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Striped Bass 101 – The Basics

  • 4 min read

Striped Bass 101 – The Basics

There isn’t a saltwater fish that has a stronger connection to the northeast than the Striped Bass. The Striped Bass(striper, rockfish, squid hound, or stripah if you find yourself in Massachusetts) can be found as far north as Nova Scotiaand as far south as North Carolina. The bi-annual migrations of stripers up and down the coast allow for two distinctfishing seasons: the spring run and the fall run. Generally, stripers migrate north in the spring to their summer watersand then migrate back down south to warmer water in the fall.The first fish to move are usually smaller, “schoolie”stripers, followed by increasingly larger fish as each season progresses. During the heat of the spring and fall runs, youcan find yourself casting at 18” fish one day, and 30-pounders the next day.

Since just about everything related to striper fishing can vary greatly based on time of year, location, size of fish,personal preference, etc., let’s narrow it down and talk about how to catch stripers on the fly from the beach.Growingup in New Jersey, opportunities to fish for stripers were endless, and most recently, over the past couple years, I havespent hundreds of hours targeting stripers from shore on a fly rod under any number of circumstances. Whether it’sfishing for schoolies in Cape Cod in May, fishing in March for 30-pounders at night in the urbanbackwaters of Jersey, orfishing early morning in Long Island during the early days of summer, the opportunities are endless.

So, does all this variation in fishing locations and techniques mean that striper fishing is too difficult for a beginner angler? Absolutely not! Schoolie stripers are one of the best possible fish for a newcomer to fly fishing. There are really just a few basic things to look out for and you’ll be getting into some of them striped fish in no time!

Pretty self-explanatory right? Well, finding where the fish areright now can be more than half the battle when it comesto striper fishing. In the early parts of the season, you need to follow where and when the first schoolies are arriving.During the heart of the season, the bigger fish follow the bait, usuallybunker (pogies, menhaden, etc.). So, what doesthis mean? A combination of boots on the ground scouting and local intel will get you the information you need. Havinga couple buddies who are just as crazy about stripers as you will provide endless information about where the fish are.In addition to getting out there and actually fishing, one of the best ways to find out what’s happening out there isthrough On the Water Magazine’s Fishing Reports.But that being said, nothing beats getting out there and fishing avariety of locations to create your own report.
Now that you know what general area the fish arein, you need to pinpoint where the fishreally are. If you’re fishing onthe beach, that spot could just be a gradual point, or right in the wash where the waves crash, or the backside of asandbar at low tide. If you’re fishing an inlet or any other structure, you’ll want to look for some sort of combination ofcurrent and depth. Typically referred to as a “rip,” you want to look for water that looks like it’s moving in everydirection possible, think washing machine. These rips will trap bait and stripers of all sizes love to cash in on these easymeals. Lastly, the other key factor is obviously tides. Every spot has it’s unique tidal scenarios that result in better stripefishing, but in general you want moving water. Whether that’s a strong incoming tide or a strong outgoing tide, dependson the individual spot, so make sure you experiment.
Nothing complicated here. I generally like to go with an 8-weight rod and reel since this can handle just about any striper you’ll encounter. For line, I like a high-quality sink-tip line since it will get my fly down deep to where the action is. As far as fly selection goes, the options are endless, but a couple clousers (size 1 –size 3/0) and some deceivers (size 1/0-4/0) in whites, pinks, and chartreuses, are all you’ll need. Depending on air and water temperature, you’ll probably want some waders, but that’s up to you. One last piece of gear that you’ll definitely want is a stripping basket. This will keep your line out of the crashing waves or jetty rocks while you’re trying to cast. In my opinion, this is an absolute must have and I never fish without one.
The best thing about striper fishing is that the more you get into it, the more you become absolutely engulfed by it. No matter who I talk to about striper fishing, I always learn something I didn’t know. These fish seem pretty straightforward for an outsider looking in, and they can be, but the intricacies and nuances associated with really learning what makes these fish tick, has led to my striper addiction. Stripers will eat silversides and shrimp the size of a toothpick, but they’ll also eat 12” bunker, all in the same day. Stripers will swim the rocky, pristine coastlines of Maine, and those same exact fish will first swim through the congested, urban waterways of New York City. Now that you have just enough information to get the wheels turning, check the fishing reports and get out there! I can say, without a doubt, that you’ll be hooked on stripers the moment you feel that line go tight.

Photography and Written by Ryan Gallagher of

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