Finding early season striped bass can be tough. The fish have just started to arrive and are not spread around in various areas as much as they are later in the summer. Here are some tips for finding those early season stripers when fly fishing along the coast of Maine and New England.
1. Water Temperature
They say 50 degrees is the magic number. Striped Bass are migrating from southern waters and are doing so based mostly on water temperature. Stick to the rivers and mouths of rivers as the water here will be warmer. Baitfish are also spawning and moving into rivers. This is why estuaries and saltwater rivers are a popular spot when looking for that first bass of the year! On the contrary, beaches will not be as productive as water temps are cooler here and most baitfish are focused in other spots.
2. Low 'N' Slow
Most fish this time of year are scanning around for their food along the bottom. They are not too concerned with the top of the water column, yet. So getting your fly deeper in the zone can be a big advantage when fishing early in the season. Baitfish patterns stripped slowly along or near the bottom can be very productive.
Early season is when the adult herring are in efforts to spawn and they will be doing so in the rivers. Deceiver patterns about 5-7 inches long, with preferably some blue tied in, will work well. The smaller juvenile herring ("britt" herring) will also be around. The britts can be easily imitated with a (smaller) deceiver pattern with various darker colors tied in such as dark green and black.
4. Small Sand Eels
Sand eels are a baitfish that are prevalent all season long in Maine. But as the season progresses, logically, they get bigger. So early on, you will see that most of the sand eels are 3-4 inches long on average. Bob Popovic’s Fleye Foils are probably the best imitating patterns for these (and the “latest and greatest”) - many other basic sand eel patterns that are available commercially are also good. But just make sure they are properly sized and have almost zero movement in the first 50% of the body — that’s important when imitating the profile and movement of a sand eel.
Crabs are a food source for stripers all season long. They eat them in Maryland, Cape Cod, New Hampshire..everywhere all along their travels. Maine has a big population of crabs and they can be effective if fished properly. Early season can be really great for crabs because, as mentioned before, most bass are looking downwards this time of year. This will change later in the season. But for now, most fish are not looking to the surface for their food. So a good offering of a meaty crab that’s right in their vision is hard to ignore! Get a sinking line (not just an 10’ Type 3) and pull a crab pattern along the bottom.
HOPE THOSE HELP...NOW GET OUT THERE AND EXPLORE!