Rites of Spring

One of the the coolest things about the striped bass is the variety of their territory, starting with the backwaters: small creeks, brackish rivers, ponds, marshes and estuaries. On the other end of the spectrum, the stripers are more known for their habitat in rough surf and open ocean up and down the eastern seaboard. But the beginning of the season is all about the former. Bass thrive in headwaters, shallow mud flats, marshes, rivers and creeks in the early spring. Their movements are governed by the tidal movement, like a dance to the rhythm of the tides. Following the rising tide tides, bass move into waters inaccessible at low water in search of forage, relying on their inherent senses of tide cycles. Before the tides begin to recede, bass move out into safer, deeper waters where they won’t be stranded. Along the way, they wait for the prey to also follow the tides and get sucked out into the deeper water, ambushing easy meals in choke points and ‘fish highways’.

As such, the angler’s journey hunting the striper starts in these habitats. These locations are often most easily fished on foot, from shore. A lot of these areas are inaccessible by boat, or an outboard engine would surely spook any fish from the area. Stealth is the name of the game in more ways than one-both in making your presence unknown to the fish, and also potentially to cranky coastal homeowners in areas where public shore access is all but gone. The cover of darkness almost always produces a better bite-stripers and their prey would not venture into these waters during daytime out of fear of humans and attack from above from winged predators: Osprey, eagles and cormorants don’t hunt at night.

The menu for striped bass this time of year is expansive and bass aren’t picky, anything and everything will do. The choicest item on the menu is likely the alewife or blueback herring. Crabs, grass shrimp, sandwoms and silversides make a suitable appetizer. This is prime light tackle fishing: flies, small soft plastics, and swimmers of all varieties will produce. The smaller the bait the fish are keyed in on, the pickier the bass are. The hunt begins in urban/suburban areas. I’m amazed at the waters in which these fish cruise this time of year, often right under your nose.

This season has been no different. It’s been the best early spring I’ve observed since 2018. Perhaps the dry weather had something to do with it- the month of April recorded only 2.75 inches of rain, compared to an average of over 4 inches in the Nutmeg state. Temperate was a bit more typical, about .7 degrees below average. Perhaps the precipitation has caused a good bite, maybe a bit of luck, or maybe there are more or larger fish in our area this year due to the biomass stocks.

In either case, enjoy the fishing. But also the sights, smells, and wildlife that spring brings. It’s certainly not a competition, nor a race.

American Chaos, Fish Don’t Seem to Mind

2020 continues to be a bit of a sh**show in the world and our country. So much polarization, violence, hate, it’s truly a sad time. Fishing is a nice reprise from it all and an escape. To go outside and watch the sunset, watch the tides roll in and out, and watch fish feed, is a reminder of the beauty of our natural world unaffected by politics, crime, and human rights issues, and I find it extremely meditative.

Anyway, enough of that sappy stuff, onto the fishing. There are some better fish being taken in shallow in the islands the last 3 weeks. But you really, really have to work for them. I won’t lie. It’s been a grind out there. Plenty of fish but they’re spread out, and not as many big ones as I’d like. This year has been a good reminder of how Mobile striped bass are, one day they’re there, one day they’re not. One day they’re in Darien, then they’re in Westport, and some days they’re mid sound. They follow the bait and the bait has been somewhat unpredictable. Fishing some primo tides around new/full moons and sunset/sunrise will certainly amp your chances, and the bad weather days (fog, wind) have been good to me too.

This year has been full of ‘exotics’, and no I don’t mean exotic dancers or the Tiger King, I mean rarer species in the sound. Namely Shad, Atlantic mackerel, and weakfish. There have been blitzes (birds diving, surface commotion) that have confused a few anglers when the fish refused to take standard bass or bluefish offerings. Instead these were Shad and/or Macks, who will only eat the really small stuff (tiny jigs, soft plastics, sabikis). Weakfish have been caught by a few anglers targeting bass.

Lastly, and perhaps what everyone is waiting for, is what’s the story for big bass fishing. Who’s getting trophy fish, where, how. I will say this: generally chunking has not been great, yet. A few good reports started to trickle in so that may change. Live bait fishing has produced good ones. Either moving from school of bunker to school and dropping live ones to test the waters at each, or, 3 waying live ones on structure. This is a mid sound game. The fish should get more aggressive by the day. It seems it’s better fishing earlier in the day on bait now, and towards the end of June this will move to sunset.

Those who follow my blog know, June into early July is the time nail a big fish. Get out there people. Full moon on Saturday, big tides and current, big bass. Full moon is usually better to me during daylight hours not the morning, but we shall see. Tight lines

Schoolies for Days

Well spring started off with a bang in early April. Some herring moved in and a few (very few) got onto a hot upriver bite in early/mid April. Then it got cold, and wet. Really wet. 2 solid weeks of cold rain pretty much mid April. It’s been a cold spring. Sound familiar? JUST like last year.

What does this mean for the fishing? Well the water is still a few degrees behind average for this time of year. I hear from my Hudson friends that the bass up there havent spawned yet, which they do before they move into the sound or South Shore LI (we prefer the former option). A few degrees may not seem like much to humans but to fish it’s a big deal.

But, finally starting this last Saturday we had a week ish of consistent stabile weather patterns and warmth (aside from the temps in 30s coming early Saturday AM). I have been doing well fishing on the boat, catching consistently in a lot of different spots; mostly sandbars and eelgrass beds starting to fill in, all inner islands, mouth of the rivers and coves etc, as long as it’s got moving water. ‘Back bay’ fishing as they say in Joisey. No topwater bite for me yet, but a friend got a 34 incher the last Tuesday of April and again beginning of March on top🤷‍♂️. So things are looking up. Didn’t catch quite as many big fish in April as I would’ve liked but tons of 23-24 inchers the last week. Bunker is moving in too, mid sound and even inner islands. Methinks I’ll be targeting big fish from sunset onwards in coming weeks.

Tight lines, send your reports or comment below!