The Striper Spring

The first confirmed striper of the season in New York came on April 1, when a local kid caught a schoolie in city waters.

Some of the locals started running reconnaissance missions in early March. On the first warm day they threw on their waders and Korkers and dug the stripping basket from under the snow shovels in the garage. I don’t blame them; all it takes is one slam and a bent rod from a striped bass to signal that winter is officially over.

The first confirmed striper of the season that I know of here in New York came on April 1st, when a local kid pulled up a schoolie in city waters and posted it to Instagram. Others have been pulling on them in the tidal rivers of Virginia, off the beaches of New Jersey and on the mud flats of Connecticut. Striper spring has sprung.

I live in New York and throw flies to mostly Hudson stock fish, but to me Ground Zero of the striper spring is the Chesapeake Bay. The Hudson fish wander less far afield—typically no farther than Rhode Island—but the Chesapeake bass fuel the great migration around Cape Cod and up to the chilled and rocky waters of Maine. So even though my boots are planted in Long Island Sound, my thoughts wander to the south and those breeder cows running beyond the freshwater demarcation line.

For a status report, I caught up with the Chesapeake Bay guide Tyler Nonn.

“We’ve had a weird spring,” he said. “Our water temps were two weeks behind on the first of April, then we had some warm days and had conducive water temps in the upper bay but there’s been a lag time because colder in lower bay hasn’t caught up.”

Nonn’s solution has been to load up his Jones Brothers 23 and run farther and fish harder. He’s had a few blockbuster days; the smaller males have shown up in good numbers and the big females, the ones that make the Chesapeake’s striper spring legendary, are turning up.

Nonn also referenced a concern that’s been on every angler’s mind, the state of the forage fish. The herring, typically the food source of the spring striper run, the showed up in the creeks at the end of March, but in very low numbers. There is a direct correlation here.

“If you knock out the bottom rung of the food chain it makes for fewer big fish,” said Nonn.

He’s been able to get some big fish to eat. Nonn ties a baitfish pattern he calls the Predator fly, which is a tube fly tied with synthetics and maybe a little bucktail. As his photos show, it’s getting results.