December 29 2021

Winter Striper Fishing and Holdover Striped Bass Secrets


This post was originally published in December of 2018.

During the 90's I would sometimes hear stories about winter striper fishing and people catching holdover striped bass during the winter on Cape Cod.

Being just a kid at the time, and not having tools like Facebook at my disposal, these stories remained just that - unconfirmed stories about winter striper fishing opportunities that alluded me.

Fortunately I had a mom and dad that understood my intense curiosity with winter striper fishing. They would take me to places where I thought I might have a chance of catching a winter striper, and sometimes they would watch from a heated car as I froze my butt off!


As a teenager it took me exactly 5 years of winter striper fishing before I experienced any success. In this post I am going to share with you some ideas, tactics and secrets that I think will help you experience success winter striped bass fishing much quicker than I did!

If you are looking to learn about how to catch holdover striped bass during the winter, then this blog post is for you.

Below you will find links to all of our best seminars, articles, reports, videos and forum posts about winter striped bass fishing.

Scroll down to continue reading, or use the table of contents to skip to a particular section. 👇

Winter Striper Fishing 101

Once in a while while growing up, I would hear a story about someone catching a big striped bass (over 40 inches) on Cape during the winter, and I would be willing to wager that right now there are at least a few huge winter stripers swimming somewhere on Cape.

Over the past 5 years I've caught a handful of holdover striped bass in the 30 to low 40 inch range, however most winter striped bass are going to be on the smaller side. Schoolies are much more common than big stripers during the winter. The general consensus is that small fish are able to deal with the cold better than their larger brethren.

monster 25 plus pound cape cod holdover striper

Nevertheless I once caught a 38 incher while striped bass fishing in January. In 2016 I caught a 40+ incher (pictured above) while holdover striped bass fishing in late March. Striper fishing in winter can yield surprise big fish, but most of the fish will be on the smaller side.

However I don't recommend using super light tackle because there is always a chance that you'll run into a rogue big holdover striper. Also, in some spots you might have to lift a striper up a marsh bank. If you're using very light line then you will risk snapping the line while hoisting the striper up the bank.

With this in mind I would recommend outfitting yourself with a 7-9 foot spinning setup with 20-30 pound braid and a 20-30 pound leader. You won't be making long casts from a wide open beach like during the summer. A shorter rod is more appropriate for the estuary and back bay areas.

Holdover Striped Bass Locations

A few years ago a member from MFCC was walking along the cold, wind and snow whipped shoreline of an exposed Cape Cod beach when he stumbled across a freshly dead striper in the sand. It was just a few days before Christmas when he found the bass.

His guess was that the striper had succumbed to the brutally cold ocean temperatures. Yet what was the bass doing out in the exposed ocean to begin with? After digging in deeper I discovered that the fish had washed up just a half of a mile away from the opening to an estuary. Now the story began to make more sense.

Perhaps the striper had ventured from the relatively safe confines of the estuary and been caught in the unexpected super cold water temperature of the open ocean? Or maybe the striper had died in the estuary, and been carried out to the open beach by the current?

The moral of the story is that you will be hard pressed to find any striped bass along the open beachfront during the winter. You need to be ok with venturing  into the Cape's estuaries in order to find holdover stripers.

walking through estuary setting sun

Estuaries are the only place where I have ever found striped bass during the winter. One winter in particular I was fortunate to stumble across one portion of an estuary that contained hundreds of striped bass, all stacked up throughout a 200 yard stretch.

Marshes and estuaries on Cape Cod are safe havens for many different species of fish. My Dad likes to refer to estuaries as "nurseries" for striped bass and I have to say that he is spot-on.

I think holdover striped bass on Cape Cod spend their time in estuaries because estuaries offer protection from the hazards of the open ocean. Estuaries and marshes are filled with small crabs, mummichogs and other small prey items that provide bass with food throughout the winter months.

How To Find Winter Stripers

The hard truth is that some of the Cape's estuaries are incredibly large. Narrowing down exactly where in the estuary to fish can be quite the challenge.Yet there are certain places within an estuary that seem to fish better than everywhere else. 

Keep in mind that estuaries are expansive places and zoning on the small portion of an estuary where bass could be holding is incredibly challenging. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, it took me 5 years of trying before I was finally able to catch a winter striper on Cape Cod.

I am not going to list out exact spots where you can find winter stripers, because if I did, then those bass would get hammered with angling pressure and perhaps fished out. However, what I will say is that the deepest spots in the estuary are usually the most productive, at least for me. 

You can learn more strategies and tips for finding fish and hot spots while winter striper fishing by accessing the additional resources, and watching the videos and seminars included towards the end of this blog post.

Holdover Striper Videos

Below is a selection of videos about holdover striper fishing which I've created over the past few years. Some of these videos are more like tutorials, whereas others were shot on site while I was actually fishing.

As is the case with just about everything on My Fishing Cape Cod, some of these videos are viewable by the general public, but to get access to the best stuff you will have to be a member of My Fishing Cape Cod.

"How-To" Articles & Written Reports About Holdovers

I know a lot of people prefer to read written articles and reports, instead of watching video tutorials. Below are some of my favorite written articles and written reports here on MFCC about pursuing holdover striped bass.

As is the case with just about everything on My Fishing Cape Cod, some of these videos are viewable by the general public, but to get access to the best stuff you will have to be a member of My Fishing Cape Cod.

Seminars & Webinars

In addition to the videos, articles and reports featured above, I also have several seminars and webinars here on MFCC about holdover striper fishing. Grab a cup of coffee, beer, or your favorite cocktails because Most of these seminars/webinars are 45+ minutes long and are very in-depth.

Below you will find reports from the trips in which I was lucky enough to find stripers and convince them to bite. These reports are viewable by the general public, but to get access to everything you will have to be a member of My Fishing Cape Cod.

1+ HOUR WEBINAR RECORDING to find and catch stripers during the winter. Learn about the types of areas where striped bass gather during the winter months. Learn about the types of lures and techniques which work best on holdover striped bass. Get access to a bonus question & answer session at the end of the webinar.

Last year I posted a 35 minute video recording of a seminar about targeting keeper-size holdover striped bass here on Cape Cod. This presentation ws given to 50 members of My Fishing Cape Cod & members of the Buzzard's Bay Anglers Club. If you want to learn some "secrets" of catching big holdover striped bass during the winter on Cape Cod, then I recommend watching this seminar when you can. 

Forum Posts & Conversations

The My Fishing Cape Cod forum is a 100% members-only private forum. This helps us maintain top-notch quality of conversation. There is no bashing, bullying, sarcasm and useless posts. In our forum you will only find helpful members who are willing to offer accurate advice and information about fishing on the Cape (and throughout New England)!

Below you will find links to some of the best forum threads and topics about holdover striped bass fishing.  You will have to be logged-in as a member of My Fishing Cape Cod to access these conversations.

Best of luck if you give holdover striper fishing a try this winter on Cape Cod. There aren't many fish out there, but there are a few! Plus it is a good excuse to just get outside and be out in nature during the "off season."

Stay safe, have fun and let us know how you do.

Tight lines,

About the author 

Ryan Collins

I'm fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I've been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!

  • Ryan,
    This is becoming buried, could you put the whole thing on MFCC University?
    MFCCU has one of these presentations, but it would be helpful to have the entire grouping more easily available.
    Thanks, Dex

  • Just listened to the webinar. Good Stuff!
    Someone asked a question about using shiners for holdovers during the winter as traditional salt water baits are not readily available. Shiners are stocked in bait shops as they are used for fresh water ice fishing. Last year I was live lining shiners in the North River during early March. It seemed like a great idea but the problem is that they do not last in the brackish water and will die in about 5 minutes.

    • Pumped to hear you gave the live shiners a try. I love it! However I think mummichogs would be the best option.

      I am going to set some minnow traps this year in some of the estuaries I fish and hopefully catch some mummichogs. Using live bait to catch holdovers would be a ton of fun!

  • Do you wear pant waders when holdover fishing in the kayak? I would think that it would be important to keep your clothing dry.

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