After a few hot and humid days in the 90s, with the unrelenting sun cooking everything out in the open, it’s safe to say summer has officially arrived. When I think of striped bass in July and August, I think of my vampire friends like Jason Puris. “I do 90 percent of my fishing in complete darkness,” he says. “When most folks are getting to the beach, I’m leaving.” Night fishing for striped bass is the best way to avoid the summer heat.
Jason is the type who willfully alters his Circadian rhythm to chase striped bass on any given night on the east end of Long Island. I figured since it’s the main way he fishes for stripers, he might have something insightful to say about it.
Puris scouts his night locations during the day. “I go during the extreme low tides so I can mentally map out all the major pieces of structure,” he says. The obvious places still apply: breaks in the sand bars, ambush points, inlets, and so on.
Choosing the right striped bass flies can make all the difference. The collection in the box is actually pretty simple, with black and purple bucktail deceivers, black jiggies, and slim Bob’s bangers. “The bucktail deceiver is a great nighttime fly as it pushes a lot of water and even if the fish are on small bait they nail these,” he says. “If I’m fishing an inlet where fish are popping (eating sand eels or some other small bait) I’ll throw a Mikkleson’s epoxy baitfish.” In general, the rule is to fish a much slower retrieve at night than during the day. But sometimes an extra twitch or two is needed.
Night fishing for striped bass requires knowing where they’ll be in advance, but once you’re on the spot it’s also important to listen for them. “When fishing back bays, sound is definitely key as I’m usually listening for fish feeding on the surface,” he says. On the ocean side, wading out a few yards can key you in to popping fish that you might have missed because of the sound of the shore break.
That said, sight is still important for catching stripers. “You should always be looking for whitewater as this is often where you can find feeding fish,” Puris adds. “It’s easy to see at night.”
Fishing alone at night, though, can mess with your mind. Puris has been surprised on the beach by bats, deer, summertime partiers and those expecting romantic solitude. One night, a bus full of prom-night revelers showed up. “Before I knew it I was in the middle of fireworks, and very drunk teenagers,” he recalled.
But typically it’s just him, the waves, and hungry striped bass.