May OTW Magazine Eastern LIS Fishing Forecast
I wrote last month that April is my favorite month of the year – due to the great variety of fishing to enjoy. But I must admit that the month of May is an incredibly close second place. In April I personally love the ability to fish for trout, pike, stripers, and everything else that I can manage. However May, for me, is one thing above all else – TOPWATER TIME!
As the water warms and a variety of baitfish species migrate north, their predators are not far behind. May is usually the first month of the year that you can really plan a few outings in search of striped bass. During this early season time frame, you might be able to find stripers in their usual surfcasting haunts, at the mouths of rivers, on the shallow water flats, or even far upstream into rivers that seem otherwise completely freshwater. The weather, ice melt, baitfish, and rainfall will all play big roles determining where the bass gravitate.
Like I mentioned already, I have a bit of a fascination with top-water action. So consequently, I spend the majority of my time in May searching the flats in and around the mouths of rivers, inlets, and outflows. Big surface explosions are pure adrenaline rushes I look forward to every spring.
The shallow water of the tidal flats will warm faster and hold some of that warm water better than the faster flowing rips and channels. While the flowing current of the rips and channels is a prime location during the warmer months, early season stripers can be more adventurous. During the cover of night, stripers will venture up into the shallow tidal flats to ambush prey. An early morning trip to these flats, especially on a cloudy overcast day, can be legendary!
Look for shallow water flats with deep, moving water nearby; usually in and around the mouths of rivers is a good place to start. If weather cooperates, launching my Hobie kayak is my own preferred means of targeting these tidal flats. Smaller boats definitely have the advantage of covering a lot of water, but a kayak has one enormous advantage over every other type of boat on the water – stealth! There are some mornings when the tide and cloud cover is just right that I can use my pedal drive Hobie to sneak thru 2-3 feet of water to find some of my first keeper-sized stripers of the season. Just imagine quietly coasting thru 3 feet of water and accidentally spooking a 30+ pound striper… it will make you jump every time it happens!
When out on these flats, there are only a handful of lures I even bother to pack for the trip. At the top of my list are spooks, a small pencil popper, a glide bait, and soft plastics. For most of the month of May, my rods will be rigged and ready to go with those same four options without changing for several weeks. I must admit, I’m a little partial to the Mully spook that we make here at 247 Lures, but I could also provide a long list of serious fishermen that would support my recommendation.
The Mully is my go-to top-water plug, but sometimes the water is a little too choppy to get attention from the bass. When that happens, the Pencil Popper can create just enough splashing and commotion to wake up those reluctant stripers. I also like to have a glide bait ready to go because sometimes the bass are just a little too and not getting attacked, switch to something that swims thru the water instead of splashes. The Fatty Lures “Fatty Junior” is a big winner in my plug selection!
Soft plastics are another really successful way to target the striped bass up on these shallow flats. Fishing an unweighted Sad Shad, Hogy, or Slug-Go can be worked erratically on the surface or gently near the bottom. On some days, bass will attack a soft plastic being retrieved quickly across the surface. On other days they want it dragged slowly along the mud. The versatility of a well-made soft plastic is unparalleled!
The month of May can also mean the first shot at a number of other species in Long Island Sound. At the time I’m writing this forecast, the 2019 Seasons and Creel limits have not officially been released by the CT DEEP. Theoretically Summer Flounder (Fluke) will likely open in early May and Black Sea Bass will probably open sometime in mid or late May.
I’ve found Fluke to be a fascinating species to target during my time living here in Connecticut. Every seasoned angler I talk to has a very distinct way that they fish for Summer Flounder. Some guys insist Pink is the best of all jig head colors, other guys are adamant that 100’ of water is the only place to catch a doormat. Similar to the Summer Flounder stories, I’ve heard just as many “rules” for catching large Black Sea Bass.
The bottom line can be simplified down to this… Fluke and Sea Bass are predators, so they’ll go wherever their prey goes. My number one rule when searching for either of these species is to try to find spots that aren’t over-fished. I’ve caught Fluke up to 30” in less than 15’ of water, and some of my best Black Sea Bass on rock piles only 20’ deep.
When targeting fluke, I seek out areas where the tide (preferably an outgoing tide) will flush small baitfish over sandbars or flats from shallow water to deeper. Fluke love to sit and wait as their meals are brought right over head to them. When Black Sea Bass are my quarry, I look for rock piles and ledges near deep water channels. Above all else, I try to find these spots that aren’t constantly getting hammered by the entire fleet of fishing boats.