

  • BB Buoy Coordinates: 41° 15.500′ N, 69° 17.641′ W

The Regal Sword (4)

The Regal Sword is just east of the lanes between the BC and the BB buoys. The Regal Sword is an actual shipwreck that still exists and can be found with sonar. Here’s a history of the actual ship wreck: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/protect/ppw/pdfs/regal_sword.pdf)

The Regal Sword is about bout 15NM SE of the BC Buoy and approximately 35 miles ESE of Monomoy Island.  The Regal Sword has all kinds of structure which includes varied depths and a number of wrecks in addition to the Regal Sword itself. Needless to say, the Regal Sword is a champion at holding bait and stays fishy all season long so is always a really good option for fishing blind early in the season when there are no reports at hand.

The Regal sword is also well known for its premium cod fishing in addition to great tuna fishing. The water is deep at the regal Sword and the currents are strong. If you are jigging, you’ll need at least 6oz of lead for tuna and 16oz for cod fishing to get down the 210-230 ft of water.

  • Regal Sword Coordinates: 41° 28.0626′ N, 69° 20.5562 W


Nauset refers to the area east of Nauset Marsh and inlet.  Like Crab ledge, it affords smaller boat anglers the convenience of running North up the beach from Chatham and the comfort of other boats in an offshore environment.  Looking at a chart, you will notice that deeper water swings close to the marsh and currents here are strong, a perfect combination for Tuna.