This month’s feature fish is the striped bass. When I bought my first boat I was obsessed with trying to catch striped bass. I would sit at work on the internet looking at reports of all the striped bass that were being caught. I will admit for the first two years I caught very few. Then all of a sudden things started to just click and make sense. I started to catch a lot of bass at night. I would anchor under the bridge and throw swim shads and bass assassins. I would normally fish really late tides. There are very few people under the bridge at 2am. There were nights we would catch 30-50 fish. If you plan on fishing the bridge at night the number one tip that I could give you is to reel painfully slow. The second tip is make sure you are casting up-tide. That is the direction which the bait will come from plus it’s the direction that the bass are facing. Work those shadow lines. Bass will hide in the dark to ambush its prey. If you can avoid brown tide this year head deep into the bays. You might be surprised at how far bass will follow the bunker. If you plan to fish adult live bunker I would spend my time fishing the outgoing tide. If you have wind against tide you would be better off clam chumming a rip or a bridge. If you don’t like to get dirty using either bunker or clam you can catch a lot of bass with artificials. Just make sure you are trying to match the hatch. That means using bigger lures. Pencil poppers, Danny plugs and swim shads are a must. Focus your time on the dawn and dusk parts of the day. A question I get all the time is do I use wire leader when I’m targeting bass. I’m well aware that bluefish and striped bass usually go hand and hand. However, if I’m fishing bait or lure below the surface I will not use a wire leader. Striped bass tend to be line shy. If I’m tossing a top water plug then I will use wire. I don’t want to lose an expensive bass popper to a bluefish.
We actually got good news on the fluke front. It looks like our fluke season will open May 4th this year. Not only will the season open earlier than last year, it will also close later, on September 30th. Early in the season, the bay water is much warmer than the ocean water. So it’s best to fish the warmer outgoing tide inside the bay. By staying in the bay it will allow you to avoid those dreadful dogfish. Try fishing small bucktails in shallow water. No need to go big, a huge part of a fluke diet early in the season will be grass shrimp and spearing.
A great way to introduce kids to fishing is by taking them porgy fishing. This year regulations are a little better than last year. The bag limit remains at 30 fish but the size limit is nine inches instead of ten. A nine inch porgy makes great bass bait. If you take kids fishing make sure you have gear for them. Your best bet is a light spinning rod and reel setup. Keep your rigs simple. A two hook porgy rig is all that is needed. Clam is by far the best bait. Salted clams will work even better. The salt allows the clam to become tough and stay on the hook longer.
May is your chance at catching a double digit weakfish. The last two years have been tough to find those big spring weakfish. However last summer weak fishing was incredible. I think it was a great sign for this year. Many fish caught in the summer were in the four to six pound area. Weakfish love deep holes inside the bays. So keep your eye on your sounder. Some of the best weakfish spots are found in high boat traffic areas. So it’s best to look for them during dawn and dusk when there are fewer boats on the water. Weakfish aren’t hard to catch once you find them. I rarely use live bait when I’m targeting weakfish. Besides using a strip of squid every once in a while I normally target these fish with artificials. I don’t know when it started but fisherman love to use the color pink when targeting weakfish. I’m guilty of the pink thing. However, I have caught plenty of weakfish with many different colors. The key to catching weakfish is making sure your offering is in the strike zone. They are usually found a few feet off the bottom. So make sure your lures are working that part of the water column.
With sharks showing up next month, May is your chance to fill your bait freezer up with some great bluefish filets. I have no desire to eat bluefish, however, I love catching them, especially the big boys. Most of the time I target bluefish on top water plugs. I use very cheap plugs. I will often head to my local tackle shop and look in their bargain bin. You don’t need to spend $25 on a plug to catch a bluefish. I suggest you replace all treble hooks with single hooks. I usually fish my plug with just a single hook that is located on the end of the lure. I also crush the barb on the hook. I may lose one or two bluefish from time to time, however, keeping myself safe and releasing the fish in good shape is what I care about.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible to find bluefin tuna this early in the season but if I were to head offshore looking for them I would have a backup plan. That means you need to have clam on board. There are many wrecks along the south shore that will be loaded with cod and pollock. Be prepared to bounce around from wreck to wreck. Dogfish may be a problem.
Some odds and ends
Flounder season will close on May 30th. It’s not a fish that I normally target but the month of May will give you a chance to put a couple in the cooler. It’s sad but it’s become the forgotten fish. I have only read about how abundant they use to be. Next month kicks off shark season. There are two huge changes that you should know about if you plan on sharking. The use of non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks is now a must. If you plan on harvesting a mako it now must be 83 inches forked length. That is a huge increase from last year’s 54 inches. At 83 inches a mako will weigh roughly 240 pounds. As far as black seabass go it’s anyone’s guess. The only thing that I do know is the fact we will see a reduction of 11% from last year. The bag limit and season length can be adjusted however the size limit must remain at 15 inches.