Having pursued this iconic species for over two decades, it never ceases to amaze me just how adaptable and versatile striped bass have become. In their wild natural state, Striped Bass are an anadromous species and spend much of their adult life feeding and migrating with seasonal water condition variance and food source availability. However, each year mature breeding class migrate to brackish and eventually freshwater-dominant rivers in order to spawn. The vast range of these fish and the multitude of environments have consequently become capable of adapting to, has made them a very dynamic species to pursue. Many anglers target striped bass during the migration in large, open water as they feed on schools of baitfish in broad daylight. Other anglers pursue them in the dark of night from shore while casting large baits from eddy to eddy as they dodge waves and heavy surf. Stripers could be holding behind large structure in deeper water that heavy weighted artificials or carefully placed live baits presented from the direction the fish are facing work best.
During many stages of the stripers dynamic migration, I’ve targeted them by each of these means. However, my favorite time to target these fish is post spawn. After the Atlantic bass population spawns, the body of fish pushes northeast into the coastal and brackish backwater of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. During this time, the fish stage periodically from region to region and feed heavily on the North Atlantic’s rich bait sources in order to replenish valuable calories. And as long as the fickle New England weather allows, conditions can remain optimal for these fish to travel via deep water channels. The best part: During specific hours of light and tidal strength, these migrating fish will hunt and feed very aggressively.
As a guide, much of my daily routine consists of covering ground searching the edges of these deep-water channels and looking for points where geographical features will create current breaks or eddies. It’s these locations that vary directionally from tide to tide. When a specific bait source is nearby, the striped bass tend to stage out of the current and maintain a position to ambush. These fish use their large, overdeveloped tail and their pectoral fins to hold in the current and literally wait for a prey source that’s struggling against the tide to come to them. This feeding style is very similar to the tactics employed by large, feeding trout in a heavy current.