It was a tough presentation, but one I've made dozens of times in recent years. A small shadow line caused by a streetlight gave reason for a pod of schoolie stripers to align near the mouth of a small tidal creek. There, they picked off small crabs, minnows and grass shrimp that inadvertently strayed from the darkness long enough to present a clear silhouette.
It took a half-dozen casts with an eight-weight flyrod before my intermediate line dragged a chunky shrimp imitation through the pocket, but the reward was instantaneous. A 26-inch schoolie, two inches shy of keeper status, smashed the imitation and powered down the creek. After a spirited battle, I took great pleasure in releasing my first bass of the new season.
To be sure, bigger stripers were available had I trekked to the western South Shore bays or probed the backwaters of Shinnecock Bay, where stripers to 40 pounds were reported this week, but I had only a couple hours free this night and, besides, there's just something special about needing only a short ride to find the fish.
For many who love to target early spring stripers, fishing along local beaches, docks, river banks and tidal creeks offers a fun and productive way to ease into the season. At no point during the year will the stripers be found spread across a wider swath of water. Hungry after their migration from winter holding grounds farther south, they push into back bay areas where waters warm quickly and plenty of fodder is available.
If you would like to target these schoolies, be aware that most fall short of 28-inch keeper status, but they can provide fast action on the right stage of the tide, generally considered as early in the ebb. They'll also strike a variety of lures including swim shads, one-half-ounce jigheads tipped with four-inch Bass Assassin or curly-tailed grubs, and small swimming plugs along the lines of Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows.
One of the most enjoyable aspects about this fishing is that you can use relatively light gear such as that favored for largemouth bass action. It may take a little poking around to find them, but the schoolies are already in the creeks and patrolling the edges of bayside docks. Mixed in with the small linesiders are plenty of bluefish and, perhaps, a weakfish or two. Go get 'em, but be prepared to release most, if not all, of what you catch as this fishing is more for fun than food.
Rebounding from Sandy
According to Brenden Rutigliano at Captree Bait and Tackle, the shop finally has reopened and is fully stocked. The Main Pier at Captree should be fully repaired by Memorial Day, while Overlook pier is completely open and the west dock near the launch ramp allows anglers to fish as far out as the fuel station.
Freeport's Nautical Mile is mostly open now, according to Capt. Mike Wasserman of the Captain Lou Fleet. The boats are sailing, and fluke fishing has been quite good in the State Channel with a pleasing number of keepers taken.
Orient Point State Park is fully open now that the entrance road has been repaired. Park manager Sue Wuehler said that anglers score best here with blues and weakfish right out in front of the parking lot.