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NORTH & SOUTH RIVERS, SCITUATE, MA

Rivers like the North and South ones in Scituate, Massachusetts, are prime areas to target striped bass, some topping 50 pounds.
By Charley Soares
NORTH & SOUTH RIVERS, SCITUATE, MA

Striped bass fishing is an unpredictable enterprise, but one thing you can take to the bank is that these magnificent seven-striped fish are slaves to the tides. Over a lifetime of fishing, I’ve learned a few things about stripers and one of the most important was that fishing the mouths of rivers is a winning proposition. Moving water carries bait, and bass instinctively gravitate to moving water. Every inlet and rip has its own particular characteristics so the strategy for specific areas differs. In the vast majority of locations, it’s the outgoing tide that provides the best option to intercept fish on their way down or out of the rivers, streams and salt ponds, but there are exceptions. Holes and banks up inside rivers that set up rips can be productive on both stages of the tide.

One very productive yet under-the-radar location for most fishermen living outside the South Shore (relative to Boston) is the confluence of the North and South rivers. Outside of private conversations with a few high-line insiders who would never give you the time of day when it comes to how and where to fish this location, I have not heard or read much about this striper magnet. Back during the time when I kept a boat in the Scituate basin from winter through spring while fishing for cod, I met a few men who intercepted me upon my return to the harbor. They were striper hounds whose families enjoyed fresh codfish so those fillets opened up some new insights into the great fishing where the North and South Rivers join before they rush into the waters of Massachusetts Bay.

The breachway separates the towns of Scituate and Humarock under the precipice known as Fourth Cliff. The best action usually takes place at the barrier beach and a spit that moves and changes with the storms. One of those men was 15 years my senior and on a warm March afternoon, a few slugs of Rock and Rye loosened his tongue. He recounted stories of fishing amidst the bars and hooks in the river out to the mouth where breakers and strong currents created the frenzy that immobilizes baitfish and creates feeding opportunities for hungry stripers. The tides and currents have carved out numerous holes and sloughs and created bars where stripers set up station; taking cover behind these obstructions and unimpeded by the strong currents, they pick away at a smorgasbord of baitfish.

The confessor agreed with my theory of never dropping a lure into those holes but casting uptide and working the offering down to them in a natural manner. My new best friend also conceded that this is an exceptionally hazardous area and no place for the novice or faint of heart. While some neophyte anglers might get away with fishing the shoreline, do not attempt to fish these waters in a boat unless you are fortunate enough to be in the company of a veteran river rat. Tales of surf fishermen being lifted from their perches and boats being overturned was all part and parcel of that river fisher’s confession. The opportunities here are abundant, and from several confidential and reliable sources, there have been many a 50-pounder and a 60 or two hauled up from these waters.

As in most cases, striped bass prefer dangerous habitat and this place is no exception. Although I’ve fished this river from a 31-foot twin diesel craft and a 16-foot tin boat, the most comfortable trips were in a 17-foot Carolina Skiff with a very reliable engine. Anyone considering exploring this area should be aware that the currents can approach strengths of up to seven knots. The sign that was erected by the U S Coast Guard pretty much says it all. “Life threatening surf conditions can develop rapidly without warning at the mouth of this river, especially during a falling tide and onshore winds. The channel is subject to change and should never be entered by small craft without local knowledge.”

I would never advocate anyone to fish here alone and without local knowledge. Do not dampen your feet before you become acclimated with the area but if the conditions do not deter you, look around for a local sharpie or charter skipper who might introduce you to some fantastic striped bass fishing.

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