Anglers explode onto Raritan Bay

Pandemic concerns seem to be cast aside today as anglers frustrated with quarantines took advantage of a calm day to seek out striped bass in Raritan Bay.

Dave Lilly of Hazlet was happy that the boat he used this morning was in the water at Keyport because the roads were clogged with trailers trying to launch at the Keyport ramp. The trolling bite wasn’t what it had been during his previous two trips, and it wasn’t until he changed from the light chartreuse Tony Maja mo-jo to the black pearl model that he started catching stripers steadily in 15-foot depths at the back of the bay.

That dark color seemed to make all the difference as Lilly didn’t see much caught by other trollers or by the fleet of kayackers casting lures. The bass were mostly 34-to-35-inchers. Lilly thought the slower bite might have been due to the cold 42 degree water temperature, whereas it was up to 48 to 50 degrees last week. He talked to a friend who was fishing off Old Orchard and hadn’t seen a bass caught.

On the way back to Keyport later in the morning, Lilly spotted flashing lights at the Keyport ramp and found out that the police had closed the ramp — probably due to prohibited large groups gathering there while waiting to get out.  As a result, he said the arriving boats had to use the Keyport Marina ramp.

When I checked Facebook, there were mentions of similar activity at the Atlantic Highlands Marina and on the water. With so many people not working, there may be a similar situation tomorrow as the forecast is for south winds at just 5-10 knots before shifting to west in the afternoon.

Fishermen should be aware of the danger in fishing in close proximity to friends at this time. Bassmaster reported that a doctor member who went black bass fishing with his buddy recently maintained the six-foot separation by fishing at opposite ends of the boat and sanitizing the net handle after every use.