The Striped Bass season for 2012 will open March 1 , and you need to be thinking about this season.  Ocean Temperatures have been 6-8 degrees warmer than normal,cold snaps have been minimal and short lived. What this means is Striped Bass that have wintered in our area (Cape May County) will get active quickly. I suspect Surf fishermen will find them using fresh clams or if lucky to get fresh bunker/mackeral . The Bass will be hungry once they get moving as they will be heading for their spawning grounds. Inshore bass bite will also come from fresh bait like clams BUT a slow moving bucktail jig will also produce. Best time will be an outgoing tide following a sunny day. Back waters are thick with grass shrimp and winter shiners.Shrimp are starting to show the signs of spawning as several in my traps this past week were spitting out eggs.This will wake up a wintering bass. Outgoing tides on sunny days will produce the warmest water and where the warmest water is the bass will be feeding . March bass fishing could be short lived as once the bass feed a little they will head up river to spawning grounds.Usually once they begin to move up river they stop biting until spawn is over.However, in the event weather slows  their travel and they hold up due to cold water, high winds ,low pressure systems they will stop and eat. March is a very tricky month. Rivers like Delaware and it;s tributaries ,Egg Harbor ,Tuckahoe ,and Mullica will all have an March bite but timing and right bait will be the key to success. Be prepared to change bait options whenever you are in an area that you think is holding bass. If working a jig SLOW is the key word early, I like  some meat on the jig. Herring has been banned this year so meat may be hard to get. I found bluefish strips to work at times. Bluefish is available in most fish markets but asked for filets with scales still on. Mackeral if available is always good.One last thing DO NOT JERK the rod on the first nibble,these bass are not very active and will usually not ATTACK as bait as they will later on in season,Give the bass a chance to be sure they want what you are presenting. Using circle hooks for bait fishing you can hold on until the fish begins moving with the bait and than DO NOT JERK but just starting winding and you will hook the fish in the left jaw most of the time

I expect a decent bite from early March until Mid April on Striped Bass than we may see a lull as they spawn out. Given the water temps are so warm this year I suspect we may have a few surprises . GOOD LUCK AS  2012 OPENS UP


Fluke bite will be covered in next report