Striped bass of all sizes have turned on in Raritan Bay, though schoolies are still most abundant.

Chuck Many fished from morning into the dark with several groups of anglers aboard as it wasn’t far from his berth at Gateway Marina in Highlands to the fish. By the time it was all over he had recorded 76 releases up to a 28-pounder. Despite still cold 49 degree waters, everything is set up for the “sure thing” April striper fishery in the bay.

My traveling plans changed, and I was able to get out in the afternoon with Capt. Joe Massa on his My Three Sons from Morgan Marina. Capt. Vinnie Vetere of Katfish from Great Kills joined us with his mate, the famed castnet maker Percy Wentworth. For once, there was someone older than me on the boat as Percy is 86 but can still throw his nets like a young buck.

We found mostly small bass that were fun to catch casting small plugs on light tackle, and Percy boated the largest at 32 inches.

Most interesting was the news from the back of the bay of by far the largest striper of season so far as a kayacker had released a 54-pounder that was later reported by The Fisherman magazine as a 58-pounder plugged by the owner of Back Bay Lures. Of course. that fish was far over the maximum size, so I suppose the weight was calculated by the formula. See the photo below.

Many other boats were into that fishing, including Andreas Toy from Keyport. I was amazed to see so many kayacks out there during a weekday in March.

Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina reports winter flounder fishing improved there, and the few rental boats he had out all limited with large flatties. He’s not expecting much from the April 1 blackfish opener due to cold waters. but the shop has whitelegger and hermit crabs for those who want to try. Back bay areas have been producing lots of school stripers, mostly on blood worms. Peyton Gepp had the largest at 36 inches.

A small craft warning is up for 20-25 knot northwest winds tomorrow plus morning showers.

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