Striped bass are resilient creatures which can inhabit waters as deep as 500-feet, or as shallow as 1-foot. Where I fish in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, it is not unusual to find schools of stripers miles offshore one day, and then the next day find them feeding well within casting range of the beach.This makes figuring out how to catch striped bass a challenge for many anglers.
Striped bass can be caught from shore using a wide array of different fishing equipment, tackle, lures, and bait. Stripers can be caught using topwater poppers, swimbaits, jigs, metal spoons, live and dead bait, plus an assortment of different flies.
Yet for me, and a multitude of other striped bass obsessed anglers, the apex of striper fishing is targeting striped bass at night from shore.
The odds of encountering stripers in shallow water increase dramatically during hours of darkness,. The chance for good fishing, plus the solitude of fishing the beach at night, can be peaceful, challenging, fun and very addictive.
How to Catch Striped Bass: Where To Fish At Night
Where I fish for stripers on Cape Cod, there is more than 200-miles of coastline to choose from. It is very important to narrow down the search based on where stripers gather at particular times of the year and under certain conditions. It is also very helpful to have a network of anglers to share information with, or a logbook like ANGLR to allow you to pick apart patterns which striped bass definitely fall into.
In general, the best places to find striped bass usually contain a reliable source of food. Areas with structure such as weed beds, troughs, boulder fields and places with a swift current are good locations to target.
The best spots have a combination of two or more of those items.
For example, if you locate a boulder field with a swift current and a reliable food source, then you have hit a striper hot spot home run.
I split my surfcasting time 80/20 with eighty percent of my efforts based off of my historical knowledge of where I know striped bass will be, and the other twenty percent invested into locating new hot spots and exploring new areas I have never fished before or only fished lightly. Talking with experienced anglers who are willing to share information has also been incredibly helpful.
How to Catch Striped Bass: The Best Lures for Shore Fishing at Night
I rarely use topwater poppers when fishing from shore at night. If I want to focus on the upper part of the water column, then I will usually opt for a Danny Plug, as long as the current is not too swift since Danny Plugs are primarily a calm water lure. Other productive night time topwater lures include soft plastics such as a 9-inch white Fish-Snax retrieved slowly with some twitches across or just beneath the surface.
Over the past couple of years I have caught the majority of my striped bass at night from shore by casting and slowly retrieve swimming lures such as the black purple colored Daiwa SP Minnow or yellow and black Bombers. I prefer slow sinking or floating swimming plugs and very rarely use fast sinking swimming plugs.
The only time I personally fish at night with jigs is when fishing an inlet with a swift current.
Unless I am fishing a spot like the Cape Cod Canal, my jigs will be in the 1-ounce or 2-ounce range and will be all white or all black. I like to add a red pork rind to the jig to add a little bit more flutter and action.
Live eels also work exceptionally well at inlets, but they can also be cast from the beach with great success.
How to Catch Striped Bass: How Tides can Affect Stripers at Night
Eighty percent of the beaches I fish in Cape Cod are at their best from 3 hours before until 3 hours after high tide. The other twenty percent of places I fish from shore fish better 3 hours before low tide until 3 hours after low tide.
Eighty percent of the time when fishing from shore, I am looking for opportunities where deep water is located next to the shoreline. This is why I prefer the higher stage of the tide, because it brings deep water in close to the beach.
Oftentimes, especially at night, stripers will swim just a few yards off the beach in the deep water which the higher stages of the tide provide.
The spots that fish better during the lower stages of the tide are often inlets, large expansive sand flats, or select spots amongst boulder fields. I really like the last part of the outgoing and the first part of the incoming tide at nearly every inlet on Cape Cod. The expansive shallow water sand flats of Cape Cod Bay are also often at their best during the lower stages of the tide. Most boulder fields fish better during the higher stage of the tide, but there are select spots where I find fish during low water.
How to Catch Striped Bass: How Weather can Affect Striper Fishing from Shore at Night
Inclement weather will often help increase your odds of catching stripers from the beach during the day. However when fishing at night, I find that inclement weather will often make fishing more difficult for me. This is especially true either early or late in the season when the weather is cold and the nights are long.
When fishing at night, I would ideally choose to have a brisk, but not overpowering onshore breeze. I believe striped bass bite better and are easier to fool when there is some wave action. The only drawback is that in many areas, an onshore wind can also blow seaweed up against the shoreline, which is a nuisance for fishing.
How to Catch Striped Bass at Night: Takeaways
If you are serious about targeting striped bass from shore, then nighttime is most definitely the right time. Stripers often feed harder after sunset, and are more inclined to venture into shallow water under the cover of darkness.
If you are already having success with small striped bass during the day, then try returning to those same spots during the same tides, but at nighttime. You may be surprised to find that the quantity and quality of the fish increases after dark.
Fishing the beach at night can also be a tranquil and very enjoyable experience, even if you don’t catch a single fish! Just being out there all alone on a quiet, deserted stretch of shoreline, under the light of the stars and the moon, will make it a night to remember.