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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Monday May 7, 07 -- Bass slowdown to beat the band -- Plus blueness

Monday, May 07, 2007: Waves: large, windblown

How about that storm off North Carolina? Waves over 25 feet already – and an expected deepening of the stationary low, which will tuck itself just below the Cape Hatteras jut of land. We may see large ground swells waves from that southerly low but our weather should be fine – though winds today are actually brisker (NE) than forecast, also thanks to that low. And did you see the devastation from those Midwest tornadoes? Holy crap! I saw videos of miles and miles of houses – an entire stretch of neatly packed suburbia -- totally leveled, Hurricane Andrew-like. Brutal.
I have a hard time determining if the weather is actually getting more psychotic or are we simply immersed in such an informational age that we immediately see and hear about these storms – which were just as wild in the past but took longer for the news to reach our doorsteps -- and not nearly as personalized at today.

Bass Cool-down Alert: A super slide in striper action has taken place. I wish I could have gotten this word out earlier – not that it would have stopped folks from trying this past weekend – but the nature of column and blog writing is such that the reports lag behind the action by anywhere from 12 hours to a day or more.
In this instance, I went from reports telling of bassing to beat the band (led by excellent plugging in BH surf late last week) to virtually no (or few) bass in dozens of places where there had been a copious catch of stripers. Even clams chummed and fished near the IBSP sod banks – as close to a sure-fire catch zone as you can get – have only been producing a meager harvest.
My apologies ahead of time if I’m blaming the wrong toothy source for the striper slow-down but it sure seems more than a coincidence that the precipitous decline in bassing aligns exactly with the arrival of what has to be the largest spring showing of bluefish in literally decades.
E-word of a 15-inch bass in the belly of a slammer is hugely indicative of the fiercely antagonistic interplay between ravenous spring blues and far less aggressive schoolie bass.
That ferocious eat-‘em-all approach of spring blues is all but absent in the fall, when bluefish are fuller and targeting forage fish exclusively.
Bass and other gamefish know, all too well, the wide swings in bluefish temperament. It’s not like they employ excessive brainpower to figure it out: If bluefish move in and begin to eat all your buddies, that’s a pretty clear indicator that the blues are not in a “Hey, how’s it goin’?” mindset. By the same token, if the blues sluggishly swim by, huge protruding bellies swaying side-to-side and bunker tails sticking out their gills and mouth, it’s a safe bet it’s gonna be a peaceful day for the entire neighborhood.
So, does this bluefish invasion mean the bassing in kaput until who knows when?
Not really.
“When” comes on pretty quickly this time of year, as the blues bolt northward with reckless abandon. The front guard of this year’s bluefish brigade – the fish we saw arrive a couple weeks back -- is already in Connecticut and not slowing down at all.
The big question mark hovers above the hugeness of the current bluefish run. Not only will it take longer for the blues to pass through but my guess is the slammers are more inclined to linger here, before drifting out to form that famed “offshore” bluefish stock – which isn’t “offshore” in the strictest tuna sense of the word but is far enough out to be totally disenfranchised from the nearshore bluefish brigades.
As for the weakfish element, that could also be a messy subject.
If chopper blues are slamming down spiny, tough-scaled stripers with impunity, you better believe they’re savagely scarfing down any and all hapless weakfish that wander into their impact zone. The saving grace for weakies is the fact that most sparklers are already well inside the bay, where larger blues aren’t inclined to visit (for long) and smaller blues are into shrimp and such. What’s more, the larger weaks seem to be a bit too much of mouthful for bayside blues, though one angler’s theory that the bigger weaks can out swim the blues is supremely wishful thinking. Bluefish are simply the fastest swimming nearshore species, fins down. False albies are excluded, falling into the highly migratory species category.
The largest factor affecting the survivability for other gamefish species within the free-fire zones of blues is bunker availability. Even though there are currently any number of hapless non-forage-fish victims within the bellies of the invading blues, bunker is not only the most common stomach content but it also far-and-away the most preferred foodstuff of every bluefish. Bunker are surely the salvation of many a bass and weakie. However, as mentioned above, gamefish species aren’t pressing their luck and are, apparently, temporarily vacating the premises.
By the by, cow bass – or pretty much any striper over, say, 30 inches – are simply not a bluefish target. Too big and gnarly.
While diving off Maryland in the late 1980s, I saw larger bottom-feeding bass in the presence of actively foraging blues. If blues swam too close, the bass held their bottom ground and demonstrably stuck up their dorsal fins, while widening their bodies, a bit like humans throwing out their chests. Kinda impressive. The blues got a gander at that armament and zipped off after easier prey.

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