Photos © Ken Schultz
Boating on the east coast stretches for more than 2,000 miles, offering hot and cold water, coastal and offshore options, and a variety of ports and fish species. This vast area is home to some of North America’s major estuaries and hundreds of barrier islands, resulting in a coastline that stretches for more than 100,000 miles. That’s a lot of boating on the east coast to enjoy.
Here’s a quick recap of the top north-south boating areas on the east coast, all of which are also known for sport fishing.
1. Cape Cod (and nearby), Massachusetts
The area from Massachusetts Bay north of Cape Cod to Narragansett Bay south of it, including the cape itself and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, is the historic birthplace of American recreational fishing and boating. It is generally a big boat location, with seasonal cold water and options from spring to late autumn. Striped bass is the main species, with flounder and bluefish also prominent.
2. Long Island Sound, Connecticut / New York
The Connecticut rivers and rugged rocky coastline offer numerous bays and harbors, as well as excellent access to Long Island Sound. There’s also ample access from the north coast of Long Island, New York, meaning this densely populated area is an exceptional locale for boating on the east coast, with a season stretching from early March to late November. Stripers, flounder (locally called “fluke”) and blues, as well as mackerel, porgies, tautog and black sea bass are the main catches.
3. Montauk, New York
Montauk juts far into the Atlantic at the easternmost end of Long Island, New York, and is a great jump for high-water ocean boating and a chance to get up close and personal with pelagic species. Tangled and deep coastal waters offer world-renowned striped perch fishing, as well as an opportunity for albacore and bluefish. Offshore, ocean currents, and deeper waters produce tuna, marlin, shark, and swordfish, as well as cod and pollock. This is usually large boat water with a spring to late autumn season.
4. Cape May and Delaware Bay, New Jersey / Delaware
A minimum of swamps and small estuaries as well as shallows, a gradually sloping offshore bottom and an impressive and productive bay characterize this region. The result is a variety of offshore and offshore boats, mainly from mid-March to early December. Striped bass, bluefish, flounder (“fluke”), tautog and black drum are top destinations near the coast, while tuna and marlin provide offshore action in the summer.
5. Chesapeake Bay, Virginia / Maryland
If you want to talk about boating on the east coast, keep in mind that the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America, is a hotspot for almost all types of watercraft, from the upper regions near Havre de Grace, Maryland, to the wide mouth at Cape Henry and including its many tributaries. One could spend a lifetime in the region and never try the bay’s entire range of boats. It can be a year-round boating option for kayakers and small boaters in the swamps, creeks, and rivers, although March through early December is the main water season. Striped bass is the main catch, but white bass, sea trout, bluefish, croaker, spot and many other species are available seasonally.
6. Outer Banks / Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
Because Cape Hatteras is close to the Gulf Stream, the Outer Banks is a 140 mile strip of barrier islands and has several large rivers and sounds, this is one of the most famous boating areas on the east coast. Offshore is a country with large boats, but various vehicles are suitable onshore and the boating season is practically all year round. Red drum (channel bass), sea trout and bluefish are headliners on land, while marlin, tuna, king mackerel and albacore are among the ocean’s favorites.
7. Florida Keys, Florida
The Florida Keys contain legendary fishing spots such as Islamorada, Marathon and Key West and extend south and west of east Florida and lie in the Gulf of Mexico. Flat apartments, the nearby current of the Gulf Stream, and reefs and wrecks offer diverse opportunities for a variety of boating and fishing interests. You can go boating here all year round. Tarpon, bonefish, sailfish, various snapper and grouper, sea trout, redfish, snooks and many other popular wild fish are available depending on the season and location.
Make sure your boat is registered and your fishing license is up-to-date, and check our state pages for localized information.