The waters are warming in the Hudson River, and striped bass have been moving in since early April, following schools of herring.
In mid-April, with water temperatures around 47 degrees, there were reports of catches in the 30-inch class around 4 Mile Point in Greene County. In late April, anglers fishing in the Kingston area were hooking up with 24- to 40-inch stripers, using chunk bait. There was also a report of a 61-pound striper caught in a net around Newburgh. It wasn’t long after that the big catches reports started to come in from participants in this year’s striped bass contest sponsored by the River Basin Sports Shop in Catskill.
Tom Gentalen, proprietor, has been running this 100 percent payback tournament for quite a few years, and it’s probably the largest striper tournament held on the Hudson River. This year, there are 698 entries, and the top five winners, determined by the length of the fish, will receive $5,759, $1,780, $1,361, $942 and $628, respectively. The leader right now is local angler Pete Longo with a 44-inch beauty he caught fishing chunk baits in 30-35 feet of water. Second and third places right now are 39- and 38 1⁄4-inch stripers.
Now’s the time to be heading to the Hudson to join the striper navy in hooking up with some of these great game fish. It’s amazing how many anglers have never experienced the striper fishing we have right here in our backyard. In fact, much of it is in sight of the State Capitol and legislative building in Albany. It’s right in this vicinity that anglers, both fishing from boats and from shore, will hook up with striped bass 15-30 pounds or more. No need to head to the Cape or anywhere else; they’re right here on the Hudson River.
If you’re a pike or bass angler, you probably already have what you need, in terms of rod, reel and line. Ideally, a seven- to eight-foot graphite casting/spinning rod in medium-heavy action, and a heavy, high-capacity reel with a fast retrieve gear ratio of at least 5.1:1, spooled with 30-pound test. If you plan to use bait, get a reel that has an audible bait feeder or runner system. It will hold the line on the spool, but allow line to go out, making a clicking sound, without putting too much tension on the fish. Also, extremely important, is a big, deep, long-handled net. “The bigger the hoop, the easier to scoop.”
LOCATING & TACTICS
Some of the charter captains and frequent striper anglers suggest looking for structure near moving water, which would be during incoming and outgoing tides. One method working right now is fishing deep, 30-35 feet, along the edges of the channel drops. That’s exactly what Glenville anglers Ralph Pigeon and Wayne Campbell were doing when a 16-pounder grabbed their chunk bait offering in the Coeymans area of the river.
Other anglers like to bounce one-ounce jigs tipped with four- to five-inch strips of suckers along the flats in 15- to 20-foot depths. The key here is to keep bouncing the bait on and off the bottom. When the herring start running, they can be purchased or caught. To catch your own, buy a Sabiki rig. Size 8 is popular.
This rig has a set of six small flies on a one dropper monofilament leader line to which a weight is attached. Be sure to cut one hook off, because New York state only allows five hooks. When you find a school, let it sink all the way to the bottom, then just jiggle it with the rod tip.
The setup for fishing live herring is a version of the slip rig. It consists of a slide sinker 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 mono. In the event of a snag, and you will get snagged, 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 must be on or near the bottom, where the fish should be.
This setup will also work when fishing from shore. For the best results, your rod should be at least eight feet long. It will help you with casting and definitely controlling the stripers when they grab it and head off.
There are several good area boat launches, all located right in the middle of the action. The Corning Preserve launch in downtown Albany is located beneath Interstate 787 on Erie Street; the Schodack Island State Park launch, free weekdays, $6 weekends and holidays, is south of Castleton on Route 9J; and the Henry Hudson Park launch in the Town of Bethlehem is free.
The Corning Preserve launch and most of the other parks have plenty of shoreline access for bank anglers.
For those fishing from a boat for the first time, I suggest spying on other anglers on the water. Don’t crowd them, but tell them it’s your first time and ask for suggestions. The best way for a first-time striper angler to fish the Hudson is from the deck of a guide’s boat. To find a Hudson River striper guide, go to nyfisherman.net/hudsonriverguides.html.
The Town of Milton and Saratoga County will sponsor their 25th annual Children’s Fishing Tournament Saturday at the 4-H Training Center, Middleline Road, Ballston Spa.
This free event is for Saratoga County residents only, and open to youths 16 and younger. The 16-year-olds must have valid fishing licenses. Tournament hours and registration are from 7-11 a.m.
The 4-H will have an “all you can eat” breakfast from 6:30-11 a.m. The prices are: adults, $6; seniors, $5; kids 4-11 years, $4.