September Stripers...By Nick Criaris
As summer dwindles and everyone is waiting for the “run” to begin in October/November, there is great action to be had in September. It may not be frothing stripers at your feet in the suds with peanut bunker beaching themselves, but the bass await…. The bites that take place are just a bit more subtle than when the “fall run” is in full swing.
We are all hopeful as fishermen that the albies show up nearshore, or from the surf. This, as we all know is no certainty, but more of a prize when available. However, there are September certainties with our striped friends, one just has to know where to look…
The surfcaster in me will never divulge exact locations, even saying the word river in something like a blog post scares me…. However, the inlets, beaches, and major river systems from sandy hook all the way south will all have their moments. The key to success is knowing where to fish, and when. Scouting, quick missions, and efforts of the like will clue you in on where things are happening. I’ve been known to leave dinner with my girlfriend and make multiple stops on the way home to check spots, she is used to it.
Mullet, peanut bunker, spearing, bay anchovies, squid, southern shrimp such as white shrimp (full size), grass shrimp, cinder worms, needlefish, juvenile fluke, sardines, and sandeels (yes, sandeels in September) and much more are all on the menu this time of year…. Every year I see more variety in bait, and it stuns me every time. When the water is still warm, the bass are most likely to be feeding on smaller baits at least during the day. Figuring out what may be on the menu for our striped friends at any given moment will be the key to any angler's success from shore or boat. This is an extremely difficult task at times and can drive the faint of heart back home onto their couch.
In September, the night time is most definitely the right time. A strong mullet run whether on the beach front or in the backwaters will stoke some early morning/ evening munching for sure, but again this is not promised every year. There will always be mullet pushing out of the backwaters onto our beaches and there will always be stripers in hot pursuit. However, there are more reliable opportunities.
Fishing deep, fast moving water, especially if near a flat or somewhere shallow…. Will ALWAYS hold fish in September. The bait hides in the shallows, and when tides turn and the small baits (spearing, peanut bunker, anchovies, sandeels) can not help but be flushed by the tides and bass will take advantage. Any rip lines with eddies adjacent are worth investigating. There are literally endless locations with these features so I encourage you to go take a look at some of your favorite local spots during the day, and head back in the dark. This is when you must dial in your presentation and lure selection.
Certain spots are holding spots and some are feeding spots. In holding spots, the fish are basically always there, and you can almost always pick a few. Although the holding spots will have their better windows of tide. Feeding spots are tide dependent and if the fish are there, they will be eating. Whenever the tide is no longer to their liking or advantage, they will leave. These types of areas are usually shallower and adjacent to deeper water close by. Holding spot fish are generally bigger residents, and are more likely to take a bigger offering. They are difficult to fish and presentations must be perfect. Many of these fish eat small fluke, tautog, spot, etc. all summer which are large and infrequent meals.
Overall, September is a light tackle game. I am mainly fishing a 7.5-8ft spinning rod rated somewhere between 1/4-2 ounces. In certain area where i am fishing heavier shads with very fast current, i wouldn’t be caught dead without a bait-caster in my hands capable of tossing bigger plastics on heavier heads. The ability to quickly free-spool to drop my bait to quickly back in contact in some areas i like is imperative . The choices of artificial baits is unlimited so i'll pick a few favorites within a category, and can be applied to other similar offerings.
Plastics- zoom flukes & 6” Sluggos are absolute staples. White, pink, Arkansas shiner are go-to’s for both. These imitate so many things, especially thinner profile baits like spearing and sandeels.
For paddle-tails, it’s hard to beat the classic reliable tsunami shads in white or bunker in 5 or 6”. Some areas require a bit more finite rigging, so 3/8-2 oz jig heads and your favorite 3-6” paddle-tail/shad bodies will do the trick. Northeast Jig co. Ripper shads and Magic Mullets are extremely productive offerings. For me, it is hard to beat the 4” Hyperplastic Minwaows for the smaller profiles. They have incredibly realistic patterns and great action, plus are made of “softtough”material and can last a hundred fish. 3/4-1.5 oz is probably the most common range, depending on location.
Plugs- Peanut swimmers, Yo-Zuri mag darters, needlefish plugs, all the standard minnow plugs (Rapala X-rap, Daiwa SP minnow, etc) are definitely staples. Also, it would be a mortal sin to not have a 5” redfin with you at all times and i'll leave that at that. i realize we are focusing on the darkness of night, but daytime fishing especially if you find fish on mullet…. SPOOKS. 4-5” spooks like the Yo-Zuri hydro pencil are standouts, especially in the surf. Like i said, there are endless options, but the baits listed above will always catch in September.
To clear things up a bit, I am referring mainly to backwater spots and “resident” fish. There are plenty, and they are there… you are not waiting on a migration. You are figuring out what they want to be doing in their environment. Eventually, an angler can pick up on striper habits in specific locations and have success. There is a myth that all residents are small. That is simply not true. Every September I catch a few fish over 20 lbs. I have my areas where from my experience over years, know will hold them. Go figure out yours, get out and find some fish. They will be yours, and it will feel good. The fall run is a game of the right place at the right time. In September, there are MANY right places and right times. With the right weather some of my favorite fishing of the year occurs this month… it's just your cell phone won’t help you as much as it will in November…. 🤣🤙