When the northward migrating stripers are feeding on squid any “look alike”, anything from some deer tail hair on a chunk of lead to a sophisticated duplicate will draw strikes and catch fish. In deeper water hard-core striper anglers jig, troll deep or use fresh bait to temp the larger bass. Too much work for a not lazy gut impatient fisherman like myself. Nothing meant to denigrate any one who goes out on the ocean with a purpose, target species and catches or does not. One of the things that has always irked me is the “piss ant excuse”. If all I wanted to do I could do it in my back yard, the point is catching fish. Without that at least for a self-proclaimed idiot like yours truly, why put in the effort on the water. Hit base balls from a machine, follow some one around while they are shopping or ——-I prefer to fish closer to the surface using lures that looks like a squid, which describes many lures on the market.
Depending on wind, tidal intensity, currents, presence of bait and some other factors I generally start out casting around, to or drifting over a couple of my favorite rock pile reefs with Yozuri Hydro Squid, a soft plastic squid rig with an appropriately sized body with as large a single hook as possible. Large sized Slug-Go’s work well but get torn up quickly so a busy day can become expensive in soft plastic. Even some of the shorter fat bodied swimming plugs in white or a light color will work but the best I’ve used most of the time during the squid bite over the Watch Hill to Fishers Island Reef Complex I love to fish is the Hydro Squid. It looks just like the real thing, but with a “sting”.
It can take years alone to learn your local fishing grounds. The learning curve is half of the fun and adds depth to that knowledge. Some simply hire a guide to show them the fish, which is fine for once a year or so anglers. If for no other reason than to learn where rocks, reefs and other hazards are it is wise to go with some one who can help shorten that learning curve, and maybe save some damage to a propeller or two. I have always enjoyed getting out and not only finding where to go but in some cases where not to, those places where fish seem to pass through and not hang around which is equal to wasted time.
One of those areas I always stop at and sometimes never leave is what I call the Fishers Island Watch Hill Reef Complex a series of reefs and passages between the island and the mainland. If there isn’t a striper around one or all of these reefs they are gone for the year. My favorite reef is not a place most anglers including guides would put number one on their list. Partially because it has some tricky, hard to see sub surface rocks its configuration, currents and other factors that make it tricky to fish, especially in a larger boat.
One thing about being a pauper is I could never afford a big boa. I fished out of 18 or 20 foot Lund Alaskans. An open, rugged well made, but in the ocean running into the surf wet, but unsinkable boat. Designed for rough waters of Alaska hence their name, that became popular through the north central portions of the US and Canada, making small inroads to New England. A dealer friend of mine brought them into his marina; I was first in line for the Alaskan 20 and fished out of two of them over the previous 25 years or so. I left prop and bottom paint on all of my favorite rocks, the unseen glacial erratics along the shoreline that were just deep enough to provide shade and comfort for stripers, day or night. My favorite spot a barely noticeable rock I called “Dog Tooth Rock” because at low tide when the tip of it was out of water it looked like a dog tooth. That spot seldom failed to produce a fish or more when the bass were in the area and held some good quality fish. It is one of those great, discreet spots not on any maps other than it is within a larger named stretch of shore near a well-known point. Even that place never.
This time of year when squid are around and being chased by bass and blues in the water column and fluke from below one my favorite reef was a place I would always hit, either coming and or going from a fluke fishing trip along the southern Rhode Island shoreline. When the squid were holding around that reef we had many of our most productive outings for decent sized stripers. One time when the squid were thick, stripers breaking all over and on one else on that spot, my son and I caught 39 stripers between 26 and 40 inches in fewer than fifty casts. We only fished two or three hours not counting the run time from the launch area. Most of that trip was spent playing landing and releasing fish. Weather was perfect, not much wind or tide so it was literally easy, productive, one of my most memorable striper trips.
Sadly those days are over for a while with the striper population at a lower level then it was at that time. Regardless of population size, when the squid are around and abundant, casting lures that look like those cephalopods odds are there will be some action.
One thing we didn’t run into during that fishery was a great deal of interference from bluefish, which tend to show up slightly later in the summer. Blues are fun to catch but in a situation where they run into a concentration of stripers they tend to ruin the party due to their aggressive behavior. Their sharp double-edged interlocking teeth damage plugs and shred soft plastics, which can be productive despite the fact they get ripped up so easily. Call it the cost of playing the game.
Depending on the point in the season I often planned double trouble trips that often began during a day time tide along the beaches drifting for fluke for the pan, followed by some fun casting for stripers in likely spots on the way home. When conditions were right and both bait and predators are on the move, both halves of that duet can be successful and make for memorable trips. I was a teacher for many years and a couple of my friends from the school system had a tradition on the last day of classes, which was typically a short half-day. We would get bait, some supplies hit a couple of my favorite spots for fluke, catch a few stripers and head back to my place to mess up the kitchen cleaning and cooking some delicious fillets.
One thing that was interesting, when I fished with buddies with bigger boats than mine, who had their craft at a local marina what ever we had in the fish box, I was the designated surgeon with fillet duty.
The marina where two of my friends kept their boats had a cleaning table where at the time the remains could be tossed into the water where they fed crabs. There was no fishing allowed around the marina. A school of pretty good-sized stripers would show up when the scraps being cut off of fish at the cleaning table began hitting the water. Some of those bass were pretty large, with the largest individual fish running 25 to 30 pounds. Feeding time was fun, interesting and when we had a slow day catching what ever we were after seeing those fish ended the trip on a positive note. Even if we weren’t striper fishing.
In June with the arrival of my two favorite species to chase, stripers and fluke, my all time favorite cooking material, blue crab also began showing up along the coast. Abundance of these crustaceans varied greatly from year to year depending on too many factors to note here. The first crab boil of the year always marked a special event for that summer. I have always wondered how something so nasty and ill tempered can taste so sweet. A legal sized blue crab is the only species of fish or game I have never passed up a chance to catch, even one when the opportunity arose. My hands have the scars from over fifty years of handling these critters. Every lost drop of blood and pinch was worth it.