Striped bass season opens across Long Island on Sunday and local anglers couldn’t be more ready. While waters remain relatively cold for this time of year with surface temperatures still ranging between 41 and 44 degrees, there have already been some school-class linesiders caught and released from the western Long Island Sound, Jamaica Bay and South Shore tidal creeks.
Most of Long Island’s early season stripers come from the Chesapeake Bay region. The Maryland and Virginia fish work their way up the coast, lighting up each new port as their masses push northward in pursuit of baitfish schools such as bunker and spearing. Thus, you can gauge the approach of the linesiders in our waters by watching the action come alive in New Jersey — where anglers are catching hot and heavy at the moment.
“Bassin’ has been on fire around here,” said Dan DePasquale, a New Jersey angler who follows the bass up and down the coast. “I’ve caught and released about 200 stripers in the past week on six-inch soft plastics, stick shads and Daiwa SP Minnows.”
Early in the week DePasquale hammered bass from schoolies to 35 inches off New Jersey’s Long Beach Island. Tuesday he worked Raritan Bay from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. for non-stop action and fish stretching the tape to 40 inches. If the progression continues on pace, the leading edge of those schools should be arriving in our waters right about now. The advance brigade is already here.
“I know there were bass to about 30 inches caught and released inside Jamaica Bay and around Jones Inlet on Wednesday,” said Brenden Rutigliano at Captree Bait and Tackle. “There have also been some small schoolies at Democrat Point, so things are starting to wake up in our waters, too.”
The first stripers of the season tend to show up in tidal creeks, on shallow bay flats and inside harbors since these areas warm up quicker than major channels, inlets and ocean waters.
Cut bunker and clams are common bait choices to start the season while those who prefer lures often start with soft-plastic swim shads, Bass Assassins and Slug-Gos. White is a good early-season color choice for the soft plastics, with chartreuse an option if the water is cloudy, silted or murky.
Since water temperatures are still cold, expect the bass to be a little sluggish and retrieve your lure at a slow rate to keep it in the strike zone somewhere between mid-depth and the bottom. Schoolies in the 14- to 24-inch tend to lead the charge but each new day brings better odds of hooking that first keeper of the season.
The Island Princess (islandprincesscaptree.com) out of Captree is planning to test the waters for stripers on Sunday. She’ll probably concentrate her efforts between Oak Beach and Fire Island Inlet. You can bet the fleet will quickly join in if Captain Bryan Sorice has any success.
Current regulations allow anglers fishing in New York’s marine waters south of the George Washington Bridge to keep one striper each per day, with a minimum size limit of 28 inches. The season runs from April 15 through Dec. 15. Unless fishing from an open- or charter boat, you’ll need to sign up for the NY Recreational Marine Fishing registry (dec.ny.gov/permits/54950.html; 1-866-933-2257) to join the fun.