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Fishing Barnstable Harbor During The Summer

Ryan Collins

Barnstable Harbor is a tropical paradise during the middle of the summer. On a bright sunny day the crystal clear waters take on a turquoise glow that can make you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. 

Just about everywhere you look in Barnstable Harbor feels as if it was a scene taken straight from a postcard. In particular the Sandy Neck Colony at Beach Point is one spot that has graced the cover of many Cape Cod calendars, and been the subject of many photographs and paintings. 

When I think about Barnstable Harbor during the summer, a calm, peaceful feeling descends upon me. It is awfully difficult to spend a day fishing, boating or just wandering around this area without feeling a refreshed and renewed sense of hope for this world. 


The water, dunes and sky of Barnstable Harbor is teeming with life. From sand eels to piping plovers, sea clams to pilot whales, you never know what you might encounter. 

In this article I’ll share with you some words of wisdom from my lifetime of experiences fishing, boating and exploring Barnstable Harbor during the middle of the summer.

Specifically we’ll discuss some areas worth visiting, some fishing techniques worth using, plus some tidbits of advice for how you can make the most of a day spent on the harbor. 

  1. Nice write up Ryan- Can you access this water from the shore? Seems like a surf casting / fly fishing from shore opportunity if you are Casting into the beach from the boat.

    1. Yes it’s definitely possible to access a lot of great locations from the shore, plus I will often use my boat and/or kayak to access spots to surfcast which aren’t accessible any other way.

      Fire me a private message in the forum and I’ll share a few spots and ideas with you 🎣

  2. One of the great spots in New England. As Ryan mentioned, keep an eye on the tides. First time out there 5 years ago with the tin boat, anchored it way up the west bar (not smart), a good 50-75 yards from where a bunch of other boats were anchored closer to the channel (smart). After a good few hours fishing and swimming with the kids, looked back and the thing was almost high and dry. Fortunately a couple of other guys on the beach helped me lift/drag it over the sand to the little channel that leads into the cove area. Saved my day. Have been back many times since. Have always had success even during the day in the summer there.

    1. I can relate to that experience Tim!

      We used to intentionally beach our 19′ Carolina Skiff and just hang out on the sandbar and wait for the tide to “rescue” us.

      Tight lines 🎣

  3. Hey Ryan … what advise would you give for kayaking BH in terms of location, tide and time … assuming a 4 hour trip? Thinking the channel boardering Horseshoe Shoal …

    1. I would kayak out during the last part of the outgoing, and then kayak back in during the first part of the incoming. Pick a day when low tide is around 7AM or 8AM.

      You can beach your kayak on the East and West Bar, as well as on Horseshoe Shoal, and then fish on foot, but always keep your kayak close by during the incoming tide. As Tim mentioned above the tide comes in fast and you don’t want to have your kayak drift away. 👍🏻

  4. Sandy Neck and Cuttyhunk are two great places to visit nature and renew your spirit any time of the year.

    1. Well said 😉

  5. I have often fished the BH channel from my small 15 foot Dauntless, power drifting sea worms. I always look for the humps on my depth finder. Large areas of the channel bottom gradually change in depth in a rolling way and will not hold fish. What you want to look for are those areas that Ryan talks about, the humps, or waves in the bottom sand where you see several peaks and troughs on your screen at one time. I have seen fish on the screen as they hold in these troughs to stay out of the current, very cool. As Ryan mentioned, they seem to be mostly from the large red buoy where the channel turns to the left out to the second green can you come to after the big buoy (not sure of the numbers).

    When the water is calm, I look for the pancakes. These are the spots where the water is forced upward by the current hitting a raised area of bottom and then flattening out when it reaches the surface. They present themselves as a circle of flat water on the surface and are surrounded by the moving water of the channel. You can see them with your own eyes and don’t need a depth finder to spot the structure. I will steer from pancake to pancake as I slowly motor through the channel towing my sea worms on a fish finder rig and circle hook. I often will hook up in double headers when my bait goes through one of these productive areas.
    I agree, the channel opening can get pretty “hairy” at times, and watch out for the Whale Watching Boat!

    1. Terrific old school technique. Thanks Dex for the insight, and yes, watch out for the whale watcher! lol


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