The Massachusetts black sea bass fishing season officially opens this Saturday May 20th. I know many of you have been waiting all spring to go black sea bass fishing, and I'm also pumped it's finally here!
Not only are black sea bass some of the best tasting fish we have here on Cape, but they are also very fun to catch when using light tackle.
In recent years I've even heard of anglers having success black sea bass fishing with a fly rod. I have also encountered topwater black sea bass blitzes on several occasions.
Whether you are looking to put fresh fish on the table, or just want to get your kids into some fast action, then black sea bass fishing could be for you.
By no means do I consider myself a black sea bass fishing expert. There are many captains on Cape Cod who have been catching black sea bass for longer than I've been alive.
However, over the past 6 years I've caught enough sea bass to feel confident sharing the following 5 tips for black sea bass fishing throughout Cape Cod, the Islands, and beyond!
1) Massachusetts Black Sea Bass Season
Recreational black sea bass fishing is very popular in Massachusetts. With so many anglers targeting black sea bass in Mass, it's important to follow the rules and regulations.
For 2023, the Massachusetts recreational black sea bass fishing season will open on Saturday May 20th and close on Thursday September 7th.
Here are some other sea bass fishing rules and regulations to know before heading out this season:
2) Best Baits & Lures for Black Sea Bass
When the black sea bass bite is on fire, pretty much anything will work, and there's no shortage of productive black sea bass fishing techniques. I've caught black sea bass while trolling lures for bluefish, and I'm sure someone reading this has caught sea bass while topwater plugging for stripers.
However, the most consistent methods seem to be fishing bait on the bottom using hi-lo rigs, and jigging with metals and bucktail jigs. In particular I like drift fishing Joe Baggs Flukies just off the bottom, which is where the sea bass generally like to hang.
When fishing inshore areas in shallow water without a lot of current or wind, the 1oz and 2oz Flukies (which are basically like a bucktail jig for black sea bass) will be the perfect weight. If you're fishing deeper water, or if the wind is blowing and your is drift fast, then the 3oz to 5oz versions will do the trick.
Adding a fresh strip of squid or some other bait, including artificial GULP, to the jig will give it some scent and help produce bites. Drop the jig to the bottom and slowly move it up and down. If the sea bass are in the area, then it probably won't be long until you feel a hard strike on the line.
This is the technique we used in the video below. 👇
3) Go For a Double Header!
If you want to try catching multiple black sea bass at the same time, then consider tying on a teaser. Black sea bass fight hard and catching two or three at a time is a lot of fun.
In particular, I have been having a blast using the hand tied rigs made by My Fishing Cape Cod member Eddy Kooyomjian. Eddy recently started a small business called Monomoy Tackle and he started sharing his rigs with the MFCC community during 2020.
During 2022 we used Eddy's Black Sea Bass Rigs during one our weekly group fishing trips with captain Cullen of Cape Star Charters. We quickly limited out using the rigs by fishing near a shipwreck that was loaded with big sea bass.
Click play below to check it out! 👇
4) How to Find Black Sea Bass
You can catch black sea bass all throughout Cape Cod & the Islands. I have caught them in Buzzard's Bay, Cape Cod Bay, Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound and at the Monomoy Rips. My neighbor has even caught black sea bass in his lobster pots at the Cape Cod Canal!
Again I'm no expert, but when looking for black sea bass I don't get too hung up on exact spots. Instead I like doing long drifts through fishy looking areas. Bottom that is littered with boulders is particularly appealing, but I also like to try the edges of navigation channels.
During the spring I will often catch black sea bass in water as shallow was 15-30 feet, but as the season progresses the biomass of black sea bass moves off to deeper water.
Also, in recent years there have been legit topwater black sea bass blitzes. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for diving birds and bait. You might just stumble across schools of black sea bass feeding on the surface, which I've experienced on several occasions over the past three years.
*For more information about black sea bass hot spots, please visit this members-only article which highlights some of the best general areas to start your search for big black sea bass.
5) Black Sea Bass Filleting & Cooking
Black sea bass is one of the best tasting flakey fish you can catch in New England waters. It's buttery texture and mild flavor is perfect for a whole number of dishes, from using Italian flavors to Asian-spices and everything in between.
If you enjoy local seafood and plan on eating sea bass, then I recommend bleeding out the fish as soon as you land it. You can do this by pulling out a gill raker with your hand, or by using a sharp knife to cut one or two of the gill rakers. Put the bleeding sea bass in a 5 gallon bucket full of sea water to allow all the blood to pour out of the fish.
Once the fish is bled out, place the sea bass on ice, or in an ice water bath of ice cubes and sea water. I have found filleting to be easier if I allow the sea bass to remain in the ice for 12-24 hours. After spending that amount of time buried in ice, the black sea bass will be extremely cold and much easier to fillet.
In the spring of 2018, Lauren and I had the opportunity to hang with the Goose Hummock team for a cooking lesson from Simeon, a Goose Hummock team member and Michelin Starred chef.
Chef Simeon did an impressive job preparing a "Thai Style Whole Sea Bass." It was delicious and was like nothing I had ever tried before.
I know this is quite the recipe to try, but the flavors were out of this world delicious. If you are feeling adventurous and up for something new, then I definitely recommend giving Simeon's recipe a shot!
More Helpful Black Sea Bass Fishing Info
Here on My Fishing Cape Cod we have no shortage of helpful resources and people when it comes to black sea bass fishing. Probably the most valuable resource I can offer you is our members only private forum.
If you are looking for updates on how the fishing is for black sea bass (and other species) then our forum is the place for you. Over the past 10 years the community inside the forum has helped many anglers find and catch black sea bass, whether fishing from boat or kayak.
Speaking of kayak fishing for black sea bass, please be extra cautious this year if you head out! The water is still very cold so I recommend wearing a dry suit to prevent against hypothermia in the event you fell in.
There will also be lots of boats zipping around out there, and getting run over by a boat is a real threat, especially in poor visibility. With this in mind I'd consider attaching a kayak flag pole to help increase your visibility.
The action is really starting to pickup here on Cape Cod and I am really looking forward to the season ahead. If I can help with anything, please don't hesitate to ask. Have fun and be safe if you head out this spring for black sea bass!