Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Thursday Dec. 10, 09 -- Bass chat and census registry

Thursday, December 10, 2009: Winds: Hard west. Water clarity: Fair.

As things return to posy-Classic mellowness, a read on the fall has to be a great one – so many stripers of 25 pounds and up. However, it might also be called the fall that artificials faltered. It’s almost a stunner how plugs and such failed to garner even a glance from bass, even though nearby anglers were banging the bejeezus out of them using spot, snag-and-drop or everyday bunker chunks. Clams were going OK but nowhere near the bloodier meat presentation.

So why the failure of artificials? Pretty simple – at least in the eyes of fish. Why risk grabbing something that seems odd and unusual when there is a veritable feast of easily defined, easily recognized forage fish all over the place? And bunker are now everywhere. A satiated striper is far less inclined to risk taking even a passive swipe at a plug.

Of course, we are now into the schoolie season. These are the kid bass, so to speak. Like all kids, they’re a lot more impetuous and are just learning the ropes of what can and can’t/shouldn’t be eaten. Schoolies get schooled the hard way, by doing test chomps on plugs and jigs. They’re particularly fascinated by teasers, which seem so safe. They thank the stars above for minimum size regulations.

Even savvy larger bass are often attracted to cleverly designed teasers (and flies) but often pass on nailing them simply because the size of the meal isn’t worth the effort. All predators have this instinctive calculator that, in a veritable heartbeat, appraises the energy output needed to chase down a targeted meal versus the final nutritional gain. I always like to watch during mullet runs when bass are enticed by large pods of seemingly dead-meat mullet only to be out-sped and out-maneuvered by the speedy baitfish. That is why artificials work so well during the mullet migration. Bass quickly realize the only real chance they have to bag a mullet is one that is badly wounded. After countless futile forays after scooting schooled mullet, a bass is doubly enticed by a sashaying shallow-diving plug or a splashy surface popper – seemingly a mullet they can finally grab.

Back to those arriving schoolies, they’re always suckers for clam gobs. I bring that up since take-home fish become increasingly hard to find from here on in, though with everything running so late this year I can’t imagine not having dinner fish into January. With the Classic over, when sure hook ups demand bait hooks and such, it’s a good time to switch over to circle hooks.

Below is the notice of the need for all NJ anglers to register with the feds before fishing in 2010. No need to be shocked and dismayed. It’s been inevitable since the mandate came down from DC that a census must be taken. I think there’s an esoteric irony here, that this notice to register is going out in December when the most famous census of all time -- Caesar Augustus’ decree that everyone has to return to their homelands for the Roman census -- took place. I have no idea what happens if you fail to register. I hear the feds’ Men In Black have been bored lately – and Delta Force is due to be back in country for the holidays. Enough said. Register –or risk going missing. Hey, this angler census is serious business. As for Obama winning the peace prize, remember that Tiger once appeared to be the squeakiest clean athlete in the history of the world. The only thing that might make things worse for Tiger is it’s discovered he training all those women to fight in the pit.

The NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds saltwater anglers that the

federal government's National Saltwater Angler Registry Program requires most
New Jersey saltwater anglers to register prior to fishing in 2010.
You must register if you*
* Fish for or catch anadromous species (striped bass, shad, river herring) in state tidal waters
* Fish in Federal waters (more than 3 miles from shore)
You do not have to register if you*
* Are under 16 years of age
* Only fish on federally licensed party or charter boats
* Hold a Highly Migratory Species Angling Permit
Online and telephone registration will begin January 1, 2010. Register online at
www.countmyfish.noaa.gov or call toll free 888-674-7411.
Registration is free in 2010.

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