Striped bass season opened in inlets, bays and rivers March 1, and it has become obvious there are a load of small fish filling the backwaters.

“Never seen anything like it.” ... “More than usual.” ... “Just about all over the place.”

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That is just a sample of the descriptions about what is making this year’s start to back-bay striper fishing a little different.

Scott Albertson reported Friday from Scott’s Bait and Tackle in Mystic Island that one fisher was out at the popular sod bank at Graveling Point on Great Bay in the snow Friday. And diehard John Zac was catching, winding up with six shorts under the 28-inch minimum using bloodworm as bait. He sent a photo of each catch to Scott’s web page before releasing them.

Albertson offers prizes for first keepers caught at Graveling Point or Pebble Beach down Radio Road from his shop. Those prizes remain unclaimed. But he said he heard of two “almost keepers” of 27 and 27½ inches that were released.

Up the Mullica River from Graveling Point, it is much the same. Howard Sefton at Captain Howard’s Bait and Tackle often has been “jamming” with fishers coming in and picking up bloodworm and grass shrimp and minnows to go fishing from the riverbank at Hay Road and the other popular spots up the river.

He said he had reports of fishers catching 50 striper.

Don Vasquez was probably the first to report he is catching more striper than white perch. He is the 21-year-old Egg Harbor City resident who swept the “first keeper” prizes at Captain Howard’s and Absecon Bay Sportsman Center with his 9-pound, 14-ounce bass caught opening day in the Mullica.

Sefton said Friday he had one striper hound claim to have hooked up with 100 bass so far. He has had others come in and buy six dozen bloodworm at a time.

On the other side of Atlantic County, at the mouth of the Great Egg Harbor River and up to the bulkhead at Mays Landing, there have been similar stories.

John Phister manages the Egg Harbor Township outlet of 24-Hour Bait and Tackle, and he took at least a couple of opportunities to get out with a some of his pals. They recorded 50-plus bass twice at Jeffers Landing.

Phister said there have been a few doubleheader striper catches on two-hook perch rigs with bloodworm as bait.

There are a few bigger fish popping up.

George Bucci, a dedicated fisher from Northfield who was seen picking a doubleheader recently at Jeffers Landing, hooked up with some quality bass that indicates a few are hitting keeper size.

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Dave Showell said Friday from Absecon Bay Sportsman Center that George sent him a photo of a keeper he caught and released Thursday night when it was still warm and fishable.

George said Friday he was pitching a lure and on his first two casts he got what looked to be a two keeper-size fish he returned to the water. About 15 minutes later, George picked off a 32-inch bass he quickly measured and returned to the water.

At least one other quality bass was registered recently, and that was at Surf City Bait and Tackle. Bobby Errickson, of Barnegat, caught a 19-pound, 12-ounce striper in the back bay of Long Beach Island. He also released small bass caught casting soft plastics.

Noel Feliciano was checking it out on the Melrose Avenue jetty in Atlantic City late Friday afternoon.

He said despite the conditions, a couple of fishers were out doing their thing.

Noel said the small striper are there, too, along with some ling. Noel said he had not gotten wet yet when the local scribe called.

Weather is an important factor this time of the year. We have had some gorgeous days with spectacular sunsets, but we also have had a lot of brisk and chilling winds, a strong rainstorm and then some snow Friday.

Looks like some cold weather is coming up.(tncms-asset)e03fe668-efe5-11e6-a0a8-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)

Well, spring is 10 days away, and April is not far behind that. Some tackle shops are starting to gear up, and charter and party boat captains are putting the final touches on their boats.

Wildwood event

We have a new fishing and boating expo next Saturday at the Wildwoods Convention Center.

It will have up to 85 vendors and run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is a bargain at $4. It is free for military, law enforcement, firefighters and children under 12.

The expo will offer products such as rods, reels, lures, boats, commercial gear, accessories, clothing and electronics.

Fred Uhlman, host of Jersey Cape Fishing, will present a demo on float-rig fishing.

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Mike Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His column appears Saturdays.

Contact: 609-350-0388 ShepOnFishing@Yahoo.com

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