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Pleasant Start to Summer Striper Fishing

Striped bass just hit differently. They’re muscular, strong, and pound-for-pound a fun tussle, even with schoolie-sized bass. For the past three months, my angling has been conditioned to the light-tackle approach of catching hickory and American shad. I hooked into plenty. It was a great spring. Switching gears now, the focus is striped bass. The season opened in most Maryland waters on May 16th. But it wasn’t until this morning that my first opportunity to target them came about. 

The morning’s first fish were a school of very small striped bass.

Early morning was spent doing some gear prep, readying the boat (just a 14’ McKee river runner), and getting my kiddos on the school bus. Then it was fishing time. The sun was a touch higher than preferred when I drifted into the first cast, but that was okay. I know stripers are in the river–it’s just a matter of finding them.

I fished the middle Severn River. Water temperature was 75F degrees. There was a north-east wind coming down/across river up to 10 knots. Tide was high and ebbing. As such, I first targeted the south side of points by swimming a small 3.5” paddletail on a 3/8oz jighead. Just probing around the point dropoff and covering water. No takers at my first location, but did get a personal fly over by the Blue Angels flight squadron that had just finished buzzing the Naval Academy graduation. Pretty cool. 

I next moved upriver to a particular island and drifted in the windblown side from 20 feet of depth into 5 near shore. Swimming the paddletail with a straight retrieve from deep into the shallows produced hit after hit of very small schoolie bass. Up to 15” or so. Most were only 12”. Moving on, I circled a good portion of the island with no other hookups to speak of. 

Last location to try was a proven spot of mine. You know the kind of spot—the one that seems to have some sort of life at it every time you visit. This spot is a dropoff between docks that extend from 4 feet depths quickly to 20. It’s also adjacent to a point lush with SAV. I think it’s a good hangout for fish between more active feeding periods.    

Because of the deeper water, I switched to a 1oz G-Eye jighead with a larger 5” Zman DieZel minnow in hot chartreuse color. Facing shoreline and near the end of the docks, my left-most area of casting didn’t produce. I moved the boat right toward the next dock up and my Humminbird lit up with solid marks mid-depth (between 7 and 13 feet down) that had to be striped bass. And a bit larger than the last school I found. 

I immediately began swim-jigging the offering through the mess of marks and hooked up with fish in the 20” range. Nice, little tugs that I hadn’t felt in several months. This school was there for the next half hour. The presentation was, yes, swim-jigging with distant casts and a pop-retrieve-pop cadence, but I really pronounced the pop—almost as if snap-jigging vertically. The best fish caught was a near-24” fish. Not bad for a schoolie this early in the summer season of striper fishing—and upriver, to boot. All fish were released safely. 

See y’all on the water again, real soon!

The winning lure of the morning; a 1oz G-Eye jighead paired to a 5″ Zman DieZel minnow.