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If you haven’t been striper fishing yet in the Northeastern United States, this summer may be a good time to do so. Why.? Because two huge ‘year classes’ of fish from highly successful spawnings in 2001 and 2003 are set to emerge as targets of opportunity this summer. The 2003 fish are classic ‘schoolies,’ 20 to 24 inches long, eating heavily and eager to take flies or lures. On a 6- or 7-weight fly rod or light spinning tackle these fish give an excellent account of themselves.
As for the large 2001 year class, those fish are now in the 28- to 32-inch ‘keeper’ range. These fish are starting to put on some real weight, and they are big and powerful enough to put a real bend in an 8- or 9-weight rod. They are expected to reverse the recent declines in really large fish caused by the relatively poor year classes of fish from 1997 to 2000.
Just don’t jump to the conclusion that 2008 will be perfect from start to finish. In fact, the Northeast striper season, at least from New York City north, has gotten off to what has to be called a slow start. The theory is that this year’s huge and slow-melting snowpack from the Adirondacks to Northern Maine has kept rivers high and slowed the warm-up of coastal waters. It may also have affected the salinity of the estuaries that stripers find so attractive early in the season. The good news is, at this writing in mid-June, the long-awaited warm-up has arrived. The Northeast has just had a spell of record high temperatures, and the estuarian waters are warming quickly. Baitfish, including sand eels, bunker, silversides and mackerel, are unbelievably abundant in spots. This has created a near feeding frenzy among the stripers. They have begun to fill in all the hotspots as far north as the mid-coast of Maine, while the fishing in Long Island Sound has been ‘unbelievable,’ according to my contacts.
According to the most recent reports I have, just about everyone is catching stripers and some blues. Several people I talked to have said that the stripers are fatter and heavier for a given length than they’ve ever seen.
The slowing economy and the high price of gas (regular was going for $4.75 a gallon self-serve in early June at the filling stations on Martha’s Vineyard) may be having an effect on striper fishing this year. My impression is that the number of private boats on the water is down somewhat, though guides I’ve talked to say they haven’t seen a drop. But the slump if it’s real will likely be good news for those who have the time and money to go fishing, as the impact will likely be felt by the lodging industry, too, creating a slightly better than usual selection of last-minute accommodations in coastal communities this year. Also, my impression is guides are not as heavily booked as usual. All considered, it’s an excellent time to book a trip, especially if you have a non-fishing spouse who enjoys beaches, shops and good restaurants. Literally the whole northeastern coast, from Norwalk Connecticut to Long Island to Block Island to Cape Cod to Bar Harbor is all striper territory. The fish are there. What are you waiting for?
As for recommendable guides, most of the guides I’ve actually fished with have either retired or moved on to places where the season is longer and the cost of living lower. But there are two who are still in the business that I can recommend without reservation. They are: Jeff Northrop in Norwalk, Connecticut; and Avery Revere, Barnstable, Massachusetts. I’ve found several fly shops that have provided reliable fishing reports, tackle and guide references over the years. They are: Eldredge Brothers, Cape Neddick, Maine; Fishing The Cape, East Harwich, Massachusetts; Orvis Boston; and Coops Bait and Tackle, Edgartown, Massachusetts. Enjoy.