Since moving to New Brunswick a couple of months ago, one of the things I was looking the most forward to, was hitting up the Miramichi River once again in the spring without having to drive over 11 hours to get there! Was fortunate enough to hook up with Paul Melanson from Rivertide Jigs as well as Adam Foster and Bryant Morrice from Strikeback Sportfishing and headed to the mighty ‘Chi for 2 days of Striper fishing. Early reports were that the water temps were still very cold hovering in the low 40’s. That meant that the majority of the fish would most likely not have come in yet. From my experience, the big schools usually start moving heavy into the river when water temperature reaches above 50 degrees. Prior to that, anglers basically have 2 options to choose from. Either use electronics to track down some early migrators on the main part of the river (between the Centennial Bridge & the Train Bridge) or head out into the bay to find the warmest water possible. Paul and I knew we had some challenges in front of us with the weather forecast calling for very high winds blowing NW and gusts up to 45km/hr.
Find the Warmest Water
The first morning we put in lower down in Loggieville. A nice facility at the wharf with plenty of parking. Since we had decided on starting in the Bay, we figured we would cut down on travel time by boat by putting in there. We had a log cabin reserved at Schrooner Point Log Cabins just down the road so the plan made sense. WARNING, do not put in your boat in Loggieville if you plan on fishing into low tide. The launch becomes way too shallow and you won’t be able to pull out. Do plan accordingly. Peak high tide was scheduled for 10:30am on that day.
After braving some pretty lumpy water, we made our way into the bay towards the mouth of the Nappan River. Slowly but surely, we saw the water temps rise until we found about 45 degrees. Started up the sidescan and bingo, nice schools of fish lurking the shallows in 3-6ft of water. With the high tide, schools of striped bass venture into these warmer pockets in search of food. Smaller baitfish, shad, gaspereau all run to the shallows during these periods and right behind them are the predatory Stripers.
When casting into shallow flats, especially in colder water, it’s important to pay attention to two things. Lure size and retrieve. Lighter tackle and smaller presentations are the goto deal for these conditions. Fish in colder water are generally more lethargic and sensitive to bait size and action. Start with something like a 3/4oz Rivertide Jig head rigged with your favourite paddletail styled plastic swimbait body. I like Savage Gear Sand Eels and Z-Man Swimmerz but no longer than 5” in length. Matched with a 7ft 6 Inshore class MH rod and 3000 class spinning reel on 30lb braid finished with a 6ft 20lb 100% fluorocarbon leader. Now I know that Stripers don’t have teeth but when you start hooking into the quantity you’re going to find in the ‘Chi, that line gets frayed up in a hurry. I even had to change my leader 4x during this trip from the abuse it was taking. Try targeting large, shallow sand flats that are adjacent to deeper water. The mouths of smaller tributaries are areas that must be explored. Make sure you have an anchor if you’re in a smaller vessel to maintain boat position. Spotlock or Pinpoint electric trolling motor technology is a game changer when it comes to staying put. A shallow water anchor like a Power-Pole would also be a major asset in these shallow water areas.
Low & Slow
Once the tide started to drop, so did the bites in the shallow zones. When this happens, it’s time to make some changes. We headed up river to look for deeper channels where schools of fish might congregate. As the tide drops, so do the baitfish and of course with them the Stripers. Look for areas where the river pinches with deeper channels. With a little scanning, we were able to locate some travelling schools in 26ft – 32ft of water right close to the Ritchie Wharf launch. Fishing these deeper conditions called for a total change up of gear and strategy. To deal with the outgoing tide and the howling winds that would just not let up, we tied on the right tools for the job. Upgrading to 1.5oz and 2oz jigheads and larger profile baits, we were ready to get the baits down to the fish as quickly as possible and keep them in the strike zone. When vertical jigging, I prefer more of a split-tail or pin tail styled bait versus the paddletail. I feel this allows for more erratic popping action that ultimately trigger more bites. When you get over the right school, often the jig never even gets to bottom before it is inhaled by a hungry Striper. When it comes to the equipment, I use a short, 7ft MH inshore rod with a larger arbour 4000 class spinning reel spooled with 40lb braid and tipped with a 25lb fluorocarbon leader. For baits my go to profiles are Z-Man Streakz XL, Z-man 10” Heroz, Bass Kandy Delights BOSS in 10” and Berkley Gulp! Saltwater Jerk Shads. Maintaining bottom contact is critical and experimenting different jigging actions is important as well. Get onto the right school and you’ll be begging for a hot bath and massage when you’re said and done.
If you’re looking at heading to the Miramichi River, here are a few things to consider. Firstly, make sure to wear the appropriate gear. In May, the weather can be all over the place. It’s not uncommon to go from bright warm sunny days, to gloomy howling winds and even snow. Make sure to have the right clothing and gear to keep you dry and warm. Safety gear is also paramount. When fishing in cold frigid water, always have on board the necessary safety equipment such as lifejackets(keep them on at all times), throwable flotation device, rope, whistle, anchor, oars etc. The ‘Chi is a big river and the current can flow fast, especially when the tide is going either in or out. Always make sure somebody knows where you’ll be. Last but not least, be courteous to your fellow anglers on the water! There is a lot of water to cover and although it may be tempting to just stop when you see a bunch of boats crowded together, be respectful to those who were there before you. It takes time and effort to locate fish so do yourself a favour and spend some time exploring and expanding your zones. Striped Bass are a migratory schooling fish. This means that they are less relating to structure and more towards food. Just because you caught some fish in one spot today does not guarantee that they will be there tomorrow. I for one have looked forward to discovering new locations and patterns every time I get a chance to get on the river. Hopefully this article has provided some insight to Miramichi Striper fishing. Enough that maybe you just might head out there and bend a rod. Hopefully I’ll see you there!
Links and Resources
Scrooner Point Log Cabins – http://spcabins.com/
Rivertide Jigs – https://www.facebook.com/RiverTideJigs/
City of Miramichi – https://www.discovermiramichi.com/
Tourism New Brunswick – https://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/