The Mouth: Fishing for Striper on the Mouth of the Merrimac
Arguably one of Massachusetts’ favorite species to fish for, Stripers (Striped Bass) are plentiful, versatile, and delicious. Usually stripers are best for eating between 18 inches (the legal minimum) and 36 inches — beyond that they’ve been known to get a bit too coarse. Somewhere between cod and swordfish in terms of flakiness and texture, most people find stripers to be rich and mineral in flavor. They are extremely versatile to cook with, and taste amazing when grilled. More than their excellent taste and plentiful numbers, stripers are great to fish for because they can be found in almost any environment you want to set up in, be it deep out in the ocean, or closer in, like in your local river.
Although being out on a boat is a thrill, there is something to be said for the simplicity of river fishing. It gives you a home court advantage over bigger inland fish like the striper, and the mouth of the Merrimac River is a great place to fish this time of year. Think of the mouth like a funnel: When the tide comes in, so do the fish, cramming into the river’s smaller water looking for a snack. When tides go back out, so too do the fish, following the crowd. For the in-the-know fishermen, this change in tide can help score some big fish. Sure, there are little schoolies in the river as well, looking for their share of herring and eel, but among the smaller fish there are bound to be some plump grown-ups looking for lunch too.
A tip for finding the best spot on the mouth: take the day and scout it out. If you head out when it’s low tide, you can learn a little about the environment of the river, while the water is low. Canvas the river for deep pockets on the water’s floor, where the water noticeably drops off. Once high tide approaches, these spots are great for dropping bait into because the fish assume, due to the increased depth there, that there is also increased food and protection. (Clearly they do not know what you know.) So, if you scout where the deep pockets are during low tide, chances are, when high tide approaches, you will be able to land even the most cautious of the river’s big stripers.
Don’t feel like taking the boat out all day? Try a little river fishing. You may be surprised at the results!