Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Striped bass display unique eating habits
Right now there is no doubt that they have herring, both alewives and river herring ,on their minds as these fish are making their spring spawning runs into the freshwater rivers that dump into the saltwater.
Almost universally these rivers were dammed-up during the industrial revolution to provide power for the mills that produced lumber and ground grain and later on produced electrical power. And thanks to a lot of conservationist pressure, most of these dams either provide for passage of these fish both over or around these dams and allow both the adult fish and young of the year tiny herring to get back into the salt.
So until a lot of mackerel make it onto the scene, will be below these dams where the herring are also concentrated. Here in our area, noted striper fishing rivers with dams include the Salmon Falls River (its center is the boundary between Maine and New Hampshire), and several New Hampshire rivers including the Cocheco River, the Bellamy River, the Oyster River, the Lamprey River, the Exeter River and the Winnicut River. Of these rivers, the most productive are the Salmon Falls, Cocheco, Lamprey and Exeter.
Live and chunk alewives or herring are probably the most effective baits but when the stripers really go on the rampage and feeding sprees, they will take a surface popper or even a large streamer fly.
This fishing for stripers will eventually drop back down into Great and Little Bay and the Piscataqua River as the adult herring are done spawning and head back out to sea. Know that the Piscataqua River collects all the flow of all of these smaller rivers and thus all the baitfish as they return to sea.
There’s a short period of time around Memorial Day, when the first mackerel show up at the mouth of the Piscataqua and offshore, that stripers will become pretty opportunistic and will feed on both species. But in normal years, the waters upstream are not as salty and will not support mackerel, so if you pump water into your bait tank, chances are any live mackerel will not survive. Hungry stripers will often take a fresh trolled or drifted dead mackerel as well as herring.
There’s no doubt that after the mackerel do show up, they are the preferred striper candy, but also the run of eels coming and going also attracts a lot of striper attention. Eels seem to be the best choice of night fishing while mackerel rule during the daytime for bait. In a lot of years, and especially lately when the bluefish seem to be scarce, catching mackerel for bait will last right into the fall, but if there’s a lot of bluefish, the mackerel schools go into panic and are especially hard to catch.
In the dead of summer, stripers become very opportunistic feeders. They will suspend under lobster fishing boats and feed on the used-up bait that is being discharged and will gulp the smaller under legal-sized lobsters that have to be thrown back. Stripers will scrounge around the river and ocean bottom for crabs, small lobsters and clams, and are efficient at filling their stomachs with silver dollar-sized flounders. Typically, you won’t find any fish with spiny fins in a stripers stomach, so they are not altogether non-selective in their eating habits.
When fishing from shorelines or beach, some of the best baits are what are typically found there, such as clams and seaworms. A dead mackerel or herring floated on a small balloon-bobber will often get a hungry striper’s attention as that is a natural occurrence for a foraging fish to find in the surf.
So the story here is to go with the flow. Feed them what they want as to the season’s provisions. And if you are fishing with artificials, try to mimic what is the striper’s meal of the day.
Email Dick Pinney at DoDuckInn@aol.com.
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