It’s April and anglers are catching school striped bass in our rivers, bays and coves. The typical spring pattern is that resident striped bass are the first to get active and then migrating fish kick in shortly after.
Manny believe the fish we have caught up to this point are hold-over stripers, meaning resident fish that did not migrate south for the winter.
“We have striped bass to 27 inches in the Barrington, Seekonk and Providence Rivers,” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle in Providence. "And we have received reports of school bass being caught in East Greenwich Cove and Bay."
So how do you catch spring striped bass? In a week or two when migrating fish arrive, there’ll be an occasion keeper (28 inches or larger) mixed in. Fishing for school bass can be lots of fun using light tackle or on a fly rod.
My personal favorite in the early spring is to use lightweight rods and reels as they provide anglers with the most challenging fight. I have a couple of light Penn rods and reels ready to go along with a couple of St. Croix Mojo light and medium inshore spinning rods paired with Shimano Stella 4000 reels. The Shimano Stella reels are spooled with 20 pound braid and 20 pound fluorocarbon leaders just like the Penn rigs.
When a bass smacks your lure and runs with it there’s nothing more exciting. With an abundance of small fish around the past couple of years most experts expect that fishing for school bass up to just keeper size (28 inches) will be hot once again this year.
“I like to use a light action rod seven to eight feet with 20-pound brand, 30- tops.” said Neil Hayes, manager of Quaker Lane Bait & Tackle n North Kingstown, R.I.
Capt. BJ Silvia of Flippin Out Charters added, “I actually have a couple of freshwater rigs on board to target spring bass.”
Where to find the fish
Like most fish, finding spring striped bass is all about the bait. Much of the bait in the spring is herring, or Atlantic menhaden. So if you find the bait, the odds of finding the fish are dramatically improved.
An incoming tide is my preference. Casting around jetties, sandbars, holes, ledges or small pieces of structure has been successful. The idea is to cast into eddies, and just beyond them, that have been created by the incoming tide whirling around the structure. Often times we cast in front of the structure, or if a sandbar in the low water on top of it, and then pull the lure away from the structure. In this way your lure is acting much the same way a bait fish acts when it gets pushed up on the structure.
Bait fish often get whipped around these areas and the bass are there to feed.
“One of my favorite spots is around Ohio Ledge in the East Passage," Capt. BJ Silvia said, "but to be honest, I look for the birds through my binoculars”
Neil Hayes of Quaker Lane said, “Early in the season, the west wall of the Harbor of Refuge in South Kingstown is king. Matunuck Beach is great too as well as the jetties along our South County breachways.
Enhance your catch and release skills
Striped bass are in trouble. The last stock assessment shows that they are being overfished and overfishing is occurring so the last thing conservation minded anglers want to do is to kill a lot of school bass before they get to spawn.
To decrease the mortality rate of striped bass after you release them, use inline hooks on lures. If your lure has treble hooks, consider change them or snapping down (and off) the barbs on each of the hooks. In this was you will do minimum damage to a feisty fish. I also try not to muscle in these fish as their lips and mouths are small and weak. Just take it easy on them.
Other catch and release tactics include landing the fish quickly to minimize stress; keep fish in the water as much as possible when removing the hook; use gloves and wet your hand before handling the fish as dry hands remove the fish’s protective slime layer and leave it open to infection; gently remove the hook to minimize damage; return fish to water quickly and place them gently in the water in upright horizontal position. Move it back and forth in the water holding its tail to force water across its gills. Once the fish revives, allow it to swim away.
“I like to use Shimano Coltsniper lures as well as soft plastic, 4-inch top water poppers that rattle and when fishing deeper water we use small metal jigs with inline hooks,” Capt. BJ Silvia said. Added Dave Henault, “I like to use small one once poppers, Cocahoe lures and Al Gag’s soft plastic baits.” In addition to above lures, I have caught thousands of spring bass on Yo Zuri Crystal Minnows (silver). I like fishing them a various depths and find that ripping them through the water often gets the attention of striped bass.
Where’s the bite?
Freshwater fishing for trout remains strong at stocked ponds. Visit www.mass.gov/orgs/division-of-fisheries-and-wildlife for a list of stocked ponds and regulations in Massachusetts. For stocked ponds and regulations in Rhode Island, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Fishing for largemouth bass has been good too. East End Eddie Doherty said, “Angler Mike Deryck of Blackstone, Mass., caught his largest-ever largemouth bass this week, a 7.1-pound fish. He caught the largemouth using a White Chatterbait when fishing Lake Hiawatha in Blackstone.”
Striped bass fishing is starting to come alive with resident hold over fish becoming active for the past couple of weeks in the Pawcatuck, Narrow, Providence, Barrington and Seekonk Rivers as well as in Greenwich Cove and Bay.
“Customers are reporting a good bite from the beaches along the southern coastal shore with fish as large as 27 inches," Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said. "Many are saying the fish are larger than last year and the schools are larger too.”
Tautog bite is starting to build with some keepers being caught at the Stone Bridge, Tiverton and off Newport. Angler John Migliori said, “I caught an 18-inch and a 19-inch tautog off Ocean Drive, Newport Wednesday using green crabs.”
The minimum size for tautog is 16 inches, three fish/person/day.
Regarding squid/summer flounder (fluke), Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “We have heard some rumors about squid starting to show up on the offshore grounds. The fluke should be right behind them.”