Staff picks for best of the November run of striped bass.
In a lyrical sense, “the most wonderful time of the year” is already upon us – if you’re chasing striped bass. Pick up any of the three editions of The Fisherman Magazine this month – New England, Long Island and Metro New York, or the New Jersey, Delaware Bay – and you’ll find the latest intel and reports geared towards your region’s very best striped bass bite.
But in terms of forecasting the month of November, and identifying some of the best bets this month for finding solid striper action, the three managing editors from each edition of The Fisherman sat down to discuss the run along the Striper Coast, and have come with a few recommendations for making this a November to remember for chasing striped bass.
When Fall Comes To New England
By Dave Anderson
It is true that the surf fishing in areas north and east of the Cape Cod Canal cool down rapidly in November, but there are enough stories in our history to keep any dedicated caster on the beach this month. How about Tony Stetzko’s 73-pounder landed from Nauset Beach on November 4, 1982? Or the big blitz on herring that happened off Sandwich, MA in early December about 10 years ago that produced fish into the 40-pound class for several days in a row? From there, the further west you travel the better the fishing and richer the historical scroll.
November is actually one of my favorite months to fish the waters from Buzzards Bay through South County Rhode Island. There are two reasons why I like it, over and above the fact there are still plenty of nice fish to be caught. The first has to do with a steep drop-off in participation; deer hunting, football games and warm beds are all major players in weeding out all but the diehards here in New England. The second is that the fish become much more predictable. I think of the bass as being constantly on the move in November surf here in New England and that means major land obstacles like islands, prominent points and major reef systems, along with areas known to concentrate bait like inlets and river mouths should become your main targets for the surf this month.
Every year I seem to have some of best late-season success, fishing shallow tide-swept bars that accompany larger land obstacles. I do most of my damage on needlefish and I always carry a variety of sizes from 5 to 10 inches. Other plugs that catch fish in these areas are Red Fins, Hydro Minnows, Danny Plugs and soft plastics on light jigheads. You can find many locations like these along the south shore of Rhode Island, between Point Judith and Nappatree Point.
Inlets are another favorite place to score late-season stripers and they have accounted for many of my largest November bass. I think of an inlet as having immense reach as their turbid waters are propelled several-hundred yards out into the ocean. This jet of water is warmer and laced with the aromas of the fertile, bait-rich backwaters that supply them. My feeling is that striped bass instinctively turn and investigate the source of this intoxicating plume of warmer, fertile water.
Historically, I have fished inlets will live eels drifted deep into my spool on an outgoing tide, and this method catches some beauties. In more recent years, I have become more and more of a ‘plug first’ kind of guy and have relied more heavily on plugs like Red Fins, Mag Darters and Super Strike Darters for this task—another more recent favorite has been a floating Sebile Stick Shad, but any floating glide bait will work. When plugging I recommend keeping closer waters honest by casting around the mouth of the inlet and making periodic long drifts to probe distant waters as well.
Any inlet will work, from small beach runs, to the Rhode Island Breachways to major river outlets. If you find yourself in a crowded situation, just make sure you observe what the local contingent is doing. The Breachways are famous for their long-standing tradition of a cooperative ‘rotation’ for fishing the prime ends of these inlet jetties. There will be a line of surfcasters on the jetty, all waiting for their turn at the tip. When you get to the tip, cast your offering into the running tide and begin your drift as you step to the outside, finish your drift and step aside again to finish your retrieve, many, many large stripers have been taken in this manner. It’s too bad we can’t always be so cooperative.
There are lots of bass to be caught from the Southern New England surf in November, you just have to be tenacious and fish those high-probability spots to make the most of our last month of surfcasting until spring.
A New York State Of Mind
By Matt Broderick
The best way to describe the Long Island surf in November is a wild card. You can have bunker, sand eels, juvenile weakfish, rainbait and even herring in certain situations. Most recently the two most predominant baits roaming the island during the month have been sand eels and bunker on both its North and South Shores. Using lures with similar profiles to both of these baits will give you an advantage when you step into the November suds this fall.
Let’s take a look at the South Shore of the island first. This stretch from the city all the way out to the Montauk sand beaches and all in between has consistently produced during November. While the fishing has seemed to tail off towards the end of the month in recent years, maybe due to the severe changes brought on by Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012 as speculated by some, all the way up to mid-month has been very solid for stripers of size. Smaller fish along with slot fish can be picked away at and caught into December too for casters who don’t mind the cold.
As a general rule of thumb, fishing beaches near all the major inlets along the South Shore has been a good bet. The beaches are always changing due to constant storms during the fall but I’ve found that the same currents and sand structure will develop again and again close to inlets like Shinnecock, Moriches, Fire Island, Jones, Deb’s and Breezy due to the same currents carving away at them over and over.
For when the sand eels are present, slim profiles fished through the troughs of the beach see a lot of looks from bass. Start your cast on the sand bar and reel it steady until it drops into the deeper water in front of it. Good lure selections include Super Strike Needlefish, Tsunami Sand Eels and Ava jigs with green or white tubes on the back. Sometimes you can find a good bite of stripers on sand eels during the daylight hours too. Walk or drive the beach if you a 4×4 permit and scout out prime breaks, troughs and bars along the sand to focus on.
Now, if you find yourself in a situation with larger baitfish along the beach such as bunker, it’s time to step up the profile size. Again, many times you will find these bunker near and around the inlets where currents are stronger. Fishing a swimming lure like a darter or bottle plug after dark is extremely effective when you can identify bunker in front of you. These lures will dig into the current and swim the way they are intended to, triggering a strike from a nearby striper. During the day the presence of bunker is apparent due to surface activity that a school with give off but after dark a sign is when you feel your plug bouncing off them as you reel it in. Sometimes if they bunker are numerous, you will snag one on a retrieve. Using a larger popper or pencil popper around the bunker schools can get the attention of a striper.
The presence of bluefish has been minimal along the South Shore during the month of November recently but you do have a shot at large bluefish and albies along the central and eastern North Shore of Long Island during the month. I have found that this last shot can be excellent fishing and most of the fish are stuffed with rainbait. Sometimes hard wind in your face (north on this shore) will push the bait right to your feet and the fish will follow. Using tins and epoxy jigs has proven themselves effective for me in past seasons along the North Shore stretch. This portion of the run is a little shorter lived and it’s more of a burst but if you can hit it right it can be epic for about a week or so.
Whether you decide to head north or south on Long Island for the November run, know you have great options that can lead to some excellent fishing. While patterns do change, historically, fishing has been consistent along the shores of the island during the month.
Greetings From The Jersey Shore
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
It’s hard to believe New Jersey’s most famous striped bass – the late Al McReynolds’ 78-1/2-pound, longstanding turned former IGFA world record – was caught on an Atlantic City jetty back on September 21, 1982 during the height of the mullet run. While we saw a quick shot of those vee-waking baits at the Jersey Shore this fall, water temps were still pretty high; as such, any real semblance of a fall run doesn’t typically materialize much in these parts until late October.
Soon after remnants of Hurricane Ian blasted through – on the heels Hurricane Fiona passing offshore the week prior – winds laid down from the west and a rush of 40- and 50-pound striped bass came crashing bunker schools over the weekend of October 8-9. Consider that wave one; the real “sustained” excitement often doesn’t really begin along New Jersey beaches until November. And if recent history proves true again in 2022, you might just find bunker-busting bass on the beach hitting big plugs on top right up until the ball drops on 2023!
Last December 31, I told my wife before leaving the house at dawn “back around noon.” After making my way into Island Beach State Park (IBSP) that morning to find stripers in the 20- to 30-pound and up range chasing bunker and herring in tight along the beach, I called her back around 4 p.m. Instead of the standard “hello” she answered my call with “I take it you found some fish.”
So yes, the striped bass run at the Jersey Shore is hot and heavy well into December; in fact, the very best striper bite of the year off Atlantic and Cape May counties down into Delaware, now coincides with the December holidays. The problem of course is that most boaters have already laid up their boats for the season, and few of those big migratory fish find their way into the South Jersey surf much anymore; or perhaps there are few Atlantic and Cape May county surfcasters there to intercept those bass that do come ashore – perhaps that’s a toss up!
From a surfcasting perspective, I’d argue that November is arguably the very best time of year to hit the front beaches for bass, with the Central and North Jersey coast in particular (Ocean and Monmouth counties) getting the nod for “best bet” status. While the mullet run is well over at this point, large schools of peanut bunker should be moving south along the beaches with stripers of mixed sizes pushing baits up into the wash (swim shads, stubby metal-lip swimmers, poppers).
While these mini-blitzes can occur anywhere from Sandy Hook to the north, south past Atlantic City and Cape May, the best action in recent years really seems to occur between Asbury Park and Barnegat Light, with the height of the fall spectacle occurring during the Thanksgiving weekend. Last year, Black Friday action along this stretch reached “legendary” status, while few will ever forget the Thanksgiving Day Massacre of 2016. Expect adult bunker in the mix as well in November, especially just outside where anglers who delay winter layup until December can enjoy some outstanding run and gun fishing.
It’s disrespectful to other surfcasters to recommend specific locations (the dreaded “spot burn”), but making the coastal drive and checking beach conditions every quarter- to half-mile along the way can put you in the action; of course, the mecca for most Jersey surfcasters has already been “burned” by former Governor Chris Christie (beach chair, flip flops, anyone?), and that’s the 10-mile stretch of Island Beach just south of Seaside.
Bunker and bass jumped Barnegat Inlet in the fall of 2021 and pushed close to shore for surfcasters from Long Beach Island south to Brigantine and Atlantic City; while surfcasters below that line are ever-hopeful to see similar conditions, the truth of the matter is the Central Jersey stretch has been the most consistent for November stripers in recent seasons.
And it doesn’t end in November either; the hope is that sand eels and herring hit the beach soon after most of the bunker have migrated south, which often carries the striper action well into the New Year with tins and teasers flying off of tackle shop pegboards.