Westport River, Massachusetts
The Westport River is the largest tidal estuary between Long Island and Cape Cod. It features 3000 acres of fishable water and 1000 acres of salt marsh, surrounded by 45 miles of shoreline. Nearly 90% of the Westport River system is 6 feet deep or less. It is a vast and prolific nursery for shrimp, squid, crabs, and baitfish, and a lush feeding ground for striped bass, bluefish, and other gamefish.
The Westport River has two branches that meet in a protected harbor, where the river then curls around sand dunes and between rock formations to connect to Buzzard’s Bay. Both the East Branch and the West Branch feature defined channels and creeks that provide a backbone to extensive mud flats, grass flats, and sand flats. Casting along grassy banks, you’d swear you were in South Carolina. Sight fishing on bright sand is reminiscent of the tropics.
Protected from ocean swells and offshore winds, conditions in the Westport River are often serene. It’s a “zen” fishery, ideally suited to 8 weights and light spin tackle. Schoolie bass are usually breaking somewhere in the river. Slot bass and larger can be found laid up on ambush points or cruising the flats. Snapper bluefish are regular visitors. And both Bonito and False Albacore will stick their noses in the mouth of the river in the fall. Simply put, the Westport River has it all. Even after fishing the river for over 30 years, we’re still stunned by its beauty and abundance of life.
When you leave the mouth of the Westport River, you are technically at the intersection of Buzzard’s Bay to the east and Rhode Island Sound to the west. The angler won’t notice that distinction. What you’ll notice is that you’re now in the open ocean. And the fishing changes.
Buzzard’s Bay sometimes gets a bad rap for sloppy conditions. But most of the time, along the shores of Westport, Dartmouth, and Little Compton – where we fish – conditions are quite good. Still; this tends to be more “athletic” fishing, featuring aggressive fish, dramatic structure, larger flies, and longer casts. This is territory for 9 and 10 weight fly rods, and spin rods that throw 6-9 inch plugs.
The 15-mile stretch of Buzzard’s Bay we generally fish, from Sakonnet Point in Little Compton to Round Hill Point in Dartmouth, is a mix of prominent points, rocky shores, sandy beaches, and offshore rock piles. It’s a highway for stripers migrating north in the spring and south in the fall. Bluefish can be plentiful, sometimes in the ‘gator’ category. Bonito and Albies take up residence in the fall.
Sakonnet River, Rhode Island
The Sakonnet River is a 12-mile tidal strait running north-south, separating Tiverton and Little Compton on the east from Portsmouth and Middletown on the west. Generally a mile or more wide, the Sakonnet feels more like a bay than a river. Oceanic at its mouth, conditions become increasingly calm as you travel upriver.
With strong tidal flows, and rocky shores on both sides, the Sakonnet offers many spots that hold fish. Chief among them is Sakonnet Point itself, a cluster of rocky islands – and a historic lighthouse – at the intersection of the river and Rhode Island Sound. To the west, across the mouth of the Sakonnet, is Newport, Rhode Island, where you can fish along underwater reefs and at the base of ‘Cliff Walk’ with 19 th century mansions above.
The Sakonnet River is often a great destination for bluefish in the summer and albies in the fall. Spots off Newport regularly give up large stripers. And Sakonnet Point is a major intersection of waters where all our target species can be found.
The Elizabeth Islands make up a breathtakingly beautiful 16-mile-long archipelago stretching southwest from the southern tip of Cape Cod. They sit roughly halfway between Martha’s Vineyard and the coast of mainland Massachusetts. The Elizabeth Islands are ridiculously fishy, having rocky shores, deepwater holes, current-swept reefs, and protected flats. They not only host huge numbers of fish, they also host huge fish. Two of the three state-record striped bass were caught along the Elizabeth Islands.
Anchoring the Elizabeth Islands is the island town of Cuttyhunk. In the late 1880s, a group of business tycoons established a fishing club there, which later drew visits from Presidents. You can still fish in the shadow of the “Bass Club” today, catching big striped bass on flies and plugs (instead of live lobster – the preferred bait back in the day). Off the coast of Cuttyhunk is the famed Sow and Pigs reef, a feeding ground for resident and migrating striped bass and bluefish.
The other main islands comprising the Elizabeths – Nashawena, Naushon, and Pasque – feature submerged boulder fields at the base of 100-foot cliffs, crescent-shaped coves with bright sandy beaches, and clear-water mixed-bottom flats. Between the islands are three “holes” – deepwater cuts that trade water between Buzzard’s Bay and Vineyard Sound. Quick’s Hole, Robinson’s Hole, and Wood’s Hole are hot spots for breaking fish, especially bonito and false albacore during their fall run. The Elizabeth Islands are an unforgettable “bucket list” location for saltwater anglers. We’re fortunate to have them in our backyard.