How To: Bays, Estuaries and Flats Fishing for Stripers from a Boat
Notes: The First step is in identifying tide direction. You want to fish on the side the tide is moving toward. Although this is a light tackle fishery, don’t be surprised. Big fish get inside, particularly in the spring and fall.
When: As always, moving tide is best. Spring and fall are the top times for estuaries and bays but in areas in northern New England, you can find fish throughout the season but sun rise and sun set are the best times during the heat of the summer.
Go-To Lures: My go-to lures in estuaries and bays tend to be very small and light. If the depth is less than 10’, I’ll almost always default to a seven-inch Hogy “Original” rigged on an unweighted swimbait hook. I’ll fish those with an erratic motion, periodically letting the bait fall and “settle” before moving it again. This is a great technique for fishing worm hatches, which typically happen in estuary, salt ponds and small bays.
If the water is a little deeper inside, say over 10’ in depth, I’ll look at using a small popper such as Hogy’s 4.25” Charter Grade Popper. A popper is great on an outgoing tide in an entrance channel leading into a protected body of water, as well as along the beach out front in the direction that the current is flowing.
Epoxy jigs are great for covering distance, particularly in heavy winds that are common in the earliest and latest portions of the season. The Hogy Epoxy Jig® Lures cover a wide range of weights and I’ll carry an assortment of the lightest models (3/8 and 5/8-ounce) for inside the bay and heavier ones (7/8 and 1.25-ounce) for channels and along the beaches.
The last lure worth mentioning is the smaller Hogy Pro Tail Paddle; these small (3.25-inch/one-ounce and 4.25-inch/1.25-ounce) paddle tails can be fished closer to the surface in a rod tip up position and closer to the bottom with a tip down, slower retrieve. I like at least 10-feet of depth to fish with the Pro Tail Paddles.
Method and Approach: You want to be on the open water side when the tide is flushing out the baitfish that were up and inside during high tide, serving as a buffet for bass outside waiting in ambush. Fan casting either side of the opening will do the trick. If the current swings to one side over the other, you want to be on that side. Moving water is essential when fishing an outgoing water scenario to set up the “buffet.”
When fishing the incoming tide, typically one side will fish better than the other, especially if there is a turn or bend in the channel. Obviously, accessing that side is your best option. Learning to jig or bounce a lure at or near the bottom as the tide rises will help increase your catch rate as the tide rises since fish will often drop deeper in the water column as the tide rises.
Any tributaries feeding into the bay will fish well at the early stages of the outgoing tide. Move to the larger opening once the tide drops . By the time the outgoing tide reaches its peak, you’ll want to slip out of the bay and into open water and cast across the current. The inverse is true on the incoming tide.