I love striper fishing for a lot of reasons.
- Anticipation: There is a limited winter season in the North East and none for many anglers. Between hitting shows, selecting new rods and spooling reels and organizing gear that was fished hard and put away wet, getting ready for the sport of striper fishing is a sport in itself.
- The Fish of 5 Firsts: There is a clear start – the date of “show up,” which holds great anticipation. “When they show up” is the subject of many conversations over beers or coffee. When the weather finally warms up (on land that is!!) THE FIRST “first” happens when you brave the early spring weather and frozen fingertips, knowing you probably won’t catch anything. And you freeze your ass off. Then, there is joy with THE SECOND FIRST when you catch you first schoolie – which is likely a hold over. The THIRD FIRST is when you catch your first fish with fresh sea lice, confirming the new arrival of fresh fish. Getting better! The FOURTH FIRST is your first legal fish of the season – your first keeper. Finally, THE FIFTH AND FINAL FIRST is your first real game fish, reaching double-digits in poundage.
- Tradition: Here on Cape Cod, we associate keepers with the first lilacs, or Mother’s Day. Many brave husbands get their first “real” fish on Mother’s Day. Hat’s off to them. Hat’s further off to the moms who catch the first keeper on Mother’s Day.
- Many seasons within the season: Stripers are never boring. Like any migratory fish, just when you get the program dialed in, they change their pattern and you need to adapt.
- Predictable, and not: Like an interesting friend, you can count on stripers to follow certain patterns. At some point, you’ll know where they will be and how they behave based on years of experience. To me, there is great comfort in that. Each year, I look forward to a session in certain spots that follow the same playbook. Then, every so often, they do something you have never seen before and it’s cool because you need to start again and crack the code like you did at the start of the season. To me, it’s a wonderful chance to relive why I got hooked on fishing – there’s an excitement in trying to figure it all out.
In the spirit of anticipation and getting ready for all of this year’s “firsts,” here’s my shopping list for my personal take on striper fishing here at Hogy HQ.
Basis for Shopping: Each lure on the shopping list – with the exception of Dog Days of Summer trolling items – can be used interchangeably from boat to shore. The lures on this list are filtered by the most ideal size, color and profile based on common weather conditions and are the easiest to us, making them the most durable for those reasons. They are among our best sellers.
What’s on your list?
Early Spring (April):
Early Spring Notes: I start thinking about my first “first” around this time. I happen to be typing this on April 8. Regardless of whether you had a mild or cold winter, the water is still frigid. You’re only play is in shallow water estuaries and back bays where there an abundance of baitfish all winter long. If the area has a herring run, even better! The water is also shallow in these areas and the first sunny days will spike the water temperature and activate any hold over stripers that have survived the winter. If there are fresh fish in the area, new arrivals find their way to the shallow bays where they have more comfortable water conditions and easier bait resources. Back bays hold a variety of bait. Your best bet are small, easy to cast baits in natural colors. You’ll want to cover all levels of the water column and fish slow. When the water is cold, the fish are sluggish. Fish these lures on 12lb test Flouro leader.
- Shore: This is a time of year where you’ll see many “boat fishermen” fishing from shore as it is easier. All you need is a light 7’ inshore spinning outfit. Your best bet is to find ambush points in the backwater you have selected. It’s hard to say which tide is better (dropping or rising) without knowing the specific spot, but you’ll want moving water and you’ll also want to locate deeper channels where the water is funneled, making it easy for stripers to ambush bait. Stripers will also leave the bay on an outgoing tide. You’ll want to fish just outside of the bay at this tide stage. The same lures can be used inside and out. The mix of baitfish this time of year is varied, so small, natural lures like our Hogy Epoxy® Jig Lure and our smaller Pro Tail Paddles in natural colors, will be your best bet.
Boat: Early spring is the small boat enthusiasts dream time. Often, you are only a few feet from shore and likely fishing in the same areas where you would if you were fishing from shore. Personally speaking, I use boats this time of year to get access to the spots I couldn’t get to by land. One advantage to boating this time of year is that you can troll small baits, like our small Hogy Pro Tail Paddles in this video, in open water to cover ground and locate fish.
- Estuaries: A mix of a 3/8oz Epoxy® Jig Lure and a 5/8oz Epoxy® Jig Lure will give you a lot of options. You’ll get great casting distance. The lightness of the lures will allow you to fish the lures slowly but also give you the ability to let them flutter in a little deeper water. The 3.5″ Pro Tail Paddle and the 4.25” Hogy Pro Tail Paddle will give you a little extra casting distance over the epoxy jigs and the vibrating paddle will create more commotion. You’ll want a medium speed retrieve with these, allowing you to cover more ground.