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Old 05-25-2005, 01:32 PM
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Fishing The Rocks of the North Shore: A how-to according to one man

Alright guys, I have had some time to kill so here is what I have learned on how to fish the rocks of the North Shore. This is my critereon for finding new spots, what I have learned over the years. I hope that this can be of use to others, and hopefully accelerate the learning curve for people just getting into the game.


Why do rocks hold fish? Up here, basically all we have is rocks, so your ability to differenciate good rocks from bad rocks is what defines your success. Rocks and rockpiles hold fish for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is food. Rocks provide both shelter and food for crustaceans such as lobster and crabs. These are the staple of the striped bass. Yes, baitfish are more readily imitated and more often thought of than crustaceans, but if you can find a large population of lobsters, you will find a large population of large bass. Baitfish such as cunner and pollack also inhabit our rocks and provide a food source as well. These baits are often indicative of a healthy striper population within the general area.

So, what kinds of rocks hold these necessary staples? Large changes in the bottom is one key factor. A smooth, cobblestone boulderfield will rarely hold a large population of bass food as there is not as much structure. Now, you find a boulderfield with huge boulders, smaller stones, and lanes within the field...your in like flynn. Bait likes to hide in the changes in rock when a predator comes by, and graze over the rocks when there is no present danger. The real indicator is small traveling lanes. The bass like to move through these lines...much like a gametrail in a forest. They provide an ambush point, and although stripers will not lurk like say a largemouth will, they do patroll the same area over and over. Bass can move in these lanes largely covered by structure and either root the bottom for crustaceans or look up for baitfish holding over the rocks.

Another key factor is access to deep water, and this is true with any fish. Bass like having deep water close to them for a number of reasons. Perhaps the largest reason for this is due to the light. As the sun comes up, bass slide back down from their patrolling lanes to their deep water haunts. Their last stop is often a rockpile adjacent to deep water. I have a few theories on why these are the last stop, but the one that makes the most sense to me is that being a migratory fish, the bass has 'waypoints'. These rockpiles are a waypoint into the deeper water, and often times their most agressive feeding before the light pushes them lower. Spots like these are often the best places to take a large bass just after sunrise.

Wave movement is also very, very important. Fishing the whitewater is how I cut my teeth with stripers. Take a look at a bass. Large scales, armor plated gills, and broad, powerful tails. This fish was designed to take a beating in rough water. And this is where they do most of their feeding. Baitfish and crustaceans cannot take the beating of the wash; the bass has evolved for it. Look for these when identifying good whitewater: Pockets, often times the thousands of years of wave action have carved out a small pocket of calm water just outside of the wash...this is the staging area I so often speak of. Bass will sit in these and rush into the wash when they see something become disoriented. Classic ambush situation. Another whitewater situation to look for is the crash and dump. You have a wave breaking over an isolated rock and pouring into a bowl to the side or in back of it. I can promise you that in back of that rock are a ton of bass. Bait becomes disoriented as it breaks over the rock, and is dumped in a wash-free holding area. Bass will stack up in this hole and look up for the disoriented baits to come within striking range. This situation often results in a strike within the first five strips, indicating that the bass have had an eye on the fly when it lands. Again, this is an ambush behavior.

classic bass structures

The Point and Bowl: A large, extending point dumping into a bowl. This is a text book staging area. Often times bass will stage in the bowl, moving up onto the point sides to ambush baits. Also, bass will travel along the sides of the point, and eventually stack up in the bowl...think along the lines of a fish trap. Bait likes to hold on the drop-offs and bass will attack from below and cruise the edges in small, loosely grouped pods of 3-10 fish. This is also a good spot to throw livies.


The Pocket: As I said before these are the needles in the haystacks of the north shore. Small pockets in the whitewater that allow the bass a spot to rest before attacking bait within the wash. These little gems are to be found on every island, every good stretch of shore in our area, but they are tough to find. Take time to watch how the whitewater crashes. Does it just slide back to where it came? Does it funnel somewhere? If it funnels in any ammount in any direction, thats a big freakin arrow pointing to the bass.


The Reef: A rocky uprising seemingly in the middle of nowhere. These spots are usually hit or miss, but can be absolutely loaded with big fish during the mackerel migration. Large, migratory bass use these as waypoints, and they also hold large ammounts of pollack and mackerel in the early season. A good way to fish these with livies is to drift baits on the edges of the apex of the reef in 10-15 feet of water, bass will cruise these lines looking for bait. I have caught my 10 largest bass fishing these spots.

The Isolated Rock: Another fairly common occourance. You have a main shoreline or island and then maybe a few yards or even hundred yards off of this structure, out of deep water you have a massive boulder coming up. Such a great spot to fish. I speak alot about traveling lanes, this is a huge traveling lane. Think about how all those fish holding and cruising just off of the main structure get funneled into this narrow pass between the rock and main structure. They are moseying right along in 30 or so feet of water, when this huge rock re-directs them. They 90% of the time are between the structure and the rock, as that is often what funnels the bait. This is a prime spot for livebaits and cutbait. This is also a spot where I like to drop a jig and bump it in the cut between the rock and the main piece of structure. It also serves to concentrate currents and baitfish, in fact I have noticed a dramatic difference between slack tide and a half tide in how well these spots fish. These are perhaps the best indicator of fish holding structure. It's tough to go wrong when fishing an isolated rock.

The Bottom Change: You have a rockpile that comes off of the shore, extends a few hundred yards, and then abruptly changes to sand. Goldmine. Bass will cruise these edges for a number of reasons. One, they can associate with this structure and decide if they want to go in the rocks, or work in the sand. Second, and a point that is not often thought of is coloration. Structure-oriented baitfish, much like bass change their colors dependent upon the bottom. What happens when a dark pollack crosses out into the sand? Sticks out like a sore thumb, and is easy picking for the bass. Crabs and lobster also like to stay under these outermost rocks as they accomodate burrowing much better the inner rockpiles. Water also tends to move well along these edges, and we all know that bass love and actively seek out moving water.

The Oasis: Beaches are by in large deserts. The rockpile in the middle of the beach will always hold a few bass on, or within 100 feet of it. Not so much for the baitfish I think, but more so for the orientation point. Bass can relate to this object and use it to cordinate their patroll routes. I have witnessed huge schools of bass pass through two such rockpiles over the sand a few years ago, and stayed on these fish the whole tide. It was clearly the traveling lane for the fish on that tide...I still fish that spot with succes, but the fish have become a little more educated with every year that goes by over there.


Well, that's my rough guide to fishing the north shore rocks. I hope that this was of some help, and if you have any questions or any more tips, I would love to hear them!

Tight Lines, SK

Last edited by Soundking; 05-25-2005 at 02:30 PM..
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Old 05-25-2005, 02:05 PM
Cheju Cheju is offline
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Great Post!

An education in the thought process and travel!= habits of our worthy adversary.

Cheju
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Old 05-25-2005, 02:21 PM
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Roostahfish Roostahfish is offline
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Nice post.

Pending things aren't too crazy on Friday I plan on trying to get some Macks and dragging them around the rocks. It will be interesting to see what is going on out there based on the lovely weather we've been having.....
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Old 05-25-2005, 02:40 PM
WildmanSpecial WildmanSpecial is offline
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Soundking,

That was some great advice. The rocks on the North Shore are beautiful and great places to fish.

Fly casting from shore to these structures always gives me a challenge and I haven't had much success from the rocks. For instance, at the Trustees of Reservation property in Manchester or Norman's Woe, have some great rock structures but I have trouble getting the fly to sink in the funnels that you talk about. I assume I'm just not getting the fly deep enough even though I've shortened my leader and weighted the fly. Which is a better option: 1) casting far out, then letting the fly sink and stripping it in through those holes; 2) dangle the fly in to those holes from high up on the rock (not really fly casting); 3) cast at an angle if possible 4) none of the above.

Thanks!
Wildman
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Old 05-25-2005, 02:48 PM
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Wildman, I fish structure like that using technique number one pretty well...that area you fish is great water, but it gets hammered by bait dunkers alot so those fish are educated. Early mornings and pollack flies with a ton of action are the way to go there. The angle also works well, fish will sometimes lie inside the funnels and look to the edges of the rocks, often times shooting out of the funnel to ambush their prey. Try letting the fly get way down and then stripping it hard past the opening of the funnel, thats a good way to tighten them up.

Hope that helps! SK
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Old 05-25-2005, 03:10 PM
BigK BigK is offline
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Crustacean?????

Hey Soundking.......awesome post. this is the second year with my little whaler and I am just realizong I have to use the fishfinder without the fish symbol on so I can really see the thermoclines and structure. With the symbols it shows an outflow as fish....horrible. Anywho I bought some rubber crabs and was thinking of slow trolling(I installed a salt water Minn Kota this year) or drifting in current over rocks and in the whitewater washes you mentioned when July sets in and things get a little tougher than June. I was also thinking why not liveline crabs. I watched divers down one day and they were filming behind a lobster boat and not one short lobster made it to the bottom. This was off Cape Ann. I'll let all know how I make out, but I would like your input.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 05-25-2005, 03:31 PM
scruffy_fish scruffy_fish is offline
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Thumbs up Nice post

Soundking,
Thanks for sharing your knowledge, sounds like you have put some time in on the slippery slopes.
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Old 05-25-2005, 03:54 PM
Paul Cheever Paul Cheever is offline
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crawfish

Over 30 years ago when I lived on the north shore we used to fish areas like castle rock in Marblehead,the shores of Beverly ,behind Endicott college(back when it was an all girls school ya that was fun)up to the rocks along Singing beach in Manchester(before it became Manchester by the Sea) and Magnolia with crawfish, free legal fake baby lobsters the fat striped girls loved em.
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Old 05-26-2005, 07:44 AM
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RogerStg RogerStg is offline
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That's a great write up for fishing all rocky areas as well. Well done.
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Old 05-26-2005, 08:54 AM
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Soundking Soundking is offline
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I'm glad that you guys got something from the post.

Wildman- I move from pocket to pocket, I usually try to make about 3-5 well placed shots into the wash and then move on to another piece of likely looking structure if I don't get a strike. The cool thing about fishing the pocket water is that you can move along the rockpiles and get 2-4 fish per pocket...make a few shots and come up empty, and then nail a few more fish out of the next pocket. The key is to fish as many pockets as possible, thats the best way to find a concentration of fish.
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Old 05-26-2005, 09:24 AM
John Wade John Wade is offline
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Great stuff-thanks!
One of my best big fish spots over the last couple years is on a sandy beach. In the middle of the beach is a patch of rocks that extends about 200x200 yards-just barely exposed at low tide, to about 5 feet deep at high. On the backside of the "patch" is a drop to deeper water.
Depending on tide fish are either cruising next to the rock patch (not right on top of it), or they are hanging out near the dropoff.
Almost like looking for deer along a treeline! The fish have open sand to one side and shelter to the other side-a variety of places to go.
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Old 05-26-2005, 12:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Wade
Great stuff-thanks!
One of my best big fish spots over the last couple years is on a sandy beach. In the middle of the beach is a patch of rocks that extends about 200x200 yards-just barely exposed at low tide, to about 5 feet deep at high. On the backside of the "patch" is a drop to deeper water.
Depending on tide fish are either cruising next to the rock patch (not right on top of it), or they are hanging out near the dropoff.
Almost like looking for deer along a treeline! The fish have open sand to one side and shelter to the other side-a variety of places to go.
that sound just like one of my favorite spots here in the north shore. A very well known beach with a rocky patch and drop off about 100 yeards out I have never seen anyone fish- a buddy of mine found it while trolling one day. great classic place for fish to hang.
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Old 05-26-2005, 10:16 AM
JRHunt JRHunt is offline
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Thanks

Thanks, SoundKing. It was very nice of you to take the time to share your experience with some of us newbees. Next week I'll lay off Plum Island and hit the rocks around Ordione Point. Thanks again for the help.
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Old 05-26-2005, 12:23 PM
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more food for though re what to use around rocks- I got this from a fisheries website a few years back:

"We found that, in general, striped bass consumed mostly fish (menhaden, herring, silversides, and sand lance) and invertebrates (crabs, sand shrimp, and sea fleas); however, the amounts eaten varied depending on the month of summer, fish length, and where the striped bass were captured. Large bass (>24 inches) generally ate more invertebrates (mainly lobsters and crabs) than small bass (<24 inches), but small bass ate more fish (mainly menhaden during August-September) than large bass. Striped bass captured from rocky shorelines or offshore waters generally ate more invertebrates than bass captured from estuaries or harbors."

I also saw a chart a few years ago which basically showed that in the areas of massachuetts from boston harbor to cape ann, beginning in late june and untill mid-late august, shellfish like lobsters and crabs can consititute up tp 80% of the diet for most large fish. lobsters as large as 1-2 pounds were found in the stomach of truely large fish.

try vertical jigging a big red bucktail with red lobster imitator like pork rind or plastic over rocks 25-50 feet deep once the "summer doldrums" come this year. and hold on!

as to slow trolling crabs, I would not suggest it, it wouldnot be a very natural presentation. try throwing them at rock piles and slowly working them along to bottom if possible. this will also work on flats.

now if we could ever get out and fish....
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