by Frank Ruczynski
After what seemed like a never-ending winter, it looks like we've finally turned the corner. It appears I jumped the gun a little with my last blog, "There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel." The "Light" was squashed by our biggest snowstorm of the season and more artic temperatures shortly thereafter. If this is what winters in South Jersey are going to be like, I better invest in some ice-fishing gear. While snow and ice still cover much of our landscape, spring is just a little over a week away. The bright March sun is gaining strength with each passing day. Open water, warm afternoons and bent rods can't get here soon enough!Walking on Water
Despite frigid fishing conditions, the opening day of striped bass season went off without a hitch. A bunch of die-hard anglers headed out shortly after midnight on March 1 and a few returned with sizable linesiders. Word of keeper-sized striped bass travels fast so I'm sure the warm-water discharge was stacked with anglers on the following days. I haven't heard much action since opening day other than a handful of short striped bass. It won't be long before we start seeing migrating bass heading towards our inlets, estuaries, and rivers.First Stripers of the Season!
Coastal water temperatures are about as low as I've ever seen them for March. Most of the monitoring stations are reporting 34 to 36 degree water temperatures. While I'm not certain water temps are essential to migrating fish, I do know they will not feed as actively in cold water. I'll likely wait another week or two before I grab some bloodworms and head to a few of my favorite early-season hot spots. We should expect more widespread action sometime into April.
If you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a weather geek. When you spend as much time outdoors as I do, it kind of comes with the territory. The amount of weather-forecasting resources available to us today is actually quite unbelievable. Armed with a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer, it is easy to acquire the same information our weather experts use to formulate weather forecasts/trends. As far as I can tell, winter is over and spring is here. Air temperatures over the next few weeks should be close to 50 degrees most days. While a big warm-up would be nice, it looks like we're going to slowly transition into spring with average to below-average temps. In fishing terms, this translates into - expect a slow start to the season. Some years, we enjoy a few weeks of striped bass action before weakfish show - a few days later, bluefish and fluke appear. I'm expecting this to be one of those spring seasons when everything pops at once. This year, I expect the floodgates to open sometime just after mid-April.
In the meantime, I'll be looking for open water and some freshwater fishing action. Chain pickerel, largemouth bass, yellow perch and crappie should be waiting for us as soon as the ice thaws. It's hard to believe the 2015 Trout Season opens in a little less than a month on Saturday, April 4. This year the stocked fish will consist only of rainbow trout. After last season's furunculosis outbreak, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife decided rainbow trout are much less susceptible to the disease. I'll miss the big brown and brook trout, but it's good to hear things are back to normal at the hatchery. Please don't forget most trout-stocked waterways are closed to fishing from March 16 until opening day, April 4. State-Stocked Rainbow Trout
My offseason duties are completed. I just finished going through my equipment (again) and ordering a few more things for the upcoming season. You know how it is - you can never have enough. I'm considering upgrading my kayak, but I'm still undecided. It's funny, but not fishing seems to be costing me more than when I am fishing. Sitting around waiting for the ice to melt seems like it's taking forever, but at least I know we're heading in the right direction now.