Fall Run Phase One Has Begun
The striped bass have been schooling up and anglers are getting excited. Up North in New York the 2011 class bass are fat and hitting hard. In New York to Northern New Jersey in the surf, bass are hitting hard as well for surfcasters. This 2011 striped bass class will join the fall migration this year, or at least that is the hope. There are a lot of these fish, and they will help increase the Atlantic migration schools. The inland bays are hot for schooling bass right now, the sizes are averaging twenty six to twenty seven inches. There have been a few keepers caught in these schools upwards of thirty one inches. Once you find a school stay away and cast to the school. Driving a boat through them will spook the school and it will regroup farther away. Use swim shads, bucktails and poppers around the inland bays. The same will work in the surf if you find a good school, look for them south of cuts along the surf edge. Up north on the tidal creeks and rivers bass are hitting hard and moving around the waterways, once you get into them it is a lot of fun.
Soon the big schools will head south and when that will happen is up to the fish, nature, water temperatures, food they are following, and or the aliens in charge. Your guess is as good as mine. I hear about five different predictions everyday based on loose science to urban fishing legends. We used to call this time of year Rocktober, but that has changed since the migration is usually in full swing around Thanksgiving, but again that changes every year. Some say after the first full moon in October, which just happened. Ben Smith hit the state record a few years ago on a foggy December morning in the surf. During a mild winter we will see migratory straggler rockfish into January and resident fish will hit all year. Slow but they will hit.
There have been a few big girls caught in the Delaware Bay and near Cape May already this year. These are most likely resident striped bass that are just out and about feeding on all the bait fish. The big resident rock fish are schooling up getting excited as well but, not for the fall run since they live here. Maybe their relatives are dropping by and they are excited for that too. Whatever the reason we will see some early large bass caught, and usually they are resident fish. There are some large migratory bass that will move south early on their own, not in a school, and just cruise the beaches and reefs looking for food. They will move into the bays to spawn earlier too. These are caught early this time of year as well, and always get people thinking the full run has started. I look at the run in phases. First they school up in the bays and the action locally is crazy fun for resident fish up and down the coast. Then the fish start to move out of the bays schooling up to join the migration. Then fish on the move will start moving into the bays to spawn in our freshwater areas. That is why people will catch forty pound bass in some very small creeks. Then when the full migration is finally underway and there are huge bass in schools all over the place heading south. Finally the run calms down, we get some stragglers, and then it ends.
For now we are hammering short striped bass in the schools around the Inland Bays, waiting on the fall migration to really kick in. Right now water temperatures are peaking to seventy degrees at Masseys landing. The low temperatures last week really got the bass stirred up and they will continue like this. The action may slow down a bit with the warmer water, but most likely they will still feed heavily.