Spring Striped Bass Fishing

Spring Striped Bass fishing is one of my favorites!

When the stripers first show up in the spring they are voracious feeders. Put a fly in front of them, AT THE RIGHT DEPTH, and you're in business.

Daytime fishing is hot, which for beginning striper flyfisherman is important. It takes a while to feel remotely confident flyfishing in the dark and although it becomes second nature after a while, I couldn't have even imagined flyfishing at night my first season of striped bass flyfishing.

I divide spring striped bass fishing into two distinct parts: early spring when the bass first show up, and then after maybe 3 weeks when they have settled down a bit and some bigger fish have moved in as well.

The first fish of the season are smaller, no question about that. Then again, catching a few dozen 16-20" bass on the fly is no hardship, and many spring seasons is not so hard, although every year is different.

When the striped bass first show up will depend on where you are geographically of course. It'll be in April on the South side of Cape Cod for example, but probably the first week of May at the mouth of the Merrimack River (NH/Mass border) and the third week of May in Saco Maine. Keeping a log book can be very valuable. Fish tend to show up at the same time every year, global warming be damned, and some spots simply produce earlier than others.

By the way, ignore the numb nuts who claim they caught a striper many weeks before anyone else. Yeah, maybe they did, but most of them are lying! And if they're not, well who really cares about a single random fish?

Early Spring Striped Bass Fishing Techniques

Striped bass migrate north in the spring, and they are a little over anxious. They go too far North too fast, and find the water a bit too cold, which forces them to congregate where the water is slightly warmer (I'm ignoring the fact that there are probably some resident as well as spawning fish all the way up to Nova Scotia).

Concentrate on rivers and streams, especially the mouths, in early spring.

The water is simply warmer there, and the fish will congregate there.

You'll probably find ZERO stripers off the ocean beaches, but plenty of stripers in rivers, streams, and bays.

My favorite early spring location is the mouths of streams and rivers on the outgoing tide. I prefer the last two hours of the outgoing for striped bass, but every location is different. Some smaller outflows may be totally dry the last two hours of the outgoing, so obviously you'll need to fish them earlier in the tide.

Other locations that may produce well include flats in rivers and estuaries (usually muddy), and further upstream where runs of alewives,  herring, or other spawning smaller fish may congregate.

Personally I've never done well flyfishing for striped bass among spring runs of herring and other bait fish, but some flyfishermen swear by them.


If there is significant current, like at a mouth on the outgoing, you simply NEED a fast sinking line. You might prefer shooting heads, a Teeny line, or maybe a straight #4 or #6 sinking line, but you need to be deep -- or forget about catching fish. They will be feeding on the bottom, not 6 inches off the bottom.

If you are fishing somewhere shallow and somewhat calm, for example a flat, a floating or intermediate line with a sinking fly is the ticket. My friend Scotch John lives on a muddy flat on the Merrimack and retook up flyfishing after a few decades off. He had zero luck his first few weeks the first spring until I made him fish a clouser minnow. The metal eyes on the fly got it just a little deeper, and he started catching first regularly.

Mid Spring Striped Bass Fishing Techniques

After maybe 2-3 weeks, depending on the year and where you fish (keep a log!), striped bass will also be feeding and hanging out off the ocean beaches.

This is when bigger fish start to arrive, although they arrive slowly, and some seasons you may be catching 99% the same size fish all year.

Rivers and streams, especially the mouths, still produce just as in early spring.

The same techniques, flies, tides, and everything else still produce.

Off the beaches off rocks start to produce as well

I prefer fishing off rocky shorelines the best in mid-spring. An intermediate line from shore, or a fast sinker if from a boat, work well. Sparse deceivers are my fly of choice, but experiment. Sometimes adding a short length of lead core line to your intermediate line or using a clouser minnow will get you a few extra inches of depth and get you into the strike zone!

I love spring striper fishing! The only season I like better is fall striper fishing, but it's not quite as exciting as the first few striped bass of the season.

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