As water temperatures creep toward 50 degrees, holdover stripers begin to stir in the shallows of southern New England, providing light-tackle sport for anglers in skiffs, kayaks, canoes and on foot. It’s early-spring striped bass time!
To catch these “early fish”, the first order of business is to seek out a river, cove or creek featuring mud flats covered by 3 to 5 feet of water at high tide.
Next, pick a sunny day with light winds, air temperatures in the mid-50s or higher, and a high tide that occurs between noon and 5:00 p.m., giving the dark flats time to absorb the sun’s warmth. Water temperatures should be in the 50-degree range or higher.
Get to the flat between the last 2 hours of the rising tide and first 2 hours of the dropping tide.
Tie on a 1/4-ounce jig rigged with small, soft-plastic lure. Hop the jig lightly over the bottom or swim it through the water column with a slow, steady retrieve. Work the edges of marsh and creek banks, as well as any holes or drop-offs in the middle of the flat. As the tide drops, concentrate on spots where a creek dumps into the flat or a larger channel.
Favorite lures include 4” Slug-Gos, Fin-S-Fish, RonZ and small paddletail swim shads. If the fish are especially active, you can get them to hit a small topwater popper or a soft-plastic bait rigged Texas style and twitched across the surface. My favorite colors include pearl, bubble gum and olive-over-white. On dark days, chartreuse and hot pink can work well.
Best outfits include a light spinning setup loaded with 6- to 8-pound line. No leaders are necessary unless fishing around heavy structure.
Fly gear can be especially effective at this time of year. Small flies rule, of course. Clouser Minnows and Deceivers in 1/0 or 2/0 sizes can be deadly. White, yellow and chartreuse work very well. Use a slow retrieve to start, but don’t be afraid to speed things up, as spring stripers can be aggressive, especially on warm days. A 7- to 8-weight outfit rigged with a sink-tip or floating line is a good choice.
Tom Richardson is a longtime member of Reel-Time and the publisher and editor of BoatingLocal.com.