Early-season stripers aren’t big, but they’re a welcome sight for winter-weary anglers. Photo by Tom Richardson

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.

Shallow mud flats tucked into coves and estuaries are good places to find spring schoolies on a warm day. In this chart, “x” marks some likely spots to try.

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.

The RonZ mini jig is a great early-season lure. Photo by Tom Richardson

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.

Please share your comments below.