UPDATED ON March 22 2024

Cape Cod Canal Tides | Understand Them To Catch More Fish

by Ryan Collins

The Cape Cod Canal has some of the strongest tides on all of Cape Cod.

During extreme weather situations the current inside the Canal can get cranking to almost scary speeds. It's always important to remain cautious when moving around on the Canal rocks when the tide is cranking.

The strong current is the result of differences in water table levels between Cape Cod Bay and Buzzard's Bay. If the water level is lower in Buzzard's Bay, then the Canal's current will move westward. If the water level is lower in Cape Cod Bay, then the Canal's current will move eastward. When both levels are equal, the current in the Canal will be slack.

Having a firm understanding of the tides will help you locate more stripers, fish areas with more efficiency and ultimately catch a lot more fish.

The West (Ebb) Tide

An outgoing tide or ebb tide at the Canal is often referred to as the west tide. This is because the Canal's current moves towards the west during the ebb - out into Buzzard's Bay.

My favorite tide for jigging the Canal's bottom is the west tide. Most of the areas I like to jig fish better during the west tide for some reason.

My guess is that the pieces of structure that I'm jigging are formed in a way that is more conducive to west tide jigging. In other words, possibly there is a high rocky peak that blocks the current better when the tide is moving west.

Bass in the area recognize this and congregate around the piece of structure more often during the west tide than during the east. Of course this is not a rule of thumb, as there are countless spots along the Canal that fish very well during the east tide.

As mentioned above, the west tide is also known as the ebb tide. This means that the water level within the Canal will be dropping throughout the entirety of the west/ebb tide. If you arrive at the Canal at the start of the west, you will notice that the water level is very high. As the tide progresses the water level will continue to drop.

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!

  • I live in Vestal NY IN UPSTATE NY just west of Catskills Mountains. I try to do at least once a year Stripe Bass Fishing on Cape usually with David Bois and Stripers are Us. He retired but coming July 4 week. I will go out hopefully that week on North Shore Cape Cod Bay. Staying in Orleans so Any suggestions for Surf Fishing near Orleans as well?

    • It sounds like you have a nice trip planned Larry!

      If you login and re-activate your membership then I’d be happy to help you with surf fishing in Cape Cod Bay and near Orleans. It looks like your old username is larry and if you forgot your password then you can reset it here, or just let me know and I”ll reset it for you.

      Send me a message on the site, (or an email [email protected]) once you sign back up and I’ll provide you with some tips and suggestions for your 2023 Cape Cod trip. 👍

  • Hi Ryan,
    There is a phenomenon at the canal where the current direction and change in water level are in opposition for a short while. For instance, the current will change to run to the west while the water level continues to rise along the banks of the Canal. This has always fascinated and confused me. There were some very educational posts on the MFCC Forum a few years back that did a good job of explaining this. Not sure what the thread was.

  • Not bad, not bad at all,pretty good understanding in easy lingo for fisherman/woman to go figure out how tides/current work in the canal…fish are comn…👍

    • Hi Jake,
      Gracie says “Hi”. She misses your chicken handouts under the table! She is 12 years old and doing great. 😊🐾

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