Each year they come, advancing silently up the Hudson River, the only sign of their presence being the flotilla of fishing boats and numerous riverbank anglers hoping for a tussle with these powerful fish.
Striped bass have been spawning in the Hudson for many years and the popularity of fishing for them has increased dramatically. Many people are amazed that there are fish weighing up to, and in some cases well beyond, 40 pounds in the river. The sizes do vary, but it is not uncommon to catch striped bass in the 20-25 pound range on a regular basis during the fishing season.
Once the spawning stock begins to move up river the action begins. These fish usually start showing up anywhere from the end of March to the middle of April and will remain in the river until the first week of June.
Anyone can try their luck at striper fishing. It can be done from the shore or from a boat. Many large fish have been taken by casting from the shoreline, but you really have to investigate the areas as to their potential. There are many places where small streams enter the river and become a haven for migrating herring as they move into the stream. Since the striped bass feed on these smaller fish it would follow that this region would also include them. The bait of choice would be a live herring presented in a natural way. Chunks of dead herring are also effective as well.
Another good area to fish from the shore would be regions where the water is relatively shallow - perhaps only five feet or so at low tide. These areas warm more quickly in the spring than the deeper water. I can recall a few years back when I watched a young boy catch a 30-pound fish off the rocks in Newburgh on tackle that could not have cost him more than $20!
Live bait for stripers can vary depending on the time of the season. Early on, many smaller fish can be caught with regularity using blood or sand worms. Don't be stingy with the worms. Cover the hook with one or two and leave a few inches dangling from the end. You may end up catching small perch or have them pick the worms off your hook but that goes with the territory during the early part of the season if you want to catch stripers.
Fishing from a boat has the advantage of being able to move around the river and look for the larger schools of fish. The same methods of bait fishing apply. As the season progresses, I have found live eels to be favorite. Hooking them through the lip and letting them swim freely attractsand catches many fish. If you are prone to trolling, there are a multitude of lures that are effective and they can be flat lined or fished on downriggers which allow you to control the depth of presentation.
In any case, striper fishing is available to any angler who wishes to give it a try. Once you get a 30 pounder on your line you will be "hooked" as well!
Capt. Peter Kane is an adjunct instructor of biology at SUNY New Paltz, a contributing editor for Nor'east Saltwater Fisherman magazine and operates Osprey Marine Ltd., a sportfishing charter business. To learn more about Hudson River stripers or saltwater fishing you can visit Osprey Marine Ltd. on the Web at http://www.ospreymarine.com
Season Runs March 16-Nov. 30
River Navigational Charts
Where to Find 'Em
Fly fishing for Stripers
Can You Eat 'Em?