Southern Maine and New Hampshire Striped Bass Fishing Report: Think Like a Striper
August is upon us and usually that is a dirty word when it comes to striped bass fishing in New England. Our waters are about as warm as they will get all year, stripers are in full on lazy resident mode, and prey is bountiful. In southern Maine and New Hampshire this mix of components changes our fishing on a weekly basis. BUT, as anglers we are challenged to constantly adapt. One thing that I love most about fly fishing is the opportunity to watch these changes throughout a season and to challenge myself to adjust the game plan each day while being open minded about new ways to connect with a solid bass.
In August, chasing the classic blitz with stripers ambushing bait on top is no longer a reliable option. Stripers are more comfortable patrolling the coast, finding holding water and ambushing prey as the tide floods and ebbs, expending as little effort as possible. Striped bass are continuously adjusting to put themselves in waters that abundantly hold prey, have favorable temperatures, and make pursuit of their food as easy as possible. This is the time of year to really pay attention to water temps. We have certain waters that are getting into the mid 70's. I will avoid these spots because temperatures like that are getting on the high end of an environment that is productive to fish. The warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen making fighting a striper more stressful for the fish. I'll avoid warm water for these reasons and retreat to nearby cooler options.
I spend time looking for places that a lazy bass would lie and feed on prey while expending as little effort as possible. Places like this exist in every element that we fish... a depression on a flooding flat, the leeward current side of a sandbar, a rocky point where waves and tide constantly move bait, the edge of a drop off where a flat is flushing its water or the deep channels of our tidal estuaries. Begin to tune your eye this way and as you look around striper holding water will begin to appear. The trick is to put the time into finding new spots and fishing these different places at the right tide and time of day. There are certain spots that I fish only on an outgoing tide early in the day... If I go back to that same spot on my favorite tide in the afternoon it's a ghost town. Play around, work the whole water column and experiment, you never know what lies in the swift currents beneath you.
This time of year I also tend to fish bigger flies or crabs and shrimp. Crabs and shrimp are a forage staple for stripers all season long and can be fished in more elements than just the mud flat. Big swimmy flies tease stripers to rise off the bottom and come to greet your offering. When fishing big streamers movement is a must... I love flatwing flies for this exact reason. All day long stripers are asking themselves... "is the juice worth the squeeze". Is the effort to capture a specific prey worth the energy expenditure? Think like a bass and make it easy for them to eat your fly. Don't be afraid to set the alarm for predawn adventures or to survey the rocky coastline under the darkness of night.
There are a million ways catch a striper and these fish present us with opportunities to track them down in some really cool places. Fish the places you love in the style that moves you and the pure passion of your pursuit will reward you.