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Sunday, June 9. 2013
This is re-posted from a couple of Aprils ago -
Here come the stripers. Not the strippers.
It's the end of April, the Bluefish are beginning to show up and the Spring Spawn stripers cannot be far behind.
East Coast stripers (called Rockfish on the Left Coast) are an anadromous fish meaning that they spawn in fresh water, but live their adult lives in salt. There are four breeding stocks on the East Coast - Chesapeake Bay, Delaware River, Hudson River and Cape Cod. These four main schools provide most of the striper population along the East coast.
Recently, there has been some investigation about the Thames River (New London and Norwich, CT) over winter school being an addition feeder school to the Cape Cod stock. It is not unknown for the Thames River school to reach tremendous populations over winter and spawning up the Thames into the Yantic and Shetucket Rivers in the Spring.
Striper fishing is one of my passions - fresh water impounds down south or inshore in New England, stripers provide me with the best and the most honest type of fishing. I say honest because striper fishing isn't a case of chasing down a fierce predator like any of the bill fish or tuna. Stripers are basically lazy and thus require patience and knowledge of the bottom structure to obtain the best size.
A few of my favorite spots and techniques are below the fold -
Bunker (Menhaden) is by far the best choice for bait when fishing for these critters inshore along the coast. Live bait is the best, but that can be difficult to obtain, so "chunking" bunker is the second best choice. Chunking is basically using large pieces of bunker on a hook - pretty simple. Securing the chunks can require some skill, but I'll cover rigging bait in another follow up post.
Live American River Eels are also a good choice, but they are coming close to being an endangered species and can be expensive. Eels are also a favorite of blue fish and where there are stripers, there are usually blues - you can lose a lot of expensive bait to blues. The easiest bait rig to use in these situations is the Carolina rig which we'll cover in another post.
Being a conservationist and a little bit of an enviro-nut when it comes to fishing, I prefer to use artificial baits for fishing. My main choice is tube and worm - basically a length of surgical tubing with a weight on one end, hook on the other rigged with either a sand worm (live) or an artificial worm such as a Powerbait or Gulp. Other plastics such as green eels rigged on a jig/bucktail combo or the RonZ artificial eel in various weights are the second choice.
Fishing for stripers does not have to be expensive nor require heavy gear. My basic set-up for stripers is a 6'6" Medium Heavy Ugly Stick rod, Penn 460G graphite spinning reel rigged with 12 lb mono and 20lb Florocarbon shock leader.
The great thing about stripers is that they are catchable all along the East Coast both from shore and inshore on boats. You can use the same rig mentioned above for shore fishing if you have some sort of structure, like rocks or irregular bottom, within reach of the cast.
From small boats, the same rule applies, but there, with the assistance of a good small boat sonar (fish finder), you can add such structure as steep depth breaks, weed lines and wrecks.
My personal favorite method is to slow drift along these bits of structure - often at very slow speed from .5 to 2 mph or troll at the same speed. Stripers will, much like trout, hang behind structure in calmer water and wait for something to swim past before making a strike.
From shore, Watch Hill Light in RI is always a good choice - plenty of rocks and cover to cast into a short way from shore and the bottom is variable along the entire stretch from the road to the light. There is a sheltered cove on the SW side of the access causeway that will also produce on a SW wind. Along the beach, right opposite the Pink House (about half way up the beach from it's access point) is a great place to start working your way up to Watch Hill.
The Charlestown Breachway and salt pond produce schoolies regularly with the occasional keeper, but it's fun. The West Wall at Point Judith, RI on incoming tides and if the weather is good enough to chance it, a short walk along the breakwater to the green day marker will produce good fishing on any tide.
If you are planning a trip with your boat, my usual haunts will always produce something decent. Narragansett Bay's East Passage and the T-wharf at the SE end of Prudence Island are good places to start. South Beach along Newport along with Brenton Reef provide good cover all the way up to the Sakonnet River Passage. Westerly, RI at Watch Hill Light is a great place to get in close to the rocks for stripers along with trolling the length of Watch Hill Reef. I would not recommend using Lord's Passage about half way down the stretch of Watch Hill Reef to Fisher's Island unless you have somebody very experienced with you - it's tricky. Same with the Charleston Breachway in RI - very tricky, but also very productive. The point at Montauk, NY is considered by many to be the best striper fishing on the East Coast. I beg
Next post, we'll discuss rigging choices and describe/build some different types of terminal gear and lines along with different presentation techniques to use from both shore and boat.
Tracked: Aug 02, 15:40
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You are a "meat fisherman," Capt. Tom.
How about fly-fishing for strippers?
Capt. Tom ... Your essay on rockfish brought back some sweet memories to this Texas resident. When my parents decided to retire on the Northern Neck of Virginia back in the 1950s [we all were living in Wisconsin then], they bought property on the Wicomico River, a tidal estuary of the Chesapeake Bay. And my mother fell in love with fishing. They bought an outboard motorboat, rods and reels and settled down to almost daily fishing. The prize fish they searched for, and sometimes caught, was the Chesapeake Bay rockfish [I never realized before that it was called a "striper"] and lovely, tasty fish they were. They didn't catch them often, since other less delicious swimmers were more common, [bottom dwelling types like toad fish and 'sugar toads'] but they were sure fun to battle with and wrestle into the boat.
Thanks for that trip down Memory Lane. And thanks for that picture of a handsome man with a handsome fish. Is that you, sir?
Ah but it t'were me M'Lady Marianne. That is Trooper Ryan Savje of the South Carolina Highway Patrol - my son's best friend and room mate at the Academy. Ryan had quite a day yesterday - his wife Jamie presented him with twin girls - Abigail and Bryanna after a very difficult pregnancy. Mom and girls are doing great, everything is on track for Abbie and Bry to leave the hospital in a couple of weeks.
Marianne beat me to it: Tom Francis, is that you with that there striper?
BTW, growing up in Michigan, I had my own tackle box when I was nine years old. My brothers taught me how to set up three-hook lines for still fishing (mostly perch and sunfish), and we used to cast for bass and pike in the islands in Saginaw Bay. I have not been fishing in many years, but it is a joyous thing.
Ditto on the warm memories.
Much of my childhood was spent in NYC or Connecticut. Had my first sailing lessons on Long Island Sound, and accompanied my dad fishing for blues.
Stamford, Norwalk and Westchester mostly... where did we fish? Except for several vacations way out on Long Island (Montauk) I don't really remember. When we lived in Westchester we'd just go to the marinas in Eastchester/the Bronx and rent sailboats.
One of the best tasting fish you'll ever have and fun to catch surf casting from the beaches here in NJ
Here in Richmond, striper season really begins this week when the cotton woods make it look like it's snowing. The James is a heck of a river.
Adult stripers are now caught in Smith Mountain Lake a man-made fresh water lake in Virginia. They were stocked years ago.
As noted upthread it's not just on the Left Coast where they're called rock fish. It's a Southern thing.
My surf casting days are far behind but I once caught a thirty-pounder at Montauk Point one of Long Island's great fishing spots.
As James points out, they're called rocks from the Chesapeake southward. Quite a change for me, having been raised on Peconic Bay and Cape Cod.
Aside to Marianne: Our retirement home is on Balls Creek, off the Great Wicomico. Everything in the Northern Neck is nearly the same as it's always been.
Caught one of these yesterday in the Chesapeake. Unfortunately, caught only one. Very tasty tho'
Terminal tackle is well named. I've sent lots of it to a watery grave.
Anybody that lives here knows you cannot eat but ONE of these a year. Pregnant woman are told to not even eat THAT.
Want to spend the day fishing for fish that is poison.....have at it.
Catch and release or regret it for life....