The Migration : Strategies for the Striped Bass
When it comes to surfcasters along the “Striper Coast”, September brings much anticipation. From Maine to Maryland Striped Bass anglers are preparing for the fall run. We are gearing up, organizing our equipment, and adjusting our work schedules to accommodate some prime time surf fishing. This preparation will help make our trips successful during the migratory pattern as stripers move from the cooling waters of the North to the warmer waters of the southern end of their range.
Our hope is that the fish hug the coast on their way south, chasing bait that will also be on
the move. This migration creates the raw excitement of daytime blitzes- large schools of fish on a feeding frenzy. These blitzes give anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to catch a large number of fish, possibly the fish of a lifetime. While the September through December fall run can create epic situations for catching large numbers of fish, it can also present its share of difficulties.
To avoid them, it is imperative that anglers know the various types of bait present in the water, and their migratory pattern in order to have a plan for optimum success.
The most common striper baits that will be on the move during the fall migrtation include: Bay Anchovies, Mullet, Peanut and Adult Bunker (Menhadan), and Sand Eels. Having specific knowledge of what the Striped Bass are feeding on will determine where you fish, when you fish, and what lure you use to best match the profile of the bait being chased.
Let’s start with Bay Anchovies. These are a small profile bait known to take cover during the summer season. They are found in the vegetation that provides them protection in shallow areas such as creek arms and estuaries. However, in September when temperatures begin to drop, Bay Anchovies start school up and begin migrating through the inlets into deeper water. My lure choice here is a small bucktail or similar small profile presentation.
Another bait that starts getting into gear with the seasonal drop in temperature is the Mullet. When Mullet are present in the surf the lure of choice needs to exhibit a larger profile.
I prefer standard surface plugs as well as pencil poppers. In this situation I use plugs that have a blue color scheme. I have found this color to be the key to success when Mullet are the striper meal d’jour. Adult Bunker and Peanut Bunker are also on the move when temperatures steadily decline during the month of October. These baits start their migration through the inlets and are often present along the outer beaches. For Adult Bunker try throwing large profile plugs for consistent action. When fish are on Peanut Bunker, small soft plastics are a great choice in addition to bucktails. If Bluefish are present in the area, stay with bucktails as the soft plastics will get obliterated from their razor sharp teeth.
The Sand Eels become the forage of choice as they become visible during the months of November and well into December. During the summer months the Sand Eels are offshore taking refuge in deeper water. When the temperatures dip they relocate to the shoreline. They basically stay in the same area for long periods of time, meaning the Sand Eel bite can last for several weeks in the same location, which in turn makes finding the fish less of an arduous task. When Sand Eels are present I like to throw diamond jigs or a bucktail that imitates an eel for my most productive “go to” presentation.
In summary, the best advice I can for preparing your productive fall strategy for migrating stripers is to stay informed. 1) Pay attention to the air and water temperature. Slow and steady decline in air temperature will naturally result in decreasing water temperature. 2) Be diligent in learning bait identification. If you are not familiar with the different baits use the internet to obtain pictures of what they look like in and out of the water. This will help you recognize their presence in the water. 3) Utilize online and real time resources. The internet chat is important but sometimes you need to get your head out of the computer and into your local tackle shops to find out what is going on. A well informed angler is one who is ready for the fall run. Feel the migration and Live the Passion!
Bernie Hoyt is from Aquebogue, Long Island. He is a NYS Certified Fishing Guide specializing in surfcasting with over 30 years experience fishing the legendary waters of Long Island. He is well known for his informative seminars at saltwater shows up and down the Atlantic seaboard. He offers trips for all ages and skill levels throughout the outer beaches and inlets of Long Island, as well as the Cape Cod Canal, Cuttyhunk, and other Striper locations in the northeast. He is a team member for S&S Bucktails, ODM RODS, Eposeidon.com and GOIN’ EAST as well as being a long time member of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association and the Montauk Surfcasters Association. We are honored to have Bernie join the blogging Team! You can contact Bernie on Facebook through Bernie Bass Surfcasting Services, on Instagram @Bernie_bass and through his website at www.Berniebass.com