When the waters of the Hudson River begin to warm in mid-April, the striped bass have usually
already entered the river and are beginning their run north.
Avid striper anglers will head south until they find them, and fish them daily as they make their way to Albany. And they willingly share information on their fishing via various Internet sites, reporting locations and tactics, and often even posting photos of fish being caught.
There was a verified report on the Web April 11 that Catskill anglers Mike Adamski and Matt Witherell caught 30- and 31-inch stripers near the Rip Van Winkle Bridge using chunk herring bait. The most recent reports say the fish are at Stockport Creek, and a lot of those being caught are in the 24- to 30-inch class. Another report, which was not verified, said that same area gave up two stripers in the 39-inch class.
I guess it’s time to start getting those big rods ready for action because it shouldn’t be too long before the stripers are in downtown Albany looking for something to eat. Who knows? They may be there already.
What amazes me most about striper fishing is the number of anglers I talk to who have never gone after these great fish. Albany is not that demanding a drive, especially if you want to catch a 20-, 30- or perhaps even a 40-pound striped bass. There’s no need to go to Cape Cod or any other fishing destination on the eastern shore. The same kind of fish are right here in our own backyard.
I had the good fortune to catch a 30-pound Hudson River striper several years ago, and that same day, my son, Sean, boated and released a 31-pounder. We caught these fish with Dan Stadler, a good friend and now retired Hudson River striper guide. It’s something Sean and I will never forget. Let’s take a look at what’s required to get hooked up with one or two of these giant ocean-run bass.
Assuming you’ll be doing your own guiding for this trip, special equipment may not be needed.
Many occasional striper anglers use their everyday bass equipment, and that’s fine. But because these are bigger and stronger fish than those usually caught locally, heavier tackle is best. Ideally, a seven- or eight-foot (even longer, if fishing from shore) medium-heavy action graphite rod with a high-capacity line and high gear ratio (at least 5.0:1) reel spooled with at least 30-pound monofilament is the perfect combo. If you can handle a baitcasting reel, that’s what most of the experts recommend, but if you’re not comfortable with one, use a spinning reel.
One desirable reel feature,
especially if you plan to use bait, is the audible bait feeder or runner system. This system has a lever on the side of the reel that disengages the spool, letting the line run freely and allowing the striper to move off with the bait without feeling any resistance and letting a fisherman get ready to set the hook. Click the lever to lock the spool, reel in the slack, set the hook hard and let the fun begin. Oh, by the way, buy a big, long-handled, deep net.
WHERE TO LAUNCH
There are several very good launches that will put a boat right in the middle of good striper territory. On the eastern shore, the launch in the Schodack Island State Park south of Castleton on Route 9J is double-wide. The launching fee is $5.
On the western shore, there’s a free launch in the Henry Hudson Park in Bethlehem. Located off Route 144 on Barrent Winne Road, it’s also an excellent place to fish from shore.
The Corning Preserve Launch in downtown Albany is under I-787. This can be a busy site, and it is best to get there early. Launching there puts you right in the middle of all the striper action. As a first-timer, talk with other anglers, watch what they’re doing and duplicate it,
especially if you see them haul in a good one.
If you’re a bank angler, the walking/biking trail that begins at this launch offers plenty of river access quite a ways up the river.
There’s a new launch in Rensselaer on the eastern shore in the Hilton Industrial Park, off of Forbes Avenue. This launch is really more suited for smaller car-top type boats with small outboard engines, and it can be difficult for larger boats at low tide.
Early in the season, using a heavy, one-ounce hair jig tipped with a four- to five-inch strip of sucker bottom-bounced along the flats in 15 to 20 feet of water can be very productive. The key is to keep the bait on or near the bottom. Best color choices for jigs are yellow, white or red and white.
Once the herring run begins, they become the preferred bait choice. Herring can be purchased at bait shops, but you can also catch them yourself, adding to the experience. When running, the herring are easy to find. Look for them around creek mouths, bridge abutments or moving water discharges at depths from eight to 10 feet.
A herring rig will be needed to catch them, and many local bait and tackle shops carry them. They’re inexpensive, and consist of eight to nine tiny hair/plastic white flies on size 12 hooks attached to a main line. Add a quarter-ounce sinker, and attach it all to a spinning rod and reel with eight-pound test. Cast the rig out, and let it to fall freely to the bottom. When you find the school, you will catch them three and four at a time. For best results, use an aerator to keep them alive. Stripers like them that way.
The setup for fishing live herring is a version of the slip rig. It consists of a sinker slide placed on the main line, then tied to a 40-pound test, two-way swivel. On the snap of the sinker slide, attach a two- to four-ounce pyramid sinker using a four-inch piece of eight-pound test monofilament. In the event of a snag — and you will get snagged on the river — this monofilament leader will break before the main line does, and you won’t lose everything. The size of the sinker will be determined by the tide and current.
To the other end of the swivel, attach a three- to four-foot, 30-pound-test shock line with a size 1/0 or 2/0 red circle hook. The herring should be hooked through the mouth and out the nostril. To be effective, the bait has to be on or near the bottom, where the fish will be.
Once rigged, try to locate and concentrate on the channel edges in 15 to 25 feet of water, and anchor your boat. It’s wise to use two anchors. Cast your bait out, and feather the line with your finger as it free-spools to the bottom. Then take up the slack and either hold the rod or set it in a rod holder, if you have one. Just be sure you stay near your rod. Point the tip toward the fish, but don’t set the hook yet. Give them a few seconds to move with it. Lock the spool, take up the slack and start reeling.
The same technique will also work for for shore anglers. However, I strongly suggest the use of at least an eight-foot rod, which will greatly help in casting bait and controlling the striper.
One way of covering more water is to troll.
To get a lure down and keep it there while moving is best done with downriggers with a 13-pound weight. You can try using a three-way swivel, but it will require a lot of weight to keep it down.
Some lures being used by the river guides include Rapalas, Rebels, Shad Raps, Bombers and Striper Swipers. Popular colors are pearl, blue/silver, red and fire tiger cranking baits. Northern King and Little Cleo spoons can also get you some action. These lures should be trolled about 70 to 80 feet from the back of the boat.
For anglers who have never fished for Hudson River stripers during their spring run, you should consider a guide. They’re on the river every day, and enlisting their help improves your chances of getting hooked up with a good striper.
Guide rates will vary, but on the average a five- to six-hour half-day charter will probably range from $300 to $350 for two anglers. It’s not much of an investment for what you get. To find a guide, just type in “Hudson River striper guides” in Google, and take your pick.
For information on where and what the stripers are doing on the Hudson, go to riverbasinsports.com, and click on “Fishing Reports.”
If you do hook up with a Hudson River striper or two, drop me an e-mail at [email protected] with all the details, and I’ll add it to my Fish Tales report.
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