Stripers, stripers, stripers. It’s all I’m thinking about. But where are they? That’s the real question.
Well, I think I have good news. I’m willing to bet that we’ll all know the answer to this question by the time the weekend is over.
We always picture the Spring migration as a wave gradually moving north, overtaking the beaches and estuaries of the striper coast before we’re completely engulfed. The schoolies come first, followed by the cookie cutter 28”-32” bass, and then finally, the cows come home and it’s sheer madness.
But it doesn’t happen exactly like this. The migration happens sporadically and then all at once—locations become hotspots for a few tides but soon fall off as the fish continue to migrate and search for their summer residences. Fish are much more active at this stage of the migration, meaning they’re much less likely to stay in one place.
This is what’s happening right now. There have been more than a few fish reported in upper Buzzards Bay—Wareham and Cape side rivers and estuaries are the likely spots. West end of the canal has supposedly been hot for a tide or two with eager schoolies looking to eat
There was even a stray report of fish crashing bait in Duxbury bay this morning. The migration is coming. And everything generally depends on the magic number of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Well, it must be our lucky day, because guess what the water temperature just ticked up to in our Bay?
I would be very surprised if, by Sunday night, I don’t have a bad case of striper thumb. But then again—I’ve been wrong before.
Regardless of me being wrong or right, here is the plan for the weekend:
I fished the Wareham and Weweantic Rivers last night for a few hours. These are both well-known early season spots. While I didn’t find fish, I’m confident that in the coming tides, we should see a change in that.
Buzzards Bay is the place you’ll want to be this weekend. The incoming tide would be my pick. As always, look for the bait (ie, the birds crashing the bait) and you should find the fish. South-facing beaches and estuaries should heat up at precisely the same time. Bass River is a great spot to start your search if you’re down the Cape a bit. Make sure to crush your barbs.
Pay attention to the wind and pressure systems moving through this weekend. Saturday night into Sunday morning seem like a good window, but every time I check the forecast, the wind changes. Very strange. This volatile weather can do one of two things—send the fish into a feeding frenzy, or totally freeze the bite. Just make sure you’re ready for either situation.
While we wait for the saltwater scene to burst wide open, the freshwater ponds and lakes have done just that. With stripers on the mind, it can be easy to overlook this insane point in the season on the sweetwater.
Largemouth bass will be spawning soon (depending on the size of the pond, they may have started spawning already). This, in my opinion is the most fun type of largemouth fishing. Bass generally build their spawning beds on the most shallow, warmest spots in the pond.
Every bed is worth a cast. I’ve caught some serious lunkers dragging a Texax-rigged senko through a bass bed. Crankbaits and swimbaits will work as well. Just remember—you’re trying to elicit a reaction strike. These fish are protecting their spawning beds, so loud, annoying lures will work best.
Trout action in the stocked ponds is still unbelievable. I feel like this Spring, every time I open up a report, someone is talking about a four pound brown trout. Four pounds! It’s insane. I’ll commend the state stocking program again. What a great opportunity they give us each Spring and Fall.
There’s no better way to get a child hooked on fishing, than to bring them down to one of our many stocked ponds. The great part about this fishery is it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Throw a worm or some power bait (or a nice shiner if you want a shot at one of the aforementioned four pounders) on a hook, and wait for the bobber to disappear. Or, try to match the hatch with the fly rod. Trout this time of year will be eating whatever is hatching.
And lately, there has been plenty of hatches. Midges, mayflies, stoneflies, dragonfly larvae. It’s a veritable buffet of a trout’s favorite food items. Just make sure you bring your light tippet, as these fish can get pretty fussy.
I’m seeing something a lot this year. If you’re not going to take a fish home, try to release it alive. Trout are much more fragile than the warmwater fish in the ponds. Limit the time it spends out of the water and try not to handle it with dry hands. I can’t stand seeing a dead trout in the shallows. I get that this is a put and take fishery, but let’s try to maintain this population and leave some healthy fish for everyone to enjoy catching.
Okay, I’m off the soapbox now.
Last weekend, I had to opportunity to head out to Stellwagen with Capt. Mike Casey of What’s Left charters (whatsleftcharters.com) to try to find some haddock.
The steam across the bay was slow due to the 10mph speed limit. We started at the SE corner and moved to the SW over the course of the morning, fishing from 175’ up to 75.’ While we didn’t find any haddock at the Southern points, we found lots of sea ravens.
Most of the fleet had made the long steam to the Northern point of the Bank, where they found a steady pick of legal haddock. Some very good fishermen have told me that the haddock will move to the Southern corners within the next two weeks, which is great news for us small-ish boat fishermen, as it puts these tasty fish in easy range from Cape Cod Bay.
I will say that Ole’ Stelly is full of life right now. Dolphins and whales are everywhere, and the sand eels clouds are getting thick. The stage is set, folks. Sand eel city is coming alive.
That’ll do it. Get out there and catch a migratory striper, will ya?