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Striped bass catches expected to pick up steam

Word of continued action with big stripers in New Jersey’s Raritan Bay has Long Island bass fans chomping at the bit to start hooking the heavy hitters right here at home.

New York’s marine season for stripers opened on Monday with scattered reports of school-class fish mostly measuring less than the minimum size limit of 28 inches coming from Jamaica Bay and intermittent points east along the ocean beaches to Montauk. On the North Shore, Oyster Bay, Hempstead and Mount Sinai harbors also rewarded surf anglers, although scores were better at night.

Heading into the weekend, all signs are looking good for serious improvement in the number of keeper bass to be encountered save for the weather: stiff winds and rain are forecast for Friday (4/19) and Saturday (4/20).

“Right now local waters are still a little on the cool side for stripers,” said Capt. Mike Barnett of the Freeport charter vessel Codfather. “Then again, we are seeing vast schools of bunker, plenty of spearing, and diving gannets working the bait hard between Jones and Fire Island inlets. Those are all indications bigger bass are about to show so the action should kick in over the next week or so.”

While he awaits the cow bass, Barnett has been targeting blackfish. The tasty tautogs have been feeding well on green crabs in 40- to 60-foot depths south of Jones Inlet. On Tuesday, the skipper put Tim Sherman’s group on a limit catch of ‘tog weighing up to 5 pounds.

Surf anglers, too, are hoping the bass arrive in bigger sizes, but the number of schoolies in the 14- to 20-inch class being caught along South Shore beaches has been steadily picking up steam. The waters around Democrat Point and Fire Island Inlet have seen some surfcasters connecting with as many as 20 schoolies per trip on clams, bloodworms and soft-plastic swimbaits. It’s fun fishing, and with most of the bass too small to keep, it’s also the perfect training ground for youngsters and novices to learn best practices for letting fish go.

Cuomo signs bunker bill

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill to protect menhaden and improve ocean health in New York waters. The bill was sponsored by Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) and championed by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach).

The new law prohibits commercial fishing for menhaden (bunker) using industrial purse seine nets. It’s intended to protect one of the most important local food sources for stripers, whales, dolphin, bluefish, coastal sharks, seals and seabirds, among other predatory species that frequent New York’s waters.

In a news release, Cuomo noted that New York has made significant investments to improve habitat, clean up sources of harmful pollution, and restore a healthy diversity of life to our waters.

“This critical new law,” he stated, “will help us further protect a vital fishery that supports species important to our sportfishing economy, as well as the majestic whales and other marine life that are once again returning to our state’s coastal waters.”

Purse sein nets can be as large as six city blocks. They are held down by weights at the bottom and buoyed by floats at the top edge, and are drawn tight around entire schools of fish for each haul. Many of the menhaden harvested with this method are ultimately used for production of fish oil, fertilizer and fishmeal.

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