As mentioned last week’s blog, striped bass in the bays and tidal creeks and rivers became legal quarry March 1, and since the opener, the stripers, 99% of which are in the 16-24 inch “schoolie” range, have been pretty cooperative.

Rest assured by early next week, this light tackle, catch-and-release fishery will have blown wide open via the stretch of days through Thursday with temperatures hovering in the low fifties into the low to mid-sixties. This will serve to warm the shallower areas (in bays, the western sides will be the “hot” areas) and, during the outgoing tides, will result in hungry, unruly schoolies on the prowl.

Bloodworms, downsized plugs,3/8 to ¾ -oz. bucktails tipped with curly tail grubs...all will catch bass. Top venues include the western sides of Barnegat, Great, Manahawkin and Great Egg Harbor bays, as well as the Metedeconk River, Forked River and Mullica River, and Oyster Creek.

Don’t forget the 1%; those are the rare-but-there bass that hit the legal 28-inch minimum length. Yes, there are keepers to be caught, but figure the action to be primarily with schoolies.

The daily limit is one striper 28-inches to under 38-inches.

The white perch bite has been on since early January, thanks to the moderate winter weather. Sometimes, it’s been downright torrid after a 2-3 day stretch of 45-50 degree temperatures, with catches into the dozens and fish up to and exceeding the vaunted 1-lb. mark. This is ultra-light and light tackle craziness on the dropping tides and in the deeper holes. A double hook high/low rig baited with grass shrimp, bloodworm, small killies, or Fishbites Bloodworm will catch all the perch you could want if, and it’s a big if, you’re in a hot hole or working a warm water bayside where the perch are schooling.

Lures are also perch whackers. A 1/8-oz. yellow or white jig head sweetened with a 2-inch grub, or a 1/8-oz. jig head  with a piece of bloodworm or a small killie attached to a #0 silver spinnerbait clip will fill a bucket.

It’s not uncommon to catch small stripers mixed with the whities. The aforementioned waters will also hold perch. The Toms River is a super spot, as are the Egg Harbor River, Mullica River, and the Bass River (New Gretna), and the Nacote and Absecon creeks.

While there is no minimum length limit, the possession limit is predicated on location if fishing a tidal river or creek. If a freshwater fishing license is not required, there is no possession limit. If a license is required, the daily limit is 25. Check page 32 in the 2020 Freshwater Fishing Digest for the boundaries.

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