Instead, what comes to mind for most is the reputation the river rightfully earned in the middle and latter parts of the twentieth century as an industrially polluted waterway. Unfortunately, this common misconception discourages many anglers from exploring the outstanding fishing possibilities that exist right in the urban heart of Boston.
The good news is that because Charles River fishing has remained under the radar, it is a largely untapped resource for fishermen of all kinds. Fishing pressure is very light, and there are areas of the river that produce quality fish of all kinds. No matter the size of your boat, from kayak to cruiser, there is a section of the river you can explore. The Charles River is a part of everyday life for hundreds of thousands of metro Boston inhabitants. Stretching a total of 80 miles, it begins in Hopkinton, Massachusetts and winds its way through 23 communities on its way to Boston Harbor.
Dropping about feet in its lazy journey to the sea, the slow-moving river steeps like tea through the abundant wetlands along its path. Thanks in large part to various legislative measures and the efforts of private citizens banding together to protect the watershed, the Charles River is now one of the cleanest urban waterways in America.
The Charles River Basin, the section of the river between the Watertown Dam and Boston Harbor, is almost entirely a work of human de. The new dam, completed ineliminated the existing mud flats and stabilized the water level from Boston to Watertown, turning the stinking tidal estuary into the Charles River Basin of today.
Today, the Charles River has been restored to a level of cleanliness once thought unattainable—wildlife is abundant along its wooded banks and fish thrive in its waters. It is home to several rowing and yacht clubs, is the setting for a world-class rowing regatta the Head of the Charles and provides excellent fishing opportunities.
Starting at the Watertown Dam, the Basin is a acre section of the Charles that is dotted with pilings and docks, is crossed by nearly a dozen bridges, and reaches depths of 30 feet in places. Endless shorelines full of submerged timber, rocks, and all other forms of cover and structure create numerous opportunities for anglers to pursue quality fish, especially largemouth bass. The surrounding area is heavily developed.
These shorelines also provide numerous opportunities for landing bass, crappies, carp, catfish and more. In the area downriver from the Watertown Dam, the Charles looks like many areas familiar to those of us from the western suburbs. Trees and overhanging bushes line a relatively narrow section of the river that features beautifully maintained shorelines. The area leading up to the Brighton community boat launch contains downed timber in the water as well as rocky sections and other forms of cover.
Along this stretch, anglers will have good luck with soft-plastic baits. Try your favorite styles and colors, as this stretch has produced many nice bass in the 2- to 5-pound range for both my charter customers and me. Flip your favorite baits into and around downed wood or dance weightless soft-plastics near the edges of lily pad beds. In the morning and evening, topwater baits for a lot of action from largemouth bass. The quieter, sheltered shorelines, which are littered with downed timber, rocks and overhanging cover, have provided many nice bass on topwater plugs.
Try your favorite shallow-diving crankbaits as well as spinnerbaits. Bright colors such as chartreuse consistently produce nice fish; spinnerbaits are especially productive in and around downed timber and will also work well along the walls and riprap of the lower basin.
Other fishing resources
As you head downriver from the area around the Brighton community rowing center, you will find that fishing on the Charles continues to feel less urban and more secluded. Many of the same features characterizing the river up to this point continue with the addition of manmade bridges beginning to cross overhead.
First to cross the river is the North Beacon Street Bridge.
Not grand in size, it marks the beginning of changes to the river that will Cambridge Massachusetts of fish lets see what i catch fishermen more opportunities to try different tactics. Most of the river leading up to this point is relatively shallow, with a fairly constant depth of about 4 to 8 feet.
The bridges, which tend to offer deeper water, often hold fish. They can be excellent places to try weighted soft-plastics and a whole host of other tactics such as shaky he and deeper-diving crankbaits. Once you reach the Elliot Street Bridge near the Cambridge Boathouse and Mount Auburn Hospital, you will begin to see changes in both the size of the river and its water depth.
This section provides consistently nice bass, and as a freshwater fishing guide, I have seen many quality largemouth come out of this area. On one trip, two of my clients each caught two 2- to 3-pound bass on our first drift through the bridge—they were shocked by the quality of the fishing on the Charles River. The area does tend to get congested by rowers and renters from Charles River Canoe and Kayak, which sits only a short distance upriver from this bridge.
With a little patience, everyone can enjoy the river and whatever activities they are taking part in. As you progress beyond Elliot Street and glide closer to downtown Boston, the river takes on a much different feel as it widens, deepens, and begins to be closed in upon on both sides by taller and more tightly packed buildings. Numerous boathouses and wooden docks line the river and tend to produce quality fish.
Watertown to brighton
The area is made up of a complex network of bridge pilings from railways as well as cement footings that tend to hold baitfish. On one of my charters, we spent two hours at this crossro and each fisherman caught several quality bass up to 5 pounds while fishing Carolina-rigged worms and working a crankbait through the footings.
This particular area offers fishing with an audience, as many runners and bikers passing by on the low-hanging footbridge are eager to know what you are catching. Onlookers and Cambridge Massachusetts of fish lets see what i catch are always excited to know there is an abundance of healthy fish to be had in this part of the river. Similarities in fishing patterns and techniques exist at each individual bridge along the Charles, yet each one holds its own secrets and opportunities.
In the wider waters of the Lower Basin, the bridge pilings represent major static pieces of structure, which tend to appeal to fish as they provide ambush points for feeding. Also, deeper water combined with constant shade from the sun creates a cooler environment for fish in the heat of the summer when water temperatures can be in excess of 80 degrees. Many of my charters are spent targeting bridge pilings specifically for these reasons, and with this section of river being so wide open, most other boats can travel around you, making it a bit easier to stay in one location.
Dark colors such as black and blue tend to work well, and adding a soft-plastic trailer will increase bites. Mimicking the crayfish that are abundant in the Charles River is another productive way to catch largemouth.
Fishing the charles river
Soft plastics such as creature baits and soft-plastic ribbontail worms or grubs on a weighted hook also tend to produce well. The next major landmark on the journey to the Museum is the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, where you will enter the bigger water of the Lower Basin.
Dotted with sailboats as far as the eye can see, the size of this section of the Charles is impressive. Endless crowds of people lying in the sun and enjoying the beauty of the Lower Basin surround you as you begin to get closer to the Museum. Here, underwater features become the main areas for anglers to target.
The charles river basin
Running deep-diving crankbaits, lipless crankbaits and spoons over these holes has worked extremely well for my customers and me. These locations are perfect for fishing heavier jigs because getting the bait to the correct depth is paramount. If you are not equipped with depth-finding electronicsyou can benefit from looking at a map to locate some of the deeper holes.
This is a good way to locate suspended fish, especially when the water temperatures start to rise. One of my favorite places to go when I have a fishing charter is the area right near the Esplanade. Imagine the beauty and excitement of meandering through the Storrow Drive Lagoons, catching quality largemouth bass in the backdrop of the Hatch Shell. I have seen many nice fish caught in this area, and it never fails to surprise anglers because the water here is quite shallow.
Go fish ma! with this digital fishing map
I have had clients catch a 4-pound bass under one of these narrow bridges and then a huge crappie on the very next cast. Diversity has returned to the river—you will occasionally see giant carp slowly roaming these sunny narrow waterways, which always seems to beg the question, what else is out there?
These shallow lagoons hold surprising s of bass and crappie. Many people are surprised by the quality of fish that can be found in such a bustling city fishery. If you are willing to give it a try, you will be too. As you make your way out of the lagoons and back to the main river, good fishing can be found along the riprap of the southern shoreline as well as the rock walls lining the edges of the river. Riprap spreading from the base of these walls down into the water appeals to several species of fish and can offer exciting action for shore fishermen.
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Lower Basin as you hold out a nice largemouth bass for onlookers enjoying a ride on the Duck Boats, or get out the camera and smile as you hold your catch in the shadow of the Museum of Science.
The Charles River has become a resource that more people are enjoying every year. Canoe and kayak rentals are at an all-time high, paddleboarders and paddleboats can be seen at any time, and of course sailors and rowers consistently dot the river. For those who prefer fishing from shore, there are miles of shoreline to choose from along the banks of the Charles. Whether you live in Boston or are coming for a visit, grab your fishing gear, your cameraand enjoy your time on the water.
Great article! What is your opinion on eating your catch out of the Charles? Not Cambridge Massachusetts of fish lets see what i catch Seems to be a lot of mixed opinions out there, but I would sure love to take home some of these perch and have a fry! Drew I would love to take the fish home as well.
Community supported fishery
I rather be really safe then sorry. The report of large pike, and any pike in the Charles is not true.
There used to be plenty in the lakes region, however they have all but died off. Take it from someone who spent the past years fishing the Charles almost every day in the summer, and on the weekends during the spring and fall. I love west of the Charles and a buddy of mine catch a lot of pike. It is a bit crazy at points. I was wondering what you guys use to catch fish like bass, trout, and carp, and also what time of day would be best to fish at. I was wondering, do you need a permit to fish in the Charles, or just a permit to get caught fishing? You need a permit to fish anywhere.
Do you also take home 6 inchers and and ten times the limit each time out? Might be that time of month again…. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!
Restaurant supported fishery
Your article was very helpful. Should I still be fishing the same spots the same way or should I switch things up? Any info will help and be greatly appreciated. Woerd street in Waltham state ramp good parking in back the old watch Factory I have a 18 ft tracker with a fourth launch there all the time.