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The month of February drags on. I turned the big 50. Wow! Where did the years go? As you get older it seems like time goes by much faster. However, I don’t mind it speeding up through the winter months if it gets us closer to that first cast of the spring. Of course, I would like it to slow down during spring and fall- the best of Striped Bass season- because that always seems to fly by. By this tim during winter, you should have most of your prep work done and be looking forward to that first cast. You should also be kicking around the same questions churning in my head. Where will I start? What will I use? How big will my first fish be?

These questions will continue to stir around in my head over the next weeks as I make those final adjustments needed before wading into the suds. So where will I start? For me it’s simple. I am going to start in the creeks, tributaries, and the back bays that have provided solace for fish that have held over throughout the winter looking for easy meals when bait in scarce. These will also be the places where migratory fish begin to actively feed as water temperatures increase. In these areas, temps rise more rapidly and heat up quicker than the deeper waters of the inlets and ocean beaches. In the early spring, I target these areas in late afternoons, preferably on sunny days when the sun has had a chance to warm those areas, raising the surface temperature and accordingly, getting the fish feeding. Remember, the optimum temperature to catch Striped Bass consistently is in the range of 55 to 65 degrees F, so you’ll want to put yourself in water within this range, or close to it, especially in the early season when fish are lethargic from dealing with cold water temperatures all winter long.

Now that we’ve answered “where”, what will I throw? This is simple as well. When I’m fishing the early season, I use a lot of slim profile baits such as skinny soft plastics and small bucktails. These seem to produce more consistently. The reason? These slimmer profiles are better match the types of bait that congregate around these shallow areas this time of the year. It’s that match the hatch mentality. My preference for soft plastics is Tsunami sand eels, Hogy soft plastics, and S&S Bucktails soft plastics. I prefer these brands because of their authenticity, durability, and for me their record of catchability.

When it comes to bucktails I prefer the S&S, particularly the Rockhoppers. I work bucktails in the range of ½ to ¾ oz tipped with either a straight or forked Fat Cow fishing Jig Strips. The areas I am fishing during the early season have silty, muddy bottoms where the water tends to be cloudy. Given these conditions, I prefer to use a chartreuse colored bucktail with either a white, red, or chartreuse jig strip. Later into the spring I will use many different profiles as the diversity of the bait becomes greater and the different profiles of baits evolve throughout the season. Needless to say, you must continue to adapt in your approach to the changing bait in order to continue to get consistent bites.

This brings me to the last question; how big will my first fish be? Well, based on the areas I will be fishing and how early I get started, I can predict that that first fish probably won’t be very big. However, in the end, it won’t matter, as catching that first fish just means I am healthy enough to get out and successfully apply my techniques to enjoy another season in the suds. I also know that there’ll be plenty of bigger fish on their way to make my line tight. Live the Passion! Tightlines! features a monthly surfcasting blog from Bernie Hoyt, a NYS Certified Fishing Guide with 40 years of experience fishing the legendary waters of Long Island. He is well known for his informative seminars at saltwater shows in the Northeast, and now has a podcast HOOKED ON SURF FISHING WITH BERNIE BASS where he offers listeners the latest in gear reviews and techniques for the surf fishing scene. You can also follow Bernie on the radio Saturday morning and Sunday evening on AM. Contact Bernie for details on Facebook through Bernie Bass Surfcasting Services.


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