Spearfishing for Striped Bass from Shore in New England, specifically Rhode Island

Spearfishing for Striped Bass From Shore

If you’re reading this you’ve likely been spearfishing before, and now you want to hone in your skills to start targeting specific species. If you’re searching for Striped Bass you’re likely on the East Coast, maybe even in New England like me. Regardless of where in the east coast you are, Striped Bass act similarly.


In this post I’ll walk through my technique for finding Striped Bass, and of course landing shots on them. Doing all of this from shore is my experience, so that’s what I am writing about. If you are going looking for Bass from a boat and going off-shore, you’ll need a different strategy. Okay enough background, let’s get to the nitty gritty.

Finding Spots That Hold Striped Bass

Like most fish, Striped Bass are usually found hunting for food near structures. Knowing this you need to plan the location of your dive accordingly. I typically go spearfishing in Rhode Island, which has no shortage of rocky coastline. Natural rocky coastline is awesome, and often not highly fished, but this can mean it’s hard to get to. Some other places you can consistently find Striped Bass are piers, rock walls, sunken structures, and of course shipwrecks. 

The easiest way for a beginner to shoot a Bass is to go to popular spots. Yeah they are likely heavily fished, but they are popular for a reason. Diving fishing jetties and piers will put you on fish. The other option if you have some experience is to pull up Google Maps and use the satellite view. Look for a coastline that is rocky and has white water in the images. Doing this lets you find spots know one goes to, but take note a lot of those spots can be hard to get in and out of the water, and may not have water access. A trick can be to use street view to see if there’s any no parking signs or anything to be aware of in the area.

When you are looking at spots on Google Maps, once you see a few nice rocky coastline areas, use a depth map for areas that range from 6’-15’. 

After some time you should have a list of possible spots. Pick a time to do a drive by and check out if there’s any good entry and exit points. You will also want to note what the tide is when you are scouting spots, make sure when you look at tides you are using the closest possible tide chart. Meaning close in area, even in a state as small as Rhode Island, the tides at one end of the state and the other end can change dramatically, this is especially true if you’re in a bay or a salt pond.

Some popular places to spearfish for Bass in Rhode Island are East Wall in Point Judith and West Wall in East Matunuck. Both of these rock walls hold a lot of fish, and are easy to get to. One thing to note, is they are both heavily trafficked and fished. Expect fishermen with lines in the water and a high chance of running into other divers if you go at a peak time. With saying this, I still shot multiple nice sized Bass at both walls this past summer.

Spearfishing for Striped Bass and Tautog in Rhode Island
From left to right, a 20" Tautog, a 33" Sriped Bass, a 16" Tautog, a 19" Tautog, and a 31" Striped Bass, all shot at the West Wall in Matunuck.

Both of these areas will not only put you next to Striped Bass, but you’ll also find Tautog while spearfishing, Scup/Porgies, and if you’re lucky some Triggerfish, Summer Flounder/Fluke, and maybe some Sea Bass. 

If you want to find more private spots, I recommend learning how to use Google maps. 

Okay so now you know how to find shore diving spots that will have Striped Bass, you can now go and have a decent chance of seeing some. The rest of this post is going to be about increasing your chances of seeing Bass as well as your chance of shooting one.

Weather Conditions for Spearfishing Striped Bass

As I mentioned there’s a good chance you’re from New England if you’re reading this, and if that’s true you know the visibility of the water is never too great. So the number 1 thing is to make sure you’re going to be able to see. Next is what time of day is most likely going to be bass hunting for food along the coast. Lastly, what tide is best for Spearfishing in New England. 

It shouldn’t be of any surprise that if you can get the perfect weather and time for your dive, you have a much bigger chance of seeing some keeper size Striped Bass. With that, I will be the first one to tell you I have seen and shot many nice Bass in less than ideal condition. For example, this 29” Striped Bass I shot this summer was in visibility of about 4’. 

Water Visibility Factors in New England

In Rhode Island, there are a bunch of factors that affect how the water visibility is. And even when things look like they should be perfect, oftentimes they aren’t.


Rain can be a session ruiner. You are going to want to make sure it did not rain in the last day or 2. I’m not talking about a light 20 minute shower, I’m talking about a significant amount of rain. To quantify it, let's say more than an hour of rain in the last 2 days will have a significant effect on the visibility.


You also need to make sure it is not and has not been overly rough or wavy in the past few days. Waves toss up so much settlement that it takes the water a few days to recover here. To quantify this I would say if waves got over 3’ in height, you are going to want to wait about 2 days to dive. Of course this isn’t a rule but instead a best practice to find perfect times. Just last week I went 12 hours after waves reached the 4’ mark. The visibility was poor, but I could still see about 6’ which was enough to shoot 2 nice Tautog.


While I think the best time for visibility is anytime the sun is shining, the time you’ll see the most fish is likely near sunrise and sunset.


Tide is the biggest driver of good visibility in New England. For a 3 hour session the best time is to get in the water about 2 hours before high tide. This is because clean ocean water is being pushed in. This clean water usually has the least amount of settlement.The worst tide is the opposite time, about 2 hours before low tide usually gets pretty bad. The settlement is being pulled from the shore and causes some bad visibility sessions.

Being able to see fish is of the utmost importance when spearfishing for Striped Bass, or any fish for that matter. But it doesn’t really matter if you can see if there’s no fish. Next I’ll get into some weather conditions that bring Striped Bass near shore.

What Time of Year is Best for Spearfishing Striped Bass

Time of year for fishing is a big one. Striped Bass are highly migratory so some months are great and other months not so much. I am going to be speaking about time of year from my own experience in Rhode Island. Please make note that time of year will be different depending on if you are more Southern or Northern from Rhode Island.

The good news about shore diving for Striped Bass is they are around basically as summer and into the autumn. They first show up in numbers in June, and they stay around into October. The best month for me was July this year. I am not sure if it was the time of year or if I just got lucky, but every time I went diving I was seeing nice bass. 

What Time of Day Is Best for Spearfishing Striped Bass

The time of day is a factor I believe matters the least. I have shot fish at all times of the day, I think the time of day matters most for visibility. With that said, I do think you are most likely to see a fish about 30 minutes after first light. It seems like whenever I go for an early morning dive I see some nice Striped Bass. One thing about this is I feel like I see more Striped Bass alone in the morning and more schools of Striped Bass during the day. I am not sure if this is random, or if there is a reason for this. 

What Tide is the Best for Spearfishing Striped Bass

The good thing with tide is the same tide that brings the best visibility tends to bring in the most Bass. About an hour or two before high tide I definitely see the most Bass. I believe they are coming in looking for baitfish that are being pushed in from the tide.

Okay so now I have shared what type of locations Striped Bass are most likely to be found at, and the weather conditions that tend to bring in nice Stripers. Next we’ll look at some factors once you’re in the water.

What type of Bait Attracts Striped Bass?

While Bass can be picky eaters, they will eat most bait fish if they have the chance. This past summer in Rhode Island there were shoals of bait fish every time I got in the water. This meant there was Bass to be seen most days. 

I did notice, if the bait fish (Typically Menhaden) got up to about 3” long, there was a much bigger chance you’d see Bass. When the bait fish were smaller around 1.5” or so, the Bass weren’t as active. What ends up happening and makes spearfishing striped Bass easy, is the bait fish get pushed by the waves and currents into the rocky coastline. This means many fish get discombobulated and the Bass take advantage of that situation, so when you see loads of bait up along the coast, it’s a good idea to stay by them. 

If you have ever fished for Bass with a rod and reel you know Bass are smart predators. They don't chase any lure or rig, and need to really be convinced by your bait. Use this knowledge when you’re diving for them.  When Bass are hunting they use currents, tides, waves, and anything else they can use to their advantage. This means you are looking for areas of terrain that have these. 

How Deep Are Striped Bass?

Surprisingly enough when you are diving from shore you don’t need to go very deep to find keeper size Bass. I learned this from my father who has countless stories of seeing Bass within 15 seconds of getting in the water, many times before he has even loaded his gun. This is because Striped Bass are hunting the shallows looking for fish that are getting tumbled in the surf. That is the most crucial piece of knowledge I can share with you, so reread the sentence above.

Knowing that Bass are often hunting fish in the surf, you don’t actually want to be going far off the coast. In my 10 years of spearfishing, 90% of the Striped Bass I’ve seen have been by the coast, whether it’s a pier or the coastline, they’re swimming along it. Even if they are in schools they are often scouting the coastline in depths less than 15 feet deep. In fact, I have shot many nice size Bass while swimming at the surface. 

It doesn’t mean you won’t see Striped Bass in deeper water, but for the sake of targeting them on specific dives and drops, I believe you will see a lot more near the edge of the coastline. Because of this I tend to wear about 15lbs of weight on my weightbelt when I'm diving for Striped Bass from shore. I would wear less weight if I was going to be diving deeper for them. This spearfishing weight belt calculator can help you determine what weight you should use when spearfishing for Striped Bass.

The Drop

Before I get into drops, I am by no means an expert, my techniques are not necessarily the best way, it’s just what I have found to work the best for me.

With that said, there are a few different types of drops for shooting Stripers from shore. The first one I’m going to cover is a traditional drop on natural rocky terrain. I call it:

Drop and “Chill”

This is a simple drop. To start, place yourself in a spot where white water is flowing back from the rocks. Don’t get too close to the shore as it will likely be too much current pushing you to stay still. I like to find a spot between 6-10 feet deep, where I can see the surface while laying at the bottom. So, do your breathing technique at the surface, then dive down to about 8 feet deep and find a rock or something else to grab onto with your free hand. Lay completely flat and still. Look for a Bass swimming up or down along the shore. As I mentioned they are looking for fish that have been tumbled in the white water. Stay still, and watch for a Bass cruising down the shore. One thing to watch out for is if the Bass is swimming along the rocks, you will only have one chance at a shot. The Bass will be a moving target so have your gun pointing at your optimal position and be ready.

Join the Bass

The next type of drop is by far my favorite. This is because if you’re joining the Bass, you have already seen one or a few and you are ready to go. The picture below shows a nice Striped Bass from a succesful "Join the Bass" Drop.

Spearfishing a Striped Bass and 3 Tautog at East Wall in Point Judith Rhode Island

From left to right. A 31" Striped Bass, and 3 Tautog. 17", and (2) 19". I shot all these fish at East Wall in Point Judith Rhode Island.

The opportunity to join Bass is when you are swimming or breathing up at the surface and you see Bass below you. This works best if it’s a school of Stripers, but I have successfully done this on lone Bass as well.

If a school of Bass are swimming by you, take a deep breath and swim calmly to the bottom, or slightly below their level if they aren’t near the bottom. Once you are in place, position your body so you are lying parallel with the surface of the water. If you can’t get to that position while minimizing movements just straighten yourself. Once you’re in position, stay completely still. This is when you hope the Bass weren’t too spooked by you (since you were minimally moving and staying calm) and they come back in closer to take a look at you. This is when you can line up shots. Even on Rhode Island coasts I’ve had schools of 20+ 25”-33” Bass swim right up to me. Take your time and stay calm. They won’t quickly swim away unless you move fast. Take your time for a nice size Bass to give you a shot, and stone it. 

Surprise the Bass

This approach is what I do when I have been seeing schools of Bass swim around, but I am not right next to them. For this approach I am usually a little off the coastline since when they are in schools they are normally bunched up feeding on baitfish, and not strictly hunting the white water. 

In this circumstance I do long breath ups and calmly swim to the bottom. I don’t swim to the level I have been seeing them at, because I don’t want to spook them. Once I reach the bottom I grab onto a rock or some structure and then look up. 

If they are in schools they aren’t on the bottom, they’re usually between 8-12 feet deep. Stay very still and look at the surface. Continue to do this until you get lucky and the school swims by you. It’ll happen if they’re around.

Surface Shots

While I have shot a few nice Bass while at the surface, it is usually quite challenging. This is because shooting down on a fish is a tough angle to land a shot. But of course if you’re at the surface and a nice striper swims by you, you’re taking the shot. 

In this case, try to aim for the thickest part of the fish, what I would call the fish’s “neck”. The neck is a great spot because the flesh is strong so even a not so great shot will likely hold. Don’t get too frustrated if you miss. Surface shots are tough, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You could of course try the “Join the Bass” technique, but there’s no guarantee you won’t spook it before you get a chance at a shot. 

Deep Drop Off Drops

Some coasts in Rhode Island get relatively deep quite fast. I’m talking depths to about 30 feet right at the coastline. This coastline gives 2 options for Bass, the “Drop and “Chill”” Method which I use in depths up to 12 feet deep, and the “Deep Drop Off Drops” Method. For this method I like to get as close to the cliff as possible and slowly and calmly drop with the bottom as it descends steeply. Doing this landed me a nice 29” Striper this summer. The key to this method is you are dropping very slowly which lets you have a chance at a Bass at any point in your drop. Because it gets quite deep and Bass are usually by the surface you’re maximizing your chances. Slowly descend the rocky coastline waiting for a Bass to swim up from the bottom or swim by looking for a quick meal. When I shot the Bass using this method this summer I got him as he was swimming diagonally up and to the right along the bottom. This was a day that the visibility was only about 5 feet, but since I did the slow movement I was able to cover a good amount of ground during each drop, resulting in me finding a fish.

Striped Bass and Tautog shot while spearfishing in Rhode Island

From left to right a 19" Tautog, a 29" Striped Bass, and (2) 18" Tautogs. Shot at a spot in Rhode Island with a "Deep Drop".

Shooting a Striped Bass

Okay you have seen the Bass, taking your shot and you hit it. Good job, now don’t mess up like I did last week. If you shoot a nice Bass, the first thing you want to do is grab that fish yourself. Last week I shot a nice Striped Bass right through the gills. It was a good shot, but the Bass wasn’t stoned. I went to grab the fish and I had just barely touched it when the Bass kicked its tail and swam away. I put the blame on the flopper not being out, but in the end I could have grabbed the Bass by its gills or bear hugged it to secure it. Not doing so left me fishless, and even worse left a wounded Bass in the ocean. 

The best thing to do once you grab the Bass is to get your hands in the gills and then brain it. Insert a sharp dive knife behind the eyes. Don’t do the top of the head, instead go from an angle into the head behind an eye. This will take some practice to learn exactly where the Bass’s brain is, but you’ll know when you get it. The fish will instantly go limp letting you relax knowing you secured your catch. Next I recommend bleeding your fish, and then gutting it too. Doing this all right when you get the fish will leave your meat untainted, and make your load lighter. AND it will be providing the guts to the ocean to be food for the next generation of ocean life. Bleeding a striped Bass is important, they are fish with a lot of blood, so not doing so will create some bloody filets.

Spearfishing for Striped Bass Tips

After reading this post I hope I was able to give you some real knowledge that will help you become a better spearfisherman or woman. While spearing Striped Bass is incredibly fun, I think it’s very important you practice visualizing what a keeper size Striped Bass looks like.

As I mentioned there is now a regulation for Striped Bass, a slot rule. So you need to shoot a Striped Bass that is in the size range of 28” - 35”. This means it’s illegal to shoot a bass that is 36” in length. While I understand it is a bummer having to pass up on a shot on a big Bass, it’s incredibly important you do so.

Keeping a healthy population of bigger Striped Bass is the key to having a healthy population. Without a healthy population it could become illegal to shoot Striped Bass of any size. If you are new to Spearfishing I think it’s incredibly important you practice visualizing the correct size of all the fish you are going to be targeting. 

The good news is this past summer I saw more Striped Bass than I ever have before. I am not sure if it was just a good year or if regulation changes are working, either way it’s incredibly fun to see nice Striped Bass nearly every time you get in the water.

Spearfishing Gear for Shooting Striped Bass from Shore

When it comes to gear it’s important to feel comfortable with everything you are using. That means you should know your gun works well, as well as your fins, mask and dive flag.


Speargun for Shooting Striped Bass

To start my favorite speargun for Shooting Striped Bass from shore is my Rob Allen Snapper Railgun. The size of this gun is 80cm and it uses a 120cm shaft. I find this gun to be the perfect size for Stripers as it’s small enough to maneuver easily through the water, and strong enough to send the shaft right through the fish. My father usually uses his Rob Allen Aluminum Tuna Railgun, also the 800 series size. Both guns are great for Shooting any bass that fits in the 28” - 35” slot. 

Dive Flag for Shore Diving

If you are going to be spearfishing from shore you need to have a dive flag. I like attaching my dive flag to my gun. This is great because it lets me let go of my gun if I need to, and I don’t have to worry about losing it. I purchased a nice dive flag and float that I take with me everytime I go Spearfishing in Rhode Island. Check out my DIY dive flag and dive float set up for some inspiration on what might work the best for you.


Fins for Spearfishing

Talking about fins can be tricky, as there are so many options. It comes down to a few things, price and condition.


What I mean by this is certain fins are better for certain conditions. I for one have to get in the water from rocks, so I prefer a more sturdy pair of fins that I know I won’t damage when hitting rocks. I also am not in the market to spend $400 on a pair of carbon fiber fins. Maybe one day!


For years I used some used fins I got at a local scuba shop, but this past year I upgraded my fins to the Seac Motus fins. You can see them in the picture below.

Striped Bass shot while spearfishing at East Wall in Point Judith Rhode Island

31" Striped Bass shot at East Wall in Point Judith Rhode Island. In my hand you can see my Seac Motus Fins.


I like these fins because they aren't too expensive, about $130 on Amazon, and they have great flexibility plus they are comfortable. I use 2mm dive booties with them which creates a snug and comfy fit.


Spearfishing Mask / Goggles

Similar to fins, I think the best mask for spearfishing is the mask that is the most comfortable and doesn’t leak. Those are really the only requirements. With that said I used the Cressi Frameless F1 mask. I have used them for 4 years now and never had a single issue. I just wish it had a GoPro mount. My father uses a Mares Tana mask. He likes the smaller framed glass. Again to each their own, as long as it’s comfortable and doesn’t leak, you’re going to be happy.

Dealing with a Foggy Mask

While a good mask should rarely fog up, it still happens. I know many people use a defogger before getting in, but I personally just use spit. When I get in the water I put the mask underwater, take it out and spit in it. I then rub my spit on the lenses and dunk it under water. Then put it on my head, and I’m ready to go.


Make Sure You’re Comfortable

When spearfishing there is nothing more important than your safety. That’s why having reliable gear is very important. I personally use a surf wetsuit while spearfishing, and it keeps me very comfortable. Reliable gear doesn’t have to be very expensive, it just needs to work when you need it to work.


If you aren’t comfortable in the water you are going to have a hard time getting good drops and will likely not see any fish. If you want a more comprehensive list of gear I put together a spearfishing equipment list you can use for your next dive.


Contact Us!

I hope you enjoyed this article, if you have any questions or want to go diving in New England together leave a comment. I’ll be sure to get back to you! You can also contact us through the contact form on the website.

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