Capt. Terry Nugent of Riptide Charters is getting set to speak at the Buzzards Bay Anglers Club’s monthly meeting on May 10, 2012, at the Mattapoisett Chowder House in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. This time around, Nugent will reveal his strategies for targeting tuna, sharks and mahi in the waters south of Martha’s Vineyard—a fishery he feels will be red hot in 2012.
However, we’re willing to bet that he’ll also be willing to discuss early-spring striped bass fishing, as the first big schools are set to move through the area any day now—and may be here by the time he gives his talk.
Below are some of his tips gleaned from a lecture he gave at the BBAC meeting in February 2011.
Think it’s too early for migratory stripers? Think again! That’s the message Capt. Terry Nugent hoped to convey to members of the Buzzards Bay Anglers Club at their February meeting, even though the fishing season seemed eons away.
“You really want to be on a ‘codfishing timeline’ when it comes to intercepting stripers in southern New England,” Terry told the crowd. “I mean, it really stinks to be messing around with your trailer bearings when word of a hot bite hits in early May.
“At Riptide Charters, we have the boat ready to go by mid-April. By May 1 we’re out looking in Buzzards Bay. Last season was the earliest we’ve seen ‘em. We ran into big schools of stripers mixed with bluefish on April 28.”
Terry allows as to how that was somewhat unusual, and says that he usually encounters the first migratory schools of bass in the second week of May.
“May truly kicks off the season. You might hear some rumors of fresh fish in April, but these are usually winter-over fish that are dropping into warm-water areas that hold bait, such as rivers. They are not the true migratory waves of bass.
“Around May 7 or 9, give or take a few days, we usually find the fish on top on an afternoon tide flowing west. By and large, the fish seem to enter Buzzards Bay on a west, or dropping, tide. On the slack or east tide they tend to hang out, marking time, from Bird Island and the West End of the Canal. The warmer water flowing out of the rivers like the Weweantic and Wareham Rivers seems to get them active near the surface. A slack high tide at 3:00 in the afternoon is ideal.
“The first wave of fish we encounter are generally bigger fish. And we can get days when we bag lots of 30-inch-plus fish. After that we typically get a window of slow days before the waves of smaller fish start moving through. For some reason I usually get a skunk trip around the 21st of May, which is typically when the first wave has moved into and through the Canal and the next wave has yet to come through.”
“There’s a big myth that these fish are sluggish in the early season. We routinely catch them on topwater plugs ripped across the surface, and manage to pull some big fish out of those schools.”
Terry uses his radar to locate these early fish as they feed under big flocks of birds. The radar can prove especially useful on foggy or overcast days. Here’s how he goes about it: BoatingLocal: Using Radar to Find Birds (and Fish). The only problem in the early season is that flocks of sea ducks are still on the bay, and will sometimes give “false” readings on the radar as they take off from the water.
Best Lures, Gear:
Terry often enjoys great success with the Ocean Lures SP popper, as well as Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows. A variety of soft-plastics, such as 6” to 7” RonZ jigs, Fin-S-Fish and Hogies, also work well when twitched just below the surface. When the fish go deep, you can use your sounder to find them. At this point, send down a 4 oz. diamond jig, curl-tail grub or a soft-plastic shad-type lure and jig it up and down.
Of course, flies can work very well at this time, especially if the fish are keyed on small silversides. Small 1/0 to 2/0 Skok Mushies, Clouser Minnows and Deceivers in blue/white, olive/white and all-white work well. Gear up with a 9-weight or 8-weight rod loaded with intermediate line and a 20-pound-test fluorocarbon tippet.
Terry’s tackle for early-season bassing includes a 6’ 6” to 7’ rod and midsize spinning reel like the Shimano Spheros 5000 or Penn 4500 loaded with 250 yards of 10 lb. mono. No need to go too heavy on these fish, and the light gear is better for working smaller, lighter lures.