< Fishing the Rips of Monomoy

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THE  RIPS  OF  MONOMOY

 by Captain Bruce Peters
 508 255-0911
www.sportfishingcapecod.com      
Part I

Due 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 waveformations as the rapidly moving water rushes over the shallower bars and shoals. I invite you to share with me theexploration 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 4 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.  This 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 hasa 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. Ihave 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 75yds.  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.

THE RIPS OF MONOMOY

Part II


I 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  useing 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 same methods.


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.

Captain Bruce Peters - www.sportfishingcapecod.com
call 508 255-0911

 
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