Where to Find Early Season Striped Bass

Where to Find Early Season Striped Bass

Mother’s Day marks the return of black flies, tourists and striped bass to Maine's waters. Although its more about water temperatures and baitfish than the calendar, Mid-Coast Maine probably has another week or two before stripers show up in any numbers. But when they do, there are a few places you should look for them. Although striped bass have passed through cold waters to get here, the fish are generally headed for warmer waters. Fifty degrees is the magic number for water temperatures and a few degrees more really helps the bite.

Be Mobile

It's always a good idea to be mobile during the early season fishing to locate fish, as more stripers continue the migration into Maine waters. Estuaries, marshes, coastal rivers and warming flats attract fish, and as always, low light conditions favor feeding times.

Mouth of Rivers

While you can and will find striped bass “out front” along the beaches, be mindful that these fish are usually on the move heading elsewhere - usually towards warmer environments. To find fish consistently, you’ll want to focus on the mouths of rivers. On several of the larger Maine rivers, newly arrived stripers will gather at the convergence of a dropping tide and a river mouth, wearing their feed bags, scooping up goodies from the end of an endless conveyer belt. When this happens, it can help to retreat away from river and follow the outflow oceanward as the fish will keep dropping back.

Estuaries and Marshes

Fishing for stripers in the estuaries and marshes in May is a different game. Often the fishing can be almost freshwater-like, with quiet presentations of grass shrimp or crab patterns cast into seams and riffles to fish idling in the current where they will rise like trout to suck in your fly. Wading access can be very tricky in marshes, the holes can be very deep and the water very cold. A misstep can be costly. Fortunately, these environments really lend themselves to fishing off a kayak, canoe, or paddle board. Standing in a kayak, casting delicate presentations to large fish in an estuary filled with peepers and birdsong is truly one of the best fishing moments Maine has to offer.

Mud Flats

Mid-Coast Maine has no shortage of muddy flats and as the sun grows stronger, it heats up the water flooding the flats creating an enticing buffet of crustaceans and small baitfish for the new arrivals. Many anglers (myself included) have to overcome their disbelief that such large fish can be found in a foot or two of water but it happens all the time. This is one of the reasons that striped bass are such a premier gamefish… they literally feed at our feet.

Be Persistent

Persistence pays off in May. The fishing is dynamic, changing every tide as newer and bigger fish arrive. Migratory fish straight from the sea are luminous, their chrome flanks and dark, broken lines glitter in the sun or under a headlamp. Despite the occasional lulls, hardworking anglers can be successful by exploring different locations and adapting tactics. Catching the first striper of the season is a moment to savor, reminding anglers of the miracle of the migration when our finned friends return to fulfill our offseason dreams.

Before You Go

Familiarize yourself with local fishing regulations before heading out, and make sure you have all the equipment you need by shopping at an established Maine retailer like Maine Sport Outfitters. See our fishing collection or shop at our Rockport store for full selection and expert advice.
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