Where Are All The Striped Bass?
That is pretty much a daily question this time of year. Another warm and cold beginning to winter. The water temperatures are dropping from the colder nights, but the sixty degree days are keeping them from dropping too fast. The water is right in the sweet spot for striped bass, they prefer the below fifty and above forty water temperatures. The inland bays have been fluctuating between tides from fifty-two to Forty-six degrees. The Delaware Bay is averaging fifty degrees and so are the beaches. The resident fish are feeding heavily around the inland bays, Delaware Bay, Indian River Inlet, tidal creeks and rivers. The short striped bass are thick and full of bait. The occasional keeper is caught but for the most part they are just under the twenty eight inch limit. Even up north (Jersey) they are seeing mostly short striped bass in the surf and bays. The large bass action has not been like the last few years, by now anglers would be catching readily off Cape May in the boats. Right now boats are doing well off Seaside Park and Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Boats in New York are seeing some decent action. The run is a little later this year, but we will see how well it goes. The general consensus is there are not as many big fish out there this year. Not a big surprise when they keep getting hammered each year. It’s not like there is an unlimited supply of fish, and each year’s class numbers are different that will replace those bigger fish if they make it that far along. Those big forty inch striped bass are not young fish. If you go out on a boat stay out of the EEZ, no one wants a five hundred dollar fine.
Rumor has it some large bluefish and striped bass were caught off Cape Henlopen State Park beaches, but those are just rumors. There has been some decent short bass action for the anglers that are actually out there fishing. You have to be out there to hook up and frankly not a lot of people have been fishing, especially on the weekdays. Just after dark or before dawn is the best time to look for large bass in the surf. There is no shortage of skates or spiny dogfish off the beach. Spotted hake or what locals call ling cod are hitting cut baits. A few anglers have been “bitten” off in the surf, which usually means sharks, but could be large bluefish since there aren’t any sharks here this time of year. The spiny dogfish are good to eat if you want to try them, that is what fish and chips are made out of in England. Just clean them immediately as they will taint the meat just like a shark. Steak them out and cook them up, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Tautog action offshore has been excellent for the boats making it out, the last few days have been calm enough. Boats getting out there have been limiting out and still seeing a few sheepshead and even trigger fish. Large flounder are still hitting and mostly as a by catch, people are not targeting them. There have been a few redfish or red drum caught while tautog fishing the Delaware bay structure and walls. Tautog action at the Indian River Inlet has been a lot of short fish with the occasional keeper. Oceanic Pier in Ocean City has seen some decent action, and a lot of short striped bass in that area as well.