Chatham's Monomoy Islands

Chatham's Monomoy Islands

Just south of Chatham, lie two small islands, North Monomoy and South Monomoy. These islands used to be connected to Chatham, in fact they used to be one island. I remember, before they separated in 1978, taking our motor boat out to sunbath and swim on Monomoy Island and how the island would totally disappear at high tide.

The Monomoys jut into Nantucket Sound about eight miles from the mainland. They sport long stretches of immaculate beaches, rolling dunes, salt marshes, and tidal flats with freshwater ponds dotting the landscape of this breathtaking wildlife refuge. Pristine is truly the best description. North and South Monomoy are classic barrier beach islands.

Chatham's Monomoy Islands
The Monomoys are Classic Barrier Beaches
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The Monomoys are home to a myriad of wildlife - mainly deer, seals, ducks and shore birds. Because the Monomoys are a key resting spot along the Atlantic Flyway, birds from as far away as the Arctic and Brazil have been seen along their shores. As many as 10,000 shorebirds and 20,000 gulls have been spotted here on a single day.

They also provide a refuge for several endangered and threatened animals, including the federally protected piping plover and roseate tern. North Monomoy Island is most often used as a feeding site during low tides, while South Monomoy is used as a roosting site during high tides. Thousands of birds may be seen sitting on the beach, flying overhead, or hovering above the water's surface.

But Birds aren't the only wildlife. As the tides go out, countless small sandbars creep up to the surface of the clear blue-green water. Many different kinds of birds fight to secure these little islands for the short time they can be seen. The water sparkles in the sun; the day is glorious! Along the shore, hundreds of horseshoe crabs and a variety of other small sea creatures can be seen scurrying about in the sand just a foot below the surface.

As you look around you spot water that is darker hued. These are the flats -- large expanses of shallows, consisting of mud, eelgrass or sand. Striped bass and bluefish come to this area in search of food. As the sand flat becomes covered with water the baitfish move up onto the flat through troughs and channels to escape predators. Approximately 2 hours before high tide the predators come up onto the flat following these same troughs in search of food. You can see anglers standing and sight casting for them.

According to those in the know:"[S]un and no wind make for optimal sight fishing conditions as the predators cruise the flats. Seeing hundreds or more fish in a tide is the norm. North and south Monomoy offer miles and miles of light colored sand flats and crystal clear water that makes sight casting for 5-25 pound stripers the order of the day. This is probably the most exciting type of fly-fishing you will ever do. They're cruising the flats eating crabs, shrimp, silversides and sand lances, and just waiting for your perfectly cast fly."

At high tide many times you will find them in 6 inch's of water tight to the shore, this is where their next meal is hiding. As the water starts to recede, the larger fish will leave that area and depart off the flat using similar channels and sluiceways that they came up on." All of these locales make for prime fishing.

Chatham's South Monomoy Islands
Chatham's South Monomoy Island, Aerial View
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But Birds and Fish aren't all the wildlife. Chatham's dynamic coastline has continually proven a navigational challenge for boaters, but our area's inlets and sand deposits are also a haven for an amazing number of gray and harbor seals who call the sandbars off North and South Monomoy home. A tour of Chatham's seal's is one of the best family adventures on Cape Cod. Largely protected from human intrusion, North and South Monomoy offer some of the most desirable habitat for seals in the region. Harbor and grey seals have continued to thrive on the Monomoys. Harp and hooded seals are seen occasionally.

The large seal population has also led to increased shark activity around the seal colonies. Seals are a main source of food for large sharks, There have been great white shark sightings in the Monomoy Islands area over the past few years as the seal population has steadily increased.

But birds, fish, and seals aren't all. Without question, North and South Monomoy are a Nature Paradise no matter the season. Beach plum, cattails, sea oats, rosa rugosa, dusty miller and sundews thrive here. While you may only see tracks, a community of white tail deer also call the island home, and the ducks have made a return.

Currently sportfishing is permitted on Monomoy and is an important activity. Recreational anglers are not required to have a Massachusetts State license for saltwater fishing. Shellfishing is allowed on the Refuge and recreational shellfishermen require local permits from the Town of Chatham. Recreational shellfish permits are issued for Town residents and non-residents at 283 George Ryder Road

There are Two Local Companies That Offer Transportation to Monomoy

The Monomoy Island Ferry offers day trips to Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and walking tours led by a naturalist which gives you the opportunity to set foot on South Monomoy Island and walk out to the historic Monomoy Lighthouse.
Outermost Harbor Water Taxi offers on demand ferry to North Monomoy mainly used by those wanting to fish.

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