How to Catch Striped Bass In Rivers


For a lot of Striped Bass fishermen Fishing the shoreline during the migratory runs in early spring and late fall is Striper season. The water temperature comes up a bit and the season is on at the Beach but Striper fishing season can be longer and closer on the tidal rivers where Big Bass come up to spawn and enjoy the variety of baitfish in smaller freshwater areas to fish in. How do you catch Striped Bass In Rivers?

To catch Stripers in a Freshwater river:

Fish overnight 10 pm-4 am
On new moon
55-68° H2O temps.
Use a Planer or a Float technique
Jigging technique on a boat
Use Fresh Bait from the River-Alewife, Herring, Shad or eels
Lures that simulate baitfish on the surface or just below
Near bridge lights or Pier

A long-lived species (at least up to 30 years of age), A Striped Bass typically spends the majority of its adult life in coastal estuaries or the ocean, migrating north and south seasonally and ascending to rivers to spawn in the spring. Fish tend to move north during the summer and south during the winter.

           Freshwater Striper Fishing Techniques

Striper fish tend to move north during the summer and south during the winter. Important wintering grounds for the mixed stocks are located from offshore New Jersey to North Carolina. With warming water temperatures in the spring, the mature adult fish migrate to riverine spawning areas to complete their life cycle. The majority of the coastal migratory stock originates in the Chesapeake Bay spawning areas, with significant contributions from the spawning grounds of the Hudson and Delaware Rivers in freshwater

The Striped bass is native to the eastern US coastline but found almost everywhere in the Country.  They are anadromous fish similar to salmon in that they spend much of their lives in the ocean but spawn in freshwater rivers and streams. Stripers do very well living entirely freshwater or saltwater their whole life. There have been numerous years of conservation successful efforts have been made to introduce these fish to landlocked large lakes and reservoirs across the country.

Along the Delaware River where I live Striped Bass come up into freshwater to eat and spawn before leaving and finding their way back to ocean waters. They are smaller than the bigger saltwater schools in cold water late autumn and early spring but are plentiful at the right time.

When out on the river especially in a small boat in early spring Stripers might run right past you even if your electronics are monitoring the water. The best technique I have seen recently that’s been around for a while is the Planer floats or Float techniques that can improve your odds of catching big bass by covering lots of water using the movement of the water.

These techniques allow you to present your live bait in the most natural way far from your boat or wherever you are fishing from. Using this fishing technique can cover a lot of water using the wind, current, or tide to help move the bait around with no physical exertion on your part.

With this Planer Float technique, you won’t need any weight or special tackle just need to rely on the current or even wind that will keep the bait moving through water columns and surrounding areas within eyeballs reach to be able to land that striped Bass.

They will work in a canoe on the river. You won’t need a Bass Boat to troll with these floats, just moving water and normally the wind or tide should blow them away from where you are in the water. As long as there is moving water you can set these floats down and just let some line out to where you want them to sit and set your drag so they won’t move any further.

That includes fishing from the bank of the river. Set them in the tide or current and you can visually see them from a reasonable distance. The whole idea of using this technique is to get your bait in the shallows where Big Bass are looking for baitfish, not necessarily deep water. That’s why you don’t want any weight on your rig so that that bait will be available at any depth in the water column.

Planer Board from Yellow Bird, now a board that can handle the “Kitchen Sink”, load them up with lead core, copper, clip-on weights, and more. These are meant for the real tough jobs when trolling for those “Trophy” fish like pike, musky, stripers, kings, browns, lake trout, and saltwater fish.

Rig for Big Striper Bass:

  • Mainline should be 20-30 lbs test
  • Glass Beads for weight and noise and to stop your float from moving all the way down to the hook.
  • A leader is tied to a barrel swivel (the leader should be heavy enough fluorocarbon line depending on where you are fishing)
  • Use an Off-Set Circle Hook with Planer Boards and Floats
  • Set your depth
  • Attach your Planer or Float-These new boards are made from ABS (recycled) plastic for durability, they include a working Tattle Flag System along with an Enclosed Back, Adjustable Weight System, and New Quick-Grip Snap Release.

Like all our boards they are uniquely marked with Red for Port and Green for Starboard, just like the lights on your boat, so you can never forget which side to run them.  4 3/8″ wide x 12″ long. They are also available in sizes 5″, 8″, 10″ sizes. You can get the Combo Planer Kit here from Amazon 

You don’t need anything too big in the size of these floats because you’ll be watching the tips of your line anyway. So stay with medium size floats especially in freshwater rivers and Back Bays.

Jigging Fishing Method

The Jigging method is a great method for catching  Striper Bass in a river from any size boat or kayak as long as you have some electronics on board. You’re going to need an electronic fishfinder here to locate schools of baitfish and Stripers that will be working the baitfish.  Locate a large school of shad or alewives on your screen. You should be able to make out big shadows from the smaller ones in the school. These are striped bass swimming through the baitfish.

  • Figure out what depth the bottom of the school is at and using a Reel-mounted line counter
  • Drop your spoon or jig about 10 feet beneath the bottom of the school.
  • Instead of jigging as you normally know it, reel the bait up as fast as you can to about 10-20 feet beneath the surface.
  • Then open your spool and return the bait back down to beneath the school. So you aren’t hitting the bottom and reeling all the way up to the top surface. You are only moving through the school.
  • Repeat this process until you get a strike. Stripers will key in your bait as it looks like a shad or alewife that is panicked and going rogue away from the main body of the school.

Most of your bites will occur on the reel up so be prepared for an explosion of action as you reel. Hold on tight as these are big fish you’re dealing with and they have the power to match. You can find a small Fish Finder at a reasonable price like this Hummingbird here on Amazon  Humminbird 410200-1 HELIX 5 DI G2 Fishfinder

These guys are using the Jigging Technique on their small boat but are closer to the bottom still nailing Stripers looking to spawn but more likely just smaller ones that haven’t left the spawning grounds in later spring judging by the size of them.

What is the Best Bait for Striped Bass

The best swimbait that Striped bass is going to chase will be the kind you’ll find in that habitat where you are fishing. Look for baitfish along lighted bridges and piers where these guys will be located schooled altogether under artificial light. It’s harder under a full moon setting because the bait won’t be attracted to one spot.

Under a moonless night, which is most likely the best time to catch them, look for lit-up bulkheads and docks or bridges.  Throw out your handheld nets and look for baits that are normally found in abundance. Where they are the Big Bass will be or not that far behind. Baitfish will be found in shallow warmer water on the surface munching on whatever is floating on the surface f the river.

  • Herring
  • gizzard shad
  • American eels
  • Yearling
  • Alewives (plural for Alewife fish) are popular for catching trout, walleye, striped bass, blue catfish, and other freshwater fish. They are sometimes caught with cast nets or seines for use as live baits. image of river herring caught by biologists in the Connecticut RiverAlewives also occur in freshwater rivers and saltwater estuaries and are often found together with blueback herring. In fact, they look alike this picture shows the Herring on the bottom and the Alewives on top with the only physical difference, bigger eyes. Big Bass love them!

Get the baits in a live well and cool them down a little to keep them fresh. Fish striped bass by locating schools of Trolling, jigging, and casting will catch both hybrid stripers and freshwater striped bass. Rivers are great locations to find striped bass most of the year.

You’ll find Stripers patrolling medium-to-deep water along the edge of deep and shallow channels and bends. They will even follow bait schools into very shallow water less than 3 feet deep. Locate schools of bait and you’ll likely find some stripers following nearby. In big freshwaters like St. Lawrence and Delaware Rivers, American eels are a favorite food source. Stripers can be tougher to locate in bigger water but are usually bigger and just as aggressive.

In freshwater rivers, you could be trolling your bait over water as shallows as 2 feet deep along the banks. Use planar boards to carry your bait out wide from the boat or farther from the shore. Focus on staggering your rods at different angles and distances so they fish roughly 30+ feet apart from each other.

Best Lures for Striped Bass at Night

Use medium-sized lures at night that mimic alewives, herring, or shad in smaller rivers. In major tributaries like the Delaware River, try to mimic American eels which stripers love eating. To do this, use soft plastic eel baits and even jointed big minnow baits can give off this impression as well. Larger freshwater lures can work in saltwater too.  Some of those best lures for Striped Bass in freshwater rivers are the ones that look like Gizzard Shad and Alewife baitfish that will drive Striper crazy and hit on them immediately.

Cordell Redfin is a great nighttime Topwater Lure for Striped Bass. try to find Blue with chrome or put some reflective decals on the lure to attract some light from sources on the banks or moonlight. The way to work these is to let the water settle after you cast and reel in slowly. As you slowly reel in the lure will cause a wake that will act like an Alewife spawning on the surface of the river. It also simulates an injured baitfish which is like ringing the dinner bell for a Striper.

Shad is another favorite of Freshwater Striper especially a shad in distress like this Jerkbait  Livingston Lures Jerkmaster 251 Chartreuse Shad #13803 Try any kind of Shad or Alewife profile and different sizes. All Livingston Lures feature Electronic Baitfish Sounds (EBS) embedded on a smart chip in the internal sound chamber of each lure. The sound activates once the lure is submerged in water.

Striped Bass can be light-shy and prefer New Moon over Full Moon but once they are feeding on Alewives during their spawning or Shad they will be attracted to them and hit on lures that are the same size and profile them the best. If the moon is full you may have to fish deeper but they’ll still be there.

So use a lure that will move just under the waterline so that any light from the boat or if you are on the shoreline doesn’t spook the Bass away. Other lures to use in the River especially in the nighttime are eel imitations lures and the famous Heddon Super Spook Topwater Fishing Lure for Saltwater or Freshwater and the Tsunami Talkin Pencil Popper in blue reflective color. A couple of my buddies chimed in with large saltwater chug bugs, big spooks, bombers at dusk on into the night, and last but not least big chrome spoons for the Jigging we were talking about earlier.

Best Time to Fish for Striped Bass

Being from the Delaware Valley area of Pennsylvania, I get to enjoy the best Ocean and Freshwater fishing in the Country. At the mouth of the Delaware River in the Delaware Bay, around 60-70 miles away from where I’m living which is 5 minutes from the river is the Jersey Shore where Surf Fishing for the Striped Bass is everyone’s all-time favorite way to fish.

It’s harder to read the surf to drag a Striper out the ocean, than snagging a Striped Bass coming up the river. To pull a 30 or 40 pound, Big Bass, up onto the beach from the Jersey Surf is an awesome way to catch a fish, to say the least. But catching a Big Striped Bass is a great fishing experience no matter how you catch one.

The best time of the day is during the window when Stripers are most active is at night from 10 pm to 4 am. Not always but in general when there is no light or less light.  According to most anglers, this is when evening spawning is at its peak and the striped bass are most dialed in.

On dark nights, they’ll be right at the surface striking baitfish for food who are also feeding on the surface. On a Full Moon or brighter nights, they’ll still be hunting but they’ll be down a little deeper. On these nights, toss lures that will sink down 2-6 feet deep and adjust for depth.

Stripers prefer defined points with steep drops in water depth similar to structures in ocean surf like holes and troughs. The last thing I’ll reiterate on this topic is to remember striped bass are very light shy at night. This means keeping your artificial light to a bare minimum.

Don’t use lanterns, headlamps, and boat lights to light up areas where you are fishing. I’ve read reports from anglers who turned on a boat light for a second to untangle his line and all the explosions at the surface stopped, only to start up again minutes later 100 yards away because you scared the fish away.

Stripers prefer water temperatures around 55- to 68°. If the water is too hot, they may feed shallow occasionally, but quickly return to the oxygenated rich, cooler deeper water. The same goes for extremely cold water. But between the two extremes comes your best bet for some of the most exciting fishing freshwater has to offer. Spawning alewives and gizzard shad will draw striped bass to the surface in a frenzy.

That all happens in early spring Shad,  Hering, and Alewives along with eels make their way upriver. Big Bass will be dialed in to take advantage of these baitfish in their vulnerable moments as they circle the surface of the water in a spawning ritual Those smaller Baitfish like Hering and Alewives come up at around 51-degree temperature to do their thing.

Freshwater stripers just as saltwater Stripers continue to feed actively in water temperatures below 40 and as the pressure to spawn increases, saltwater stripers will use waters below 50 to stage for springtime, feeding heavily at that time.  Juvenile Stripers are more tolerant of temperature variances than adults, so smaller fish can be found in colder water than adults.  

In the springtime, more than any other time of year, striper fishermen watch the water temperatures, waiting for them to reach what we call that “magic number” when the bass start feeding. In the fall, stripers remain active as water temperatures drop into the low 40s, but it takes a bit warmer water to get them going again in the spring. For a lot of  Striper fishermen, 48 degrees is the starting point.

At 50 degrees, the fishing begins to pick up, Baitfish like shad, herring, and the all-important alewives fish move upriver to spawn and by the time the water reaches the mid-50s, good things are happening. It’s Big Bass Season!

 

 

  JimGalloway/Author/Editor

 

 

References: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission-Atlantic Striped Bass

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