Summer Striped Bass Fishing

It's summer -- where have the striped bass gone? Some striper fisherman refer to the "summer doldrums," and may even simply stop fishing for striped bass until the fall arrives. This is more common the further south you are as the summer doldrums are more severe. For example I know many fervent striped bass anglers who take off at least July and August in New York and New Jersey. Conversely, in my main stomping grounds of Maine, New Hampshire and Northern Mass, few stop fishing for striped bass.

Remember that the striped bass are still around in the summer, including plenty of larger fish -- more than in the spring, but techniques need to change, and yes, there *might* be some slow periods as well.

The easy pickings at the stream and river mouths are gone, although no doubt some fish remain there.

Places and techniques that caught stripers nearly every outing now are iffy, and certainly daytime fishing is way way down.

Remember stripers are nocturnal, although they may have significant daytime activity in the fall and especially spring.

Summer Striped Bass Fishing Techniques

Concentrate on lowlight conditions.

Around dusk, dawn and at night are prime times. I particularly like dawn and the first hour or two of daylight, especially if overcast.

I even prefer no/low moon nights or overcast nights to nights with lots of moonlight.

Daytime CAN work, especially if overcast, and dark miserable rainy days can sometimes rock for striped bass. Lou Tabory claims days like this are "almost as good as night," and although I think "almost as good" is a slight exaggeration, they are well worth fishing if you can.

Match the baitfish, but be prepared to experiment.

What kind of baitfish and other food are around? The stripers aren't as ravenous as in the spring and may simply be picky.

Try to match the general length and shape with your flies. For example if there are millions of sand eels around, a sparse deceiver of the appropriate length may be a good match, but if the stripers are feeding on menhaden (also known as "bunker" or "pogies") a more full bodied fly may do the trick.

Then again experiment as they may not be feeding on the dominant food supply. I remember one outing where there were seemingly tens of millions of sand eels about, but the striped bass were gorging themselves on lobsters! A Clouser with an erratic retrieve did the trick that evening.

Fish bigger water!

The water doesn't need to be deep, but I like having deep water nearby because striped bass like having big water nearby.

A big striped bass can be comfortable feeding in water so shallow that 1/3 of their body sticks out if deep water is close by!

Small stream mouths and marshes *may* still hold fish, but the water will be warmer, perhaps too warm.

In summer I greatly prefer fishing:

Off rocks:

I love fishing off of rocky coastlines, especially if there is some surf running. You can even fish off rocky cliffs. Now I'll admit, I often think the surf is either too big or not big enough, never perfect, but striped bass like to feed in white water.

Fish any and all white water -- it's NEVER too rough for stripers. It's also never too shallow for stripers in these conditions -- fish ALL white water, even silly little pools. I took a 29" striped bass last fall in a small pool I had waded through first. The pool was only about two feet deep, but the striped bass was feeding there.

Concentrate on any current lines as well. Often these will form where the water being driven onto the rocks by the surf is washing back to sea. These current lines may be relatively stable, or some may form only when bigger sets of waves come in. Fish them.

Fish right up to the rocks -- and bass will even follow waves up to feed on the rocks where it's normally dry!

If in a boat, I prefer to use a fast sinking line and cast almost right onto shore. From shore, I usually use an intermediate line, often with a couple foot lead core section to get some depth. A lot of my casts from shore will be short or parallel to the rocks. The fish are often close to the rocks if not on them.

If you can use no retrieve, just the fly swimming in a rip or current line even if only for a second or two, try it -- it works very well (check out Retrieves for Big Stripers). Conversely, sometimes the fastest retrieve possible will be the only one that works.

BE CAREFUL off of rocks, especially with surf. Often these are spots that can only be fished safely in daylight at dusk and dawn for a few hours, although if it's overcast and a decent surf is running they might produce all day. Remember, you could die.

Beaches:

Sandy beaches are great, although not all sandy beaches are great for flyfishing.

Some beaches with good fish may not typically have flyrod catchable striped bass: the surf may be too heavy, or the fish may be further out beyond flyrod range, or a myriad of other conditions may make a beach tough or impossible to flyfish effectively.

My "home beach" is a very gently sloping beach with a strong set (or current) to the left. It's hard to get your fly deep and it almost always swings to the left very quickly. Although the main beach produces good fish occasionally, in general it's not worth flyfishing -- there are better places nearby. Bait fishermen can pretty much do well anywhere however, and as many of them are lazy and unmotivated that's probably a good thing, besides we don't want them hogging the better spots I describe below.

Note: There are many skilled bait fishermen and nothing against them at all, but your average bait fisherman tends to be much less skilled and motivated than your average flyfishman. Often they just want to get away from there wives (or husbands) and have a few beers -- nothing wrong with that.

Fish any and all structure.

For example, my "home beach" mentioned above has an extensive sandbar system and jetty about a mile from my home. That is well worth fishing. There is also a pier/amusement park about 2 miles away, and fishing under the pier among the pilings can be productive, although there are many (drinking, not sand) bars and often too many drunks around.

Another mile away, there are a few big rocks, and then a small creek a few hundred yards further away that dumps into the ocean, both of which can be hotspots.

Offshore rips:

Offshore rips can and often do produce all summer. Of course you'll need a boat, and fast sinking lines are very popular. I don't fish offshore rips that often although I enjoy them -- anyone want to write something on fishing them? Contact info at bottom of page.

Bigger Rivers and  Estuary Systems: like Great Bay in New Hampshire.

Small streams, creeks, and estuaries like marshes may warm up and become unproductive in summer (except often at there mouths), but larger rivers like the Merrimack on the New Hampshire/Mass border and estuaries like Great Bay will hold plenty of fish season long.

It's Summer

The fish are still here. There are more fish and bigger fish. It just may take a little more work to find them and catch them than in the spring.

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