Cape Cod

How-To: Reading Shore Conditions for Striped Bass #156

How-To: Reading Shore Conditions for Striped Bass #156

Anglers are much more tightly lipped about their shore fishing than boat fishing and consequently, getting good shore fishing reports is difficult. I don’t even bother asking around when shore fishing; rather, I just run the playbook based on the conditions and season.

WIND

In a perfect world, an onshore wind is best for bringing fish close to the beach or shore. The only problem with an onshore wind is that it impedes your ability to cast lighter lures. As a rule of thumb, I especially appreciate an onshore wind in the night or very early morning when targeting big stripers on a nocturnal prowl for big baits. In the spring and fall, migrating stripers are pushing/herding bait against shoreline structure, an offshore wind can help you with distances as the bait fish will do their best to avoid shallow water when getting pounded by birds and fish.

In New England, many anglers make a big deal about wind direction, following the old adage that “fish bite best from the west and least when wind is from the east.” I personally think the importance of wind direction has more to do with consistency and change; on other words, if the wind is out of the same direction for several days, a shift to another direction, no matter what is, will typically impact the fishing, either improving it or making it worse.

In New England, the prevailing wind is from the west by southwest, so it’s natural to assume west is ideal since that is the wind direction when you will be fishing the most. An east or northeast wind is associated with stormy weather, which most people avoid when it comes to fish, but the time leading up to the wind shifting in those directions and even when the wind is blowing that way can produce great fishing.

If there are no visible signs of feeding fish, I will fish loud and noisy lures such as poppers, Hogy Dog Walkers and lightly weighted softbaits in light and variable conditions in attempt to “call in fish.” In heavy wind conditions, I’ll fish subsurface lures such as weighted softbaits, Hogy Epoxy Jigs and metal jigs and Hogy Sliders to work subsurface.

MY RULES OF THUMB FOR THE WIND

1. Spring/Fall: Adjust lure weights to reach fish in various conditions. 
2. Summer: Focus on spots with onshore breezes where possible, especially in conjunction with favorable tide conditions

TIDE

Tide is a big deal to all fishermen but a huge deal for shore fishermen. Categorically, a moving tide is best, Some spots fish better on an incoming tide, others on an outgoing tide. On a low tide, sometimes you have better access for wading out to structure that you wouldn’t have had access to at high tide. Other spots will benefit from a lower tide as the reduced water will filter and confine fish to more specific and easily targeted area such as a channel in an estuary. Spots that fish well on a higher tide are those where big fish will be brought to your feet and those areas with fully exposed large rocks at low tide and fully covered at high tide. Lastly, many anglers swear that slack tide results in the biggest fish. I find this to be true at slack high tide at spots that tend to fish well at high tide.

MY RULES OF THUMB FOR TIDE

1. Moving Water: Ideal for casting at the majority of spots.
2. High/Low: Identify which tides fish better at each spot and factor that into your planning. 
3. Slack Tide: Determine what spots produce big fish at high slack tide. 

TIME OF DAY 

Generally speaking, shoreline stripers are nocturnal feeders, particularly in summer months. If I’m targeting big stripers, prime time for me is between sunset and sunrise.

There are a number of exceptions to the rule about night fishing. Overcast, foggy and rainy days will extend your fishing times, sometimes all day. During the spring and fall, it is possible to find great action even if the sun is high in the sky since at these times of the season the fish will be migrating and looking to feed heavily.

SEASON: Seasonality is another huge factor. Here on Cape Cod, many spots that fish well in the spring are slow in the summer and vice versa. Know how fish migrate in your area and what baitfish will be migrating through and adjust accordingly.

Reading next

How-To: Tips for Casting to Striped Bass #150
How-To: Rip Fishing for Striped Bass From Shore #157

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