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Early stripers from March 2020 for these anglers.

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Welcome to March, readers, which means the backwaters opened for the 2021 striped bass season two days ago.  

It also means that blackfish are off the board, at least for this month - you win some and lose some.   

I’m going to start this column by reporting on a contest that could be over by the time it comes out. Hopefully, it will still be going on and you can have a chance to enter.  

The Absecon Bay Sportsman Center is running their “First New Jersey Striped Bass 2021” contest. The free-to-enter event starts at midnight as Feb. 28 rolls into March 1. It’s scheduled to end at 6 p.m. March 14.  

Prizes will be awarded for the first three legal stripers weighed. They are gift certificates to the store for $200 (first place), $100 (second place) and $50 (third place). Since ice hasn't been on the rivers despite cold temperatures, the belief is that a winning fish, or two or three, on opening day is plausible. With that possibility in mind, racing into the store isn't necessary.  

For a more orderly manner of determining the contest's winner, if more than one legal striper is weighed on Monday, the first-place winner will be awarded to the heaviest fish. It’s possible for three certificates could be awarded on opening day. Don’t worry, though, because your effort won’t be in vain.  

Additional anglers that have legal fish weighed on Monday will receive their choice of an Absecon Bay Sportsman Center T-shirt. The weigh-ins are scheduled to end at 4 p.m. Vist their Facebook page for additional information.  

If you go striper fishing plan on using natural bait, remember to use in-line circle, or non-offset, hooks. These hooks increase the survival chances of released fish. Also, remember that you can keep one striper daily, and the size limit is from 28 inches to less than 38 inches.  

Another item to remember is registering for New Jersey's saltwater registry. It is free and can be obtained through the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife website.  

I have an update on the fishing and boating show situation, which I wrote about several columns ago. Something I hadn’t thought about, but then saw advertised, was a virtual boat show. Yes, it’s not the same as actually boarding a boat displayed indoors at a show or stepping on one at an in-water show, but for now, it’s the best available option.  

Also, like with some items, once you find one you savor, you can make an appointment to go and visit one in person. We need to look on the bright side as this method may save time and money since you’re not driving between shows.  

While speaking about boat shows, as of this column, the Wildwood Fishing and Boating Expo is still scheduled for April. Of course, it is contingent on occupancy restrictions, so let’s hope that restrictions loosen by then. Visit their website,, or Facebook page for updates. I will pass more information along once I receive it. 

If you have some time on Wednesday or Friday mornings, tune into “The Coast,” at 98.7 FM, at 8:35 a.m. Capt. Andrew, from the Sailor’s Delight, will host his “Marine Report” that will provide fishing reports, boating news and watersports information. The first report will be March 10. Good luck with this new adventure, Andrew.  

Don’t forget to check with your favorite tackle shop before heading out. Some will be opening on a limited schedule, as conditions dictate. After you grab bait, remember that in addition to fishing from your boat or kayak, sod banks, bridges, creek mouths and docks are also great places to try. Look for shadow lines or areas that are out of the current.  

The areas mentioned are areas where stripers can hide, ambush their prey, or look for an easy meal, such as your clam or bloodworm. Toss out your bait, be ready, and if you get that hit, reel in naturally. It’s hard to resist pulling back to set the hook, but with circle hooks, all you need to do is apply constant pressure to the line and reel it in steadily. A typical hook-set will be made in the corner of the mouth.  

Let’s hope the weather improves and opportunities present themselves.  

Good luck, take care and I’ll see you around. 

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