You hear people talk about rips. Rips are glacial eskers or ridges that were formed during the last Ice Age and have since become submerged as the ocean waters have risen. The tide or current hits this wall on the bottom of the ocean and the water, having no place to go but up, creates a very visible rip line, making it a great place for stripers to lurk in wait for the baitfish that the tide brings with it. It is also one of the easiest types of structure for a newcomer to fish. Rips along with lumps are all striped bass magnets. Bass congregate on these bottom structures and make them the spots you want to target. When fishing a rip, position your boat ahead of the rip, and angle the boat into the tide and slide along the rip line. Study the rip and you will see that some spots look fishier than others. Every rip, just as every lump has its own peculiarities, and it is learning how to make your lures drop into these spots that will fill your limit. Rips occur wherever current flows over an area where the depth changes rapidly. For example, rips can be created by shoals, ledges, reefs, rock piles and even wrecks. Basically anything that disrupts the contour of the surrounding bottom can lead to rip formation. On the surface, a rip is identified by a distinct line of choppy water known as a rip line. The force of all the water flowing over the reef or shoal pushes against the surface creating the line of chop.
So why do rips attract and hold stripers and other fish such as bluefish, false albacore and summer flounder? It’s because rips provide a place where fish can obtain food without extending much energy. The flow of water over the obstruction creates a pocket of calm or dead water on the down current side of the structure. Stripers like to hold in this pocket conserving energy while waiting for baitfish and other food morsels to be swept past by the current. The current acts as a food conveyor belt. When the fish see food they will dart into the current and grab it, then return to their lie.
Stripers prefer to hold in the dead water pocket close to the obstruction especially when the current is running strong and during the midday hours. This presents a difficult situation for light tackle fishermen and fly anglers. Fishermen trolling with wire lines or deep drifting baits have an advantage. There are times when fish will feed on or close to the surface allowing fly fishermen to get in on the action. The best time to fish a rip is at first light, dusk and overcast days. Occasionally, especially in the fall, fish will surface feed for hours.
Current has the greatest effect on the feeding habits of stripers. When the current is really chugging along, such as the middle three hours of a tide or during times of spring and a full moon, stripers will tend to stay in the calm water and not feed. At slack tide, bait will often disperse and stripers tend not to want to extend the effort to chase it down. Knowing these facts, it makes sense to plan fishing trips around the first two hours of either tide and during the quarter and half moon phases.
How they form
Rip currents occur around the world at "surf" beaches, including both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico. Erroneously called undertows and rip tides, these currents can last from a few minutes to a few hours, while other, more permanent ones, associated with groins or jetties, may last days. Unlike undertows, rip currents are shallow water processes that do not pull a person under. They form when water, piled against the shore, begins to return to deeper water. Typically, strong wind and swell waves push water over a sandbar allowing excess water to collect. Eventually, the excess water starts to return seaward through low areas in the sandbar, "ripping" an opening.
Rip current near a beach
Near the beach, rip currents are narrow (30-60 feet wide) with increasing width as they extend up to 1000 feet offshore. The velocity of the water can be as high as 5 mph, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer.
Rip currents can be killers. If you are caught in one, how you respond could make the difference between life and death.
Rip currents can be readily seen from the shore. If the current has recently formed, you will see murky water (as compared to the surrounding water) due to sediment mixing as a channel is opened in the sandbar. However, if the rip current has lasted a long time, the color of the water will appear darker (compared to the surrounding water color) due to the channel carved by the flowing water.
Also, you can spot a rip current by looking for objects or foam moving steadily seaward. Wave heights are also lower and choppier in rip currents . Wearing polarized sunglasses can aid in locating rip currents by cutting the glare.