So…If you don’t know about the massive migration this time of year, it’s ok. Wake up though, because it is absolutely amazing. I have do extensive striper fishing, both fresh & salt water. Primarily, this article is focused on the migration in the North East states.
It all starts in April when stripers start making there way into rivers in NC & VA. Fishing these rivers are much different, but eerily similar to fishing in the ocean. Stripers in the rivers stack up behind rocks, current breaks, logs, etc. Pretty much anything that has still water next to moving water. As a fly angler, we have to pick a spot and hit is hard to get the fly down to their level…or wait for a top water bite early or late in the day.
Fishing in the ocean is much easier, in my opinion of course. If you have access to a boat, you main target is finding bait fish and stripers nearby. The largest striper of my life was caught drifting a shallow reef <4′ of water, but there was a lot of bait around: mackerel, crabs, lobsters, etc.
Fishing from shore is slightly different, but again similar. The main difference is you can’t move spots to find bait. Primarily, I focus on rocks piles, current breaks on moving tided from estuaries, and surf casting during a tide swing. All of these areas concentrate bait and make it move. This to me is the key to striper fishing. Still water allows the bait to relax, but a bunker, silver side, etc. does not like being swept out by a tide swing.
So, find a nice jetty that is an outflow from an inshore pond. Then fish the current break or fish near structure under the water: bridge, rocks, sand bar, etc.
Surf casting…wait for a wave to break and cast into the wash. Bait fish are disrupted during the wave break and striper eat them up. I have found early morning and evening to be the best, but don’t shy away from fishing during high sun. I tend to focus on surf casting with high sun.
Night time = large fish. Any hardcore striper fisherman will tell you large fish are caught at nighttime. This is a fact. If you caught smaller fish around structure earlier in the day, head back at nighttime. That means it is a hot spot for bait and a good place to stage up. Full moon equals more light at nighttime for the fish to see. Typically, stripers feed at night more during full moon periods and the daytime bite slows down.
Lastly, don’t try to time tides, weather, etc. Just go fishing when you call. You’ll be surprised that striper will continue to eat, especially the schoolies.
Flies: Clouser minnows (char/white, olive/white, black), Bunker flies for nighttime, surf candy, really any bait fish (size is most important!!!), crab fly for reefs if keyed in on crabs (again size is important), poppers early morning 2hrs before sun up
Line: I like intermediate line. Carry a few different ones as stripers feed throughout the water column. If they are deep, I like to add a Scientific Angler sonar leader to get down quick.