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Old 02-28-2006, 08:58 AM
kcoulouris kcoulouris is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Weare, NH & Plymouth, MA
Posts: 183
Essex River Navigation

Can anyone give me some first hand info regarding the navigation of the Essex River from the Pike/Essex Marinas out to Ipswich Bay. I'm thinking about a slip in this area but want to make sure the location fits my needs. I fish nearly every weekend and frequently take long weekends in July-Sept, so I could make 40+ trips out over a season.

I've done some searches here and have a few specific areas I'm concerned about

1) Length of the trip out to the Bay. It's looks to be about 3 miles, and if it's all headway speed with lot's of shoals to avoid, it seems like it could be a long ride. How long does it typically take you?

2) Difficulty Level - Once I know the channel pretty well, could I head out in the early morning in the dark? Or would this be overly hazardous?

3) Greenheads - It's seems like this could be a real drag for a few weeks in July and August. How bad is it really? Are the Greenheads a nuisance in and around the docks at the marinas also?

Thank you for any feedback you can provide.

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Old 02-28-2006, 09:56 AM
Brad G. Brad G. is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Kittery, ME
Posts: 518
Hey Kevin,

I began SWFF in the Essex a long time ago with some friends that grew up there, and here's my take...

the ride out to the bay is a bit long and windy, with a bunch of shoals to avoid, and is headway speed for a decent spell. Certainly doable, and not the end of the word, but not easy either. Maybe a 20 minute ride out ot the good conditions. Might be tricky in the dark and fog, as there aren't many, if any lighted bouys along the way. At high tide you can cut across some stuff, but all in all, the Essex can be a real tricky place to run a boat. I have seen a lot of people run aground. The best being a jet ski that went right over the bars when he drilled a sandbar at about 20mph in front our our group playing volleyball on the beach, 4th of July!

The greenheads can be ferocious as well...and so can the no seemums.

It is a beautiful place and fun place to fish though. My buddy still has aboat in there and I try to fish it a couple times a year.

Ask Nat or Derek at First Light for more specific info, they know the place as well as anyone. Or PM Chuck D. on this board, he is my friend that has a boat there for last 20 years.

Looking forward to getting out there!

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Old 02-28-2006, 11:23 AM
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Onshore Onshore is offline
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Location: On the Indian River Lagoon, Melbourne, Florida
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I fished the river frequently, before moving to Cape Cod three years ago and we usually launched at Pikes or the Town landing just above the marina.

The river is well buoyed all the way to Ipswich Bay. You should have no trouble at all finding your way. There is a lot of good Striper fishing within the river estuary/hog island sound. If unfamiliar, you had best check those out of channel areas on a low tide.

This and other original paintings and fine art prints of fishing and marine subjects may be seen on my website
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Old 02-28-2006, 01:11 PM
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Go Fish Go Fish is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Hudson, MA
Posts: 1,062
Before I got my current ride I was all over the Essex Estuary for 3 seasons in my 12ft jon boat. The salt marsh fishing in there is some of the best in MA.

Like onshore said, the channel out to Ipswich bay is well marked...but at low tide you better be in it if you are in anything bigger than a little tin boat!

20 mins is a good estimate for travel time. The %#$@&$# Greenies can carry you away. One particularily slow fishing day we took to killing them and the bottom of the boat was covered in no time. It was commonplace to kill 3 with one hand slap
1992 Stratos 2250 "SirReel"

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Old 02-28-2006, 01:38 PM
spike spike is offline
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: North Shore Mass
Posts: 42
Hi Kevin,

I’ve had an 18 footer in “shore berth” at Essex Marina for 5 years and have been on the list for a slip at all 3 marina’s for several years now. If you have a good line on a slip in the river consider yourself very fortunate & if not get on the lists now and your grandchildren may be able to obtain a slip before they grow old. With the uncertainty of Essex Marina which is for sale (Or possibly under contract) things are not expected to get any better. The river is pretty easy to navigate and well marked but can change practically over night with a strong storm and currents. It’s a “right of spring” for me to take the boat out for an exploratory tour to see how things have shifted since last year and I usually do so at near low tide (As Bill suggested) with the incoming in case I run a ground. The main channel out the river is pretty easy to figure out but some of places I toss a fly can change dramatically from year to year. Boat size can also affect your fishing schedule as they have not dredged the inner river in several years and I do not believe there are funds to do so any time soon. My “offshore buddy” has a 28 foot inboard and last year we would not even consider heading out within ~ two hours of either side of the low tide. The number of slips that show bare mud at low tide is getting higher and higher each year. There’s also no diesel fuel available and only one gas pump.

Additionally there’s a sand bar outside of Essex Bay once you clear the cut between Crane & Coffins beach which can be tricky and this can change a lot from storm to storm or perhaps the green can gets dragged but this is also a place where people have been known to “stop for a while” involuntarily;-) If you haven’t been out in a while it’s worth it to watch the course other boats your size are following if you own am inboard or larger boat with a few feet of draft. Last year the cut through the bar was well south of the channel marker. The good thing is 98% of where your might run aground is very soft bottom.

All in all it’s not as bad as I may make it sound and most of the folks in the slips are pretty friendly and aware of current conditions so all you need to do is ask. There’s a great inshore fishery which you can spend endless hours/days exploring and Ipswich bay Tuna are not that far from the mouth.

Greenheads and Midgies are awful at times and can really test your patience for no wake zones ;-) Usually the 1st full moon high tide will flood the nests of the greenheads and end that season. A good breeze in the bay also helps.

It’s not all headway speed and depending on tides you can alter your route to save some time by using the course between Corn Island and Great Bank (best to check this during the low too if you are not familiar with it) which will avoid the no wake portion outside of the Conomo cut. I have made the green bell outside the bar in just under 15 minutes at high tide when taking the short cut by Corn Island and without being able to do this it can take 20 minutes or so. No lighted buoys that I’m aware of and often by the end of the season several of the channel markers will have been “trimmed” a bit by a prop or two. I usually mark a new waypoint in the GPS for each one at the beginning of the season for my night trips.

It can be quite a site to watch the traffic on the river when there’s a thunder storm midday on the 4th of July weekend too;-)

Last edited by spike; 02-28-2006 at 01:43 PM..
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Old 02-28-2006, 02:49 PM
G-20 G-20 is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: north shore
Posts: 101
easy river to navigate, backside of cranes great beach for kids. 20 minutes to the mouth of the mack, annisquam around the corner, tuna fishing within easy striking distance, what more can you ask for. "SLIP SPACE", on the north shore priceless,,, take it , take it, take it already.
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Old 03-03-2006, 08:39 AM
kcoulouris kcoulouris is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Weare, NH & Plymouth, MA
Posts: 183
I'd like to thank everyone for their input regarding the navigation of the Essex River. I'm probably going to wait until the season arrives and head up the river a few times before seriously considering a slip for a larger boat in Essex.

Thanks again,

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Old 03-03-2006, 05:48 PM
ChuckD ChuckD is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Chucktown, MA
Posts: 459
Essex not ideal for a big boat...

but then how big a boat are you talking?
My ole man had had a 22' CC in the river for >30 years so I know it pretty well. Thanks to a GPS I have the thing mapped out to each and every buoy. But I'll tell you when the fog rolls in on a super high tide, you better have that thing pinned, because you can't tell what is the channel and what isn't until it's too late and you are cutting up the salt marsh or worse you beach yourself on it.
I'm not trying to scare you I'm just letting you know that while it is well marked, you need to prepare for those times like I mentioned above. Low tide makes your options quite limited, and they are probably getting close to needing another dredging(it was last dredged about 10 years ago).

If I can answer any more specific questions let me know...good luck!
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