If the turn of the calendar wasn’t enough to tell you that striper season is nigh, perhaps the news that the New Jersey striper season, which reopens (in the inlets and backwaters) on March 1, has had the best start to the season in several years. Fishermen were catching 28-inch and larger bass within a few hours of midnight on March 1, and the fishing appears to be pretty good from Cape May at the southern end of the state, to the Raritan Bay. You can read more about the Jersey bite in John Oswald’s New Jersey report.
There was even some striper news to share around the Cape. Tom at Red Top Sporting Goods said fishermen seeking holdover stripers in some of the rivers and bays over the past week found fish of 12 to 14 inches willing to strike small soft-plastic paddle tails. We’re still at least six weeks from the first migratory stripers reaching the Cape, but if you want to see some bass a bit early, there are some hunkered down deep in the bays and rivers. You may have to move around a bit to find some active fish, but Tom said some anglers had reported double-digit catches of holdovers recently, so when you find them, you might get a few.
Other holdovers that made the report this week were some brown trout that Evan at Eastman’s Sport and Tackle had heard of. The browns were caught using natural bait, shiners and nightcrawlers. Andrew Burke, producer here at OTW, had a great day with rainbow trout on Sunday, using nightcrawlers. Andrew said the trout were schooled up tightly, and he’d have a few minutes of fast-paced action followed by a few minutes of nothing.
Nightcrawlers can be a hot bait for trout after spring rains wash mud and worms into the ponds, but it won’t be long until PowerBait becomes the top offering once again, as the trucks from Sandwich Hatchery are scheduled to start rolling in “early March.” You can keep an eye on the stocking status of your favorite pond at the State’s Trout Stocking Report.
Bass and pickerel will be biting well as the days get longer and the small shallow ponds start to warm. Afternoons always seem to be best this time of year. It’s prime time for jerkbaits, and in a couple weeks, lipless crankbaits will be good. At the office, we’ve all been catching with the Float ‘n Fly rig too, as this is a great cold-water presentation. But you can’t beat a bucket of shiners for steady action, and the ability to keep your hands in your pockets against the March chill.
Tom at Red Top mentioned cod from shore as a long-shot option right now. He said he’d heard a few fishermen earlier in the winter sacrificed a lot of rigs to the bottom of the Canal, but managed to catch a couple pollock.
Pollock, like cod, were once a semi-regular visitor within casting range of Cape Cod. At one point, their arrival was so reliable, that there was once a pollock surf derby on Martha’s Vineyard that took place after the bass and bluefish derby.
Fishing Forecast for Cape Cod
While there are some salt options, it’s approaching the best time of year for freshwater fishing, and I’ll be focusing most of my efforts there. Bass and pickerel are biting will, and freshly stocked trout will soon be in the offing. Looks like we have a cold weekend to weather, but by the middle of next week, it’ll be nearly 50 degrees, and the fishing should be awesome.