New England's Hotspots For July Stripers

New England's Hotspots For July Stripers

Inshore, offshore, from jetties or piers, New England's best summer striper waters are producing great catches right now! Here's where to find them near you this month.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt.

Striped bass are fun to catch, good to eat and plentiful all along the New England coast -- if an angler knows where to wet a line. Big stripers are waiting in waters from Block Island Sound to Penobscot Bay.

While big cow stripers may be found in the deep, cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean, smaller "schoolies" will be following their favorite forage up the region's dozens of easily accessible tidal rivers.

Here's a look at some of the region's best July striper hotspots.

CONNECTICUT
In early July, fishing for schoolies is especially good in the lower Connecticut River. Stripers here have been known to swim as far north as Bellows Falls Dam in Vermont, some 175 miles upstream!

In recent years, the Connecticut River has seen a significant increase in both size and numbers of stripers especially in the 86 miles below the Holyoke Dam.

Access to the Connecticut River is easy. In Old Saybrook, under the Baldwin Bridge on Ferry Road, is a state-owned boat launch with a fishing pier. At the end of Sheffield Street is another fishing pier and space to launch cartop boats

Access may also be had at a town-owned ramp on North Cove Road, or anglers may fish from the South Cove causeway on Route 154.

On the other side of the river mouth, cartop access may be had in Lyme on Ely's Ferry Road.

There's an access pier at the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's Marine Division headquarters on Ferry Road in Old Lyme. The action here is steady, but parking is limited.

Inland access is plentiful in Essex. The Deep River town dock on River Street has a boat launch and access pier. Boat launch facilities are available at the Essex town dock at the foot of Main Street. Cartop access is available at Bushnell Park on Bushnell Street, the Alt Water Access Area on Collins Lane and the Essex town park on Nott Lane.

For more access sites in the lower Connecticut River, check DeLorme's Connecticut/Rhode Island Atlas and Gazetteer, pages 27 and 28. Other early July hotspots include Sandy Point in New Haven Harbor, the jetties at Milford Harbor, the Housatonic River, Seaside Park in Bridgeport Harbor and Norwalk Harbor.

For big cow stripers, fish the reefs off Watch Hill, Plum Gut, Bartlett Reef, Black Point, Hatchett Reef, Long Sand Shoal, Southwest Reef, the reefs off Branford, New Haven Harbor-Charles Island area, Bridgeport Harbor, Stratford Shoal-Middle Ground and the Norwalk islands.

Live-lining bunker or hickory shad will attract the big ones.

The waters eight miles southeast of Niantic Bay at the mouth of Long Island Sound, known as The Race, are cool enough to hold big cow stripers all summer. Especially large stripers are taken here at night.

Access may be had from the Jordan Cove or Niantic River ramps in Waterford, but these are rugged waters. Anglers may want to hire a charter boat, enjoy the fishing and leave the navigating to an experienced captain.

The local reefs and cooler waters attract big bass. Try Ram Island Reef, the Sluiceway, Cornfield Point, Southwest Reef and the rips off Duck Island. Super-sized stripers may be caught by live-lining eels, bunker or hickory shad, or by slow trolling tube and worm combinations.

For more fishing information, visit www.ct.gov/dep, or telephone (860) 424-3000.

MAINE
The Pine Tree State's cooler temperatures afford striper anglers extended opportunities, especially in the cold-running tidal rivers.

"Stripers can be found in the St. Croix River beginning in late July or early August," said Bruce Joule, Maine's Recreational Marine Fisheries coordinator.

"And the St. Croix doesn't receive a lot of fishing pressure."

Stripers will swim up Maine's rivers "until they bump their heads on a dam," Joule said. Access to the St. Croix may be had at the steamboat landing in Calais or at a state-owned launch in Robbinston.

"There are also stripers in the Penobscot River," Joule noted. He also recommended the Damariscotta, St. George and Androscoggin rivers.

"The Kennebec will be in full swing. Saco is in full swing by July, when most fish likely will have moved onto the beach areas around Old Orchard Beach, Biddeford Pool, Pine Point, Higgins Point and the Camp Ellis Jetty.

Depending on water temperatures, anglers will see smaller stripers in the rivers, while the larger ones move into cooler, deeper waters.

Fishing inland on Maine's tidal rivers requires a different approach.

"The farther upriver you go, the fresher the water," Joule noted, "so anglers will have a tough time trolling live mackerel."

Bloodworms work well for smaller fish, while chunk baits attract the larger stripers. How far inland you should fish depends on where the natural baits are.

"Watch for bird activity that indicates the birds are working schools of bait," he advised.

Competition from locals may not be an issue -- until someone blabs that the striper run has arrived.

"It's all word of mouth," Joule said. "If it gets out that the fish are around and biting, people will start to fish for them. If not, they won't. Free time is at a premium these days. But when the fish show up, all of a sudden anglers are everywhere!"

Stripers swim the Penobscot River from Penobscot Bay to the Bangor area. Access for trailered boats may be had in Verona, Bangor, Orrington, Hampden, Frankfort, and Brooksville.

The Kennebec River is a popular striper destination from Popham Beach to Augusta. Launch facilities may be found in Chelsea, Phippsburg, Augusta, Bath, Gardiner, Hallowell and Richmond.

For big cow stripers, Casco Bay access is available in Portland and from Peaks Island. Surf-casters quietly reel in some large stripers while night-fishing off Old Orchard Beach.

In Camp Ellis, anglers may fish the Saco River or cast into the Atlantic from a half-mile long jetty.

Shore-fishing may be enjoyed in York from town docks 01 and 02, the Route 103 bridge or the causeway east of the bridge. Surfcasters can try their luck at the Short Sands and Long Sands beaches.

Anglers with boat access are advised to fish around Boon Island Light, which lies about seven miles off Cape Neddick. Fishing is also noteworthy in the nearby York and Piscataqua rivers.

For saltwater fishing information, call the Maine Department of Marine Resources at (207) 633-9500.

For travel information, call the Maine Office of Tourism at 1-888- 624-6345.

MASSACHUSETTS
The Bay State has no shortage of great saltwater destinations. The trick is to find the ones that aren't already fished hard.

Paul Caruso, a senior marine fisheries biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, recommended a few lesser-known hotspots for striper anglers to visit.

First up is Cuttyhunk Island, the last island in the string of Elizabeth Islands.

"Fishing the holes between the islands and the reefs south of the island is very productive," Caruso said.

"Try trolling jigs, plugs or tube-and-worm rigs among the rocks, chunking or live eels. There are rocky shorelines here and lots of current."

Cuttyhunk Island access may be had via a ferry out of New Bedford, and fishing boat charters are plentiful from the island.

Charter boats and launches for privately owned boats are also plentiful in Fairhaven and Falmouth.

Cape Cod Bay cannot be ignored as a great striper destination. Caruso recommended the east side at Billingsgate Shoals and Provincetown, also known as the Race Point area.

Access can be had via charter or private vessel out of Sesuit Harbor in Dennis or Wellfleet Harbor in Wellfleet. The waters off Billingsgate are somewhat protected, but boaters off Provincetown will find more open water, Caruso said.

Don't overlook Boston Harbor, which is great for smaller fishing boats or light-tackle charter boats.

Boat access may be had via public ramps in Weymouth on the Back River and in Winthrop.

"There are lots of smaller fish in the harbors and some bigger fish in the outer harbor areas," Caruso said.

"There are well over a dozen islands and spots in close proximity worth a try.

"This is a great light-tackle or fly-fishing area.

It's always sheltered, and the tides are not as strong as at some of the other locations."

Anglers with their own boats will want to try fishing along the rocky shoreline near Gloucester. Access may be had at the Annisquam River boat ramp.

"Bait fishing along the rocky shoreline is the best choice," Caruso said. "Or try around the rocky reefs in deeper waters as the water warms up mid-July.

"Even in good weather, some of these areas can be potentially dangerous due to the rips," he cautioned. "These areas call for extreme care for all boaters, but especially those inexperienced with boating and fishing in rip tides. Outboards are particularly vulnerable to swamping from the stern from the standing waves.

"July is a transition month," Caruso concluded. "The beginning of the month is more like June, when the fish are active during the day and near shore. As the water warms, the best fishing is at dusk, nighttime and at dawn. For daytime opportunities, anglers will need to move to deeper, cooler spots."

For more fishing information call (617) 626-1520.

For Bay State travel information call (617) 973-8500.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Despite discussions last year, Granite State anglers won't be required to purchase marine fishing licenses just yet. A federal law passed last year will eventually require all marine anglers to register and pay a fee.

New Hampshire and other coastal states are now considering their own system of registering marine anglers before the federal initiative kicks in. However, nothing has been legislated for the 2008 fishing season.

Saltwater fishing is still free for the time being, and the striper fishing is fine!

"When the fish are here, we say 'It's world-class fishing -- right now,' " said Doug Grout of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Marine Fisheries Division. "It all depends on where the stripers are. When they're here, the fishing is amazing at sites up and down the New Hampshire coastline at any given time."

Grout said that Great Bay and the Piscataqua River are popular July striper-fishing destinations. Boats can launch out of Pierce Island in Portsmouth or Hilton Park.

Both parks offer shoreline access. Or travel into Maine to launch from the Dead Duck site in Elliot.

Within Great Bay, favorite fishing spots include Adam's Point, the General Sullivan Bridge, drifting in front of the Great Bay Marina and fishing at the mouth of the Oyster River.

Some excellent Granite State shore-fishing access may be had off the Bellamy River Bridge on Route 4 in Dover, where there are a walkway and illumination for night-fishing.

"Along the coastline, there are a variety of beaches that people will fish at night, like Jenness State Beach," Grout said. "And down in Hampton, the state park jetty is very popular. Seabrook Beach is protected inside the harbor. A lot of people fish for stripers there."

Hampton Harbor State Park has launch facilities for access to the Atlantic, as does Rye Harbor State Park.

"At Rye, people generally fish tight to the shoreline, or about 100 feet off shore, and then cast back toward the shoreline," Grout said. "In Hampton Harbor State Park, people fish up the estuaries and down the coastline as far as the Merrimack River."

Boat access to Rye Harbor can be had at the Rye Harbor Marina on Route 1A, where there's a commercial pier lighted for night-fishing.

Some of the largest stripers reported here each year are taken around the Isles of Shoals, accessible by boat from Rye.

"July is usually very good," Grout said. "The bigger fish are starting to come up the coastline.

"I know people who take off the first two weeks of July just to fish for the bigger stripers. June and July are when the catches are highest here."

For more fishing information, call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Marine Fisheries Division at (603) 868-1095.

For travel information, call the New Hampshire Office of Travel and Tourism at (603) 271-2665.In early July, fishing for schoolies is especially good in the lower Connecticut River.

RHODE ISLAND
The Ocean State is literally one great striper hotspot after another.

Offshore in the southern part of the state is one of the best base camps an angler could hope for -- Block Island. Stripers and bluefish are the most common sport fish here, both inshore and offshore.

The island is accessible via the Block Island Ferry. Call (401) 783-4613. For charter services, lodging and other travel information phone (401) 466-5200.

The south shore is loaded with excellent striper-fishing opportunities. Seven-mile Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly is known for its striper runs, right up until the snow flies! The state-owned portion has ample parking.

For access, take Route 78 or U.S. Route 1. Or use the Westerly Boat Ramp on Main Street.

Quonochontaug Beach is known for its consistent surfcasting action. A state-owned concrete ramp provides access to the Quonochontaug Breachway off West Beach Road.

Anglers with boating access can expect steady action anywhere outside the Charlestown Breachway.

State-owned concrete launch slabs provide access to the breachway at the west end of Charlestown Beach Road.

Snug Harbor in South Kingstown offers a town-owned ramp off Gooseberry Road that allows anglers access to the Atlantic Ocean, Potter Pond and Point Judith. While in South Kingstown, be sure to check out the Narrow River off Pettaquamscutt Road.

There's a concrete launch between Middle Bridge Road and Bridgetown Road, and several bridges along the river provide shore access.

In Point Judith Harbor, charters are plentiful and a public ramp is available. From Route 1, take Old Point Judith Road (Route 108) to Galilee Road. Turn right to reach the access site.

Be sure to check out Point Judith Pond as well. Access may be had at the harbor end off Great Island Road and at the upper end at Ram Point.

Within Narragansett Bay north of Point Judith are countless popular access points that offer great striper fishing. In Narragansett, there's a state-owned concrete launch off Ocean Road on South Pier Road.

Check DeLorme's Connecticut-Rhode Island Atlas and Gazetteer, page 75, for more access sites.

Jamestown on Conanicut Island is another excellent vantage point for shore fishing and boating excursions.

Fish the rocky shoreline around the Jamestown Bridge or the point at Fort Wetherill State Park, where there are also boat launch facilities. Or head to the Fort Getty Recreation Area off Beavertail Road to use the town-owned concrete ramp. There is a parking fee when the park is open.

Sakonnet Harbor juts into Rhode Island Sound south of Little Compton on Route 77. Troll with the flow here and go slow. At sunrise, stripers hang out in 12 to 20 feet of water along the reefs.

Access may be had off Sakonnet Point Road (Route 77) via linked concrete planks.

For more fishing information call (401) 222-6800.

For travel information, call 1-800- 556-2484.

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