Grab your rod and reel, and head to the coast.They’re known by many names including linesiders, squidhound, rockfish and, most commonly, stripers. Whatever you choose to call them, Atlantic striped bass with their gleaming, silver bodies can grow impressively large, and when hooked put up the kind of thrilling fight you would only expect from big game fish.They are the state salt water (marine) fish of New Hampshire and in late winter and early spring, striped bass head into tidal freshwater to spawn and then return to the Atlantic coastal waters. There they spend most of the summer and early fall months in middle New England near-shore waters. Schoolie stripers are found in large numbers in May, but then larger ones can be found in June, making it an ideal time to fish. Striped bass can be tricky to catch as they prefer to be either in or near fast or deep water, or both, but when you hook one the experience is unforgettable. They can be caught on fly rods and spinning reels alike and are attracted to various flies, lures and a number of live and fresh baits including herring and mackerel. Whether you’re angling from the shore or motoring out into open waters, summer fishing for stripers in New Hampshire is bound to be a beautiful adventure.Impressive FactThe current New Hampshire state record for striped bass was one caught in the Atlantic Ocean, Great Bay, by Robert A. Lindholm in June of 1980, at 51” long and a whopping 60 lbs.!Gear BoxSee Gear Box Photos AboveThe Offshore Angler Ocean Master rod and reel combo, available in three class sizes: ($209.98- $219.98)You’ll have to choose between live bait and a variety of lures, and ultimately go with what seems to be working for other fishermen, but a good standard for the tackle box is a Rapala Minnow fishing lure that mimics a wounded minnow in the water. ($7.99- $10.93) “The Complete Book of Striped Bass Fishing” by Nick Karas is an essential read for anyone wanting to catch stripers. ($37.98)Expert AdviceNew Hampshire resident Joel Koch started his charter business (Reel Ecstasy, www.nhsaltwaterfishing.com) 10 years ago and averages about 85 trips a year on his boat “Reel Ecstasy.” He takes experienced anglers as well as first timers venturing out from the Newington/Portsmouth area.How did you first get into the sport of fishing? I grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, N.Y. My family always had boats and we fished. Early photos at about the age of 3 show me with a fishing pole in one hand and a sandwich in the other. Fishing and eating are still my passions. I moved to New Hampshire after college and did a lot of freshwater fishing, including small tournaments. One day a buddy took me striper fishing. That was about 20 years ago and I have been hooked on it ever since.Could you describe some of the challenges of fishing for striped bass here in N.H.? Our shoreline and largest river have a rocky bottom. This makes fishing an area more challenging with a lot of lost tackle. In New Hampshire there is a big tide, with water depths changing as much as eight feet from low to high tide. That produces a lot of current incoming as well as outgoing. It takes time to get used to fishing this much change in water depth and the faster currents we have. What makes a spot good at times may mean it is high and dry at other times. A spot may be good incoming tide but not good outgoing tide, and vice versa. What are the pros and cons of fishing from shore vs. fishing from a boat? I only fish from a boat, which allows me to fish many spots and move around with ease. Fishing from shore does allow you to learn a small area better. If you fish an area from shore often you will learn everything about it and will start to learn when that spot is better for catching fish. Of course, fishing from shore is more economical and gives everyone the opportunity to go fishing.What are the most essential pieces of equipment striper fishermen should have at the ready? Is there any particular item that most people wouldn’t think to bring but is handy to have? A tide chart is important, as knowledge of the tides can be essential. If fishing from shore, at low tide you may not be able to cast out far enough to get into fishable waters. By boat at low tide you may not be able to launch.Another important thing to have is a valid saltwater fishing license. This is the first year that New Hampshire is requiring a fishing license, and if targeting striped bass you will need one. As a charter boat we will carry a license for all people fishing on it. For others an individual license for each angler is required. A pair of fish pliers or a dehooker is a great item to bring along on any fishing trip. New Hampshire regulations require any fish less than 2" be returned to the water and many fish caught will be below this limit.What makes fishing for stripers a unique experience? The great thing is you never know what is going to happen. Will you get into a school of small aggressive fish or find that 45" trophy? You might see an eagle soaring overhead or a seal swimming nearby. The state offers incredible fishing opportunities, combined with some of the most beautiful coastline.
This article appears in the June 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine