Western Sound April 2015

It’s been another brutal winter, the Western Sound waters were all but frozen for a couple of months; Manhasset Bay was frozen as far as you could see. The snow and cold made working on the boat impossible all winter; we’ll be getting in the water a little late this year. In past years I’d already be fishing, catching schoolie bass, waiting for the bunker to arrive and some bigger bass behind them. Unfortunately, it looks like the Striped Bass season will be off to a slow start again this year. In New York waters, we have some new regulations, one bass at twenty-eight inches or bigger per angler per day. Hopefully this will help the Striped Bass stocks grow strong again, keeping this fishery strong for the future.

We will still have a lot of fun fishing for one of the greatest fish to swim in the ocean. The Striper will still be a challenge to hunt for, to hook, and catch!

The Striped Bass season opens at 12:00AM, Wednesday, April 15th; will you be prepared to go? If you haven’t checked all your gear, you better get started. Make sure your reels are working, smooth drags, new line. Are all the guides on your rods are ok? Make sure all your lures have sharp hooks; buy swivels, new hooks, line, leader material, fish finders and assorted sizes and types of the sinkers you’ll need.

Traditionally the back of Little Neck Bay, Manhasset Bay and the City Island area are the first spots where Striped Bass appear. Start looking in the shallow waters covering the mud flats in these areas. A sunny day with an afternoon high tide should increase your chances of catching; the sun warms the mud, which warms the water these fish will gravitate to. Four inch swimming plugs like a Rapala X-RAP worked very slowly should attract them. Small white bucktails, tipped with a curly tail or pork rind will work well also; the key is to work these lures as slow as possible. Remember the water is still very cold and these fish will be a little lethargic. Sand worms will also work, just don’t let the fish run far before setting the hook, a few feet is plenty, otherwise you’ll hook them deep, it’ll be tough to unhook them and their chance of survival won’t be good. Once again, be prepared, there will be some bigger fish mixed in with the schoolies.

Once the bunker move into the bays; use them for bait, there will be some much bigger bass around. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of fish in the thirty to forty pound class, maybe even a fifty pounder! Get the freshest bunker you can to chunk with, it makes a big difference. Cut your bunker right behind the head, and two more pieces about an inch and a half thick; the piece behind the head usually holds the guts of your bunker, put your hook through the heart and then lightly through the top of the bait. (If your bait isn’t very fresh, you may have to hook it a little deeper, to keep it from falling off). When chunking I prefer a 7/0 Gamakatsu hook, snelled to four feet of fifty pound test leader material or fluorocarbon leader attached to a swivel to your main line. If you feel you need some weight, put a fish finder ahead of the swivel and attach the correct weight sinker. Get your bait away from the boat, let it sink to the bottom; then either hold it with reel in free spool or with the clicker on if you prefer not to hold your rod. Watch your rod tip; these fish can be very tentative early in the season; any movement is a fish. Once a fish picks up your bait, don’t wait more than a few feet to set your hook. Once the fish is hooked, keep your rod tip up; keep constant pressure on him with a steady retrieve.

If you can get some live bunker, have a live well, you can have even more fun. There’s nothing like seeing and hearing a bass attack a live bunker on the surface; I never get tired of this type of fishing. Use a little longer leader than chunking, place your hook behind the bunker’s dorsal fin lightly; let the bunker swim away from the boat twenty to thirty feet and get ready. When the Striper takes your bunker you have to wait a little longer to set the hook then when chunking, but once you have it hooked, rod tip up and a steady retrieve. You’ll need a net for these fish when on a boat; handle them as gently as possible, especially if you’re going to release them. If releasing the fish, make sure it’s strong enough to swim away. Hold them in the water, mouth into the current until it shows it’s ready to go. If it doesn’t revive, is a keeper, and you want one to take home, TAKE THIS FISH!! Remember we are trying to help them, don’t kill it for nothing. It’s good Karma and you will be rewarded somewhere down the road.

Another early spring spot is down by Fort Totten; it’s usually very crowded but has its moments. The current can be strong here at times; you will need to use fish finder rigs and sinkers to stay on the bottom. If you fish here closer to the Throgs Neck Bridge, watch the tide, it may be going in another direction than where the fleet to the east is sitting.

The effects of the winter will mean cold water and the fish may set up in spots you never thought about looking for them. Keep an open mind, watch your electronics and think outside the box; you will be rewarded.

The Moonlight Lady is a 29’ Dyer custom bass boat and will be available for Striped Bass Charters on April 15th. If you want a chance to catch some nice Stripers and have some fun, or have a comment or suggestion about Coastal Angler Magazine; you can reach me at capttommykampa@gmail.com.

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