Gearing up for final waterfowl season: Striped bass heavy in Jersey

Jimmy Young holds a 50-pound striped bass caught off the New Jersey coast. (Submitted photos)

The weather this weekend is headed for … say it ain’t snow!

We are spoiled, the last few 60-degree December days were great but old man winter is banging on the door. It will be good for the deer hunters, and the opening of waterfowl this weekend.

Delaware waterfowl hunters are gearing up for the state’s third and final waterfowl split season, which runs from Friday, Dec. 8 thru Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. Hunting and trapping seasons opening in December include:

Hunting:

•Brant: Dec. 2-Jan. 31;

•Waterfowl: Coots, Mergansers: Dec. 8-Jan. 27;

•Antlerless deer: Dec. 9-16, including Sunday, Dec. 10;

•Canada geese (Migratory): Dec. 15-Feb. 3;

Trapping:

•Muskrat, Mink, Otter, Raccoon, Opossum, Nutria: New Castle County, Dec. 1-Mar. 10; Kent and Sussex counties: Dec. 15-March 15;

• Beaver trapping: Dec. 1-March 20;

•Red fox, Coyote trapping: Dec. 1-March 10.

Fishing report

Most of the striped bass pictures we keep seeing are Jersey bass, like this 50-pounder Jimmy Young caught the other day. It was only a matter of time and in this case days, for someone to finally start catching migratory striped bass in Delaware waters.

The past couple of weeks we have been sent reports of a random keeper bass caught here and there, and even some larger bluefish from boats and in the surf.

There have been some migratory bass in our area for a couple of weeks.

Indian River Inlet shad caught by Jason Schuster.

The Delaware bay is responsible for 22 percent of the spawning stock and biomass. Not a surprise to see migratory bass in our area, but most anglers are heading to Jersey to get on the big schools. It is easier catching, you don’t have to go looking for fish.

Within the past two days, schools of bass were located in Delaware waters. In some cases, they are close enough to shore for surf anglers to hope they can get a hook up. The rips near Cape May have started producing fish (Prissy Wick Shoals).

Outside of the Indian River Inlet and in front of Rehoboth beach, large migratory bass have been trolled up using mojos. These fish are on the move so don’t expect them to hang out long and they didn’t drop by to hit the outlets. You have to be out there when they are in the area and feeding.

Like I said a few days ago it would not surprise me if the outfall pipe trench digging is attracting fish due to stirred up ocean floor.

There are still a lot of fish off the Jersey coast. Schools of migratory bass have been going by us towards Virginia for a couple of weeks. The main migrations are the larger bodies of fish, but there are always the early and late bass. Some of the bass in Virginia could be Chesapeake bay fish, or early runners from the northern bays. The Delaware Bay has her own migratory fish that move in and out during each run.

Snowy owls are showing up in Delmarva. This one was seen near Fowlers Beach. Please respect these birds’ space and observe them from a distance. We are seeing a large amount of them this year, like we did in 2013.

The inland bays are still loaded with small bait fish and the schooling bass are feeding heavily on these. That is always a lot of fun on light gear.

There has been some keeper action at night at the Indian River Inlet. The Chesapeake bay has some great action of large bass, and even northern Jersey just below New York is still seeing fish. The surf is full of skates and dogfish, but if you don’t get out there and try, you won’t be able to catch.

On Thanksgiving weekend we fished the surf and saw bass jumping up and tailing or dancing across the water. Some bluefish must have come through because the spot being live lined were cut clean in half and there aren’t any sharks in the area,aside from dogfish. We haven’t seen a huge amount of bunker but there have been schools going by the beaches with birds on them. Usually they are too far out to cast.

Shad are at the Indian River Inlet and along the beaches, hopefully this will attract some of the larger migratory bass closer to shore. Even if the bass don’t come in close, the short striped bass action is fun and so are the shad (jersey tarpon) on light gear. The shad also make some great bait for striped bass in the surf, if you want something fresh and can’t find any bunker.

You get to have some fun catching your bait to boot. You can also try underneath the shad schools for any large striped bass or even bluefish.

Today the surf is an excellent place to try with the overcast conditions, and the water temperatures are perfect. So far all anyone is catching is skates and lots of dogfish, but you have to try. An overcast day was the same conditions when Ben Smith broke the Delaware state striped bass record the first week of December sing a bunker chunk.

Offshore sea bass action is still good with plenty of tautog filling the box. Floounder are still a by catch and event he occasional trigger fish.

Mojos are available at most bait and tackle shops. They are essentially just a large bucktail style jig that can weigh anywhere from two to forty-eight ounces. The jig head is a large round ball, with a skirt of bucktail tied in reverse of a traditional bucktail jig. This allows the hair to fan out more, creating a larger profile. A large swim shad is a must to complete the mojo set up. These jigs are trolled deep along the bottom where most of the striped bass will be feeding while following schools of bait fish. A good trick to get them close to the bottom is let the mojo hit the bottom then crank it up a few turns to get it in the strike zone.

You can also use stretch twenty fives and thirtys but the mojos seem to out fish them this time of year. If you use the stretches don’t be surprised if you see a flounder or two caught.

Rich King’s outdoors column appears Thursdays in the Delaware State News.

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