Capt. Mike Roy of Reel Cast Charters loves searching for stripers in shallow boulder fields because of the opportunity it provides to target trophy-sized fish with lighter tackle. In his home state of Connecticut, Roy says bass move into water as shallow as 3-feet.
Charts & Satellite Imagery
Even with his top-of-the-line electronics, Roy recommends breaking out the paper charts for initial scouting. Seeing the structure on a paper chart provides a different overview of the area. Look for contours and bottom structure off the shoreline where the stripers might stage, and visualize drifts that come within casting range of those structures.
Satellite imagery is a helpful tool to see where some of the boulders are located.
Keep in mind, most of the large rocks are going to be underwater, but nonetheless, many are still visible with satellite imagery.
After studying, Roy says learning the locations in the daylight is essential before ever venturing out after dark. He makes sure to note the locations of potential prop-dinging boulders and how the current moves along the shoreline during each phase of the tide.
Use Side Scan Sonar to Find Stripers
Knowing how the boat is going to drift is important in every fishing situation, but especially in boulder fields, where misjudging your drift could put your boat on the rocks.
Roy begins by setting a waypoint of where he’d like his boat to drift, one that will take him within range of some of the striper-holding structure he scouted on the paper charts. He uses the drift extension line on his chartplotter to predict how the boat will drift and finds his starting point. He eases the boat toward the shoreline—coming in hot is not only bad for the fishing, it’s downright dangerous—and begins to fish.
Two game-changers in recent seasons have been the trolling motor and side-scanning sonar. While traditional sonar is of little use in locating fish in shallow water, the Mega Side Imaging on Roy’s Humminbird Solix allows him to locate schools of bass working the shoreline more than 100 feet away from the boat. The other has been the addition of a trolling motor.
The motor supplies what Roy calls “drift management.” Without it, he was at the mercy of the wind, but with it, he can ensure his boat drifts with the current, which allows for the best presentation of his preferred bait near rocky shorelines, a live eel.
Live Eels Catch Stripers
When the current is moving, Roy casts the eel toward shore and slowly retrieves it as the boat, and the eel, drift with the tide at approximately the same speed.
When boat and bait are moving at different speeds or in different directions, the eel will plane to the surface and look unnatural to the bass. By keeping the boat moving with the current, not the wind, the eel stays down and moves naturally, making it more likely to tempt a big shallow-water striper.
Update Your Charts
Roy emphasizes updating electronic charts as often as possible because more rocks and structures are added regularly, providing better pictures of coastal waters, allowing for safer and more productive fishing.
- After scouting an area on the chart and doing some daytime reconnaissance, select the structures and areas you’d like to fish. Eelgrass beds and drop-offs are prime shallow-water locations where stripers hunt after dark.
- Ease the boat into the shallows after establishing the drift direction that will take you past the structure you’ve identified. If you have a trolling motor, use it to keep the boat moving with the current. If not, choose areas where the wind is pushing offshore or parallel to the shoreline.
- Cast the eel as close to shore as possible and slowly retrieve it as the boat drifts along. Do your best to keep the eel even or up-current of the boat. When the eel swings down-current of the boat, it’s time to reel up for another cast.
Capt. Mike Roy | Reel Cast Charters | 203-710-5116