Making sense of the changing striper management landscape, or: thank goodness for the ASGA

On the difficulty scale, keeping current with how the ASMFC plans to manage (I’ll be kind and not place quotes around manage) striper stocks is somewhere between Calculus II and Organic Chemistry. Flux and fast and fluid also come to mind as good descriptors. (And as always, alliteration.) But thanks to our friends at the American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA) it’s become easier.

Next up will be draft Amendment 7. Public comment will be open later this year, and I’ll be sure to get you the links. To help you understand what’s going on before then — no degree in Chaos Theory required — here are some helpful links.

If it looks like a moratorium proposal, is it really? Nope. Here’s why.

Once again, recreational anglers will need to mobilize and speak loud and clear when Amendment 7 comments are requested. Here’s a primer on the highlights and landmines of Amendment 7.

If you’re finding this stuff helpful, and you really care about stripers, you should join the ASGA. You can do that here. And of course, any donation you can make helps them continue their outstanding work.

Last but not least, here’s a great piece from our friend (and friend of striped bass) Charles Witek on the importance of getting Amendment 7 right.

Thanks for taking the time to read. And thanks for caring about striped bass.

We have to do our best to make sure the resource is handled with care. Getting involved with Amendment 7 is the best way you can do that.

Striper report 10/6/21: Daytime bliss, nighttime suffering

On Wednesday Alex took a striper lesson with me. He did a fantastic job. The point of these short (2 hours) lessons is to give students feel for how to approach multiple situations involving current — and especially for them to discover the expansive fly fishing life beyond cast-and-strip. We do it in the daytime (the better to eyeball things) and while the immediate goal isn’t to catch — that will come later — I have the highest amount of respect for those who want to invest in upping their game. Alex did a tremendous job; he has an intuitive feel for current and presentation. Now all he needs is some bass to play with.

As it turns out, so do I. I drove to Rhode Island that night to fish two different marks and, once again, I was disappointed by the paucity of striped things that swim. The first mark was one of my “guaranteed” spots. You know — a place you go to save a night when you desperately need a fish. No longer. I’ve fished it three times this year, blanked all three times, and it’s the first year in decades that I have not caught a bass there. Fooey. Not to be outdone, the second mark had plenty of bait, and not a single striper. So I casted, mended, and tried to pretend that maybe a bass would show up. Instead, I stayed out way too late. I won’t be going back this year (he said bitterly).

Alex really nailed the greased line swing. What a lovely day to be out fishing.

A surfcaster and a fly rodder walk into Long Island Sound…

…and not much happens. Surfcaster extraordinaire Toby Lapinski and your humble scribe gave it the old college try last night for close to three hours. (Note the lack of large bass photos — heck, note the lack of any bass photos.) A couple small bumps for Toby and not even a courtesy tap for me. Although I did have a couple weird moments of pressure on the drift, my fly sweeping across a reef, no hooksets were forthcoming. It was probably something small. Light show: we were treated to a spectacular electrical display as a storm moved across western Long Island. Funny thing: that storm produced a sudden cold NE breeze and some raindrops on what was otherwise a calm night. So it goes. Round three to the bass. I gotta get some points on my card, so I’ll keep punching. This mark has yet to produce for me, but I believe it will. Then we’ll see some bass photos.

The main bait continues to be menhaden, juvenile and adult, and silversides. We also saw plenty of crabs, so there’s no shortage of food. The bass were simply somewhere else.

RI Striper Report 9/6-7/21: Tons of bait. Ounces of bass.

I fished the last two evenings at various marks in SoCo and enjoyed….not a touch. Well, that’s not entirely true. I felt every weed that brushed against my three fly team. Last night I accidentally snagged a few small menhaden. But nothing living that could be measured in pounds came in contact with my fly.

I fished inside a breachway in moving water, incoming and outgoing; in a pond area of an inflow; off a jetty; and from the beach. Not even a courtesy tap. I saw and heard a few stripers, but they were small and their presence fleeting, and I never really had a good shot at a target. Bait, on the other hand — wow! Masses of bait everywhere. Silversides, menhaden, and mullet in mother lode Vegas jackpot numbers everywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such immense, dark clouds of menhaden.

The fighting is rounds. This was round one.

I’ll take menhaden. Look for an upcoming article from me in Field & Stream on matching fall run bait with classic striper flies.

Reorganizing and replenishing the striper box

I’ve been meaning to do this for a good, long time. I started by taking out every fly from the left side of my box — this is the working side that gets the most use. I returned a few of the smaller bugs to the lower slots, but the others, mostly sand eels, got straightened out (flies tend to get gershtunkled after years of non-use) under a running hot water bath, followed by a hang drying on corks, and then finally laid out on a sheet of paper. From there I took inventory to see which patterns needed replacing and replenishing. So, right now I’m in the middle of a massive sand eel tying blitz. And did I mention squid? Golly, I ‘ve got to tie a few more of those. And then my experiments! I’m going to be playing around with some Gurgling Sand Eel variants this summer. To the vise! To the water!

Conservation-minded anglers: everything you need to know about our May 5th ASMFC meeting win

If you took the time to send in comments to the ASMFC prior to their May 5th meeting on Amendment 7, congratulations! After years of feeling like no one was listening, your voice was heard. The American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA) has a fantastic summary of the meeting on their website. If you’re not familiar with the ASGA, you should be. We’re one of the good guys in the fight for striped bass conservation. We need your support!

We’re putting the heat on the ASMFC.

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Striper mini-report 5/5/21: Last night, while you were sleeping…

…I was standing in a river, practicing my greased line swings with a floating line and a 10″ Rock Island flatwing. My casting was good enough. My presentations were spot on. The bass were…not there. At least not in any numbers. We saw some wakes and swirls made by herring, but nothing to suggest that they were present en masse. We heard a couple reports of bass crashing bait, but they were in the first 30 minutes of our 2+ hour session, and then nothing. So it goes. This is why it’s called putting in your time.

In between casts, I found my mind wandering toward Block Island: plans and schemes and hopes and dreams. I could use a striper rainbow right about now.

Striper mini-report 4/24/21: Slow she goes

Toby Lasinski and I spent a few hours Saturday night banging around the shores of LIS looking for stripers. It was a slow night, with only one fish to hand, silvery sub-slot bass that nailed Toby’s surface swimmer. Not a touch for me, fishing a Rock Island flatwing/bucktail, and then a deer hair head whatchamacallit. There’s not much for me to tell, other than I saw some new water and got in some casting practice. (OK, the company and the cigar were pretty swell, so that counts for something.) Every day is different, and at some point this slowness will surely change. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

It felt good to taste saltwater on my fingertips. After a briny session like this, everything — rod, reel, flies — gets a good rinsing with tap water, then an air drying. Some of the water we fished reminded me of the Cape and Block Island, and I’m looking forward to fishing those places again.

Striper fly fishing question of the day: “How do I know what bait is in the water?”

I get this question all the time. As with many fly fishing questions, the answers can be simple and complex. This post is designed to be a mini-article rather than a treatise, so I’ll keep it simple.

If you’re asking “How do I know what bait is in the water?” you’re probably trying to match the hatch. That’s rarely a bad idea, especially if the stripers are keyed on a specific bait. Just be aware that while stripers can be selective feeders, they aren’t always selective feeders. So a generic baitfish pattern like my Soft-Hackled Flatwing may work just fine even when there’s nothing like it swimming around. Still, you want to know what’s for dinner, so…

Get a large fine mesh dip net and go fishing. Or, if you have a drag net and a partner, use that. You can do this on a beach, or off a well-lit dock and night, or in an outflow or an estuary. Sometimes you don’t need to get wet: get a bright light and shine it in the water at night. If the water goes nuts, it’s probably silversides. This first step is obvious, but many anglers are either too lazy or oblivious to do it. I’ll tell you in advance that you may surprised at the volume of small stuff that’s in the water.

Research the bait in your area. Get a field guide, or use the web for research. You should know what the resident baits are, and be able to ID them. A mummichog is not a silverside is not a peanut bunker.

Know what bait is likely to be when and where. Again: do your homework. Discover the patterns. Know when herring come up the rivers off Long Island Sound to spawn. Know when the sand eels show up in Newport, RI. Know when the cinder worms are swarming in the salt ponds of SoCo. Every year is different, but nature is always right on time.

Not a silverside. Sometimes, when the bait is in thick, you’ll accidentally snag one of the critters. That was the case with this peanut bunker several years ago.

Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom 3/16, 8pm: “Almost Anything Goes: Fly Fishing Q&A”

We’re back! This Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom is all about you — specifically, your questions. Trout, small streams, smallmouth, steelhead, stripers — flies, rigging, gear, tactics, presentation, how-to — ask away and I’ll do my best to answer. If you haven’t been getting the Zoom links — I send them out Tuesday late afternoon — please check your spam box. If you’re sending a request to get on the list, please don’t wait until 7:45 p.m. Tuesday night…I won’t be checking my email that late. Thanks!