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Striped Bass Spring Migration
June 12, 2009
by Bob Creeden
Article # 6
June is prime flats fishing time in several of the northeastern states. NJ, NY, CT, RI and MA have miles of flats that are exposed completely at low tide and experience tidal exchanges from 4 to 10 feet or more as tides rolls in. Some of the greatest shallow water sight fishing for striped bass can be found on Cape Cod. North Monomoy Island on the south side near Chatham, MA is the most famous. On the other side of the Cape are the Brewster Flats and the West and East Flats near Barnstable, MA. They attract anglers from all over the world. Flats anglers are for the most part flyrodders. Some spin fishing anglers do it as well. It is as close to deer or turkey hunting as you can get with a fishing rod in your hand. Randy Jones is one of the top northeastern flats wading guides in the business. He specializes in guiding anglers out on the vast flats of North Monomoy Island near Chatham, MA. Deep water exchange tides and fog are killers. They do not care who you are or how expensive your fishing gear is. If you think that help can be with you in minutes when you find yourself in danger, think again. Randy is blunt to the point of pain when he says “Cape Cod Flats are not a playground or a petting zoo”.
Here is his list of safety tips that he refers to as Flats 101- Safety while wading or kayaking flats. On Cape Cod, fog can is your worst nightmare on a flat. Some anglers have had close calls and others have died out there.
1. Do not wander into an area you are not familiar with.
2. Plan to be safe. Check weather related wind internet sites before you go. Plot your wading trip before you leave the shore. Know the compass directions out and back and the direction and speed the wind is supposed to blow. Wind direction can and will change. Be aware of it when it does.
3. Know the exact stage of the tide as you begin to wade out on a flat. Pre-determine the time it is supposed to turn and flow the other way.
4. Situational awareness is critical. Keep looking around. If fog begins to come in, find the shortest line to high ground. Shoot that compass heading and begin to move off the flat immediately.
5. Look at the way water drains off a flat. If it drains to your right, then the high ground is to your left. Knowing the direct route to safety will save valuable time.
6. Plan your return route as you walk out on to the flats. If you have a GPS, mark every significant structure as you pass it. If a heavy fog catches you out on the flat, these waypoints will help you return safely.
7. Crossing any channels at low tide should not be taken lightly. Channels between you and the shore that will be over your head when a tide rolls must be taken seriously. You need to make sure you are back across the channels before the tide makes them to deep to cross.
8. Listen to any audible sounds as you walk out on the flat. (Cars, Fog horns, Bells, Boat engine noise, etc.) They may help you navigate your safe return.
9. Take a compass reading back to your starting point when you reach your destination. Write it down. Carry a back-up compass.
10. Know the height of the tides in your area. Mark the direction of the highest points so you can make it to them and sit out the fog or high tide. Knowing where the nearest high point is crucial.
11. Carry a cell phone in a water proof container. Pre-program the shuttle boats, the Coast Guard and Harbor Master’s telephone numbers in your cell phone. Get the people you are fishing with to put those numbers and your number in their cell phones. Make sure you have theirs.
12. Knowing where each of you carry your phones and GPS units on your bodies, gives you all another back up option if your group is involved in and emergency.
13. If you are fishing any tidal flat for the first time, go with a friend who has fished it before or hire a guide. There isn’t a fish in the world that is worth your life.
14. Know the moon phases you are fishing. Extreme tidal lows and highs occur during New and Full Moons. Those tidal periods have currents stronger and faster and you will not out run them if you delay your return to shore. Tides on Cape Cod can rise 1-foot per quarter hour.
15. An inflatable vest of some sort makes a lot of sense.
Randy Jones is a full time, wade, fly and spin fishing guide with 24 years experience. During the summer he guides anglers in the Southeastern part of Cape Cod and in the fall and winter he guides float and wade trips on the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY, for steelhead, brown trout and salmon. In season, you can call him on Cape Cod at 508 430 0662 and in upstate NY at 315 298 5999. His company internet address is www.yankeeangler.com and his email address is email@example.com.
Outer Most Harbor Marina (www.outermostharbor.com) and Rip Ryder (www.monomoyislandferry.com) provide shuttle services to and from North Monomoy Island and South Beach. There are no facilities or life guards on the flats. Both of these services have rescued anglers and kayakers when they have gotten in trouble. It is not their job to baby sit you, but they will come a running if your in danger or hurt. The Monomoy Islands and South Beach have significant seal populations and there have been incidents between kayakers and bull seals. Seals will chase down and capture your caught fish. They may be cute as babies, but they have a full set of teeth and they are predators.
This coming week the tides will be faster, higher and lower because of the full moon. Striped bass are still migrating with big fish just finishing up the spring spawning runs. Flats fishing all along the coast should be excellent. If you are looking for reading material on fishing in the Northeast and especially sight fishing I’d recommend Ed Mitchell’s “Flyrodding the Estuaries” and Alan Caolo’s “Sight Fishing for Striped Bass” as two of the best books for you to have in your personal library.
Both are written for fly fishing, but the information is clear and concise, with drawings and photos, that can be used by any angler fishing in the Northeast. Ed Mitchell’s book is the best how to fish salt ponds, coastal rivers, tidal creeks and backwaters I have ever read. Alan Caolo’s book finely tunes the art of sight fishing in skinny water and the surf.
I recommend Amazon's used book route. The cost savings will pay for the shipping and then some. If you are planning to fish any shoreline, visit that beach at low tide and cover it thoroughly. Seek the paths water enters and leave the beach. Check to see if there is a troth behind the surf line and mark where it is the deepest. Mark where the barley visible runoff tracks feed into it as well as where the main run off guzzles flow into it. Fish those spots when the tide is moving. Goggle that beach and use the Satellite Photo Map option to view the dark vs. light spots that show depth and structure. The “eye in the sky” approach will speed up your learning curve where you plan to invest your time. You will be surprise how much quicker you will learn a beach or flat when you use all of the sources that are available for free on the internet.
Internet Marine Weather Sites
Tide and Current Predictor – http://tbone.biol.sc.edu/tide/sitesel.html
Atmospheric and Oceanographic Information –http://www.fnoc.navy.mil/
Northeast Marine Weather –
Till we meet again.
The photos are the property of Bob Creeden
Dr. Bones and Christopher Schawo dropped off on the outer edge of a Cape Cod Flat
Baby Seal joins the hunt
Bones and Chris on the flats, working a guzzle as the tide rises
My dory beached at high tide on the edge of a flat in Cape Cod Bay
All Stripers All The Time!!