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Net Perfection

Tips to Land a Choice Striper
I will not build false hope. I write about fishing for a living. And I’ve chased stripers off boats, beaches, jetties, and bridges from Race Point to Wasque Point. They are not easy to catch, but they are possible to catch. That’s what makes it so fun.

In terms of equipment, start with a six- to 10-foot fishing rod with a spinning reel loaded with 12-15 pound test line and some 3/0-sized hooks. Here, in descending order of effectiveness, is what you want on the hook: live bait, cut bait, and lures.

Live eels are going to work the best, especially at night, but they’re not for the faint of heart. They are slippery, black, over half a foot long, and they bite. You need a rag or a sink scrubber just to pick them up. But they work: when stripers see them, they go insane.

Next best would be live herring or scup. Anything swimming lively will tempt a feeding striper. Cut bait—sometimes called chunk bait—is also effective. This is fresh or frozen fish or clams that you cut into chunks and into which you bury a hook. You’ll heave this out and let it soak on the bottom, where stripers often feed.

Finally, you have artificial lures. These run the gamut in size and design, and are available in rainbow hues. The advantages of lures are they are reusable and (obviously) easier to handle and transport than live bait. They are most effective when fish are feeding on or near the surface.

If you don’t have a boat or you’re not up for hiking the beaches, you still have options. The less expensive way is to book onto a “head boat.” For around $50 per person, they’ll take you out with bait and rods included. It’s a fun, communal way to wet a line, and the captains go where the fish are. They generally target bottom fish like scup rather than stripers, but it’s an easy way to get out on the water and try your hand at angling. You might even catch your dinner.

Charter boats are more expensive, but typically provide more expertise. For a hundred dollars or more, you get a licensed captain, his boat, and a dedicated first mate to assist you in the cockpit, plus high-end gear and electronics. Charter trips, which can often accommodate up to six people, can go in search of stripers, even tuna or sharks. Plus the mate will often fillet and bag your catch of the day—and they often know great recipes.

Rob Conery is an avid fisherman who writes a much-read and enjoyed column on fishing for a Cape Cod newspaper.

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