Also available in: French
At a loss for ideas of what to do during your vacation in Quebec? Have you ever dreamed of heading to the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence to fish for striped bass? We’re shining the spotlight on this now accessible species.
Striped bass: two distinct groups
The first thing to know about striped bass is that there are two types of populations that occur in the northern part of the species’ range. They are exactly the same species, with the same stripes, but one population lives in the Saint-Lawrence River, and the other lives in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Fishing for striped bass is only allowed in the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence. It is forbidden to fish for this species in the Saint-Lawrence River.
The population of striped bass that live in the gulf are all located in the same area: the Northwest Miramichi River in New Brunswick. After a spawning period in the spring, the striped bass set out for an adventure across the gulf. So, your summer vacation is the perfect time to go fishing for them. It’s quite a combative fish, fun to fish and to eat.
Where can you fish for striped bass?
ln the Gaspésie region. This species is the ultimate vacation fish. If you’re planning on camping or spending some time at a welcoming inn on the peninsula, find a nice spot near Rivière-du-Loup, and you’ll be all set. Striped bass sometimes swim very close to shore and you can catch some by getting your feet wet and casting off the shore, or heading in a bit on a boat with a guide.
It’s important to remember that the striped bass is swimming through Quebec waters as it is migrating. In general, fruitful places to fish at the beginning of the season will experience lulls as the waves of migration pass. You can find a number of groups on social media including striped bass anglers. Follow these groups to get an idea of when the best fishing times will be, so as not to miss your chance!
Check out the map of Zone 21, which illustrates where striped bass fishing is allowed.
There are also other zones where striped bass fishing is allowed. In these zones, it’s recommended to check the precise regulations concerning the rivers where you wish to fish. Select the water body on which you would like to fish, and check the exceptions.
Gear: what will you need to bring with you to fish for striped bass?
Striped bass can be fished both with light casting or fly fishing. It’s a good species for learning how to tame a fish at the end of the line.
Opt for a rod that’s strong enough to be able to catch a striped bass without exhausting it. The catch of striped bass must follow the size limit of 50-60 cm. Should you fish one that’s 80 or 85 cm long, you will have to return it to the water.
For light casting, it’s recommended to use a surf casting type rod that is strong enough to reel these fish in, while still enjoying your fishing time. For fly fishing, a number 6 or 8 rod should do the job.
When it comes to lures, the word of the day is variety. You’ve got to be prepared to attract fish to the surface with floating lures, to get them from the bottom of the water, and to face strong winds with jig-head lures.
For fly fishing, Clouser minnow type flies are probably the most common. You will also stack the odds in your favour with flies that imitate crustaceans or different fish (ex.: Gartside gurgler, Bob’s Banger, Deceiver, Surf Candy, etc.).
No matter the scenario, make sure you have single hooks, and never attach more than three hooks to your line and don’t use any bait.
Finally, bring along tackle boxes and waders since you’ll be wandering into the water somewhat.
Handy fishing tips
- If you decide to bring the fishing rod you used to catch a few trout early this year at the cottage, be sure to clean it well before using it for striped bass. Otherwise, the salt water could be damaging.
- Night fishing can be very successful, although day fishing can be just as fruitful. Nightfall is a golden opportunity for striped bass to come and attack groups of smaller fish near the shore.
- Handle fish with care when caught. Despite what you may think, striped bass do not like lying in the sand. Carefully remove the hook, step into the water and let it return to the open water if you won’t be saving it for supper.
After-fishing tips: Preparing the fish to be eaten
In addition to having spent a great afternoon fishing, you’ll likely have a delicious meal to enjoy. Regulations allow you to keep 3 fish between 50 and 65 cm – so you’ll be able to savour a nice supper.
What’s the best way to clean a striped bass? It depends on how you go about it. It cooks very well in foil as well as in fillets. In a few cases, such as in a salt-crusted striped bass recipe, you can save the scales. Otherwise, remove them before leaving the fishing area. You can wait until you’re home to cut and remove the skin and fat (greyish-red flesh). Bass is very easy to cut into a fillet, much the same way that you would prepare a walleye or trout fillet.
A note about striped bass in the Saint-Lawrence River
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that the striped bass that swim in the Saint Lawrence River are a different group that you cannot fish. You may be asking yourselves why this is so when it’s exactly the same fish. Here’s a brief history:
- 1900: Commercial and sport anglers love fishing for striped bass.
- 1950: The species begins to decline.
- Mid-1960s: There are no more striped bass in the Saint Lawrence River. It is the only species to have completely disappeared from the river. Much of this disappearance is likely due to overfishing and dredging the seaway.
- 2001: The beginning of Operation Renaissance, meaning the reintroduction of fish and striped bass larvae into the river by FédéCP volunteers. Operation renaissance came about after specialists judged that the river was once again ready for this fish and that its odds of survival were high.
And now, you understand why, after witnessing the total disappearance of a species and after having made considerable efforts to reintroduce it, we must be careful. The good news is that they seem to have reestablished themselves in their habitat because they are being accidentally caught all over the place between Charlevoix and Montreal. The next step toward being able to fish them in this area is for them to be removed from the at-risk list.
Finally, to find the best gear to fish for striped bass, look no further.
This article was written in collaboration with the FedeCP.
Also available in: French