For many of us on the East Coast, catching schoolie stripers from shore is the highlight of our spring fishing. Now that the run is in full swing, and fish can be found virtually coast wide, we wanted to share some tactics that consistently produce.
Planning in advance will make or break your day. Without the flexibility and mobility of a boat, mapping out a game plan in advance will maximize your time on the water, and ultimately lead to fish. If you are driving from spot to spot, be aware of how long it takes, and plan to make bigger moves during slack tides. Especially when the weather is spotty in April and May, check the forecast ahead of time. Pay close attention to wind speed and direction. Oftentimes, the wind is a limiting factor and will send you looking for sheltered area.
The next thing to plan around is the tide cycle. Tides dictate the feeding pattern of schoolies. At the beginning of an incoming tide, expect stripers to move up into tidal areas and against the shore as they position themself to ambush bait.
On outgoing tides, focus on finding bottlenecks or pinch-points in areas of tidal flow, and then locate structure in which stripers will sit behind as food flows past them. Rocks, bridge pilings, jetties, and sandbars all create pockets of calm water that stripers love to sit in as they wait to ambush prey.
Reading the water is an important skill, but knowing how to read the shoreline may provide important clues while fishing seemingly featureless water. Shoreline features typically extend into the water. Any indications of humps or points on the beach likely extent into the water and will hold fish.
The below diagram demonstrates this point. Pictured is an ocean beach with a tidal river during the last few hours of an outgoing tide. Notice that exposed humps of sand on the beach extend further out into the water, and create perfect ambush points for schoolies. The fish will be positioned around the edges of current, waiting to feed.
Match the Profile and Depth of the Bait
For the most part, schoolies will be eating juvenile baitfish that are abundant during the spring. Scaling down the size of your fly will help better imitate the profile of small baitfish. We suggest experimenting with hook sizes 4 - 1 and crimping down barbs to ensure a safe release.
Getting your fly down into the strike zone is important, especially when fishing smaller profiles. Aggressive intermediate lines, and flies with bigger dumbbell eyes or cone heads will do the trick. Do not be afraid to give your hook shank a few wraps of lead wire to add some weight.
If you haven't already noticed, our reel of choice is the Limitless 425. With a fully sealed drag, generous backing capacity that accommodates 7-10 wt line, and ultra-smooth drag, the Limitless 425 is ready for battle in the harsh surf environments. If you are looking to fish a light tackle set-up, the Limitless 375 is a great choice. It boasts all the same features as the Limitless 425, except is built for 5-7 wt line.