98 days. That’s all you have between Memorial Day and Labor Day to pack in your vacations, barbeques, trips to the ballpark and, of course, your summer striped bass fishing. Big schools of striped bass spend the summer in the cool, baitfish-filled waters of New England.
June is a great month for striped bass fishing in the Northeast and the best part is that fishermen don’t have to make a distinction between fishing for numbers and fishing for a trophy.
South of Cape Cod, bunker are the bait of choice for bass settling in for the month of June. The bunker will be holding in harbors, bays, and river mouths, and bass will be haunting the schools, picking off bait from the edges, and sometimes staging an all-out blitz.
In the open waters of Long Island Sound, off Rhode Island, and on the back side of Cape Cod, stripers will be wallowing in schools of sand eels. While the bass may occasionally work the baits on top, most often the action will be below the surface. Using your fishfinder, look for schools of sand eels in rips and around depth changes, and drop metals or troll parachute jigs along the bottom.
In Long Island Sound, these saltwater panfish will be easy targets for fishermen and stripers alike. Scup will school around reefs in 15 to 50 feet of water, where stripers will be hunting—especially after the sun goes down.
Pencil Popper – This long-casting, big-splashing topwater is a surfcaster’s best friend for imitating a flipping bunker and for reaching bass that are a long way off the beach.
Snag Hook – Always have a weighted treble in the bag, even if you don’t expect to run into bunker. Use it to procure fresh bunker for chunking, or to snag and drop live baits.
Pencil Poppers – Just as in the surf, fishermen in boats can bring big bass to the top with pencil poppers cast along the periphery of bunker schools or into boulder fields.
Sabiki Rig – A well full of live mackerel can save the day when fishing the waters north of Cape Cod. Keep some light spinning rods ready to go with Sabiki rigs and start the day making some drops for mackerel. Then, take the baits and slow-troll, chunk, or live-line them around structure.
Bunker Spoon – When trolled on wire line, this dinner-plate-sized lure will swim just off the bottom while the side-to-side kicking action mimics a wounded bunker that has lost its school. Though specialized equipment is required, trolling bunker spoons is a tough-to-beat tactic for big stripers.
Cast Net – Fishermen who want to spend more time fishing and less time getting bait will cast-net a day’s supply of bunker in the harbor before heading out to the fishing grounds.
• New Moon: June 24
Quality – Long Island Sound has produced some monster striped bass during June in recent years. (In June 2016, Jolyn Wiggin caught a 51-inch striped bass with a 33-inch girth.) Big bass hang over the reefs, feeding on scup and lobster, and a fisherman three-waying eels, scup, or bunker has a good shot at the fish of a lifetime.
Quantity – Narragansett Bay boasts big numbers of bass in June. Fish from 15 to 30 pounds will be working bunker schools throughout the open waters of the bay, while smaller fish will be feeding on silversides, sand eels, and herring close to shore.