As April draws to a close, stripers begin to stir in the shallows of southern New England (those north of Cape Cod will have to wait another few weeks), providing light-tackle sport for anglers in skiffs, kayaks, canoes and on foot. If you want to score with these early fish, the first order of business is to seek out a river, cove or creek featuring mud flats that will be covered by 3′ to 5′ of water at high tide.
Next, pick a sunny day with light winds, air temperatures in the mid-50s or higher, and a high tide that occurs between noon and 5:00 p.m., giving the dark flats a chance to absorb the sun’s warmth. Water temperatures should be in the 50-degree range or higher.
Get to the flat between the last 2 hours of the rising tide and first 2 hours of the dropping tide.
Tie on a 1/4-ounce jig rigged with small, soft-plastic lure. Hop the jig lightly over the bottom or swim it through the water column with a slow, steady retrieve. Work the edges of marsh and creek banks, as well as any holes or drop-offs in the middle of the flat. As the tide drops, concentrate on spots where a creek dumps into the flat or a larger channel.
My favorite lures for this early-season sport include 4” Slug-Gos, Fin-S-Fish, RonZ and small paddletail swim shads. If the fish are especially active, you can often get them to hit a small topwater popper or a soft-plastic bait twitched across the surface on a plain worm hook (see video below). My favorite colors include all-white, black-over-white, and olive-over-white. On dark days, chartreuse and pink work well.
Best outfits include a light spinning setup with 6- to 8-pound line. No leaders are necessary unless fishing around heavy structure.
Small flies are also ideal at this time of year. Clouser Minnows and Deceivers in 1/0 or 2/0 sizes can be deadly. White, yellow and chartreuse work very well. Use a slow retrieve to start, but don’t be afraid to speed things up, as spring stripers can be very aggressive, especially on warm days. A 7- to 8-weight outfit rigged with a sink-tip or floating line is a good choice.
Video: Rigging a Slug-Go
How to rig this incredibly effective soft-plastic jerkbait.
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