March roared in like lion, and with it a slow first week and weekend of the striped bass season in the back bays and rivers. However, the bite has been slowly accelerating on a daily basis. With the latter part of this week’s warming trend and spike in water temperatures, it’s expected that the action could pop significantly by this weekend. Sure, the weather will cool again with the near omnipresent easterly shore breezes, but figure this weekend to be the kick off of the early spring river and back bay bass fisheries.

“Once you get a few days of warm weather, and if the sun stays strong even if the temperatures get chilly again, well, the bass are going to be actively feeding,” says Capt. Dave Showell from Absecon Bay Sportsman Center, a 36-year veteran of the river and bay striper scenes.

Now through the middle of April it’s all about blood worms and more blood worms, with bait then transitioning to clams. Swimming plugs, poppers and bucktails will also be getting banged by then. Be aware that circle hooks are required when using any type of natural baits when targeting stripers.

The outgoing tide period is the prime time.

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While there have been a few keepers caught, some in excess of 30-inches, the action revolves around schoolies in the 17- to 25 inch range. Increasing numbers of legal (28- inches to just under 38-inches; the daily limit is one fish in that spread) will no doubt be hitting the decks and bank sides as April approaches.

Coastal Burlington, Atlantic and Cape May counties are loaded with tidal rivers and shallow bay flats, prime springtime bass feeding and travel haunts. One historic area is Graveling Point in Great Bay. Bass are being nailed here (see photo) and also in the Great Egg Harbor River, lower Barnegat Bay, Oyster Creek, Mullica River, Tuckahoe River, to name a few. Not to be overlooked is the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) running from Ocean City down through Wildwood. Some hot bass times along this stretch for sure.

Oh, yeah. The white perch are still tearing it up, with blood worms segments and also grass shrimp loading the buckets. Pack along a lighter outfit should the stripers prove stubborn.

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