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Striper Fishing In the Spring

Striper fishing in the Spring

It’s funny how many phone calls I get in the spring from anglers trying
to plan their vacation around the fish running. “What two weeks can I
book to catch the striper run? What’s the best week to catch tautog in
the spring? Will flounder be running the second week of May?”
I’ve found over the years that every year is different and trying to
coordinate a vacation with a fish bite can be a guessing game. One thing
is for sure, you need decent weather and water temperatures for fish to
bite in earnest.

Easter was early this year, the last weekend in March. Vacationers came
down expecting to catch fish, but the water temperatures were only in
the low 40’s and the fish just were not biting. When water temperatures
climb to 50 degrees, almost every fish in saltwater comes somewhat
alive. When the sun comes out to warm the water, a 46 degree bay
temperature can soar to 56 degrees on an outgoing tide! But if it’s
cloudy and overcast, this won’t happen and that’s what happened over

“When do the stripers bite the best in the surf?”

Stripers will start biting when water temperatures reach around 45
degrees but that can be a real “hit or miss.” I saw this “post” on a
forum by “SurfWalker” and I would say it’s right on!
“Two of my best months have always been May (50°-56°) and November (56°-
50°). This also coincides with the bait movement.”
The last three years has seen a good run of stripers in May so lets hope
it’s the same this year! The prospects are looking good!
“How come we get big stripers in the spring and fall, and smaller
schoolie stripers during the summer months?”
Apparently there are two big striper migrations every year, one in the
spring and one in the fall. In the spring, stripers that winter in the
deep waters off VA and NC head north and go up into the rivers to spawn.
They feed on herring and shad in these rivers. After they spawn, they
leave the rivers and hang out in our bays and surf until the water
temperatures get too warm. Then they head north, into New England and
even Maine. Schoolie stripers hang close to where they were born for a
couple years, while the larger spawning stripers move on. The schoolie
stripers start biting at 45 degrees, but bite best when the water
temperature reaches 50 degrees. When the water gets too warm, they look
for deep holes and are primarily caught at night, at first light or
dusk. That’s why anglers do well at the end of jetties or from the deep
channels close to the Bridge pilings.

Seventy percent of the migrating stripers are from the Chesapeake Bay
and the rivers flowing into it. But a lot of stripers also come from the
Delaware Bay and the rivers that flow into it. So along the Delmarva
coast we have stripers from both areas.

In the fall, when the waters start to cool down, the stripers move back
towards theirs wintering grounds offshore of VA and NC. They travel down
the coast feeding on silver sides, bunker and finger mullet.
That’s when we see birds diving on bait and stripers in feeding
frenzies. The fish can be very aggressive. Typically, we see the
migrating spring stripers towards the mid-to-later part of April and
have a really good run in May.

Early season stripers can be slightly sluggish at first. Lures should be
worked slowly. Bait such as a good-sized chunk of bunker is thrown into
the surf and then “we wait” for the striper to pick up the bait. A lot
of surfcasters prefer a “fish finder” rig so the striper can pick up the
bait and not feel the weight of the sinker at first. A fish finder rig
is just a simple little gizmo made out of a plastic sleeve and a sinker
snap. Slide the hard plastic sleeve onto your line, attach a good
quality barrel swivel or snap swivel to the end of your line and attach
a single leadered hook. Many of the manufactured striper rigs come with
a leadered hook with a barrel swivel attached to the leader and a loose
fish finder rig just thrown in the package.

If you use bunker for bait, cut it up into big chunks. You can use the
head for a big striper, but don’t use the tail. It’s too boney and
doesn’t cast good to boot. When you cut off the tail, you can hook that
piece of bait right through that boney piece of meat at the base of the
tail section and it stays on the hook really well. Some of these
migrating stripers in the spring are really big, so don’t be afraid to
use a good size chunk of bunker.

If fresh bunker isn’t available there’s good quality vacuum-sealed
bunker packed especially for fishing bait. It is blast frozen while it
is very fresh. Fresh frozen bunker can be better than 3-day-old bunker
sitting in a cooler! There is also vacuumed sealed and salted bunker
fillets that work nicely. Just slice them up into good-sized chunks.

They are good and really easy for the novice to use.
Some anglers like to use clam for bait. If you use clam, buy one of
those high/low striper rigs made especially for clam. They have short
leaders so they cast easily. Stripers tend to go for clam when the surf
is turbulent. Stripers come in close looking for churned up clams, worms
and crabs.

Though a little pricey, stripers will gladly grab a whole bloodworm
threaded on a hook in the spring as well!

Once the water in the surf gets too warm, usually by mid-June, you don’t
see as many stripers but locals tell me that during the summer there’s
quite a bit of action at night from the Route 50 Bridge and also in the
Indian River Inlet. They may not be those big migrating stripers that
anglers catch in the spring and fall, but they are there. Just keep in
mind that you may not find them during the middle of the day. Anglers
that do want to try to catch stripers from the surf, inlets and around
the bridges during the summer need to fish at dusk, at night or right
before first light.

Good fishing…

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 18:29