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How to Catch Striped Bass From Shore at Night With Ryan Collins

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Winter Surf Fishing – Tips From The Shore

If you live within easy distance of the ocean, chances are, you already enjoy the exhilarating fun of surf fishing through the warm seasons. But winter can be one of the best times to fish the surf.

Less people jamming the beaches means more elbow room for you to stretch out and lay out your cast. Fewer crowds and a lack of recreational boaters… can it get any better than that? You’ll find little to no competition during the crisp winter months, so it’s the ideal time for winter surf fishing.

Winter Surf Fishing: A Whole New World

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The topography of a beach will completely change in the winter, jettisoned by big surf and high winds. Your usual holes and troughs you frequented over the summer will be completely gone.

You’ll want to pre-scout the area to find new spots to try out. Walk the beach at low tide and make note of the new holes, and troughs. Look for the sloughs, they’ll appear as an area of dark water at low tide, and on high tide, it’s the spot where the waves don’t break over. Find where the structures will be that are covered at high tide, too. Pockets of fish may be found on the open beach, but the rocks will have higher concentrations. This time of year, fish like to find a safe haven near rocks (and so does their food), so you should have good luck fishing up against jetties, harbor entrances, and anywhere else you find piles of rocks.

While some of your old fish friends may have migrated further out to sea or south, following the warmer waters, others continue to remain. If you live in areas further south, you’ll find some seasonal visitors that are just passing through.

Weather is Important When Winter Surf Fishing

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While you can’t hit the beach when the surf is big or it’s really windy and rainy, you should pay attention to the weather for more reasons than just that. Right before a storm, low pressure compresses the atmosphere and creates calm conditions that get the fish foraging before the storm rolls in. That’s a great time to fish the beach.

When storms are brewing and the waves get really big, winter surf fish like to head inside the bays and harbors to hide.

Winter Surf Fishing: Hit-&-Run

Even on the Jersey shore, you can have plenty of luck reeling in Striped Bass. You just have to be willing to bundle up against the cold and change your approach. You’ve got to be flexible with your spot and be prepared to not dig your heels in for too long in any one place if you’re not bringing anything in. There are going to be fewer Stripers, Spanish mackerel, Speckled Trout or whatever surf species you’re chasing in your area this time of year.

Most of them have moved south with the warmer water. For the ones that remain, they’re not traveling far or quickly, so there will be lots of dead water between schools. Throw a couple of casts, and then move on a little ways if you don’t get any bites.

Slow Down Your Retrieval Speed

With the colder water temperature, the fish’s metabolism and energy level slows way down, and they can become a bit sluggish. Depending on what fish you’re after, you’ll want to retrieve your lures very slowly, moving them just enough to keep them off the bottom, barely making a minnow plug swim. Fish a teaser just in front of the plug. For stripers, salted clams and bloodworms can bring them in.

Surf fish feed along the bottom for the most part. If you’ve been at it for a while and aren’t getting any bites, try a heavier egg sinker. In bigger surf, you’ll want to use up to an ounce of weight, for smaller surf you may use as little as a quarter ounce.

Heat Things Up A Bit

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When you’re fishing with grubs, a little trick of the trade is to use hot sauce. It doesn’t matter what kind. Since the fish aren’t as aggressive in the colder waters, hot sauce tends to help them hold on long enough for you to set your hook. Dip your grub in about every 5 casts or so. Just remember to not rub your eyes!

Do Your Research Before Winter Surf Fishing

The surf can vary greatly during the winter months. Tides, water temperatures, and sea conditions can vary greatly from day-to-day, depending on the moon phase, weather, and swell direction. Collect as much information as possible before you head out. Local bait and tackle shops that provide surf and fishing conditions can go a long way towards helping to steer you towards local secrets. Winter fish varies greatly from location to location at this time of year, so get some accurate predictions from the locals before heading out.

Online resources can prove invaluable for helping you figure out geography and topography. Pull up your ANGLR app and study it before you go for your low-tide scouting walk. Websites exist that can link you to other anglers to find out what they’re having luck with at the beach. Pierandsurf.com is one such. Find one unique for your area and check them out.

 

Braving A Small Craft Advisory In Hopes Of A World Record Striped Bass

A Fisherman’s Tale Of Enduring The Elements – 18 Hours On The Water

Some who call themselves fishermen, in reality, spend in short, a handful of sunny warm weather days on the water. For others, the pursuit of large fish often puts them in life-threatening situations. While the average fisherman recognizes a bad idea right away; there are those who struggle with fishing addiction, who will say there is never a bad time to fish.

In fact, my mother always told me “there is no bad weather – just dressing badly for the weather”. I would attest to my mother’s’ words of wisdom, and pride myself in fishing the harshest conditions possible. Why? This isn’t an easy answer, but in short, because this is how I am able to measure my own character as a fisherman.

Biting Off More Than We Could Chew

My boat, the “Scurvy Sea Slug”, was named in remembrance of my deceased fishing mentor, who used these words to describe toughened fishermen. Having run the boat numerous times in severe weather, I can honestly say that my little bass boat holds up to the name. In September of 2017, two friends and I launched my 14-foot bass boat on the Atlantic Ocean, from one of the estuaries on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, in the wake of tropical storm Jose.

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“My boat, the “Scurvy Sea Slug”, was named in remembrance of my deceased fishing mentor, who used these words to describe toughened fishermen.”

We were perfectly fine until the winds abruptly changed and became directly exposed to winds from the west. By this time, it was about 1:30 am. My boat took two good sized waves to the stern, and before I knew it, I was swimming into shore with a bowline. My friends and I managed to strip the boat, carry the hull down a narrow path, and get it back on the trailer. With the boat and equipment loaded, we parted ways with a final note from my friend and his words of wisdom, “We better not tell the girls about this”.

As a side note, my wife quickly developed the skill of tuning out most fishing related dialog.

By 4:30 am, I found myself at the town wharf, using fresh water on my Mercury engine to remove the salt. Coincidentally, I ran into another friend, who happens to be a great mechanic, working the night shift at the yacht club. He was able to empty the saltwater from the cylinders, and re-prime the engine.  Not only does it run, but the chug which I had grown accustomed to, was gone! I will forever be a faithful customer of Mercury.

Foul Weather Doesn’t Determine My Fishing Schedule…

My lesson learned was not to avoid foul weather. The writer, Hunter S. Thompson, once wrote, “When you enter the ocean, you enter the food chain, and not always at the top”. In reflection, I learned that fishing is who I am, I’m not going stop, and I would die a happy man; should my fate occur in pursuit of fish… though I hope to have many years left topside! The weather seemed to have won this battle, but the war wasn’t over.

About three weeks later, my friend Corrigan, a seasoned boat captain, and I were in pursuit of a hefty Striped Bass for the 2017 Martha’s Vineyard Bass and Bluefish Derby. We had been chasing that one elusive fish – the kind that comes with a breathtaking life experience to always be remembered. The memorable fish aren’t always the biggest. Sometimes they can even be the smallest.

Memorable fish, by my standards, are often proportionate to how hard you are willing to work for them.

I can honestly say that my fishing friends have incredibly fine-tuned skills and tend to share the “cast or die trying” mindset. More so than not, we find ourselves fishing in the surf, rather than from the boat. Striped Bass are a night time hunt, and often the odds are better casting from the boulders.

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Setting Sail For The Elizabeth Islands In Pursuit Of Striped Bass

However, on this occasion, Corrigan and I agreed that the boat would be most suitable to reach the Elizabeth Island Chain (our neighboring islands) a few miles to the west. With about a dozen islands totaling 34 square miles, each island is quite small, and hosts shorelines of unforgiving boulders. The Elizabeth Islands are owned by the Forbes family (widely known for their wealth).

While making landfall is forbidden, the surrounding waters have produced several fishing world records, and the majority of state records as well. Each island is separated by navigable channels that can flow at speeds upward of twelve miles an hour. Historically, this area of the Atlantic Ocean is also a watery grave to many of the most significant shipwrecks in New England. On the bright side, these waters are also within derby limits; and that was the plan.

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As you can see, our trip across the Vineyard Sound left us out in the open for a while with the nasty weather!

As it was, Hurricane Maria had just been reduced to a tropical storm, creating a small-craft advisory – we didn’t mind. Storms tend to drive Striped Bass into a feeding frenzy. Disoriented bait fish, high oxygenation, low visibility, and thermal breaks often make fish hyperactive, hungry, and if you’re lucky, they’ll even attack topwater lures.

The Fishing Begins… The Harsh Weather Is Nowhere To Be Seen

Corrigan and I picked up our friend Peter, and the three of us departed the harbor toward the Elizabeth Islands in a twenty-foot center console. The weather was overcast, humid, but the water didn’t seem abnormally rough. By the time we reached the Elizabeth Islands, nothing seemed out of the ordinary other than the lack of other boats. Unfortunately, we had made the mistake of listening to the radio, and Billy Joel, who we considered to be bad luck to listen to (on fishing days) came on; this wasn’t good.

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As Corrigan and I pulled up to the islands, we began fishing at an area called Tarpaulin Cove.

I rigged a live eel (commonly used for striped bass fishing), which was unusually large; stating, “big bait, big fish”. I casted toward a rock pile not far from the shoreline. As soon as it hit the water, it felt as if several fish were fighting over it. I reeled up to find it had been eaten down to only two or three inches in length. This is always a definitive sign of bluefish. We continued to cast with no other signs of life, until the sun had fallen below the horizon.

Darker Weather Leads To Darker Waters

With darkness surrounding the boat, the weather became more turbulent. We decided to troll south, within 150 yards of the eastern shoreline. The three of us huddled behind the center console to form a strategy sure to gain us just one good fish. The area had yielded many world record fish, and we reminded each other of this – convinced that we too could catch an elusive giant. This type of determination is a trait shared amongst New England Fishermen.

Hold strong, keep casting, and put in the hours.

Regionally we have all convinced ourselves that long hours and salty tears guarantee an unprecedented fish. You almost have to convince yourself of this; otherwise you’d be a fool to spend so much time in unforgiving seas, amongst larger predators than yourself, in weather that often seems apocalyptic. This occasion was no different, and just warming up.

A thick fog had moved in, making visibility less than fifteen or twenty feet. Combined with the chop and howling wind, it was a little disorienting. Corrigan said, “Guys, I’m going to bring us through Robinson’s Hole. The weather is going to make it a little sketchy, so I’m going to need you guys on the bow to spot boulders.” This statement from Corrigan, a captain capable of transoceanic voyage, made me a little alarmed. I took position on the bow, which (as many of you may know) is the roughest place to ride. My headlamp only provided a few feet of visibility past the bow as we turned starboard into the channel separating the islands of Naushon and Pasque.

Corrigan steadily raised the throttle until the boat was running hard against the current, using instrumentation rather than eyes for navigation. Looking down, the waters were racing beneath the boat as if we had achieved full plane. We managed to navigate the channel.

As the boat slowed into calmer waters, Corrigan said, “I’m going to drop anchor to get the blood back in my hands”. His calm demeanor and a thick layer of fog hid the beads of sweat running down his face.

Now on the western side of the Elizabeth Islands, the Buzzard’s Bay side, we ran the boat north; periodically casting into the fog toward the island. We continued fishing the Elizabeth Islands for several hours without a sign of life. By early morning, we were ready to accept defeat, and returned to the harbor. Peter was falling asleep, and we dropped him off at the dock behind his house.

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Daylight Breaks and The Striped Bass Fishing Rages On

Daylight was upon us, and the thick fog now looked like clouds floating on the water. At eye level and above, the clouds were bright white as the sun came up. The water looked like glass. Some of my favorite days on the water start this way. About that time, the radio began to play the song, Baby I Was Born To Run, by Bruce Springsteen. While I wouldn’t call myself a fan, it seemed like a suitable song, as I’d like to think that fish are also born to run.

As we made our way back to call it quits, we spotted a disturbance on the water’s surface. We quickly cut the boat into idle and took simultaneous casts, both pulling up smaller striped bass. This was a significant moment for us, if for no other reason, because we made the association that listening to Bruce Springsteen, reversed the Billy Joel curse. After learning this, the word disseminated amongst our fishing circle and is now a ridiculous superstitious practice, which we consider absolutely necessary.

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After catching a handful of smaller sized stripers, I was content to go back empty handed.

Corrigan on the other hand, insisted that there were bigger fish feeding below the smaller ones. I put my feet up, and controlled the drift of the boat while Corrigan continued casting away. The fog began to lift, and the day was shaping up nicely, but still deemed unsuccessful. We had almost reached the channel markers to return to the docks when Corrigan sent out the infamous “one last cast”. Zing!

The Infamous Last Cast

A few seconds into the cast, his line began ripping, and he insisted the fish felt big. While it may seem frustrating to the fisherman working the line, I always find it important to talk your fishing buddies through landing a good fish. Reminders like “take your time”, “let it run”, and “don’t change the drag” are important. When total silence suddenly turns into an adrenaline filled fight, it is easy to over work your tackle. This is usually how fishermen lose the biggest fish they’ve ever hooked into. Corrigan was receptive to my coaching, and I was eagerly awaiting his approval to assist with the net.

The “net man” may seem pretty insignificant, but get in the way sometime, lose a friend’s fish, and see how long that story lasts. I digress.

Corrigan cautiously reeled, allowing the fish to run periodically. As the fish neared the boat, the line came dangerously close to the prop a few times. At the risk of having the line break on the prop, I wasn’t about to assist until I got the nod. I have heard stories of friend’s getting in the way while landing good fish. Usually the intention is good, but a bad outcome has been known to end friendships. This may seem ridiculous, but imagine watching a potential record lost!

At Corrigan’s ready, I was able to net the fish with one clean swoop. Lifting the net over the outboard engine, we could both see that this was the fish we had been looking for. Eighteen hours in the boat, enduring a small craft advisory. A night spent cold, hungry, wet, and tired, all made worthwhile in a few short minutes. While this particular fish wasn’t by any means a world record, we knew that it was worth weighing in.

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It was the only boat fish weighed in, because we had been the only boat enduring the advisory, until it cleared that morning.

I want to disclaim that this wasn’t my fish. I hadn’t done anything to catch it. None the less, it didn’t matter which one of us caught it, and Corrigan would agree. Fishing buddies keep each other on the water, endure some nasty elements, and occasionally even life or death situations. It’s fishing; you never know what is going to happen. It’s the gambling element that keeps us coming back, and on this occasion, we defied the odds, leaving the water feeling like winners.

Here’s the clip of Corrigan and I landing that fish as a team. WARNING: Graphic Language

Fishing Intelligence Podcast Ep. 6 | Fishing Martha’s Vineyard With Brian McCarty

On this episode of Fishing Intelligence, I am talking with Brian McCarty of Martha’s Vineyard about the epic Striper and False Albacore fishing in his area. Martha’s Vineyard was one of my absolute favorite stops on the ANGLR Tour. The fishing there is non-stop and these guys fish harder than anyone in the country.

We started off by talking about the Martha’s Vineyard Fishing Derby. This is a 5-week fishing event that lets the whole island fish against each other in a variety of categories such as surf, fly, and boat for a variety of species. This is an old tradition on the island and something that is taken very seriously with huge prizes for winning (boats and cars!!). Brian actually won the category on the fly from the surf for Striped Bass which is the best he has personally done in the tournament.

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After talking about the MV Derby, we moved into talking about the migration of fish in the Martha’s Vineyard area. The stripers have a predictable movement year in and year out so once you learn their patterns you can find them at any time of the year. When they migrate out of the island area, you can still find them in various hold over habitat and catch them there. Brian prefers to fish spooks, Sebile lures, and live eels for his best results with Striper fishing.

When I was there on the boat with him fishing, I learned that spooks have a lot of hooks on them when I took a hook through the thick part of my thumb as a Striper flailed aroud. Of course, this was right after Brian told me to use fish grips to unhook them, I should have listened. Brian also talked about his guide service on the island where he takes people surf fishing for these amazing fish. Make sure to check out his instagram for his guide service Major League Surfcasting and tell him the podcast sent you!

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