Dick Pinney's Guidelines: 'Tis the season for stripers, mackerel

June 02. 2018 8:21PM


IT'S THE TIME of the year when there are so many options for the coastal anglers that it's hard to pick a favorite.

There are schools of hungry mackerel from the Isles of Shoals to the inlets of the shore harbors. Often mixed with them are both school pollock and sometimes the larger ones, which we often call the "bull pollock." Also, both large and school-sized mackerel are often mixed in with the pollock or schooling on their own, sometimes chasing schools of bait-sized herring or even their own smaller relatives.

Stripers are here in small schools of small fish but there's also a good bunch of larger fish that can raise havoc on both schools of their own younger relatives, but that is a rare occasion as there are usually plenty of both herring-sized baitfish that they love and the big schools of both mackerel and pollock.

We have a mixed opinion on what kind of baitfish to use for catching the "bull-sized" stripers that we love to target. If there are schools of bait-sized pollock along with bait-sized mackerel, it's kind of a toss-up for they are both great bait in their own right but both have different strengths and weaknesses as baitfish.

The small mackerel are tough to keep in a bait tank and need a continuous flow of well-oxygenated saltwater in and out of your tank, or they will get very lazy and, if they are crowded in the tank, will start to die off on us. So it's an educated guess on what to do when the macks are hitting your bait rigs like crazy and you don't want to over-crowd your tanks. Of all the baitfish, live mackerel have more need for well-oxygenated bait tank flow to survive.

Over the years we've developed a plan that demands a lot of attention but by sticking with the plan we're able to offer fresh "striper-candy" to those big stripers that we frequently encounter in the Piscataqua River and up into Little Bay.

Speaking of "the Bay," it's a misrepresentation when we outdoor communicators lump all the striper angling into one place we call "Great Bay!"

Actually, very few "keeper-sized" stripers are ever found in Great Bay. In our many decades of fishing for our so called "Great Bay Stripers," we can count on one hand the number of fish we've actually caught in Great Bay itself.

Now listen very carefully to this ... When most successful striper catchers refer to Great Bay, they really mean "Little Bay" or the many good fishing places on the tidal Piscataqua River. There are seldom any keeper-sized stripers caught in Great Bay itself except for where the Piscataqua River, Little Bay and Great Bay connect just off Adam's Point, a terrific place to find big stripers concentrated and feeding on the schools of herring or sometimes both pollock or mackerel as well.

Know that those big stripers, unless they are on a feverish feeding spree, are often alone or in very small bunches, usually using some kind of bottom structure to break up the constant demands of staying in a good spot fighting the currents.

My best advice for people who want to catch bit stripers (often misnamed as "bulls" as they are almost always females) is that you hunt them, not fish for them!

You'll almost never find a group of those big stripers on the feed. If you hook and catch a couple, that's usually enough disturbance to scare them off. We can count on one hand the number of times we've actually been able to catch more than a handful of those big fish without breaking up their school and making them scattering.

But we do have one suggestion that is without a challenge. Big stripers love to hide around structure, which in some instances also includes current shears where two currents connect and provide some holding water for those big fish.

It's time! They are here! Get out and get you some!

Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.


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