Riverlines Blog III

Grab your knife, cut some bait, and land some big ones!!

Hello again fellow fisherman. As promised today we’ll discuss the “Great Bait Debate”.  In our last blog we went over some essential techniques for fishing artificial baits, but to maximize your fishing experience in the river you’ll also need to master some basic bait techniques.

What do stripers like to eat? This is where the debate begins. The simple answer is anything that falls in front of their nose. Big stripers are gluttons, and when feeding they’ll gobble up most anything. But we want to increase our chances during certain times, tides and weather. Some guys swear by mackerel, others herring. Then you have the eel guys and the clam guys. Let’s go over the baits then I’ll follow with some simply rigs to fish all of them.



First off I’m a herring guy. That’s because I generally fish up river and the major food source up river especially in the spring is herring. Rules and regulations restrict the taking of live herring, but bait store herring is fine. Belsan’s Bait & Tackle sells a 6 pack of frozen herring for about $6.00. The trick is to keep them partially frozen. Herring are delicate fish and will turn to mush if thawed too much. Chunk herring will out fish chunk mackerel two to one from May to the end of June.



Mack is a great all around bait. You can buy it anywhere, it stays on your hook and it gives off a lot of scent. Early in the year you can grab Tinker Macks (small macks) right outside the river and if your fishing the mouth it’s hard to beat one live lined. I like fishing macks when I’m out closer to the spit and mouths of the North and South rivers. Again because this is the predominant bait source as you get closer to the ocean. As the season slows down, when we get into July then macks become my bait for up river as well because the herring become scarce.



An under used bait. In recent years this has become one of my favorite all around baits. Clams work all year long and can be the key when other baits fail. They are purchased in frozen pints or quarts and it is a good idea to always have at least a pint with you if your bait fishing. If your macks or herring fail put on a clam you may be surprised.



An overused bait. I’m not an eel guy. The main reason is the huge decline in the population of eels in the river. Over the past ten years eels have become scarce, and thus they are not a major food source for stripers in the river. Don’t get me wrong they will certainly catch fish, more often in the fall when the population has increased, but the availability coupled with difficulty in fishing them (they’ll wrap, twist, burrow) make them my least favorite choice.

Sea worms:

sea worm...

Always have them on the boat. If you have your kids with you, these babies will catch rats (little stripers) all day long to keep them entertained. You’ll get a flounder or two for supper and they are the best thing to tip your bucktail jigs. Don’t leave home without them.

There are two basic rigs to fish all of the above. You’ll need a variety of egg sinkers from 3/8 – 1 oz. You will need size 2/0 thru 4/0 circle hooks depending on the size of the fish hitting. Go smaller if you’re getting picked (bait stolen), simple swivels and good fluorocarbon leader material.

Use 25lb test fluorocarbon (Belsan’s has 25-50 yard spools). Cut a two foot section of leader material; tie the hook on one end, the swivel on the other. Before tying the swivel to your line slide the egg sinker up your line so it slides freely to the swivel.  I usually rig two rods with different weight egg sinkers so I can fish varying depths. Cut a small chunk of herring, mack, or clam, big is not better, about 2 ½” inch pieces, sea worms go on whole, and cast down current allowing the weight of the sinker to determine depth.  Put the rods in your rod holders, grab a sandwich (I prefer anything from Lambert's, awesome sandwiches) and a beer and wait. Your drag should be set so you can strip it with a slight pull of your hand and with circle hooks you’ll need to resist the urge to hook set early. The rod may bounce over a few times before the fish is on, when the rod goes into a full bend, pick it up and reel. This is the proper way to set a circle.

The second rig is simple. Simply remove the weight and rig becomes a cast and move rig. This is the best rig for eels or live tinker macks, but is great for all of the above. Without weight you’ll need to cast into slower moving water, eddies, and up into the slue ways. Let the bait settle then slowly move it back towards you pausing frequently allowing it to settle again. This technique covers lots of water and I use it frequently to locate fish while drifting with the current.

See Ya Next Week

Spit Guy, Fish Guy