Weekend Warrior: Game time

It’s game time. I hope you took the time in the offseason to organize your tackle, change split rings and hooks, stock up on plugs and flies (lol of course you did that), lube and clean reels, and get some sleep, because as of right now, the stripers are here. There’s no more time to prepare. The White Walkers are at the wall. We’ve sat around the fire for long enough.

Now that I’ve waxed poetic with a bad Game of Thrones reference, let’s talk science. Water temps are hovering right around the 50 degree mark, which is causing the baitfish to go nuts and pour out into the open water. Water in the rivers and estuaries will be warmer, so the baitfish and subsequently, the stripers will be found here. Water up in Cape Cod Bay is still around 46, so we may not see the push this weekend in there. But Buzzards is a Bay of a different color. We’ve hit the magic temp and the fish and bait are here.

This is the time in the season where, if you want to be successful, you need to put your time in. Any estuary mouth, river, harbor, beach and boulder field could hold freshly migrated bass and holdovers alike. And soon after them, the bigger fish will push past the islands and up into Buzzards Bay and along the Sound.

Let’s get to the report.

Let’s catch stripers

As reported, the stipers are here. Here’s how to catch them:

  1. Scout productive spots

You should have already been doing this, but scout river mouths with pinch points, channels with access to deeper water, and current rips. This is where the fish will show up. If you find them, make sure to make note of tide and time of day. This is called “patterning,” ladies and gents, and you need to get in the habit of doing this if you want to catch stripers consistently.

The productive locations can be unpredictable at this time of year, as the fish will generally follow the bait wherever they go. If a spot isn’t producing at a particular point in the tide, move on. There are plenty of fishy spots this time of year. Another option: You know that plastic kayak in your backyard? Use it! Even if it’s not a traditional fishing kayak, you can still utilize it to get to the less-than-accessible spots in the rivers and estuaries. Just be careful of mud.

2. Lures

Match the smaller bait. Until the big girls start showing up to gorge on herring and adult pogies, you should be throwing smaller offerings to match the available forage. My three favorites to throw this time of year are

  • 1/2oz Bill Hurley jighead with a white curly tail grub or a small sand eel tail
  • 2” Storm Wild-Eyed Shad
  • Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow

3. Fish dawn and dusk

The fish will be most active during these times as they look to ambush the Spring baitfish in transitioning light. This time of year, we can get bites anytime of day, but most of the reports I’m hearing are talking about dawn and dusk blitzes.

Those of you on the South Shore should be targeting the same type of geographical locations: Rivers and estuaries, especially if they have herring runs. These fish will be holdovers but they’ve been very active this week. We’re still a little while from the migratory fish showing up on that side of the Canal.

Let’s catch some lunkers

Largemouth and Smallmouth fishing has been killer, reports our boys over at Dirty Water Fishing Co. Look for a full report and rundown of pre-spawn and nighttime fishing next week, but here’s a few tips if you want in on some lunks this weekend:

Pre-spawn is generally the transition from winter to spring in our ponds. As water temperatures reach 50-55 degrees, bass move from the main lake channel (deepest water) towards main lake points, secondary points, pockets, creeks, channels, channel swings, ledges, etc. Bass will stage off of the spawning flats or pockets to feed before they move onto the beds to spawn.

In the Northeast, herring are prevalent in many of the lakes and ponds, which offers the bass easy protein. This can also make them extremely difficult to to trick with artificials. At this time of year, crawfish will also begin to emerge from the rocks and will be another main forage for the bass.

Pre-spawn can be tough from shore because the big females are staged off of main lake points, eating whatever forage is available in that particular lake. Jigs are great for catching these fish because they mimic an easy crawfish meal. Natural colors, like green, brown and black, are best. Match your trailer with your jig color and size your line according to water clarity.

Jigs, swimbaits imitating herring or trout and various crankbaits will get bites. Top secret tip: Bright red crankbaits will produce this time of year and only this time of year. The brighter, the better.

Hatches are happening in all of the kettle ponds. I had a rather frustrating day this week. I pulled up to a Plymouth pond and found the surface absolutely riddled with surface rising trout. Do you think I could get them to eat? Of course not! I threw every midge dry, emerger, and nymph I had in my bag. If you want to fish these hatches, I’m thinking you need to go super small. Or, wait until the trout aren’t keyed in on something so microscopic.

Spin guys have been still doing well on spoons and jerkbaits. Some of these ponds got absolutely loaded with trout, so as this weather warms, we’ll continue to see these surface feeds.

Who can pull a spring two-fer this weekend? Striper and largemouth in the same day. Now’s the time to do it. Get out there.

Billy Mitchell

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