I’ve had the pleasure of catching and releasing striped bass this spring and summer with a fly rod in different ways. I’ve waded for ’em, paddled for ’em, and boated for ’em. I’ll review my trip logs from 2021 here and cover select locations. The wading and paddling areas are all public, not secret, and easily accessed.
Recipe 1 – Wading
My family has a Crane Beach sticker on our car which lets us park at Baker’s Pasture, a new alternative parking area. A blissfully short walk down the hill delivers us next to Steep Hill Beach, the fishiest shoreline area on the ocean side of Crane Estate.
In this Google Maps satellite screenshot, you can see the dark streaks on the right. Those are all rocks which consistently hold schoolie-sized striped bass. They are especially accessible to the fly angler around low tide. While I’ve been blanked at high tide this year, I’ve also encountered exciting surface feeds at low tide at dawn.
You can also get a $15 Fishing Sticker online from the Town of Ipswich which will let you park outside the gate after hours and take the peaceful 20-minute walk in. Check out the tide charts and give it a shot!
I’ve had success using pink Clousers, chartreuse Half and Halfs, and baitfish imitations using an intermediate fly line. So long as you don’t tire the fish out too much, I would recommend using 12 lb. fluorocarbon tippet at this point in the season for your terminal tackle as the fish have gotten increasingly picky. If you have them, wear a wetsuit or waders as the water in the Plum Island Estuary never gets warmer than about 65 degrees.
Another place that I can personally vouch for walk-in action is Clam House Landing at the Allyn Cox Reservation in Essex around high tide. All the recent rain has flooded the estuaries with freshwater, which isn’t ideal for striped bass fishing. But it’s a nice quiet spot and you don’t have to get wet as you can cast from the marshy shore.
Recipe 2 – Paddling
I’ve canoe-fished and kayak-fished this year for stripers. Read my how-to guide for fly trolling out of non-motorized watercraft here. I got skunked on May 10th at the Herring River and North River on the South Shore in my kayak, then had two successful canoe trips on the Essex River in early June. In July I found fish both in the Essex River and in Ipswich Bay while in my kayak. Launch sites are at Allyn Cox and Pavilion Beach.
I’ve paid for it with a bunch of bug bites from those evil greenheads, but have done well both trolling and casting flies using intermediate line and full sinking lines (Orvis Depth Charge in 300g is my fave). Encountering a surface feed at 7 am in the Essex River estuary and casting into a school of eager 20-inchers out of the canoe with my father has been the highlight.
I got caught in some sketchy surf and wakes while kayaking Ipswich Bay recently, which always seems to happen to me out there, but I hooked up with a few small fish using a large green and white Clouser Minnow with my own hand made leader tapering to 12lb test.
Recipe 3 – Boating
Not surprisingly, a day that I was in a powerboat with a guide was the best. My Dad and I did a 3/4 day in July with Eliot Jenkins of Greasy Beaks Flyfishing. See my post from last year about going out with him. We had an outstanding day, finding birds working bait, splashing fish, and a thrilling fly bite with fish in the 25 to 29 inch range. I can’t recommend Eliot enough, you won’t regret it. He does albie trips in the fall too I hear!
The striped bass population is still threatened, but the new slot limit regulations and circle hook requirements are good things. While the water has warmed in Nantucket Sound, there’s still plenty of cold fishy water on the North Shore and further points north.
As Tom Rosenbauer recently said in an Instagram comment: “Go early, stay late, and don’t trout-set.” Enjoy the summer, everyone.
PS anyone looking for a fishing buddy? I’m looking to get to know some folks interested in paddling and night fishing. Send me an email [email protected] if you’ve got an inkling, thanks.