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12TH MONTH STRIPERS

Are you looking for that December striped bass? Well here are some options in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut waters.
By Toby Lapinski
12TH MONTH STRIPERS
The author landed this schoolie bass on a 1/8-ounce marabou jig last December after a morning snow squall had passed.

This month’s Hot Spot installment is a little different than the usual ones you’ll see as it doesn’t cover a single local spot to go fish. Instead I am throwing out there a handful of options to go get that 12th month striper from shore across Southern New England.

MASSACHUSETTS
Starting in the Bay State, most of the migratory fish have left the oceanfront by now, but that doesn’t mean your striper options are gone. I spoke to James Jewkes who said there are small bass to be had in spots like Boston Harbor around the Charles River and on up to the Mystic River dam throughout much of the winter months. Like most other wintering spots, the usual array of soft plastics on jigheads will find success here when the fish are in a feeding mood.

Heading out onto the Cape, you will see references from time to time in our fishing reports of late-season and holdover stripers being caught in the many creeks and bays that dot the coast. Pretty much as long as the waters are deep enough to resist freezing over in all but the coldest of snaps, you’ve got a shot at some schoolies year-round. The Canal should hold small bass late into the 12th month, and you might even encounter schools of mackerel or pollock if you’re lucky; the East End seems to hold a better shot at the latter.

RHODE ISLAND
The Providence River has its ups and downs for striper action from year to year, but more often than not you can at least find a few fish hanging around if you put in enough effort—it beats sitting at home! Like most other spots, smaller jigheads with Fin-S Fish or the local favorite, the Cocahoe Minnow, will produce. Keep an eye out for Fisherman contributor Dave Pickering if you head here as he has been known to make a cast or two each winter in these waters.

If you’d prefer working a spot closer to the oceanfront, the ponds of South County and the channels that feed to the ocean hold stripers longer than they do anglers each fall. Potter Pond holds some fish, and I even heard of a winter 50-pounder taken out here many years ago. The Narrow River was a favorite local haunt of the late Capt. Al Anderson. While he liked to troll feathers on lead line from his small center console, you can score some fish from the handful of shore access sites along the river if you don’t have access to a small boat.

CONNECTICUT
The easy choice here is the Housatonic River. In certain circles you’d get the impression that it’s the ONLY place left where you can catch a striped bass between December and April in the Northeast. And while that is about as far from the truth as you can get, those who fish elsewhere are just fine with this perception—myself included.

If you can find a tidal creek or river along the Connecticut coast with some sort of public access, odds are that there are stripers in there right now. Approach these spots with light gear; I pack a rod more suited to trout than stripers and throw small, 1/8- and 1/4-ounce bucktails. If you can find swim shads in the 1-inch range, all the better!

The big rivers outside the Housy—the Thames and the Connecticut—have their own wintering striped bass, too. The Thames doesn’t get the pressure that it used to, but I have spoken to enough anglers who still fish it and do well each winter to keep it on the list. The Connecticut is a bit tougher to fish from shore than by boat for wintering stripers due to its size, but there are some spots where you can catch them. Try the same coves that are targeted by ice fishermen seeking panfish and you just might find some stripes right now.