With the striped bass season set to open on April 15th, many anglers are already talking about the 2020 season. That’s because a new benchmark assessment was done for 2018. The report concluded that striped bass are in a state of decline. If measurements aren’t put in place striped bass will continue to decline. It’s too early to know what those measurements may be however
it wouldn’t surprise me if they looked to increase the size limit or shorten the season. Keep in mind that New York anglers have some of the most restrictive regulations when it comes to striped bass. New York fishermen are only allowed one fish and also have a four month closed season. I will certainly keep everyone posted once a formal decision is made. In the meantime, grab your gear because striper season opens on April 15th. I’m all geared up and ready to roll. I usually start out looking for striped bass in the back bays. The further you are from an inlet the quicker the water will warm up with the sun’s rays. Bass can handle some pretty cold water but they will be lethargic. I have seen it firsthand. They will follow your lure back to the boat and never try to eat it. I haven’t been able to crack the cold water feeding code. The good news is it only takes a few warm days to get them to bite. During the early part of the season, I’m usually throwing just two lures. The first is a 6 inch swim shad. Believe it or not, you can find some really nice man made drop-offs in the canals and rivers on the north side of the bay. I throw these swim shads along these ledges. The second lure that I throw is mostly used during first light or in the evening; it is a Danny Plug. It’s important to work this plug very slowly. The top water action on this plug will entice those bass that seem to have lock jaw. Quite often you will see a small wake behind the plug before a bass explodes on it. Nothing is more exciting than watching a fish bounce on a top water plug. If you are willing to fish at night your local bridge on the outgoing tide may be holding a lot of bass. Bass will use the lights of the bridge to ambush their prey. They will position themselves in the darkness of the bridge. As bait comes into the light, bass will pounce on them. Right behind the bass bluefish will begin to tear through the bay. I use the word tear because these fish that enter the bay are looking to tear all baitfish apart. In fact, I recently read that bluefish will kill its prey even though it may not have any desire to eat it. I have learned my lesson when it comes to these yellow eyed demons. If I’m targeting bluefish I will use a wire leader. I do not use store bought wire leaders. The snap clips found on the end of these pre-made rigs are not very effective. These bluefish that show up in the spring are big and hungry. Last year I caught a 17 pounder (yes, it was put on a scale) in the middle of the bay. Those pre-made rigs won’t last more than two to three fish. If you plan on using live or cut bait I suggest you use a circle hook. I don’t eat bluefish so I like to release them in good shape. If I’m using a popper it’s going to have to be cheap and I will only fish the popper with a single hook.
Men are stubborn…
I would like to share with you a true story that took place two years ago. I was fishing with my buddy who loves to fish as much as I do. We came across an insane amount of bunker getting blitzed by huge bluefish. This was all taking place within eyesight of my house. I bet you know a guy just like my buddy Brad. He is the guy that is constantly changing up his lure. He spends more time in his tackle bag than he does fishing. As for myself, I’ll try to use the same popper all day. I watch Brad pull out a popper with two treble hooks and a single hook in the back. I beg him not to use it. There is no need, we are catching bluefish constantly using a cheap popper with just a single hook on it. Brad hooks up and screams out I “found what they were looking for.” The next scream out of Brad’s mouth was not one of joy. I turn around and I see Brad on his knees. I quickly realized he wasn't bitten. I run over and try to prevent the bluefish from flopping around. The treble hook was stuck in his thumb. I’m able to free the bluefish and we quickly begin to head in. A friend in another boat comes up alongside us and asks me if I have wire cutters on board. I reply no. I told him we couldn’t talk because we're heading to the ER. I kid you not, he raised his leg and said I will see you there. He had a popper with a treble hook hanging from his leg. I wish the story ended there. Just as I’m about to enter my canal Brad rips the treble hook out of his thumb. He looks at me and says there is no way we can go in with all of those blues blowing up the bunker schools. I agree and I turn the boat around. We quickly get back to fishing. After three casts, Brad goes and changes his lure again. I cannot believe what I’m looking at as Brad pulls his rod back ready to cast. He went right back to using the same popper with treble hooks on it. I hope Brad never sees the inside of the ER but I have a feeling if he keeps using treble hooks while fishing for bluefish the doctors will get to know him really well. Men can be very stubborn.
I just want to take a minute and remind those that read my column the importance of supporting your local tackle shop. I’m not preaching that every piece of fishing gears needs to be bought at your local store. I’m aware that nowadays you can save a few bucks buying stuff online. I have really gotten into tuna fishing. The hardest part of tuna fishing is where to find them. I’m sure everyone understands the saying “it’s a big ocean.” Over the years my local tackle shop has gotten to know me. The day before a tuna trip I will always give the guys at Trophy Tackle a call. Many times these guys have pointed me in the right direction. I doubt that Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) has any idea about where to find tuna.