During the 90's I would hear stories about people catching striped bass in 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 a fishing opportunity that alluded me.
Fortunately I had a mother and father that understood my intense curiosity with "holdover" striped bass. They would take me to places where I thought I might have a chance of catching a winter striper, and watch from a heated car as I froze my butt off.
It took exactly 5 years of trying before I experienced any success. In this post I am going to share with you some ideas and tactics that I think will help you learn how to catch striped bass in winter on Cape Cod much quicker than I did.
Tackle & Equipment
Once in a while I hear a story about someone catching a good size bass on Cape during the winter. I would be willing to wager that right now there is a keeper or two swimming somewhere around this sandy peninsula.
However most of the bass are going to be on the small side. Schoolies are much more common than keepers during the winter. The general consensus is that small fish are able to deal with the cold better than their larger brethren.
With this in mind I would recommend outfitting yourself with a light tackle spinning setup or fly rod. Think using gear that is well suited for largemouth bass or trout fishing. This will make fighting small stripers a lot of fun.
Super light tackle will also make it easier to cast and retrieve the small lures that seem to work best on holdover striped bass. In my opinion the best lures to use for winter holdovers include:
- 2 Inch Storm Shad
- 3 Inch Chartreuse Storm Wildeye Curl Tail Minnow
The Storm Shad is pretty easy to find at local bait and tackle shops. The Wildeye Curl Tail Minnow is a bit more challenging to locate these days.
Location, Location, Location
Earlier this winter I received an email from a MFCC member that piqued my interest.
This gentleman was walking along the cold, wind and snow whipped shoreline of an exposed Cape Cod beach when he stumbled across a freshly dead striper laying there in the sand. It was just a few days before Christmas when he found the bass.
Our 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 getting a little muddy, and venturing into the Cape's estuaries in order to find holdover stripers.
In the below screen capture video I am going to share with you a few helpful tips about finding holdover striped bass, as well as some important safety precautions.
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.
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.
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. I will be sure to discuss exactly how you can increase your odds of finding one of these honey-holes in this fishing report which outlines my latest holdover striper excursion from last week.
Fishing Report: January Striped Bass Fishing On Cape Cod
Recently I was able to hike out into a marsh in search of a rare January Cape Cod striped bass. I hoped to put all the information we just discussed above to good use.
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.
That's why in this report I include videos that show you:
- The types of areas within estuaries that are most apt to hold striped bass during the winter
- The best tides to fish for holdovers within estuaries
- Why you need to be OK with getting a little muddy and a whole lot more
Tight lines and take care,
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!