Game Fishing > Saltwater Fish > Striped Bass fishing

Striped Bass fishing

Striped Bass fishingNo one will question or dispute that the striped bass, or rock fish, is the finest representative of the whole great family of sea-basses. Handsome in form and color, its table qualities are excellent, and it is a bold and persistent fighter in whatever method caught. It is a prolific breeder, hardy, and easily transplanted for distribution.

The natural range of the striped bass includes the entire Atlantic Coast, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the fish entering rivers and ascending them almost to their head-waters.

The striped bass is especially fond of rivers frequented by shad, because the eggs of that fish furnish one of its favorite foods, and the river herring which accompanies the shad also con­tributes greatly to the diet of the bass. The bass is carnivorous and predaceous, and consumes vast numbers of little fish in streams, particularly herring and shad.

The shallow bays along the coast furnish it with killifish, anchovies, silversides, lant, and many other small fishes as well as worms, shrimps, crabs, squid, clams, scallops, mussels, and other marine invertebrates. Its movements while feeding are greatly influenced by the tides. The uncertainty of the movements of this fish is proverbial; it is hard to find at certain times, and still more difficult to bring to the hook. It is shy and extremely wise on occasion, so that no angler can lay claim to continual success. When the bass does strike the hook, there is no mistake about its intention, for it hooks itself without assistance.

Quick to seize the lure, it holds it firmly, full of resources in its struggle against capture, endowed with wonderful strength and endurance, quick to take advantage of natural obstructions; the striped bass as a game fish may be classed with the salmon, for its intelligence and fighting qualities. Its first plunge, when hooked, is more powerful than that of the salmon, and its endurance is greater. The most expert angler finds it utilizing every accessory which nature has furnished for its protection; sharp rocks are used to the best advantage to cut the line or break the hook.

Casting through the surf is one of the most exhilarating, though precarious, methods of bass fishing; everything combines to circumvent the fisherman; the bass itself, the weight of the surf, Outfit the undertow, friction of the rocks, all test his skill to the utmost. As the season for striped-bass fishing is long, and continues far into cold and inclement weather, the angler must be supplied with warm clothing, including water­proof jacket, mitts, and boots, a soft cap, overalls, and thumb stall for protection against friction of the line.

As the fish vary greatly in size, and styles of fishing differ widely, there is a variety of rods. A casting rod should be eight and one-half feet long and weigh eighteen ounces, of split bamboo preferred, but one of lancewood or greenheart will stand hard usage better. The chief qualities required in a rod for sea fishing are toughness, spring, Rods and elasticity. For bait casting a light rod about nine feet will be suitable for fishing in shallow bays, near river mouths, or in streams within tide limits. For fly fishing a good black-bass rod will prove efficient. For still fishing, where fish are small, one may have fine sport with a plain rod, combined with a float and sinker, with two hooks on gut leaders.

The striped bass is such an omnivorous feeder that many different kinds of bait are required during the season, but the favorites are small eel, shrimp, crab, and worm. In California little fish called shiners and sardines and the clams of the region, form the bill of fare. They also troll with the Golcher, Stewart, or Wilson spoon.

For the Eastern coast, especially in localities near New York, the shedder crab and lady crab are frequently employed. The sand worm and blood worm make tempting bait in trolling or still fishing. Two or three worms are threaded through the whole length of the body and must cover the hook entirely from point to snell. The skimmer clam is known as an excellent bait at Allenhurst, N.J., where a great bed of these clams attracts bass of large size. Small fish of many kinds, either alive or dead, are always attractive; spearing, killifish, lant, smelt, mullet, eel, alewife, and menhaden, the latter being most famous for surf fishing.

On certain rivers, eel-tail is used; another bait seldom heard of at present, but formerly much used, is shad roe. Artificial lures for trolling include the bone, or spoons, spinners, and their allies, attached to a single hook. Artificial flies are available for striped-bass fishing in fresh or brackish water only, and are best in the spring when the bass are ascending fresh water. The best fishing is at sun-down. Showy flies are the favorites, red ibis, blue­jay, oriole, royal coachman, polka, silver doctor, Parmachenee Belle.

Trolling the fly is best, with plenty of line, and working the line at the surface, sinking it a foot or two, and then jerking it. Casting in the surf, with menhaden bait, is regarded as the highest type of expert angling for striped bass on the Atlantic Coast. Most complete outfits are provided by the tackle dealers, according to the taste and means of the angler.

Skilled anglers cast a distance of 120 yards, though the average is much less. In making the cast, the line is reeled up to two feet from the tip, one hand grasping the rod above the reel, the other below it; the thumb of the lower hand on the thumb stall controls the line so that it travels the same rate as the bait. The motion of casting is peculiar and requires long practice. The cast may be made with either hand, the body being turned to one side or the other as occasion requires. The one great essential is to deliver the bait at the surface of the water without a jerk, and the motion of the reel must stop as soon as the bait touches the water. As soon as the bait sinks to the bottom, the line is reeled in slowly, and casting is continued till the fish is hooked.

The first dash of the fish is the most critical stage of the fishing, and the bass may sometimes rush toward the angler faster than the slack can be taken up, calling for the best judgment and skill on the part of the angler. The preparation and application of the menhaden bait is very simple. The fish is first scaled, then a slice is cut from each side from head to tail, leaving little except the back bone, head, and fins, which are utilized later for "chum." The hook is inserted in the fleshy side of a strip, then returned through the edges of the scaly side in such a manner as entirely to conceal the shank; the bait must be tied on the hook, or it will be soon washed off by the action of the water. After two baits are cut from the sides, the remainder of the fish is chopped up and thrown into the water, the solid portions sinking at greater or less distance from the shore, while the oil covers the surface for a considerable space.

In landing a large fish through the surf, great skill is required, for many tricks are played by the bass to evade capture. Other relatives of the striped bass are the white bass, yellow bass, and white perch; though much smaller and of lesser importance, they are still caught on tackle of a lighter build.