17 Apr 2015
Actually this was taken on April (1st) Fools! But things have improved greatly since then!
I took the cover off the boat on April 12th and there was only one pile of snow left in the yard. Frankly it has been untouched since then because of the late spring honey-do list but she looks much better without the winter jacket on!
I have to admit I was getting a little skeptical about when we would be able to get out on the water and catch something other than cold! But we have all seen an amazing turn around in our own yards and have to believe that fishing will come soon too. Below you see the Aptril 1, 2015 NOAA SST (sea surfase temperature) chart.
This is very cold water! Keep in mind that striped bass like 10 degree Celsius or 50 degree Fahrenheit as a low water temperature to travel and actively feed. The 4 degree temps guarding the mouth of the Merrimack River did not look very appealing.
Now look at April 16, 2015
This is showing 7 degree water in front of the Merrimack! Now this will change, I realize that much. But it is already warmer than last spring at this time!
After a very long, cold winter in 2014 I caught my first schoolie bass on May 14, 2014. That was one day sooner than 2013 and only a week later than the "non-winter" on 2012! I caught my first keeper bass on 5-24-14 which was only 2 days later than 2011, then 5-17-13 and 5-13-2012 with all that warm weather. So it seems that the long winters have more of an effect on we humans than the striped bass! Stripers follow the bait & bait cycles seem to be more effected by the moon that the temperature in our back yards! Herring (alewives & bluebacks) for example live in the cold ocean but only venture upstream to spawn when the water temps reach 50 degrees. So they stage at the river mouths and the stripers know their schedule. It has been going on longer than we have been paying any attention.
So if we believe that the stripers will come, how many will there be? That is the million dollar question. I realize that there are fewer stripers than there were in 2003. My question is along the lines of how did I go from the best year in my chartering career to one of the slower seasons from 2013 to 2014?? My feeling is that it was an anomaly. Not very scientific but then we have seen what science can do, or not do, with the cod and haddock stock assessments! But I digress.
Better to be cautious in my opinion so I agree with this seasons catch limit of one fish per person per day at 28" or greater. All I can do is get up every day and fish as hard as I can and do so with an open mind. If they are in a different location, find them; if they need to be chummed in, do it; if trolling with live bait works, troll! I cannot make the fish appear but as long as my boat catches more than those around me, I feel I've done my job.
Starting around May 10 I will begin the search for my first schoolie bass. I will do this from my boat and those that know me realize that I will not be the guy to catch the first bass of the 2015 season. There are way to many people in far to many locations to try for that very cold lottery. My goal every year is to beat fellow charter captain Pete. Evil, yes; fair, probably not; he is still teaching & I'm hitting the best times & tides. But I gleefully do it anyway. I will post my successes & failures and hope to see my old clients and new friends on the boat soon.
Capt. Scott Maguire