The fall run is a chaotic and wonderful time to be a striped bass angler. Even though fishermen throughout most of the Northeast can count on about two solid months of fishing for migrating stripers between Labor Day and New Year’s, there’s a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” feel that causes us to cast with a sense of urgency that wasn’t present back when the bass were migrating north.
To help make the most of this year’s fall striper migration, we’ve compiled this “Survival Guide” by surveying some of the most dedicated surfcasters in the Northeast and sharing some of our favorite tips for the final months of the striper season. – Jimmy Fee
Know When to Fold ‘Em
It’d be impossible to pinpoint the exact end point of any year’s fall run. From a pragmatic standpoint, the it ends on the winter solstice, but from a more romanticized view, the fall run doesn’t end until the last surfcaster hangs up his gear for the season.
Late-season storms or prolonged cold snaps will hurry the fish along, but it’s almost certain that the fishermen quit before the stripers do. Here are the cues that our surveyed surfcasters use to decide when to call it a season.
“The first accumulating snow is when I start to clean out the truck.”
– Craig Cantelmo, New York
“I ride it out as close to Christmas as I can in the surf. I’ve heard ghost stories of giant bass slinking by in winter when most surfcasters have long put their gear away. And about 8 years ago, I capitalized on one such occasion when it was nearing late December. Bunker were still around, and there was rain bait along with heavy bass in the wash, and not another soul around. My wife (then girlfriend) was with me and we fly fished and used regular gear until dark, though the fish were still feasting. As we drove off the beach, a snowy owl was in our path. It was my first time ever seeing one at night and, it was an awesome sight!”
– Stephen Lobosco, New York
“I usually just go until the wheels fall off. Whether it’s me or the fish first is the question.”
– Frank Goncalves, Massachusetts
“In years past we would have some big bass on herring very late in the season, at times at the end of December into January. For me, it’s hard to get bass to commit to a plug when the temps start to fall into the low to mid 40s, and that is when I typically pack it up.”
– Chris Voorhees, New York
“Fall run usually ends first or second week of January for me. When fish get really small and I can’t feel my hands, I’m done.”
– Mike Gleason, New Jersey
“I usually hang it up after the second week of November, though I’ll fish later if the weather cooperates. We’ve had some phenomenal fishing here in Rhode Island around Thanksgiving in years past.”
– Earl Evans, Rhode Island