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It was early September 2013, and the forecast looked good for a run “out east” as everyone seems to refer to the tuna grounds off Chatham. I was joined by New England Advertising Sales Manager, Dale Nicholson and we were fishing with Capt. John Clothier of Fish Chatham Charters. We eased our way out through Stage Harbor, turned east and shot past Monomoy Island with building seas that would eventually be my undoing (but that story is for a different day). Today our destination was for the area generally referred to as the Sword; the target waters of many of the tuna forays of the fleet based out of Chatham and beyond.

By Toby Lapinski
Image courtesy of NOAA. Sword photo inset: A look at the Regal Sword before her sinking in 1979. Image courtesy of Wreck Hunter.

The 575-foot steel freighter Regal Sword sunk after a collision with the tanker Exxon Chester, a 672-foot long vessel off Cape Cod on June 18, 1979 on a very foggy afternoon. The Exxon Chester suffered minor damage to its bow but was able to rescue all 38 crew members of the Sword when it deployed its life boats. Built in 1961 in Sweden, the Regal Sword was reported to have sunk very quickly and went to the bottom with a full cargo of scrap metal. It now rests roughly 25 miles southeast of Chatham in about 275 feet of water over generally sandy bottom.

Anywhere in the general vicinity of the wreck can produce tuna, and one need not work right on top of it to come tight. However, it is known to hold some large cod and other groundfish at times. It‘s the general area that holds bait and fish with the wreck mostly used as a navigational aid for those looking to fish the area. Make certain that when planning a trip to this area that you account for arrival on the grounds before the sun begins to make its first signs on the eastern horizon. Quite often there is a flurry of activity at first light as bait, birds, whales and hopefully tuna can often be seen right on the surface.

Both trolling and casting will work here, so arm yourself with a variety of options and let the fish tell you what they want on a given day. In the earlier mentioned trip with Fish Chatham Charters, we set five lines out on Okuma Makaira 80WII reels and trolled custom-made splashers made by Capt. Eric Stewart (then of the Hook-Up! and now of the Goose Hummock Shop) with the short line set in the prop wash taking the first fish, a nice 61-incher. We hooked two more fish of 51 inches and dropped another before calling it a day, but with fish showing down deep we could have easily set to jigging with plastics like Ron-Z’s or metal like Point Jude deep-force jigs and added more fish to our count.

Fishing out east began early this year with fish being reported on the grounds before the opening of commercial bluefin season on June 1, so the hopes are high that we’ll see a good bite throughout the summer and well into the fall. If you’re looking to fish this area from your own boat, be sure to give our friends at Falmouth Bait and Tackle, Eastman’s or the Goose Hummock a call for details on what is going on and what the tuna are showing a preference for at that time.

If you don’t have a boat worthy of the ride but still want to get in on the action, there are plenty of charter guys heading out east so give the weekly reports a look right now in The Fisherman and I’m sure you’ll come up with a worthy captain!

Coordinates: 41° 28.0626′ N, 69° 20.5562 W

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