As we are merely two and a half months from the stripers’ arrival, I’ve written a primer for early spring fishing for those new to the game, or even those who aren’t.
Typically stripers filter into the rivers and flats of the western sound in mid April. Striped bass are generally categorized into “holdovers,” or fish that spend all year in the same location, and migratory fish, which spend the winter in deep canyons off Virginia, spawn in the Hudson or Chesapeake Bay, then ‘run the coast’ from the spring to the fall. In April you have the holdovers starting to become more active, feed and stray from their winter holes. Migrators are making their way up the coast and eating heavily. Temperature fluctuate greatly in the spring in New England, and the fish react accordingly. For me it is feast or famine, but it’s a very exciting time, particularly when the getting is good.
In the early season you have to focus on a few things.
1. Bait presence. No surprise here. All year round, fish follow the bait. The spring is unique in that stripers will go FAR upriver in chase of herring. Herring have made a remarkable comeback in our waters since the peak of 20th century pollution, and they go upriver to brackish water to spawn. Bass will follow. You will be really surprised how far up they will go where the rivers in the western sound are in dense urban areas, and are narrow and brackish. Aside from herring you have Bunker moving in, grass shrimp, spearing and other small baits.
2. Warmth: The fish will follow warm water. Late afternoons will produce some good schoolies. Outgoing tides are preferred because it will flush warm water from the river, bays and flats. Night time is always the right time for bigger fish though.
3. Spring structure: As mentioned, fish are farther upriver then they will be most of the year. They will also be on flats. I actually do most of my spring fishing from shore. I like to focus on outflows, or areas where marshes or bays drain out, usually in a narrow cut. I also fish bridges, rips and drop offs in the river. The early spring is, by far, the best time for land-based fisherman, 100%. The sad thing is most newbies miss out and don’t start until the summer in July, when the shore fishing is almost dead. The migratory fish will be out in the islands just starting to filter in. Areas from shore to focus on include the Norwalk River, Saugatuck, Mill Pond, Housatonic, Southport Harbor, Holly Pond outflow, Five Mile River, and the Mianus River, and not to mention the various Norwalk Islands as well.
4. Lure Selection: This is really dependent on bait that is around. In the bays and rivers, I am throwing predominantly soft plastics, small swimmers, half ounce bucktails, and just about any flies. When you are in the elusive school of herring or bunker with fish feeding, #1 you are in for some good fishing, enjoy it. #2, time to step up the presentation. Big swimmers and soft plastics. 9-12 inch hogies or slug-o’s. Danny plugs and big swimmers. Big hungry fish, very exciting stuff.
Get the tackle ready, spring will come sooner than you think. Tight lines!