The Best Time To Fish, Striper Habits I

Striped bass can be caught based on dumb luck sometimes. My dumb friend Jeff landed a 48 inch striper in early August at high noon on a sunny day on a beach full of swimmers and sunbathers! And maybe he’ll win the lottery too, but don’t count on it . . .

I'm serious - he really did! I don't fish much under those circumstances . . .

If you understand striped bass habits you stand a much better chance of catching more of them, certainly more than my friend Jeff.

Striped Bass are primarily nocturnal. Just understanding this greatly increases your chances of success. I fished hard one spring long ago trying to catch my first bass ever with no success, until I finally went night fishing. Success the first night, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Flyfishing at night is tough for novices, and even for experienced flyfisherman if they haven’t night fishing much. Fortunately stripers love dawn and dusk, in fact any low light conditions. Nasty, dark, overcast, rainy days can be wonderful for striper fishing. In the words of Lou Tabory, they are “nearly as good as night for stripers: Fish them with confidence” (from “Inshore Fly Fishing”, a book every striper fly fisherman should read). Personally I wouldn’t go as far as “nearly as good” in my experience, although they can be excellent!

Be careful shining that flashlight to switch flies or undo tangles, and be aware of your headlights when driving on the beach or near fishing areas. Lights like these will easily spook stripers! Stripers are far more forgiving of more permanent lights, for example from that lighthouse that's been there for a couple hundred years.

In the spring and fall, striped bass are more likely to be feeding during the day. In fact in New Hampshire and Maine when the fish first show up in the spring (May), I prefer the daytime and sometimes find the fish shut down during dark. Ditto for late fall; daytime activity is much more common than during summer.

Also in deep offshore rips, an area where admittedly I have limited experience, Stripers may feed all day.

Stripers are much more active during the day than they used to be say 20 or 30+ years ago, although low light conditions are still better. You can have previously unheard of success fishing the flats and other areas during the day. One theory is that since large baits are less common, stripers need to eat more often. Those massive schools of 1-2 pound Pogies (also known as Bunker or Atlantic Menhaden) are gone today, but enormous amounts of 2-4 inch sand eels and other smaller prey are common. The mackerel seem to be much smaller than when I was a kid too.

Whether this theory is true or not, a lot of big foods that stripers love are less common today, and that’s probably good for flyfishermen as it’s easier to cast a 4” sand eel pattern than a 16” “half-a-chicken” big Pogie imitation!

Click here for Where do Stripers Feed? Striped Bass Habits, Part II

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