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How to Rake for Sand Eels on Cape Cod

ryan collins my fishing cape cod breakfast

Note from Ryan: This post was originally published on August 4th of 2015. I figured now would be a good time to re-publish this post, because there has been growing interest in the forum about raking your own sand eels.

This past Friday morning I received a text message invitation from MFCC member "frankzappa" asking if I would be interested in raking up some sand eels.

I have always wanted learn how to rake sand eels so I jumped at the opportunity.

We launched Frank's 14 foot tin boat at 4:30PM.


tin boat fishing on cape cod

Our plan was to rake sand eels 1.5 hour before until 1.5 hour after low tide.

The wind was blowing at a moderate speed, and although we were in a protected bay, we still paid attention to the chop, and wakes created by larger boats.

After a nice cruise we reached our destination, which can best be described as a Cape Cod "tropical paradise."

cape cod's tropical sand flats

Frank maneuvered the boat around the sand flats until he found the perfect spot.

cape cod sand flats tin boat

It was then time to go to work. 

We both grabbed rakes and began scratching up the sand flats all around us.

ryan collins raking sand eels on cape cod

I soon had a couple sand eels on the rake. Success!

sand eels on rake cape cod

Then Frank started hitting them hard. He had found a sweet spot right next to the boat, where a large number of sand eels had gathered.

raking sand eels in tidal pools on cape cod

We stayed in this general area for the entire trip because there was no need to move. The sand eels kept filtering into the sand beneath our feet.

We tossed the sand eels into a basket which was tied to a belt.

sand eel basket

This convenient contraption was designed by Frank and is not available in tackle shops!

Sunscreen, sun glasses, a light t-shirt, bathing suit and some sort of footwear to protect your toes from crabs is a good idea.

raking sand eels on cape cod

By the end of the tide we had filled 2 plastic bags with a couple hundred sand eels.

fresh sand eels for bait on cape cod

Both Frank and I have plenty of fresh bait for stripers and fluke!

I hope to give these sand eels a try throughout this week.

How You Can Do This!

Raking sand eels is a lot of fun, plus it's simple! Fresh sand eels make great bait for striped bass and fluke.

However there is a learning curve involved, which is why I created the following 5+ minute video which includes more information about the technique, gear and best areas.

Thank you Frank for sharing your expertise! Myself and the rest of MFCC really appreciate it.

Click play below to watch.

What do you think?

Let me know by commenting below.

  1. can anyone recommend decent sand eel raking spots in buzzards bay area? backside of taylor point near mass maritime? Back River? dike?

    1. I have not raked for sand eels in Buzzard’s Bay, but I would give the Mashnee Flats a try. Maybe look for areas where the terns are diving. Back River could definitely be worth a shot. If that fails, then maybe try the northside at Town Neck or Scusset Beach. Gluck and LMK how it goes! 🎣

  2. Excellent pictures and video Ryan. Brought back memories from the early 80s raking sand eels at Race Point and the Pamet River. Dead low at the Race was usually amazing and using them on that incoming tide was money. Also, cash at times as vacationers would pay up to $5 for sandwich bags of them! We used an Up and down rig with a few on each hook. Also, the low tide flats in your front yard used to have them. Check it out!

    1. Thanks for the awesome tips and memories Steve! I just bought a brand new sand eel rake, so we will see how it goes. 🙏🏻

  3. Do you brine them or add anything to toughen up? Every time I tried keeping some they turn really soft and barely stay on the hook.

    1. Hey Brian! Good to hear from you. To be honest, I don’t consider myself a sand eel fishing expert. I need to do more of it in order to offer any first-person advice. I’ve never experimented with a brine.

      However, when I used to work at a bait shop, I remember it being really important that we sold the sand eels quickly after we got them in. I think they will fish best the day you caught them.

      Do you remember how many days old the sand eels were that you tried using? Were they ever frozen?

      1. Once you freeze them they really turn to mush. I used to rake them and then try to use the next day, but even then they would fall off super quick. I now trap mummichugs in the estuaries and use them. Much hardier, and stay live pretty well if you keep aerated and change water frequently.

        1. Roger that Brian 👍🏻 What do you recommend using for bait for mummichogs?

          1. Dry dog food and smash up some mussels.

            1. Awesome, thanks Brian!

  4. I have done well netting eels in the Canal, though this year they are super scarce. I think the dredging of the Canal this year temporarily disrupted the habitat. I have a rake but have yet to try it… Any suggestions for a decent spot to try..

    1. Very interesting observation Peter.

      For raking eels in the canal you might want to try along the Scusset Jetty at low tide. Perhaps this is where you have netted them in the past.

      I’m not sure if you want to travel, but I would imagine the creeks nearby the canal would also have some sand eels. Maybe a low tide spent raking the tidal pools would produce enough sandeels for a fishing trip.

      Let me know if you give it a try and good luck!

  5. Great information……………thanks a bunch!
    Built myself a sandeel rake 15 years ago, have never used it successfully.
    Hopefully now this will change after viewing your tutorial.
    I am retiring this fall to CC; have a house in Eastham.

    1. No worries Robert!

      Maybe this will be the season you put that homemade rake to use.

      Plenty of great sandbars and tidal pools in the Eastham area to find sand eels.

  6. Great Info!! Thanks!! ????

    1. No problem!!!

  7. Yes they are Ed. That is because I made them myself. I like them longer than store bought ones. I find them easier to use. I always seemed to be falling off the end of the store bought ones I have owned in years past so being that I am a machinist I just made them myself out of tubular aluminum to be a little more comfortable on my boney shoulders. I used hardened ice picks for the times and stainless connections. I have made them from 6″ wide to 24″ wide to power rack them. The power raking was too much trouble so
    I cut that one in half and made 2 out of it. A little welding and Bob’s your uncle. Hope that helped. P.

    1. Perfect, thanks for chiming in Frank

  8. So that’s how they rake sand eels, never put much thought in it, very interesting! I always wondered why the sand eel ended up with that hole in there side. Looks like fun!

    1. It’s a great time, and I really enjoyed it.

      Excellent excuse to spend an afternoon on the flats of Cape Cod.

  9. Thanks… Capt. Ed Wagner taught me how to “rake” and this video reinforces yet another experience on the water.

    Thanks Ryan, Frank and Ed

    1. No worries, and thank you Ed and Frank!

  10. Thanks. I have been raking sandeels for years but would appreciate a little more info on the rakes In the video. They looked like the handles were longer than any I’ve seen.


    1. I would guess the rakes were 6-7 feet long. I’m not sure if Mr. Zappa purchased the rakes or made them himself (he’s quite the craftsmen).

      I will say that the foam on the rakes is a great idea. It saves your shoulder from making direct contact with the metal.

      I’ll see if Frank can elaborate…

  11. Great report. Reminds me of raking Irish sea moss when I was a teen. Thanks

    1. My relatives in Nova Scotia made a living doing that

  12. Great report and video ! Ryan and Frank thanks for taking the time to show us who are not in the know, how to rake em. I bought a rake last year but had no idea how to use it. Seems simple enough, hope to get out there and try it soon.

    Bart…great tip on “strippers” taking sandeels. I’ve been trying for years to catch em with $1, $2, $5, and sometimes $20’s …LOL

    1. LOL!!!

      Gluck with the sand eels, and the “strippers”!

  13. Excellent article.
    These were all over the east end of the canal last weekend.
    They were even washing up on the sand and gravel and made for great bait.
    I found about a dozen and used them to catch two strippers.
    There were people with buckets half full of them.
    Now we know how to collect them at low tide.

    1. Very interesting Bart. Were the sand eels being forced ashore by marauding bass?

      Sounds like a cool experience!


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