Each year as anglers we anticipate the migration of the illusive striped bass. Whether you fish from shore, the pier, or the boat we are all in pursuit of a monster with striped pajamas. In order to be successful from either location, you must understand the migration and how these fish navigate the coast, chasing their food source and avoiding predators. This migration happens twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Each migration has slightly different movement and eating patterns. With a preferred water temperature of 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit, the migration in the spring comes from the south and moves up north and opposite in the fall.
Being a New York fisherman, I have watched these patterns for years. One of the most important part of striper fishing is timing. The more time you put in to figure these fish out, the more successful you'll be. Remember luck is preparation meeting opportunity.
From the boat:
On a boat is probably the most efficient way to catch striped bass. There are numerous ways to fish for them out on the water with varying styles depending on tides and conditions. If you like light tackle fishing, the best way to do this is in the back bays on the top of the outgoing tide. Bass will sit outside "drains" off the marsh as the tides start to rush out and pick off bait fish. Personally I like to use a 6” rattling popper with a bucktail on the hook. Using a slight twitch and stop motion I find is the best way to lure the bass in. I think this is the most fun on a rod you can have. Next you can fish the incoming or outgoing tide on light tackle setup using diamond jigs. The art of this style of fishing consists of working deepholes by bridges or in the ocean by rips and structure. This can be a very productive style of fishing. Then there is probably the most popular style of fishing for striped bass, but I must say my least favorite. Yep, I'm talking about trolling. The three most popular lures used during this style would be 1. TonyMaja’s “MOJO” rig- bouncing these lures off the bottom at a 3-5 knot speed can produce quantity and quality fish; 2. Bunker spoons, using wire spooled rods and letting out about 100-200 feet of line trolling at a speed of 3-5 knots (also a very productive way to catch stripers, might even hook a nice thresher); 3. Umbrella rigs, personally I think this is the worst way to fish period. I mean who wants to work a rod rigged with six hooks at 3-5 knots, hook four fish consisting of smaller stripers and pissed off bluefish, and then fight them and the boat on the way in? Lastly, some guys (and gals) like to fish simply using bait. This style can vary depending on tides and conditions as well. Consisting of live lining bunker or eel as well as chunking clams and what's called “dead sticking” your rod.
With multiple spots from land that are fishable, each one comes with their own game plan. Pier fishing for striped bass over the years I feel has lost its luster since most are on boats and or off the beach, nonetheless this can be a relaxing day with the kids. Most popular ways to get them off the pier is using bait or lures. The bait consistently used would be clams, some prefer salted some prefer not. Another bait would be live eels. Both options are used on a setup trying to target different depths of water. In order to do this you can use different size weights and a swivel known as a slider. This will help keep your bait off the floor as well as allowing it to float freely, giving it a more natural look in the water. Some of the best times to do this are at night with the best location being a pier near a bridge as the force of currents ripping though bridge pilings catch bait fish. This makes easy prey for the lazier striped bass. One of the most popular forms of catching striped bass that doesn't require a boat and is not weather dependent is surf casting. This is particularly popular during the fall run but is not that easy. Surf casting takes time, patience and generally requires a lot of work (continually casting and walking up and down the shore). In order to be successful in this form of fishing, you will need the following: a 9-12ft pole, preferably a sealed reel (I recommend the Van Staal, Tsunami Salt X), an arsenal of lures, and last but not least waders. Typically while surf casting I will carry a minimum of 10 different lures. Having a quick clip swivel at the end of my leader is a nice advantage that allows me to change lures at a fast pace as well as not wasting leader every time cutting and retying. The lures that I carry all have a different purpose aka forms of attack. This consists of top water plugs or poppers, sinking plugs, rubber mid level swimmers, and bucktail jigs for bottom as well as diamond jigs. Color also plays a major role in this style of fishing depending on the time of day. I like to use lighter colors during the day and as much as it may seem counter productive, I use darker colors at night.
Throughout this article I have discussed different forms of fishing from different locations with numerous different attacks. All of this is from my perspective and experience. Although there are tons of fisherman out there with their own styles and opinions, this is what I have found works best for me. As a community of fisherman we grow and continue to further the sport. It continues to unite people and feed families.
All in all folks tight lines and stay salty...
Written by Frank Monteforte @thesaltdon_NY