How hard is this to believe?
Striped bass season starts in less than two weeks!
Never mind when the spring run might begin in earnest, but the Feb. 15 milestone means March 1 – the date striped bass season reopens in the back bays – is coming very soon.
The "first day" of fishing for anything is always very special. But unlike summer flounder, which has opened in May in recent years, the back bay striper season is strictly a "locals only" affair.
Needless to say, the spot of spots will be Oyster Creek. The warm water from the nuclear generating station's outflow provides a home to schoolie bass year-round, and as soon as anglers get the chance, it's game-on.
Just remember – fish east of the Route 9 bridge. West of the bridge is technically freshwater territory. And you can technically get a ticket for fishing there without a license. And when I say technically, I mean you probably will.
We'll have more on that in a couple weeks. If work isn't too busy that day, I might head over myself and give a live report.
For now, the party boats are where the action is.
"The fishing has been good for weeks," according to a report from Dauntless crew.
The Point Pleasant Beach based party boat has been whacking the ling and cod, with most anglers on board hauling between 20 and 40 fish per man (and woman) over the rail.
"Most of the action has been with ling, and throw in a few cod and blackfish to spice up the catch," the report said.
The boat sails every day, but will not fish Feb. 21 due to a planned Coast Guard inspection.
The Miss Belmar Princess, out of (you guessed it) Belmar, fished about 20 miles offshore Wednesday, and most anglers filled a cooler with mackerel, a report from the boat said.
"With Miss Belmar's 3 engines and a total of 2,100 horsepower, she is the first boat to the fishing grounds every day and we guarantee it," the report said.
The crew makes good on that promise every day, sailing 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Mackerel fishing was also being done on board the Golden Eagle party boat, also from Belmar.
Drifts were lasting about a half hour, according to a report, and "medium and large" mackerel were filling the coolers.
For what it's worth, there were a few anecdotal reports of stripers biting in the surf at Island Beach State Park this week. No guarantees, but it's forecast to be nice on Saturday. If you have a beach buggy permit, head out by Barnegat Inlet and give 'er a whirl.
Also, if you missed our report on Patch earlier this week, check out this excellent article from our own John Zingis on the current ban on river herring fishing in New Jersey. It's most certainly an eye-opener.