Capt. Fred Ascoli started operations on the Miss Chris partyboat last weekend and reported that striped bass fishing in Delaware Bay is good for late March.
He has been fishing with clam between Bug Light and No. 1 Buoy off Maurice River Cove, where the water temperature is a steady 45 to 46 degrees.
The biggest bass so far on Miss Chris was a 25-pounder, and some of his customers have racked up their allowable keepers. On Wednesday, Ascoli described catches as a mix of shorts and keepers.
The tides have been extreme and the current has been running extra strong around the recent giant full moon. Ascoli said conditions should start to ease over the next couple of days. Then all striper fans would need is a couple of sunny days to warm the water up a degree or two and fishing should improve.
He said a handful of charterboats have been out on Delaware Bay, but this weekend should see more action - weather permitting - as local captains get their boats in operation. Miss Chris is sailing two trips daily from the dock in Cape May.
Ascoli said bunker already have moved into Delaware Bay.
Capt. Frank Perillo, who runs the Melanie Anne II charterboat from Utsch's Marina in Cape May, agreed that bass are cooperating.
He has been fishing Delaware Bay flats off Egg Island Point and said every other fish is a keeper.
Perillo offered this tip: find warmer water. When the tide is outgoing off some of the streams that flow into Delaware Bay, the water can warm up to 52 degrees. He uses fresh clam as bait and chums with frozen clam. He said this is a good time of the year to chum because there are no other fish around to steal the bait.
Herring also are running in some of the streams, so probably it is no coincidence that middleweight bass started to hit the scales.
Dave Showell sets nets on South River in the Great Egg Harbor River area, and he is catching herring. Showell said they started migrating upriver on the recent full moon, and it looks as if striper are trailing them.
He said Dan Large of Egg Harbor Township came in to Absecon Bay Sportsman Center on Sunday, got fresh herring for bait, went out to Mullica River in a boat and came back with a 26-pound striper.
Showell said another angler reported catching four bass at Graveling Point on Great Bay.
Showell said spring fishing looks to be ahead of last year, when a lot of rain flooded streams and rivers.
Striped bass catches "really turned on" Monday at Graveling Point.
According to Scott Albertson at Scott's Bait and Tackle in Mystic Islands, you would be hard-pressed to find a keeper. He heard of one 28½-inch keeper.
He called fishing there "entertaining," and it is getting to the point of the season when good fishing can occur at any time. He said Monday's real good bite was on the incoming tide, probably with fish moving in from the ocean. Bloodworm is the main bait at Graveling Point.
Short bass are biting on bloodworm and clam in Great Egg Harbor Bay around the Beesleys Point Bridge.
There are signs that codfish are still around, but rough weather has made it difficult to get out in the ocean. Mike O'Neill of the charter/open boat Stray Cat docked at Seaview Harbor Marina in Great Egg Inlet reported that he last fished last Saturday and got a few cod and tautog.
O'Neill said he is getting ready to launch a daily sailing schedule as soon as this current streak of typical early spring weather breaks for the better.
Flounder fans should make sure to put the April 7 meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council meeting on your calendar of important things to do.
That's when the 2011 recreational flounder season, bag and size limits will be discussed.
The meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Atlantic County Public Library on Jimmie Leeds Road in Galloway Township.
It should be one of the more interesting meetings of the Fisheries Council.
No matter what happens, it will be good news because the regs will be better than last year's 18-inch, six fish, May 29-Sept. 6 imposition.
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Mike Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His Shep on Fishing column appears Saturdays in the sports section. Call 609-350-0388 or email: