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Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Captain Jim Freda

My March Madness
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service

y the time March rolls around I am more than ready to once again put that first bend in my rod for the new season. In New Jersey March 1st is when it becomes legal again to fish the backbay waters for striped bass. This technically would be west of the Corlies Demarcation line on a NOAA chart. Ocean side waters were open and legal all through January and February. In January and February ocean waters didn’t disappoint anglers that never hung up their sticks. Warmer than normal air temperatures kept ocean surf temperatures between 42-45 degrees just where we left them in December of 2005. As a result small striped bass were present in good numbers for the last two months. Some of the best action was in the area of the Deal surf as our guide Rich Swisstack had many days of 30-50 small bass in the 12-22 inch ranges.

Now you can’t argue with that even though the fish are small they are still bending the rod, and when it is a noodle rod that equates to fun for me. But it wasn’t me it was Rich and anyone else that was out there. You see my madness begins.

This season striped bass anglers will have new less confusing regulations. These are two striped bass at 28 inches or greater per angler per day with plans for a bonus program being finalized. In the northern part of the State anglers won’t have to worry about the confusion that existed in the past in Raritan Bay where New Jersey anglers were out of compliance if they crossed into New York waters with a 24 to less than 28 inch fish, and out of compliance if they brought a 28 to less than 34 inch New York caught fish back over to the Jersey side. (Glad that madness is now gone).

In the southern part of the state however anglers will no longer be able to bring home that 24 to less than 28 inch bass for a tasty meal that so many favored and are so prevalent in the extensive back bay systems.

For a barometer to see how the action is progressing during the first couple of weeks of March many striped bass fishermen will look at the activity that is taking place at Graveling Point at the mouth of the Mullica River. This is traditionally one of the early season hotspots where striped bass usually turn on due to the warm water runoff from the Mullica River.

This year the first legal striped bass was caught by Randy Sloan of Whiting on March 5th and weighed 10.3 lb and measured 30 inches. The weather was 40°F at the time with a windchill of 30°F. Water temperature was approximately 44°F.

In 2005 it was a very slow start to the season and the first legal striped bass between 24-28 inches was caught by Lenny Senkarik on March 29th and weighed 6.8lbs and was 27 inches in length. Water temperatures were 45 degrees. In 2004 the first bass 28 inches or greater was logged on Saturday March 6th. It was caught by Greg O'Connell and weighed 8.1 pounds. In 2003 we had another very cold winter with first couple weeks of the season registering water temperatures between 35-39 degrees in the back bays. The first legal bass wasn’t caught until March 21st. This bass was caught by Anthony Pitucci and was 27 inches long and weighed 8.8 lbs. At the start of the 1992 season back bay water temperatures were 45 degrees and the first legal striped bass of the new season was weighed in on March 1st by Willard Hatcher. This bass weighed 13 lbs and was 30-1/2 inches in length.

Copyright © 1998 - 2006 Captain Jim Freda I have to give a lot of credit to those anglers whose are mentioned above because for the most part if you look at the temperatures it was cold. It is not fun standing out there in the beginning of the season when your fingers, hands, and feet start to get numb and many times several hours of fishing doesn’t even produce as much as a twitch in the rod. But many anglers are out there as sure as night will turn into day.

For me my March madness has changed over the years. I used to be a March 1st diehard and fish the backwaters hard just about everyday. But three children and 30 years spent on the water later, I now envision warm spring-like days where the sun is shinning and warm breezes await my person. A light jacket or sweatshirt with no rain gear over my waders is my ideal attire.

Even if I don’t catch any fish my mind is free to roam without being distracted by any harsh elements. I can concentrate as hard as I want on casting and retrieving, working my artificials, and feeling my small plugs slide through the water. Any little bit of detritus or algae can be easily felt that may get caught on my hooks as I get into the zone.

And at other times I will just walk the banks of the backwaters just taking a cast here and there and are more inclined to focus on life rather than the fishing. In the peace and solitude I think about my wife, children, friends, and how God has blessed me to this day. I praise Him for the awesome God that He is and this tremendous resource that He has given us to enjoy.

So with March upon us now head to the back as that is where you will find the bass waiting. I always have high hopes that the new season will be better than the last and many fish will be brought my way.  End

Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Jim Freda, All Rights Reserved

Articles by Captain Jim Freda

Capt. Jim FREDAEmail Captain Jim Freda

Jim Freda is a highly respected charter captain, author, outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and photographer. His first book Fishing the New Jersey Coast, has been a best seller and received the “New Jersey Center for the Book Award” as one of the most notable NJ books. He co-authored a second book Saltwater Fishing a Tactical Approach, A Guide for Northeast Beach and Boat Fishermen, with his Shore Catch associates Capt Gene Quigley and Shell E. Caris.

Jim has weekly fishing columns that appear in the Bergen Record, NJ's second largest newspaper and the Coast Star and Ocean Star newspapers of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Nationally, Jim is a contributing editor for Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine and also writes for Fly Fisherman magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Eastern Fly Fishing, Big Game Journal, and Regionally he writes for On the Water magazine where he has is own monthly column, The Fisherman magazine and the NJ Federation of Sportsman Clubs newspaper.

As a seminar speaker Jim is featured as one of the celebrities on the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, as one of the “Stars of the Show” at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ, the Northeast’s largest fly fishing show and is on the National Pro Seminar slate at the Toyota Saltwater Expo also in Somerset. He is also regularly featured each year at many of the local fishing clubs in the surrounding area including the State’s two largest clubs the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and the Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County. Capt Jim has also been a guest speaker at all the Trout Unlimited Clubs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jim has also been a special guest speaker at the Bloomberg Network in New York City.

He is a member of the National Factory Pro Team for St. Croix Rods and pro staff for Fins Fishing Line, AVET Reels, Spro, Gamakatsu, Hogy, Korkers, Costa Del Mar, Columbia Sportswear and Aquaskinz.

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Books by Jim Freda
Saltwater Fishing A Tactical Approach Fishing the NJ Coast