Ocean fishing along the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts

At 3:14 am everything is dead silent in the house. The cats are all sleeping (finally), we’re tucked under the covers with the AC quietly humming. A car hasn’t driven down our quiet street for the past 5 hours. The minute hand on my watch shifts and the alarm begins to siren.

I can assure you, there are few good reasons to wake up at 3:15 in the morning. The first one is if you awake and your house is aflame. The second is if you’re heading out to get some ocean fishing in. That’s precisely what I was planning on this beautiful morning with my good pal Christopher.

Waiting to launch out of Union Wharf in Fairhaven, Massachusetts

I arrived at Union Wharf in Fairhaven, Massachusetts at 3:45am. No sign of light or life anywhere—Dunkin Donuts is still closed at this ungodly hour, folks. Seeing an empty drive-thru is a magical sight, I tell you.

Oddly enough, my buddy Chris was already waiting for me. I suspect he slept in the parking lot the night before.

Slowly but surely folks began arriving. First, our deck-hand Caleb arrived on scene, followed by our Captain, Eric. A mostly crew of families and individuals all descended upon the docks just in time for us to launch before 4:30. Some seasoned professionals and first-timers, alike.

As we made our way out of New Bedford harbor, we passed some local landmarks. Namely Pope’s Island, Butler Flats Lighthouse, and our infamous hurricane barrier. Once passed, the clouds began to break over more open water and the light beams from the sun came shining through—what a great omen.

A few tired fishing vessels were also making their way back into the harbor—no doubt after a long journey out in the Atlantic. New Bedford, Massachusetts boasts one of the largest fishing ports in the United States. Fishing, Lobster, and Scallop boats regularly make their way out to the Great South Channel and George’s Bank, ~60 miles off the coast.

After about an hour of cruising at moderate speed, we hunkered down just off the Elizabeth Islands. This small chain of islands is actually a town called Gosnold. In 2010, the population of this town was a whopping 75 people, making it the least populous town in Massachusetts.

Once the anchor was down we got to work with haste. There’s a wide variety of fish lurking in the waters here. It’s not incredibly deep as far as the ocean is concerned, about 30—40 feet or 5—7 fathoms for all you Moby Dick fans.

Throughout the day, folks on the ship pulled up Scup (Porgie), Black Sea Bass, Sea Robin, Bluefish, and Dogfish (shark). I was the lucky chap who also hooked a small Striped Bass while trying to detangle the bird’s nest I created on my bait caster.

The primary target for the day was Scup and Black Sea Bass. Massachusetts has strict regulations that change yearly on what people can take home to eat. Each species has length regulations and a possession limit. Some even have seasonal timeframes, as not to disrupt breeding.

As an example for 2020, Black Sea Bass can be fished from May—Sept., have a size limit of 15 inches, and you may only possess a max of 5 fish. Our environmental police don’t mess around here either. A couple of days after our trip they bagged some guys poaching fish illegally.

Most of the fish we caught on our adventure were promptly returned to their home and families. However, we did keep a few regulation Scup and Black Sea Bass home to grill. I’m a huge fan of Black Sea Bass—toss on a little lemon pepper seasoning and throw it in an air fryer and it’s divine. It’s also a very beautiful fish, which you can see a few photos of here.

A few more shots from the day:

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