The hunt is on for nighttime striped bass

State enacts circle-hook regulations to reduce striper fatalities.

The striped bass are plentiful this time of year, although new regulations govern the type of tackle you can use, and the size of striper you can keep. — Lucas Thors

There is nothing I would rather do on a foggy August night than fish for striped bass.

It’s a humbling, exciting, and sometimes frustrating experience, fishing in pitch-black. Obviously, we have headlamps, flashlights, lanterns, and car headlights, but when all the lights go out, the real magic begins. 

Fishing in the dark is a special feeling — when you can’t see exactly where you are casting, and how far out your lure landed is largely guesswork, apart from the “plop” of it falling into the water.

As an angler, all your senses need to be working together to give you a good read on your intended target. One night recently, I got lost along the beach as I followed the echoing timbre of a tern to a pool of churning baitfish, and wasn’t even upset that I had to trudge all the way back to my car with no fish in hand.

It’s a magical time, too, because the bioluminescent jellyfish and plankton are out in droves. You don’t need to be a fisherman to enjoy this natural wonder. Just head to the beach and look out into the waves. You’ll see sparkling lights like fireflies dancing in the water. For an extra-curious sight, swish those Xtratufs in the waves along the shoreline, and watch the water light up with neon blue and pink.

For the most part, stripers (and most other species of saltwater fish, for that matter) are most active at dusk and dawn. But this time of year, the fishies stick around, and are pretty active all night long. 

It’s best to fish a tide that is ebbing or flowing. In my experience, it’s best not to fish during a slack tide, as far as shore fishing is concerned. Check your tide chart to either fish the drop or the rise.

Most recently, when fishing at night, the stripers (and bluefish) seem to be hitting on pink and white lures. For bottom fishing, a big chunk of squid is your best option. Cast that baby as far out as you can into a moving current, and wait for movement. 

New striped bass fishing regulations are now in place that require recreational anglers not aboard for-hire fishing vessels to use inline circle hooks when using whole or natural-cut baits. 

The circle hook mandate will not apply to natural baits attached to an artificial lure to be trolled, jigged, or cast and retrieved (e.g., tube and worm). A hook is considered to be an in-line circle hook only if it is manufactured so the barb of the hook is in line with the shank and bend of the hook, and is turned perpendicularly back to the shank to form a circular or oval shape.

Striped bass are overfished, according to recent stock assessments conducted by the state. Release mortality from the recreational fishery is attributed as the single largest source of striped bass fishing mortality at 48 percent, according to On the Water.

In-line circle hooks substantially reduce striped bass release mortality compared with other hooks, such as j-hooks or offset circle hooks, because they are more likely to hook the bass in the lip or the mouth, and not the gut or the gills. 

Of course, as we gear up for the 75th annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby starting on Sunday, Sept. 13, keep in mind that stripers will not be a part of the tournament. This year, the Derby will focus on bluefish, bonito, and false albacore. So get your striped bass fishing in while you can, and remember the slot limit for stripers is one fish per day, at least 28 inches and less than 35 inches in total length. Tight lines!