Summer patterns that work for the surf.
It’s July and, by nearly all accounts, the 2022 spring striper run was one of the best in at least the last decade. As water temps climb with the summer heat, the fishery is going to change. All that means is that surfcasters will have to change with it. There are also a few reasons to be extra optimistic about, at least the first half of July, so let’s start there.
It has been a relatively cool spring, May and June were both cooler than the 10 year average and that has translated to cooler-than-normal water temps going into July. As I write this on June 22nd, water temps at Atlantic City are 63 degrees, off Montauk its 58 degrees and Newport, RI is sitting at 62. I think it would be an underestimate to say that these temps would ordinarily be 5 degrees higher at this time. Also, my results over the past 2 years seem to indicate that changes to the striped bass regulations are working, I’ve seen much more consistent fishing for larger bass and more action overall—I think we’re striking a more sustainable balance in the fishery and that’s a great thing.
The focus shifts from targeting migrating fish to finding resident fish. That term, resident fish, is a little misleading because they will still move around during the summer, but if you can find areas that offer the fish what they need, then you’ll likely to be able to find reliable fishing (most of the time) during the summer. Basically it amounts to food, structure, safety and cooler water. Luckily these thing can be grouped together even further because good structure typically holds lots of ‘food’ and striped bass see deep water as a safe escape and deeper water is cooler water.
But even if you’re able to pinpoint five spots that have all of these things, they still may not be created equal. To flush out the best of the best, I look to the tide. The tides are absolute, you know that water is coming in and going out, twice, every day. Using current charts like those found in the Eldridge Tide & Pilot Book, you can see how the current moves through your area. Now using that knowledge in conjunction with something like the Navionics App, look for places where the tide is likely to move cooler water from deeper holes or channels up into the surf zone. Then work your way through that stretch of shoreline to find the best structure and the best ways to reach it with your lures or bait.
Forcing The Issue
If your area is just devoid of resident fish, you may have to force the issue. This involves traveling to a place where tidal currents are impossible to avoid and the desired cooling takes place over a wide area. The most obvious places to find this are the destination islands of the Northeast, most notably, Cuttyhunk and Block Island. These land masses stand as constant tidal obstacles and are surrounded by deeper cooler water—in response to these facts, both islands, and many others, attract hordes of resident stripers every summer.
Other places that fit the same bill would be Montauk, which is a tidal pivot point where a huge amount of water is exchanged daily, thanks to Long Island standing in the path of the massive amounts of water trying enter and exit Long Island Sound. Another would be the Cape Cod Canal where torrid currents are formed thanks to a tidal disparity of more than two feet from one end to the other. Cape Cod itself also acts as a major tidal obstacle where cooler water prevails all summer long and the stripers have a long history of spending July and August.
This method works, it’s practically science. But I would caution you to adjust your expectations. Hunting resident fish is often a grind that usually results in a handful of hard-won fish, and they’re usually not trophies, but my experience has shown that they’re usually not schoolies either. When things come together just right though, the results can be amazing. Enjoy the summer!