Article retrieved from the wayback machine from the National striped Bass association archives.
Surf and Shore Stripers
by Rich Colagiovanni • contributing writer
The striped bass is a wonderful fish that often seeks out the boundary area between land and sea. Here amongst the coastal waves of open beach, the short chop of bays, and the currents of tidal rivers, stripers regularly prowl these shoreline zones in search of sustenance-food. Here on the northeast and mid-Atlantic shoreline, the bass’s dining menu consists of finfish, crabs, shrimps, and worms. Numerous food sources that spend considerable time within casting distance of shore. The informed shore based striper angler considers the following factors when formulating a potentially successful shore striped bass expedition: Physical dynamics and biology of fishing site; seasonal availability of food sources; striper availability; practical fishing gear and technique, and input from local knowledgeable sources. Blending science with the art of fishing is the shore striper angler’s goal.
Physical dynamics of fishing site can be broken down into three basic shore fishing locales: the open sea; bays; and rivers. Included within these physical factors are: the effects of wind and waves, water temperature, and shape of the water holding structure.
Stripers prefer water temps of 44-68 degrees-with 53-62 degree water a preferred feeding range
First, lets address the open sea fishing locales. The seashore may be divided into several types: sandy, rocky, and man developed (i.e. bulkhead, etc.). The predominate features of a sandy ocean beach consists of fine grain particles that generally slope seaward out into the water. The effects of wind, wave, and currents deposit/remove the sand into a variety of holes, channels, troughs and lumps. Wind driven storms and currents can move large amounts of sand around in a short time. That dynamite fishing hole that successfully produced stripers for you is now filled in. The bass have moved up the beach a quarter mile where a new hole has been excavated by these forces. Rocky shores tend to produce a variety of bottom structures-holes and lumps-that are relatively stable. Rock pattern along such solid features tend to be more reliable over time-once the timing/gear selection is properly performed by the angler. Manmade structures such as rock jetties are fairly stable in dimensions. These physical variations of bottom contours changing or static- affect the “lies” of striper food and the bass themselves. Bass tend to feed along these bottom features, offering ambush sites for unsuspecting bait.
Water temperatures affect the striper and bait availability. Stripers prefer water temps of 44-68 degrees-with 53-62 degree water a preferred feeding range. Various food sources such as menhaden, crabs, lobster, scup, flounder, herring/alewife, sand eel, mullet, spot, have their preferred temperature range(s). The shore angler attempts to find accessible fishing locales that combine locale that both components are present. Often a fair supply of bait will hold the stripers for an extended time. Lack of bait often results in the stripers only lingering for a short periods-often only a tide or two. Excessive shoaling of bait can hold the fish for extended periods. However, this over abundance of bait, to the angler, not the bass-often results in poor angling. There is such a thing as having too much of a good thing. Under such conditions, the fish often refuse all offerings (natural bait & artificial lures) including: “matching the hatch”, offering unnatural baits and lure often fails to.
Wind and their generated waves and swells have a great impact on ocean front angling. Waves are created by friction of moving wind (a gaseous fluid) that “pushes” the water (a liquid fluid) into elevated mounds of water. Wind speed and duration; along with fetch (length of distance over water where the wind interacts with the water) affects wave height and the distance between waves -wave periods (often referred as the time in seconds, between the moving waves). Swells are wave that have left the area of active wind force (development) on the water. Swells generated hundreds, thousands, miles out to sea affect striper shore angling. In many shoreline assaults on the striper, the onset of wind and swell arrival on the shoreline, before the shore front waters get too riled up with sediment, weeds, etc. is the prime time to fish. The baitfish are tumbled by the waves, the crabs and other bottom dwelling bass foods are dug out of the bottom by these same forces. Also, the predatory bass is hidden better by the reduced water visibility. The tides create both lateral and vertical movement of the water. Depths of waters-and speed of- lateral currents are affected by tides. Wind working with/working against tides can increase/decrease the rise and lateral movement (speed) of the current. Bass may feed on a certain phase of the tide. This is the job of the shore based striper angler to figure out.
The bay bass fishing scenario contains similar factors that affect successful ocean striper fishing. Sand, rock and manmade structures are similar to ocean scenarios. Often, bay sites include increased amounts of manmade structures that congregate bait and bass. Rock harbor jetties, bulkheads, and bridge abutments all create quality-fishing locales. Currents are created by moon phases affect speed of flow. Wind generated waves/swells affect the bay shores. Ocean wind generated swell can penetrate into the bay system if the geological shape of the basin presents itself (exposure of mouth of bay to sea varies). Often, when the ocean kicks up with large waves/swells, the “outside fish” will enter the bay to feed if water temps, water depth, food menu, is to their liking. Water temps in bays usually warm up at faster rate in the spring than ocean temps. Bait, with bass in attendance, often set up shop in the bay first, then, drop down to the cooler ocean as the bay temps exceed their (mobile bait and stripers) desired operating range. In the fall, the bay water temps drop off faster than the larger volume ocean. Mobile bait and bass will “drop down” to more desirable living conditions-higher ocean temps.
River systems-connected to bay and ocean-are affected by similar sources. An additional river system factor is often salinity-the amount of salt in solution affects the location of bait and stripers. Stripers are readily adjustable to variation of salinity. Various foods of bass have different tolerance to freshened waters. Alewives and blueback herring are prime examples of bass food that tolerate fresh waters so well, during the spring, they ascend rivers into the fresh water zone to reproduce. Stripers will follow them many miles upstream to these spawning sites. Rainfall amounts on the upstream watershed will affect the down river salinity. Baits such as menhaden, will head downstream if the water becomes too sweet. Again, the knowledgeable shore based striper angler will locate an access point along the river shore where proper water conditions create good habitat for bait and stripers.
Practical fishing gear and techniques for the surf/shore bass angler can be broken down into three basic categories: spinning, bait casting (conventional), and fly rod, for shore delivery to surf, bay, and river. Support equipment includes waders or hip boots, foul weather gear, tackle carry bags, fishing backpacks, headlights for night work, and small hand gaff.
Fly rods for shore fishing are usually in the 8-10 weight range made of graphite in nine- foot lengths. The longer rods compensate for the loss of casting height that occurs when wading into the water. Fenwick, Sage, and Penn produce rods that work well for shore striper fishing. Reels manufactured by Penn and Orvis, to name a few, adapt quite well when spooled with floating, sink tip, sinking, and lead shooting head lines. Fly lines manufactured by Cortland, Airflo, and Scientific 3M, fit the bill. Streamer flies in the 3-to-8 inch range that replicate minnows, menhaden, sand eels; crabs, etc. produce well in all shore locales. Saltwater baitfish replicating flies with names Clouser and Deceiver are standard issue for this fishery. In most fishing scenarios, the angler attempts to replicate size, shape, and color scheme of the bait the bass are dining on. The available fly lines allow the angler to fish from top to bottom in the water column-in still, moving, and crashing water conditions. Striper can be fly rod caught throughout the day and night-with dawn and dusk being prime times. Retrieving techniques vary from casting and retrieving slow or fast, to allowing fly, no retrieve at all (allowing the shoreline surf surge impart action to the fly), to sink deep before retrieving, to allowing the river current or bay tidal current sweep the fly through the water column. Put at lease 100 yards of fly line backing on the reel-the next striper caught might be a corker!
The open face spinning reel and rod are the mainstay of the shore based striper angler. Rods of graphite or glass in the 7-11 foot range manufactured by Shakespeare, Berkley, Penn, Fenwick, and Lamiglass see successful use. Spinning reels that accept monofilament lines in the 12-30 pound test range built with saltwater resistant materials is the way to go. Super braid lines such as Berkley Stealth, Spiderwire, and Power Pro see use-with the advantage of low line diameter in relation to pound test when compared to monofilament. Leaders of 2-12 feet are often 20-50 pound test fluorocarbon or monofilament in the clear color. Spinning rod/reel combos in the 7-to-9 foot lengths/medium action find extensive use throwing artificial lures such as plugs, metal spoons, jigs, and soft plastics. Tried and trued lures in _-to-4 ounces manufactured by Acme (Kastmaster), Plastic Research & Development (Rebel/ Cordell Redfin), Gag’s Grabber (Mambo Minnow), Gibbs’s (Danny, Bottle, Darter), Atom (Popper, Swimmer), and Storm (Wild Eyes) are standard issue for the shore striper angling. These lures are cast and retrieved in a variety of ways depending on fishing conditions. Again, top-to-bottom of the water column can be covered effectively with these artificial lures. All types of live & cut baits can be bottom fished, drifted, or cast and retrieved with spinning gear. Rods with lengths of up to 11 feet see considerable use for spinning bait deployment. Natural Baits include live eels, rigged eels, marine worms, live & cut menhaden, mackerel, spot, squid, etc. Rigs for natural bait deployment can range can range from simple 2-3 foot lengths of fluorocarbon with a hook and barrel swivel on each end (for live/rigged eel deployment-cast & retrieved), to sliding fish finder rigs- to off the bottom stationary bait display via a suspending float manufactured by Under Water Suspension Apparatus (used in conjunction with sinkers2-6 ozs. 4/0-7/0 Octopus style hooks made by Eagle Claw, Mustad, and Spro). This device keeps the bait off the bottom for better viewing by the intended striper-and-reduces unwanted by-catches of pests including skates, crabs, etc.
Conventional Rod & Reel combos of 7-to-10 lengths (fiberglass, fiberglass graphite blend, graphite) with mono, fluorocarbon blend, or super braids in 15-40 pound test lines are fine for shore deployment of lures (same choice as spinning). Rods in the 9-12 foot length range can readily deploy natural baits. Conventional reels (a.k.a. bait casting, revolving spool) such as Garcia Ambassador 7000 have seen service for decades delivering all sorts of artificial lures and natural baits. The 7000 are well known amongst the shore bound live/rigged eel angler.
Support gear for the shore bound striper angler include waders/hip boots for wading (neoprene for cold water, breathable for long walks to fishing locale); “Korker” style metal cleats (attached to boot foot) for wading rocky/slimy bottoms; foul weather top with belt for mid-section of body; co 2 inflatable lifejacket suspenders (for safety if one steps into deep water-MAY SAVE YOUR LIFE; headlamp for night fishing; and lure carry bags (made by Penn, Plano, Canyon, The Surfcaster). Pliers, knife, some rope, etc are also essential gear. Four-wheel drive vehicles can offer access to stretches of striper beaches where vehicle beach access is condoned check local/state regulations).
Input on the locale striper fishing scene can often be gleaned from local shops, outfitters, guides, clubs, regionally produced fishing books and outdoor columns in newspapers.
Finally, the thrill of facing off with striped bass, sans boat, is a romantic-one on one-adventure and EFFECTIVE method to catch them. The striper is a regular visitor to where land meets water. Romance embraces the surroundings: sand, rock, marsh, and bank adjacent to the striper holding water. First light, the veil of twighlight and darkness- twinkling starlight, the sliver of the moon illuminating the fishing site. The thrill of a fish, pulling on the rod, only the line separating the angler from the fish. THE FISH of passionate and loyal pursuit. The glistening fish in the wave wash before ones excited eyes. This is what shore striped bass fishing is all about…