Record snowfalls and striped bass

The news of the week was the blizzards that kept pummeling our region, especially between Washington, D.C., and New York. Close to 40 inches fell outside Baltimore, Md., while areas such as D.C. and South Jersey experienced a stop in all commerce and travel.

Nevertheless, do not tell a small gang of striper addicts from New Jersey. The first call I got from Mickey Melchiondo, also known as Dean Ween from the popular rock band (or whatever kind of music he creates) Ween, came on the day after the AC Boat show was cancelled due to blizzard conditions.

The call from Mickey to me went something like this:

"Get your fat ass out of the house and come south with us. We found this tidal river right in the heart of the blizzard's path and it's loaded with striped bass."

Trying to clear my home from tons of snow, I passed on the opportunity. Mickey and his crew came home with a report of roughly 20 striped bass up to 15 or 18 pounds.

Then, last Wednesday night, the second blizzard in a week hit me square on. However, I knew when I heard the phone ringing Thursday morning it was Mickey, getting ready to bust my chops because I could not make that trip.
I elected not to answer but later opened an email. It in was a picture of a 12- to 15-pound striped bass that his gang caught that Thursday, the day after the storm, and it said this was your fish.

Striper fishing in the winter can be downright difficult. However, striped bass wintering holes do exist in many waterways where striped bass use the adjacent freshwater river to spawn. Places such as the Hudson River and Raritan Bay, The Delaware River and Delaware Bay as well as the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Plenty of striped bass do not migrate south with the pack. These fish winter over in select holes sort of like the resident Canada goose population. Plenty of food exists, so they stay.

During the winter months, when you find a few striped bass, you tend to find the mother or all striped bass congregations for that waterway. Places or holes like this only get better when super cold weather hits the region.
Add snow and every angler has a recipe for stellar fishing as conditions are ripe. The colder the air temperature, the better the fishing typically is. The colder the water, the tighter the mass of fish and if you find them, it is one after the other.

This is what Ween and his crew stumbled upon in his recent search for fish and a cure for cabin fever. My one customer, Art Berkman always tells me "Seek and You Shall Find." Berkman cannot be further from the truth. Melchiondo and his gang traveled several states seeking striped bass from land and they found a nice body of fish with respectable size.

This gang is using the lightest jig head possible while maintaining contact with bottom. In this particular river, it happens to be a 3/8 ounce Kalin brand jig head. Melchiondo prefers to use a 6-8 inch SluG-Go, Ron Z worm or a Hogy brand plastic lure.

Either of these long and slender lures seem to yield double-digit striped bass over other types of lures. Alex Fields prefers a slow roll to his lure along bottom while Melchiondo has found success in putting a few subtle twitches into his presentation style.

As another storm is ready to hit our region on Tuesday, I expect another call from Mickey. This time, I will be answering and I will be making the 3 1/2 hour trek south.

Editor's note: Capt. Chris Gatley can be found with his fishing clients chasing striped bass in front of the Statue of Liberty, or heading offshore to the Atlantic Ocean canyons off the NJ/NY coast for tuna. His articles on cutting-edge fishing techniques can be found in The Fisherman Magazine, and he's a regular presenter at key sports shows during the winter months (when he's not pursuing whatever he can find in East Coast rivers).