MANY PEOPLE who are “newbies” to the Great Bay saltwater fisheries are confused a bit about where to start and where to fish.
The overwhelming numbers of people traveling over the Route 4 bridge think what they are seeing is Great Bay, but in truth it’s the Piscataqua River turning into Little Bay!
Let’s get right to the heart of this conversation! Great Bay is most often the least productive fishing water of the whole tidal system wrongly titled “Great Bay” or just “the Bay.”
Downstream (it’s kind of simplistic to call it that because the tide changes the currents from up and down twice a day!) from the General Sullivan Bridge, the Piscataqua River takes its proper name. Upstream from the bridge is correctly known as “Little Bay”.
Now don’t get me wrong! There’s times when much of the Piscataqua River and Great and Little Bay do provide some good fishing for striped bass and other migratory saltwater species. It’s Little Bay that is hands-down the most productive area for catching fish. The upper and lower Piscataqua River both hold good concentrations of fish but Great Bay itself only supports good places to fish at the mouths of the rivers that feed or drain the bay. Well, we need to add to this that Little Bay and Great Bay both provide some good fishing for species other than stripers. There are places on both of those waters that fishing for flounder and sometimes pollock or mackerel can be very productive. So we can’t cover with one pass of the paintbrush where and when to fish for any of those species.
But we do have favorites. For flounder fishing we would concentrate our activities to the lower Piscataqua River all the way downriver to the river mouth and all the way upriver to Adams Point. It’s a matter of matching up the different parts of the tidal flows to shoreline structure. We are most apt to find good flounder action in the coves downriver from the Sullivan Bridge to the river outlet at Rye and Newcastle.
But just know that stripers are apt to be more in the faster currents when the bottom-feeding fish such as flounders are mostly found in the back-currents or coves. One thing to help you choose a place for flounder is they are mostly apt to be feeding over muddy bottom where stripers are more apt to be feeding around rocky or hard bottom.
For bait fishing for stripers, know that when they are feeding on shiners or minnows, they will concentrate on areas that have hard bottom and often plenty of big sunken boulders that they will hide behind and ambush the baitfish as the tide brings them past. Other times when they may be feeding on seaworms or small eels they are apt to be hiding around eelgrass beds.
We often don’t go prepared with a tank full of live bait! We’ll try to catch our own by drifting or slow trolling with a pair of small mackerel jigs. We’re really happy when this leads to having some live mackerel in our bait tank but having a good catch of bait-sized pollock will also put a smile on our face!
Live pollock do not have the stamina of live mackerel but there’s no doubt about them being a first-class bait and you’ll be surprised at how a medium-sized striper will tackle a live mack or pollock about half its size! The key here is to be patient and not try to strike the hook set too early as this will most often result in your bait to be spit out and not be as attractive as they had before they were eaten and damaged.
We can hardly wait until the season and good warm days bring us the annual striped bass migration. We’re 80 years old. We’ve been striper fishing for a good 70 of those years! We’ve lived on or near the shores of the tidal water for most of those years. We’ve been told that saltwater must be flowing in our veins. Maybe there’s some truth to that! But we can admit to the fact the bottom of our aluminum fishing boat has met and known the vast majority of sunken boulders in the Piscataqua River and Great and Little Bay.
It’s about time! Get out there and try for some “winter flounder” and soon the stripers will be up into the Piscataqua River and Little Bay. Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and please stay in touch.
Editor’s Note: Kittery Trading Post does not approve nor condone the views and behaviors expressed in Dick Pinney’s Guide Lines column published on Sunday, April 7, 2019 in the Union Leader New Hampshire Sunday News. This article unequivocally does not reflect or represent the opinion and position of Kittery Trading Post, and as such, we are discontinuing our association and sponsorship of the Union Leader’s Guide Lines column by Dick Pinney.