Report: Stripers are here

The spring run has officially started. Water temperatures continue to climb around the Cape and the bass seem to be ahead of schedule this year, at least compared to last year.

This past weekend, the outgoing tides around dawn and dusk in upper Buzzards Bay gave us our first legitimate shots at finding stripers in numbers. While the majority of our fish caught were “holdovers,” I did spot some sea lice on others, so we’re into the migration waves now. And by the way, who cares if it’s migratory or a resident? A bass in April is a bass in April. Enjoy it.

The stripers we found were very picky about what they would eat. In fact, between Sean and myself, we only caught stripers on one type of bait: A spook-style topwater plug. A Zara Spook started the mayhem, but met an untimely demise just as it got its mojo. A few other lures that worked were:

  • Rapala Skitterwalk
  • Bigfish Bait Co. Blitzseeker
  • Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow
  • Guppy Lil P (1 ¼ oz)

We found most of our fish in shallow water around fast-moving water. Most of these fish were small, so it makes sense they were not hanging in the deeper channels. Again, this was all outgoing tide, so your best bet in the next few weeks is to find a spot where bait may wash out of an outflow or current rip, and target the flats and shallows surrounding it.

Have I mentioned how important scouting new spots is? Well, I don’t really care how many times I’ve said it, I’ll say it again. You need to get comfortable with the spots you’re fishing. Understand where the current runs, the holes and rips that set up around them, structure points, the predominant bait in the area, and of course, access to said spots. Spring is prime time to get out into the wilderness, do a little hiking, and find a beautiful location all to yourself. And these spots may just be prime early season striper locales.

Last week, reports trickled in of fresh fish throughout Buzzards Bay and along the South-facing beaches. After work on Friday, I scouted a few rivers and estuaries and found birds and bait. All promising signs. But as I made my first cast, I heard the thunder, and then that thunder moved a little closer and I was gone.

Saturday morning, I fished a river on the outgoing, and just as the sun rose, I started seeing some surface activity. I tied on a Zara Spook and it was game on. First cast, first bass of the 2019 striper season. Can I tell you how relieved I was to finally have a fish on the end of my line? Hopefully I suffered in the trout department the spring as a sacrifice for a killer striper season. Time will tell on that.

I moved to another spot downriver and got a few more fish on the same plug, until the bail snapped shut and it went flying out into the center of the river. I guess I’m rusty with the old spinning reel. Well, I tried every other topwater plug and they didn’t want anything but that damn spook-style, slowed down walk-the-dog action. I was able to entice one sub 12” fish on a Bill Hurley paddle tail/jighead combo.

Saturday night around the same tide, Sean and I went to that same spot and crushed them. Hungry schoolies were swarming the river. It was the same deal as before; spook plugs fished slow or bust. We caught as many as we wanted and moved down river in the darkness. I thought that as the ebb tide slowed, the fish would congregate in a deep channel at a pinch point. Well, I was wrong about that, but it was a nice hike out in the mud. And 1 for 2 ain’t bad. Them’s Hall of Fame numbers, folks.

Sunday was slower, but we found fish. My theory is that the fish that were in the river moved off into the Bay, which bodes well for the upcoming week and weekend. I’m seeing a few fish caught around open beaches today so I think my theory is correct. Over the course of the week, we’ll have more migratory bass pouring into the funnel, and I wouldn’t surprised if by week end, we see fish of a class size or two larger caught around the islands and the Bay.

Long story short: I’m exhausted and cranky from lack of sleep. I’m just a little bit hungover from a few too many celebratory Two-Hearteds. My thumb is all torn up and I’ve got braid cuts in the creases of my hands. The car is heaped with clothes and fishing gear covered in estuary mud and striper slime. But it was all worth it. I’m back on that grind, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Billy Mitchell

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