by Capt. Steve Byrne
If you've been following this blog since its inception, you know that the idea is for me to post reports of the striped bass I'm catching, and then explain how you can do it too. Boy if it was only that simple. What's that old saying? Man plans, God laughs. The past five days have been a real struggle when it comes to putting bass in the boat.
When the open-bottom bass bite first slowed, I compensated by focusing on structure. That worked well, but I found that bite shuts off very early in the day. In fact most of the structure I pull bass from don't give up fish once the big hand on the clock passes 7.
If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that nighttime is probably the most productive time to be fishing right now. The thing that is particularly bothersome about the lack of a good bass bite lately is that the action fell off just before the new moon. For me, that's usually the time for some of the best striper fishing. On top of that, the amount of bunker in our local waters is just silly. We should be seeing fish crashing through the bunker schools like a bunch of drunken sailors (apologies to drunken sailors everywhere) but instead there are schools of menhaden all over the place, milling happily about like guests at an outdoor wedding.
On Friday I fished the FCA Manhattan Cup with former NY Ranger Kris King as my angler for the day. I had a well full of live bunker and we raised bass at several different locations. In each case, the stripers smacked the bunker around for a while but in the end, they swam away without eating it. Those were some lackadaisical fish. The highlight of our day was a 14.54-pound bluefish that destroyed the live bunker on the end of Kris's line – all in plain sight of the boat. That chopper took first in the bait division.
The Cup was a success this year, and in no small part because of the weather. Usually plagued by some sort of outrageous weather phenomenon, this year's Manhattan Cup featured the best conditions you could hope for. It's unfortunate the striper fishing wasn't as good as it could be, but we did have some solid fish weighed in and released live at Chelsea Piers. This included the tournament winning 34-pound bass brought to the dock by Team Structure Tone, and a 31-pound bass for Wounded Warrior Gil Robert. Proceeds from this year's Manhattan Cup will go towards fishing programs for the Wounded Warriors, children with Cystic Fibrosis and children with Autism, and will also support fishing conservation efforts.
One bright spot in the local fishing scene is the bluefish. They are here in all sizes from 2 to 15 pounds, and they are often mixed together. You might follow up two 3-pounders with a true arm-busting gorilla, which isn't all that bad.
I'm not sure what all of this rain will do to the bass fishing, but it can't make it much worse. Hopefully it will shake things up and the action will improve as we come off the new moon that just passed.