July has started with really high temperatures, driving stripers down in the water column during the day to seek relief. When this happens, they reduce their food intake, rising only during the evening hours to feed. That means that the night time is the right time.
Stripers can be caught on every stage of the tide, but they are most active two hours on either side of the low tide. This is when the water is really moving and the bait gets concentrated. In addition, they are especially vulnerable during new moon and full moon tides which are the largest. As you can see from a tide chart, the 11 foot tides of this weekend should be absolutely perfect for night fishing. If you do not have all night to go, you might want to venture out about 3 a.m. through 8 a.m. for the best results.
At night they get reckless. They are not afraid of getting attacked by predators from above, so they take more risks and feed with abandon. If you have not fished a particular area before, study the charts. Look for anything that breaks or changes the flow of water, concentrating the bait. This could be a rock pile, ledge, sandbar, or man-made structure. The bait will concentrate near these structures, drawing in the big fish to feed. Look for natural channels through which the receding water will flow. A beach may look flat, but if you study one carefully, you will see threads where the water moves more quickly.
Watch for birds. Terns and gulls can be your best scouts. They will find a school of bait fish and will be diving on them. The big fish can often be found around these schools. So if you see diving birds, get to them as fast as you can. Often bigger birds will be diving on bigger baits, while small birds will concentrate on schools made up of tinier offerings. Look carefully, observe, and then adjust your lures accordingly.
I love the early morning light and so do fish. They can see better and the heat of the day has yet to drive them deep. This means when the dark starts to turn grey, be there fishing. This is often a great time for bluefish. For some reason, perhaps they use eyesight more than smell to attack, they feed very aggressively in the early hours of the day. While the bluefish slash through the baitfish, the stripers will be underneath, scouring the bottom for the leftovers.
The wind direction can also be a key. All things being equal, fish like to swim into the wind. In our case if it is blowing from the west, the bait will be in closer to the shoreline. Correspondingly, if you get an east wind, working your baits out a little deeper.
There are any number of ways to fish for these big July linesiders.
I love fresh bait. Would you eat something that is dried out and tasteless if you had a choice? Fresh is king. You can catch bait fish ahead of time and keep them fresh in an aerated cooler, use a squid rig and catch a few, fish eels you can buy at the bait store, or, with these huge tides, dig some sea clams and fish them fresh from a bucket. In any case, fresh bait gives off a trail of smell that will stimulate the big fish to hunt.
If you are fishing lures at night, go with darker colors. Save the green and yellows for the daylight, chose black and red at night. When the fish looks up at your lure there is more light above than below. These darker lures will be silhouetted more distinctly.
Most fishermen use rigs that are just too heavy. I like a medium/light rod that allows me to feel the fish hit. A 20-pound test line should be enough, but go to 30 if you want to.
If fishing clams or chunks, use enough weight to get the rig out away from shore on your cast and enough to get the bait to the bottom. Your bait, however, should wash and move down there. It can roll about a bit, looking natural. So enough with the pound weigh, just use your sinker enough to get it out and down.
The best way to present is simple live-lining. If fishing bait fish, get them out into the surf and let them swim about naturally. The hook and line in them will be enough to make them act different than the other bait fish. Predatory fish look for the weak and the disabled. They will single your bait out from the rest and attack it unmercifully.
When a fish strikes your bait, you have to be patient. Do not go ripping your offering right out of their mouth before the fish has a chance to swallow it. Open the bail and let the big fish work on your bait a bit. Let the clock tick of three or four seconds, flip the bail, and then pull firmly to set the circle hook. Do not yank. This will allow the hook to set perfectly as it is designed to do.
Remember, night time is the right time this month. See you out there.