By Capt. Gus Cane
Long revered as one of the most popular gamefish along the Atlantic Coast, striped bass are found from the coastal rivers and surf to nearshore depths. An anadromous species that reside in saltwater only to return to freshwater estuaries to spawn, stripers can live up to 30 years. Trophy sizes exceed 50 pounds. Declining stocks recently has forced more restrictions on the harvest, but catch and release opportunities still abound using a variety of baits, lures, and techniques.
Striped bass are a migratory species ranging from northern Florida to the Canadian Maritime provinces. Bait movement and water temperatures play a significant role in where they congregate. Most spend winters off Virginia and North Carolina before heading back north into the Mid-Atlantic and New England. The Chesapeake Bay is the top spawning zone, followed by the Hudson and Delaware Rivers, so multi-state management is necessary for healthy stocks. Over-fishing of menhaden, a prime forage for stripers, is contributing to lower biomass numbers.
With thick bodies and powerful tails, stripers are prized for savage strikes and strong initial runs. Tackle is geared accordingly based on the size of targets and style of fishing. Depending on the season and locale, stripers can be caught on light outfits and soft-plastic jigs, especially in the rivers before they return to the sea. Also known as rockfish, jetties, rip-rap, and rocky bottom are prime spots to prospect. Anglers who like to sight-fish their quarry can spot cruising fish on shallow sand and mud bars in places like the Monomoy Flats on Cape Cod. Fly-rodders get in on the action using sink tip or shooting head lines tossing Deceiver or Clouser minnows.
Stripers aren’t too picky when it comes to their menu. Live and dead menhaden (bunker/pogy), eels, spot, mackerel, herring, and sea worms are all enticing. When the bunker schools get thick in the summer months, baits are often snagged and then left to drift. Mackerel can be slow trolled as well.
Trolling lures is another popular method. Lipped plugs such as Rapala Magnum X-Raps or bunker spoons like the Tony Maja variety, on regular or wireline to achieve greater depth, is a very effective tactic.
Diving birds, bait pushed to the surface, and slicks are good indicators of feeding activity. Casting into the frenzy with top-water poppers and stick baits like the Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Yo-Zuri Bull Poppers, or Heddon Super Spooks is usually successful in those circumstances. If fish are marked on the sonar below the surface, heavier swim baits like Storm Swim Shad or Al Gag and Hogy plastic eel lures will trigger strikes.
Striper enthusiasts shopping for a new boat should take a close look at the Tidewater boats all-new 2210 Carolina Bay. With an approximate draft of nine inches, it’s able to transition in close to the beach, yet the 15-degree transom deadrise gives ample comfort for longer runs across open bays and to nearshore spots. SeaStar hydraulic steering is standard, along with built-in LED Nav lights in the bow, 2-rod lockers with room for 8 rods, extremely large bow casting platform, pre-wiring for a trolling motor, laser-cut switch panel, and much more. Outboard choices range from Yamaha F150 to F250 XB four-strokes for reliable and fuel-efficient propulsion. 2210 Carolina Bay also comes standard with three aerated live wells and LED cockpit lighting for night fishing trips. A lengthy list of options, including different seating configurations, tops, electronic packages, and hull colors, are available. The new recessed bow this year has the option for cushions upfront and have allowed this fishing machine also to be turned into a very comfortable family-friendly boat.
South Carolina-based Tidewater Boats offers a wide variety of models ranging from 18 up to 32 feet. Popular lines include center consoles, the Adventure series, Bay Max, Carolina Bay, LXF, and SUV for inshore and nearshore angling pursuits as well as pleasure boating. For more information, please visit tidewaterboats.com