|Night Fishing for
By Mike Christy
I'm writing a letter to my Congressman. Fall fishing for striped bass at
night should be illegal; the poor fish don't stand a chance! I'm kidding of course. Night
fishing on the New England seacoast during the striped bass autumn migration is the best
time for landing a trophy. Your chances of hooking into a monster bass of 40 inches or
more is heavily in your favor during fall months. The reason is striped bass are nocturnal
by nature and feed heavily late in the season to prepare for their journey south. It
appears they have a sense of urgency when they strap on the feed bag during this
time of year.
When and Where?
The keys to superb bass fishing in the fall is the critical timing between
the weather, phases of the moon, the tides and your available fishing time. If you can
find an evening in which all those parameters line up favorably, don't hesitate to head
for your favorite striper hole. Chances are the fish will be waiting for your offering of
an easy meal.
Dave and I saw our chance to head out one fall Friday evening to fish for
stripers. We planned on fishing the Maine side of the lower Piscataqua River known
as the back channel. This stretch of water
was the original main navigational channel between Maine and New Hampshire before blasting
by the Civil Core of Engineers opened up what is now the main channel. But the bass don't'
know or care about which part of the river they are suppose to be swimming in.
The tide is turbulent in this part of the river. Large boils erupt on
the surface wherever a submerged obstruction is present. The depth ranges from 10 to 30
feet and the channel's width ranges from 50 to about 200 yards. If you can find a
submerged bolder or submarine hump, there's a good chance that bass will eventually
use it as a current break. And that's precisely where you want to place your bait. High
tide this evening was around 6pm which gave us a good ebbing tide to fish
while under the cover of darkness.
Tackle and Technique
We used the very simple technique of soaking (frozen) chunk mackerel on
the bottom. We anchored the boat up current from a known underwater depression then simply
threw out our baits and let them settle in the tide. For tackle we used typical
medium/heavy action spinning gear; 8 foot rods with 20 lb test line. A heavy duty black
barrel swivel attached to a three foot leader of 50 lb test mono and a #7 long shank
tabacco colored hook make up the terminal tackle. An alternative rig is dropping a 4 to 5
oz sinker with the hook placed a foot above. This will keep the bait off the bottom.
After casting our offerings the drag was set light and the bail left closed. With
both rods pointed out the back of the boat all we had to do was wait for the clicking
sound of the drag. (i.e.: JAWS).
It wasn't too long before we landed our first striper of almost 40 inches.
What a challenge is was fighting that fish at night in an anchored boat with a 5 knot tide
sweeping by. Each fish looked gigantic when they eventually succumbed along side of the
boat. Striped bass have the biggest heads! Another bass of almost 40 inches again was yet
to come aboard later that evening.
Helpful Hints for Fall Striper Fishing
- Always fish the out-going tide.
- A clear moonlit night is favorable.
- Moon tides tend to be less productive.
- Big fall storms can drastically alter striper habits for days.
- Find bottom structure and think like a bass.
- Use bait attractants liberally on chunk bait.
- Replace washed out bait often.
- Chum, chum, then chum some more.
- Bring a really BIG net with you!
- Release all fish that you can't readily use.
Good luck on your fall striper fishing adventures. If you get a chance, take it. There
may not be many nights when the conditions are are comfortable for both you and the fish.