Striper Hunting - Learning to Read the Water

Posted on May 08, 192000 at 22:36:18:

STRIPER HUNTING- Learning to read the water

By Gary D. Scavette

Flyrodding in Maine during the month of June is nothing short of spectacular. Rivers, streams, lakes and ponds become alive with insect activity as water temperatures increase and water levels decrease. Fish become more active feeders at all levels. Stripers begin invading estuaries, beaches, and marshes up and down our vast coastline. The worst part of the month is deciding which species of fish to pursue! Should you decide to take on the striped bass I will outline some strategies that will surely make you a success.

When one considers the contour of our coastline with its many bays, and estuaries it can be intimidating to the novice. You must learn to "read the water" to be a successful striper angler. This is not easily done due to the many variables that come into play such as wind, tides, and currents. We have a tremendous tidal flux that can make an area glass smooth one hour and a raging torrent an hour later. Just as reading water is important to the trout angler it is equally important to the striper angler.

Fishing from waders is an advantage in learning to read water. The intimate relationship that you have with the tide and current in a pair of waders allows you to more reliably notice subtle changes around you that might otherwise go unnoticed in a boat. You are certainly more connected with your surroundings watching as baitfish and crustacia move about around your feet.

The advantage of a boat is that you are more able to fish a variety of different areas to find fish. In my opinion, quality is often sacrificed for quantity when fishing from a boat . Although I spend 99 percent of my time fishing from a boat as a charter captain , I think I learned the most about currents, tides, structure, and striper food from a pair of waders.

Striper habitat takes on many forms but I will summarize them into three main categories and then discuss each in detail . The three categories are currents, texture, and structure.


Currents (moving water) may be created by tides, wind, rivers, or the motion of the earth. Stripers position themselves in currents to facilitate feeding. The harder the current the more stripers seem to like it. In addition flies "swim" far better in currents than slack motionless water. A good current allows your fly to make a long swing over a large area.

One of the most effective places to utilize currents is along a beach. The motion of the surf on the beach will often facilitate the formation of longshore currents that will allow the fly to swing parallel to the beach.

Currents that are formed as a result of tidal flow are of the most significance to the striper angler in Maine. Because of the great variation from high to low tide our tidal currents may be extreme. The currents formed in a particular bay or estuary as a result of the tide will vary for each body of water. This increases the challenge of learning to read these areas.

It is important to remember that tide height verses time forms a sine curve. That means that the curve plateaus at both high and low tide with little change in height during these times. To contrast this, at mid tide, both going and coming, the tide height changes the greatest amount for each passing hour. What this means is that you can anticipate little tidal current during the hours of full high and low tide. This "slack tide" generally creates poor fly fishing conditions. On the other hand, the mid tide hours will bring the greatest influence from tidal currents which, depending upon your fishing area, could make for the strongest currents and best fishing conditions. Learn to live by this and you most certainly will catch more fish.


This is my word to describe areas where the water's surface is turbulent. Stripers like texture. Texture can be formed when two or more currents moving in different directions meet (rip). It is also formed as a result of currents moving over structure (rocks, depressions, etc.) or a sudden change in depth of water such as a wave approaching a shoreline(surf). Stripers are amazingly well adapted to holding position in textured water. I suspect that this turbulent water disorients bait making for an easy meal for the striper. Look for texture when striper fishing.


Structure holds many marine invertebrates that make up a large part of a stripers diet. In addition structure provides stripers a place to corner baitfish. It is easy to find structure on Maine's coastline. Breakwaters that go out to lighthouses and rocky points that extend into a bay or estuary offer prime structure for stripers as does any formation that produces textured water.

Mud and sand flats ,areas without hard structure, should not be overloooked. These shallow areas often provide ideal habitat for cruising stripers that are feeding on marine invertebrates such sand eels and marine worms.

Have a great time learning to read striper water. It can be very challenging but rewarding. Remember current , structure, and texture ! You may call me at Northeast Anglers Inc. 1-800-558-7658 or send e mail to if you have any questions or comments regarding this article or fishing in general. In addition, you may join the Maine Striper Network at The network is made up of anglers all over the state who post striper fishing reports via. E mail on the net. This can provide you with an outstanding source of information for where to go and what to use.

Gary Scavette is a registered Maine guide, U.S.C.G licensed captain and the President of Northeast Anglers Inc.

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