Where to go is the subject of about eighty percent of my conversations with fishermen. Trying to answer that question is complicated by weather, tides, time of year, etc. There are an incredible number of places on the North Shore that continue to hold big stripers in numbers. Here are several around Gloucester that are easy to reach that over the years have been consistent producers.
There are a set of rocks just outside the mouth of the harbor near the shoreline that are just a natural holding spot for big stripers. On an incoming tide the harbor side of the outcropping is a favorite place for big fish to wait for the bait fish that come swimming on by.
There are two great ways to fish in there. Anchor up as near as you can to the stones and start chumming. Be patient. Use small chum bits and get a good line of scent and food going with the current. Now stop a few minutes. Wait. Now put some good big chunks on your lines and drift them on out the back of the boat. Use different rigs at different depths using bobbers or balloons until you get a response.
The second method uses eels. The big fish here love eels. Again, there are techniques for fishing eels that is a column unto itself, but this method also will produce big fish. The best time to fish here is a night or very early in the morning.
This spot requires good boat handling and charts. On the north side of the cove is a set of rocks that come out from shore that are hidden by high tide. They are dangerous in a heavy surf, but are an incredible spot for stripers. Before fishing there at night you really want to scope the whole cove out during daylight.
Again, get in as close as you feel comfortable and work the little inlets and channels that are around that set of stones. The big bass will come in there, especially at night to feed on whatever they can find. If you are casting lures, work the whole area carefully. Don’t be afraid to bounce your artificial right into the boulders and work it on out. There are a few spots between the cove and the lighthouse that also produce some big fish.
The shoreline all around this island has given up nice bass over the years. The edges nearest the mainland have a lot of nooks and crannies that hold big fish. Although it is fished pretty hard, it can be very productive.
One of the best places on Cape Ann to fish. The current of the Gulf of Maine comes washing along the shoreline, dragging with it all the nutrients from the rivers of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. All of this bangs into Halibut Point and then out over Stellwagon. The big fish gather here in numbers to feed on the baitfish, small crabs and little lobsters.
Again, this spot can be heavily fished, but there is a reason folks are there. It produces nice bass.
Mouth of the Annisquam River
The rocks on the south side of the river from the yacht club out to the lighthouse are really good, especially on an outgoing tide at night or early in the morning. Here the big bass gather to chow down on whatever comes floating out of the incredibly rich marsh that feeds into it. Chunk bait and eels work very well here. The big red marker above the yacht club where the river makes a ninety degree turn is also a hot spot. There is a place where the river scours out a hole in the bottom and big fish will often just hang there as well.
The Entrance of the Essex River
Upstream of the entrance on the left side is a series of boulders that are very visible at low tide. This is a wonderful spot for stripers to ambush anything coming out of the Ipswich River and the marsh. Anchor above the stones and chum like crazy for a while. The big fish will follow the bait stream to your boat. Big chunks of bait or live bait will often entice a striper to strike.
The Mouth of the Ipswich/Parker River
This is one of my favorite places to fish. There is so much feed coming out of this waterway that it is a wonderful spot to waylay a big fish. On the west side against Crane Beach, right where the cleared lawn comes toward the sea, there is a big hole. The action of the Parker and Ipswich Rivers keep the hole deep and clean. At night here there have been some huge fish pulled from the ocean.
The current can be really swift at this spot so caution is advised, but if you use your depth-finder carefully, you can find the honey hole. It can be productive if you move a little upstream and fish in behind the boulder field at the entrance of the Ipswich. If you move up the Parker a ways you will see a point of rocks on the right side. Fishing this channel can be productive as well.
A Tip for Rigging Baits for Stripers
If you are fishing live baits, use more than one hook for each baitfish. This requires a little extra work, but it will help eliminate short strikes. Start with tying a swivel to the end of your line. To that attach about five feet of line and then your first hook. To that hook attach at the bend in the hook another line and hook. That last line and hook total length should be just a little shorter than the baitfish.
Push the hook nearest the swivel crossways through the nostrils of the baitfish. The second hook can now be just left dangling beside the length of the bait you will be using. The current or swimming action of your baitfish will keep it in next to the body. The second option I like is to just impale the second hook through the back just short of the tail. The tip of the hook should be just lightly pushed through the skin.
This combination will really help when the big striper slams into the back end of your offering without swallowing the head. That tail hook can mean the difference in whether or not you land a keeper.