May 17 2023

Get Ready for Black Sea Bass Fishing! – 5 Helpful Tips

by Ryan Collins

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.

Mature male black sea bass have a blueish hump on their head. I filmed this 20+ inch male during 2021 in about 30ft of water in Buzzard's Bay.

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:

  • Starting in 2023 black sea bass in Massachusetts must be at least 16.5 inches long to keep. Personally I like to keep black sea bass that are 20 inches or longer, because they yield a lot more meat.
  • Mass anglers can keep up to 4 fish per person, per day.
  • All anglers must have their Massachusetts Saltwater Fishing License.

On May 31st of 2019 I filmed a black sea bass fishing episode with the guys from the Goose Hummock Shop in Orleans. While filming I was boarded by the Environmental Police, so it was a good thing I had been abiding by the rules and regulations!

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 for black sea bass, I pack an assortment of different colored Joe Baggs Flukies in the 1-5oz range.

 Adding a piece of squid or GULP to the jig will git it some scent and can help produce more bites.

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. 👇

Responsive Video

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.

Black sea bass can be filleted or cooked whole, like the fish in this photo. To learn how to cook black sea bass whole, please consider watching this recipe video.

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!

Tight lines ?

About the author 

Ryan Collins

I'm fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I've been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!

  • Ryan the sea bass season is soon arriving in our area and from many personal trips from not only shore , but in a boat . One medicated factor for me was that working a jig found the larger males [Blue heads ] more times then not. My preferred way is a single tied jig head using the RJ Loop Knot. 50 pound braid , with a short mono shocker and deep water . Using a conventional type reel where you can feed the line as you drift . I actually will drag the jig as we drift , but keep the jig on the bottom .

    By keeping in touch with the head you will learn when the fish pick it up and engage the spool to set the fish . If you learn how to set up on the fish, you can do it in free spool , but need to reel like a crazy person to keep it tight and once it is tight go through the normal process of fighting the fish . The drag is never set to max from start to finish using the rod in the fighting process along with the reel.

    Over the years in the deeper waters of the Sound we have taken near record keeping sea bass in over 100 feet of water with 2.5 ounce heads , that we have tied ourselves on special jigs [Stainless Steel] made by Mr. K from another time. The heads are painted green with flash with iridescent green hair . Only on the bottom of the jig , keeping the top free to place a squid head or other type of bait for extra attraction. The head is designed so that the hook will always remain up once it slides along the bottom . which is important in releasing any fish not kept, in good shape [AS for the most part they will be hooked in the corner of the mouth ] For a fast release.

    Yes a spinning rod and reel will take fish, however for me the ultimate rod and reel is one that is small enough to get a nice battle, yet have complete control over the fish, no matter where you may fish . With out question on occasion you will hit a blue fish, striped bass of size and other types of fish [Fluke] on the way down and up and keeping the drag not socked up, gives you a better chance of holding onto it and not get broken off. Sea bass Fishing offers one many ways they can fish for them as different types jigs, bait . They love squid as most know, however I have found crabs and live eels to work very nicely on the larger ones Sand eels if you can find them will take some rather impressive sized fish .

    Peace and Prayers Carl

  • Ryan, a group of us are planning on fishing the end of Aug out of south yarmouth with jimmy the greek. We’re going to fish for sea bass, flounder and cod. What are your recommendations for tackle, lures, weights and so on for these fish.

    • Hey Gary,

      I’m happy that you are asking me for advice, however Jimmy the Greek is a much more skilled fisherman than I! He is super knowledgeable!

      I would honestly recommend asking Jimmy what he thinks. He knows those spots much better than I do and can probably tell you exactly what you will be fishing with tackle-wise.

      LMK what he says when you ask him!

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