Major Fishing Ports
An overview of the top fishing ports in the New England/ Mid-Atlantic region
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Atlantic City's commercial fishing fleet is based in the marina section of the city, in the shadow of the casinos. This fishery is conducted mostly by larger vessels, 70 to 150 feet in length, equipped with hydraulic dredges. Atlantic City’s fishery provides much of the world's supply of minced clams and clam strips.
Other top commercially harvested species in this port include surf clams, ocean quahog, scallop, summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, lobster, monkfish, bluefish, and butterfish.
In New Jersey, the recreational charter/party fleet is the largest on the East Coast. Numerous fishing charters operate out of Atlantic City year round. Key recreational species include flounder, black sea bass, cod, striped bass, weakfish, bluefish, tuna, shark, and mahi mahi.
Barnegat Light, New Jersey
Barnegat Light, located at the northern tip of Long Beach Island, is the primary commercial sea port on Long Beach Island, while the rest of the ports on the island specialize in recreational fishing. The town relies heavily on commercial fishing year-round along with tourism, but in the winter months, commercial fishing is the mainstay of the economy. Top species harvested here include scallop, monkfish, swordfish, tilefish, bluefish, summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass.
Barnegat Light is home to many recreational and charter fishing boats along with marinas, boat rental facilities, and bait and tackle shops. Charters offer in-shore and deep sea fishing and party boat trips.
The City of Boston has been an important port since its founding in 1630. During colonial times, the city’s economy was based on fishing, shipbuilding, and trade in and out of Boston Harbor. Opened in 1912, the Boston Fish Pier remains a major center for local fish landings.
Top species commercially harvested here include monkfish, lobster, scallops, dogfish, skate, mackerel, butterfish, summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, whiting, bluefish, and herring.
Additionally, numerous recreational fishing charters operate out of Boston. The Boston Harbor Islands are a popular fishing spot, and are one of the few places in the area that offers sport fishing year round.
Cape May, New Jersey
Located on the southern tip of New Jersey, the Cape May seaport is situated on Cape Island, which was created by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1942. Historically, the Cape May area was supported by agriculture, fishing, and whaling. Today, tourism is the leading driver of the local economy, followed by fishing.
The combined port of Cape May/Wildwood is the largest commercial fishing port in New Jersey and is one of the largest on the East Coast. It is the center of fish processing and freezing in New Jersey and is home to some of the largest vessels fishing on the East Coast.
Top species commercially harvested here include scallops, butterfish, summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, surf clams, ocean quahog, lobster, herring, and monkfish.
Cape May also holds the Cape May County Fishing Tournaments, some of the longest running recreational fishing tournaments on the East Coast.
Gloucester is the oldest fishing port in the United States. Settled in 1623, fishing, granite, and art have been Gloucester’s mainstays.
Today, Gloucester is still an active fishing port. A number of seafood suppliers, dealers, processors, and vessel repair businesses operate in Gloucester.
Top species commercially harvested here include groundfish, lobster, monkfish, herring, mackerel, butterfish, scallops, and bluefin tuna.
Gloucester is also home to numerous recreational fishing charter companies and party boats targeting bluefin tuna, sharks, striped bass, bluefish, cod, and haddock.
Hampton Roads, Virginia
In southeastern Virginia, Hampton Roads is known for its large military presence, ice-free harbor, commercial and recreational fishing, shipyards, coal piers, and miles of waterfront property and beaches, all of which contribute to the diversity and stability of the region's economy. The community was named after the Earle of Southampton.
The body of water known as Hampton Roads is one of the world's largest natural harbors, and was vital to Hampton Roads' growth. The surrounding waters are home to many species of fish. Thus, you'll find a variety of gears including hand lines, haul seines, pound nets, sink gillnets, pots, patent tongs for hard clams, as well as scallop dredges and otter trawls in this port. Pelagic longliners targeting various sharks and tuna also fish out of Hampton Roads.
The top species commercially landed in Hampton Roads are scallops, summer flounder, scup, menhaden, and black sea bass.
There are also numerous sport fishing operations and dealers in the area. Most offer sightseeing tours on the water in addition to chartered fishing trips. These recreational vessels fish mostly in the Lower Chesapeake Bay and Hampton Roads, usually targeting bottom fish such as croaker, trout, bluefish, and flounder.
New Bedford, Massachusetts
During the early 1800s, New Bedford was one of the largest whaling ports in the world. It was home to more than 700 whaling ships, or half of the entire United States' whaling fleet. After the decline of the whaling industry, New Bedford turned its attention to fishing. Today, it is often the top U.S. port in revenues from commercial fishing.
Much of New Bedford’s commercial fishing revenue comes from the sale of scallops. The fisheries around New Bedford are quite varied and also include skates, flounders, lobster, monkfish, mackerel, butterfish, scup, black sea bass, cod, red and Jonah crabs, haddock, silver hake, and herring.
North Kingstown, Rhode Island
North Kingstown is located in Narragansett Bay in Washington County, Rhode Island. Originally known as Kings Towne, it was incorporated in 1674 and then split into the two towns of North Kingstown and South Kingstown in 1723.
North Kingstown is home to NOAA research vessel Okeanos Explorer, which provides live ocean exploration video feeds for classrooms.
North Kingstown has a diverse commercial fishery. Top species commercially harvested here include squid, mackerel, butterfish, and herring.
Narragansett Bay also attracts a variety of recreational fishermen. These fishermen target many species, but primarily quahogs and bluefish.
Point Judith, Rhode Island
This small, beautiful fishing village sits at the tip of Narragansett. During the 1700s, Point Judith enjoyed a thriving ship building industry and a busy port. By the 1800s, many farmers began to supplement their income by fishing for alewife and sea bass. And by the early 1900s, Point Judith’s Port of Galilee had become one of the largest fishing ports on the East Coast.
Today, Point Judith remains an active fishing port and tourist hub. To support its commercial fishing industry, it supports a number of fish processing companies that operate on a global level.
Much of Point Judith's commercial fishing revenue comes from the sale of a variety of species, including, squid, lobster, summer flounder, scallops, scup, monkfish, mackerel, butterfish, black sea bass, skate, silver hake, jonah crab, Atlantic herring, and yellowtail flounder. A seasonal longline fishery for tuna also operates out of the port.
Point Judith also remains a key destination in the state for recreational anglers.
Point Pleasant, New Jersey
The community of Point Pleasant is located along the Manasquan Inlet in in Ocean County. It supports a large recreational fishing fleet and a small commercial fleet. Tourism and recreational fishing feed the economy of Point Pleasant and Point Pleasant Beach. Recreational fishermen target summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass, among other species.
Surfclams and ocean quahogs, along with scallops, are essential to this port.
The city of Portland, Maine has 60 miles of coastline. Since its settlement in 1632, fishing and trading industries have been primary economic drivers for this coastal city. Today, fishing is still an important part of the city's culture.
Top species commercially harvested here include groundfish, monkfish, herring, scallops, skates, and, of course, lobster.
Portland also offers recreational fishing excursions and boat charters.
Portsmouth, Rye, and Newington, New Hampshire
New Hampshire may have a small coastline and a small commercial fishing industry, but countless fishermen have been operating out of its ports for hundreds of years. Starting in the 1600s, fishing, farming, shipbuilding, and coastal trade are still important industries throughout New Hampshire today.
Top species commercially harvested here include groundfish, monkfish, lobster, dogfish, scallops, and herring.
Provincetown harbor is the site of the first landing of the Mayflower, and is also where the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact. With its large, safe natural harbor, whaling, fishing and shipping were key industries for this Cape Cod town. Chatham, MA was an English settlement in the mid 1600s and by the mid-18th century, Chatham’s industries consisted of a bustling fishing trade, ship building, fishing, and salt making. Its destination as a summer resort began early too, with the building of the railroad in 1887.
Today, its top commercially harvested species include groundfish, lobster, scallops, skate, monkfish, dogfish, summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, surf clams, and ocean quahog.
Reedville, Virginia is an unincorporated town located in Northumberland County, in the Northern Neck region of Virginia. The town is named after Elijah Reed who moved his menhaden processing plant from Brooklin, Maine to the Chesapeake Bay in 1874.
There is a significant commercial fishery for Atlantic menhaden in Reedville, and other top commercially harvested species include bluefish and striped bass.
In addition, many businesses support the thriving local recreational fishing operations that target primarily bluefish and rockfish.
Rockland is located in Mid-Coast Maine on Penobscot Bay in Knox County. Fishing is Rockland’s oldest commercial enterprise, dating back to the 1750s. Fish processing was introduced in the 1880s, and wholesale lobster businesses started up during the 1900s.
Commercial fishing continues to play a significant role in the town’s economy and economic plan. As part of its harbor and waterfront department, the city operates the Municipal Fish Pier, which provides support services and water access to commercial vessels.
Top species commercially harvested in this port include lobster and herring. Recreational fishing is not a significant industry here.
Originally, Stonington’s economy revolved around its high quality granite rather than fishing. Stonington granite is the foundation of several iconic buildings and bridges, including Rockefeller Center, the Smithsonian Institution, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the George Washington Bridge, and the Triboro Bridge. When the granite industry declined and the quarries closed, fishing became Stonington’s most important industry.
Top commercially harvested species here include lobster, herring, scallops, groundfish, monkfish, and skate. Stonington supplies more than a million pounds of Penobscot Bay lobsters to the national market each year.
The island town of Vinalhaven, Maine is located in Knox County in the southeastern portion of the state.Today, the town is home to a thriving lobster fishery and is a major supplier of lobster to Portland, Boston, and New York. Vinalhaven fishermen also harvest herring.