Spring Striper Fishing
It’s no big secret that there is usually an excellent run of big bass in the spring but oddly enough many fishermen do not focus their attention on this exciting fishery. The fall run is usually the one that gets most of the attention. As a result, many anglers are missing an excellent opportunity for catching a trophy striped bass, especially if they are using live bait. In thinking about this situation I have come to the conclusion that a significant number of fishermen probably avoid fishing for striped bass in the spring because they have tried previously but have not been successful. The disappointment and frustration of fishless trips can sour an attitude quickly. I experienced the same disheartening feelings when I started to fish for bass many years ago and had little to show for my efforts. This being the case, I can understand why this situation exists. What I have come to find out, however, is that spring fishing can be just as good as fall fishing if not better.
Through the expense of a great amount of time and effort, I learned that there are plenty of fish for the catching during this time of year. More importantly, I also learned that to be successful in the spring requires a different set of strategies and techniques. Getting rid of the notion that spring and fall fishing are exactly alike is the first step to catching more fish. Spring fishing is different because bass behavior is different. I am not implying that spring and fall bass are totally different animals but subtle differences in their behavior and the conditions of their environment at these different times must be understood in order to achieve fishing success. It has always been my opinion that live baits catch the biggest fish and many bass fishermen are aware of this fact. The problem is that a good number of anglers are unimaginative and a little lazy and fall into a fishing rut. The biggest rut is failing to be creative and not trying to outsmart the elusive striped bass. A good example of this attitude is thinking that an eel is the best and only live bait to use and continuing to make repeated fishless trips drifting eels and blaming it on a lack of fish. The simple reason for this situation is that fishing eels is very convenient. They can be bought at any tackle shop are easy to keep and, yes, they are often an excellent bait but generally not in the spring.
Break those old habits and try something new. In the spring, stripers are migrating rapidly along the coast heading north. They feed along the way but in my experience I have not found them to be as aggressive feeders as they are in the fall. Perhaps the drive to get to their preferred warm weather feeding grounds makes them picky when it comes to food found along the way as opposed to their massive feeding binge in the fall prior to a lean winter and spawning in the rivers. As a result, I have been most successful with very lively highly visible bait. In my opinion, the bunker is second to none for spring fishing. I have also had excellent results with flounder, blackfish, seabass and bergalls (remember that baits must be legal keeper size) but have definitely caught most fish on bunker. To the fisherman in that rut I described, this presents a problem. Fishing bunker gets involved. Snagging, cast netting, and setting up a livewell requires a lot of work, but then who ever said that bass fishing was easy? If you want to be successful in the spring, the extra effort and experimentation with baits is an absolute must. The other major factor to consider is the rapidly warming water and its effect upon tidal feeding activity and location. Toward the end of June, the shallow bays will be heated to a point where the ebbing tide, normally the most productive tide, will be carrying water above optimum conditions for bass toward the inlets. This wall of hot water will push the bass back towards the inlet area. As a result, the back bay areas will become less productive for fishing but the action at the inlets will usually remain good for a couple of hours at least until the warmer water reaches that area. I therefore concentrate my efforts closer to the inlet areas during this time.
Conversely this also means that the flooding tide returns the still cool ocean waters into the bays so incoming tide starts to provide more consistent action as it works its way toward the back bay areas. Following this rush of cool water will usually provide good action. During this time of year I monitor my temperature gauge closely. I try to fish the most productive bottom structure that I can find that lies in water of optimum temperature conditions which is usually between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. In summing up the situation, a combination of paying close attention to types of bait used and water temperatures of the particular area being fished is crucial to spring bass fishing. There are many other basic bass fishing strategies and techniques that must be mastered in order to experience any measurable success with striped bass during any season. These additional considerations I have mentioned hopefully might prove to be useful and convince some of you to make a more concerted effort at catching a trophy fish this spring.