Chasing Ghosts

There is something extremely appealing to me about hunting early season stripers. When I say early season, I mean March and April. And I mean rivers where bass seasonally arrive and depart. Not the rivers where bass “hold over” and can be caught all year long. Nope, that doesn’t do it for me.

I think it’s the mystery and the suspense that makes hunting ghosts so appealing. When will the first fish be caught? Where will it come from? A local fish that expanded its territory in search of food , encouraged by early spring warming periods or migratory baitfish? Or a traveler, from the Chesapeake, the Hudson, the Susquehanna or New Jersey? Maybe even from deep waters offshore. The striped bass is an oft studied fish, but it still feels very mysterious to me.

The first striper is always sweet. It’s a sign that Winter is over, and it’s time to really dive into the hobby we love. Game on, they’re here-No more messing around. It’s almost never a big one, but it’s symbolic. I pride myself in trying to be the first guy around to get one. Let the internet heroes commence their fishing pursuits after the first positive report shows up. It’s almost always at the same time-early to mid April. I’d say between the 4th and the 13th, like clockwork. Predictable, but still suspenseful. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been waiting 4 months, putting my hobby on pause, that makes it so sweet.

The first may not be big, but there’s almost always bigger ones to be found after the first. It’s like an oasis in the desert of a long New England winter. That first hit is usually after many fruitless casts with cold, wet hands. Even a dinky fish can be a bit jarring after so much waiting. A little sign of life. Often times I’m so trigger happy that retrieving a lure into a rock or a log will fool me.

I like seasons, what can I say. And I love the first bass of the year. We’re almost there. God bless the striped bass-may the stock be plentiful and sustained for our kids and grandkids to enjoy them.

James

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