Striper Action Arrives Early

New Jersey's early season stripers spurring angler interest.

Diving Birds

Diving Birds

It’s time! If you’re like me you’ve been chomping at the bit to get the boat back in the water for some early season bass fishing and I did that just this past week. My center console winters over in my yard where I can work on it prior to getting it in the water and over to my slip in Garden State Marina in Point Pleasant. I made arrangements with my friends at Bridge Marine to pick up my boat on a specific day and do the make-ready work, which mostly consists of minor engine-related stuff. Then I spent a good portion of last week bottom painting, cleaning, waxing, system checks on the electronics, trim tabs, pumps and switches.

The prior three weeks or so more hearty souls have been treated to some good bass fishing inside bays and on tidal rivers. School-size stripers had been congregating around bridges and in back bay areas in good numbers and were responding to sand and bloodworms on bottom rigs, but a few friends have been fishing the dark side and hooking up using plastics fished around shadow lines near bridges. The Route 37 Bridge across Barnegat Bay had been hot for a few weeks and more bass were moving into the Oyster Creek Channel area. Further north, the Manasquan River was holding bass around the Route 35 Bridge and the Nevasink River is starting to rock and roll.

This early fishing is for bass that winter over in these areas and most are sublegal with some keepers over the 28-inch minimum size thrown in to keep it interesting. But the last couple days schools of roving bass have been encountered feeding on baitfish under diving gannets along central Jersey beaches. When that occurs the action can be wide open and it’s a ball casting plastics on light spinning outfits and vertical jigging with baitcasting tackle.

Prior to the word getting out about bass along the beach there had been a general lack of urgency to get boats prepped and in the water. I chalked it up to hurricane hangover from Sandy and apprehensiveness over the extremely high price of fuel this winter, but that seems to be changing quickly. My friends at Bridge Marine told me that just a couple weeks ago business had been very slow and they were worried it was going to be a bad year all around. Only few regular customers had called to schedule their boats for pick up, service and launching, me included, but since the initial reports of bird action along the beaches their phone has been ringing and the backlog of work building. Owner Dave Wary’s words to the wise…”don’t wait until the fishing starts before you call to schedule your spring make-ready and launching, or you end up on a rapidly growing list of other fishermen ahead of you.”

In the coming weeks, hopefully with the help of some warm weather, the fishing in Raritan and Delaware Bays will start to pop. Fishing with clams will account for a lot of bass until the early schools of menhaden start to show and then chunking will start to produce, too. The season is shaping up and I’m ready for it. Are you?