Stripers in the time of Corona

These are strange times to be talking about fish. Our life for the foreseeable future is a jumbled mess of TBDs, depressing statistics, and undefined timelines. So, you’ll excuse me if all I’m thinking about is the arrival of marone saxatilis.

Everything is an uncertainty right now. But one steadfast inevitability we can continue to count on is the “migration.” A holy word in our circles, it represents hope, something we can turn our collective gazes towards in the (very) near future to hopefully redirect our attention from financial, emotional and physical well-being for a few hours a day. The arrival of our seasonal visitors is as meaningful and necessary as it’s ever been.

Eddy Stahowiak

Life has been put on pause. But around us, days and nights are still trending warmer. That nostalgic, all-too-familiar shift in energy that heats the grounds and rivers and oceans alike, oscillates on. Micro-organisms are blooming in the rivers and the baitfish happily paddle around in the shallows and herring runs. Migratory birds are arriving in manic procession while resident birds watch on.

And most importantly to us, the stripers are still on their way, regardless of the situation we, as humans, are dealing with. Tide and time (and the migration of stripers) waits for no man. Spring continues her restoration amidst the chaos–the perennial shift of seasons continues on. And as it’s always been, the stripers follow.

We are mere days away from this arrival. As we speak, bait, bass and birds are marching North ever so steadily (or quickly, if you believe the SW wind yesterday gave the biomass a little push), filtering through the bays and estuaries.

Will the stripers spring arrival make things feel normal again? Will that first bright evening in the estuary when they suddenly pop up, tail slapping at baitfish along the flats, bring us back to our baseline? We can only hope. I miss normal. I miss the familiar.

The Forecast

Migratory stripers have reached Rhode Island and are less than 10 days out from locations South of Cape. For whatever reason, regardless of the mildness or not so mildness of the winter, migratory fish in Cape Cod Bay and along the South Shore typically follow the same schedule year after year. So we can expect them when we normally do: the last few days of April and first week of May.

We were on track for a very early “arrival” of early spring stripers (holdover, migratory, who cares). But recent cold steaks and the storm raging outside my window has slowed the warming water temperatures in the rivers to a halt.

Recent reports have the rivers still sub 50 degrees, but just barely. A few warm nights (like the ones in the 5 day forecast) should get us over the hump. Then you’ll want to be targeting these rivers early and late on strong tides. Holdovers should be feeding very actively. Last year we got into topwater holdover feeds the third week in April. My guess? By the end of this week, we should have some real striper success to speak of. I’ll be hitting the rivers around Buzzards Bay and Wareham.

If you’re feeling like trying your hand at low percentage big fish, target the herring runs on some of the bigger tides coming up toward the end of the month.

I hope all of your are staying safe and sane. Let’s go out and catch some stripers, huh?

Billy Mitchell

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