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Bill Wetzel
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by Bill Wetzel

Targeting sun warmed flats early in the spring is an excellent
choice to find aggressive stripers. Note the steam coming
from the mud of this flat as it is warmed by the sun at low tide.

    April 2003 was a sleeper for me. Seems I was doing more scouting then fishing. Moving into a new home was a little time consuming as well. 2003 was in no way like 2002 when we had the super warm temperatures heating up the back bays, and decent fish coming up on the mud flats with pumped up metabolisms banging pencil poppers. Slow rolls on or near the bottom with finesse baits like 3” slug-os, small bucktails, and 3/8 oz kastmasters were a must if you wanted to catch some of the north shore back bay stripers in April 2003.

    My approach to April usually targets Back Bay areas where marshes drain their water on to sun-heated mud flats. Here the water temperatures are significantly warmer, and stripers key on these drains to actively feed on whatever bait is available. This type of fishing usually means targeting and catching mostly school bass from 16’ – 30”. A 7’ one piece rod provides good feel for finesse baits from ¼ to ¾ oz. It also enables me to have deadly accuracy when I want to put one on the edge of a grass line. Such light tackle is not always the way to go in April. Places like Little Neck Bay have miles and miles of mud flats that hold plenty of large April stripers that will hold there through the month. Its tempting to go light here as it is mostly back bay type fishing, but with that, you run the risk of being spooled.




 1.Total # of trips- 10                                        7. Total # of bass caught in Montauk-0

2. Total# of Hours fished- 17                           8. Total # of bass caught for North Shore-62

3. Total # of hours fished in Montauk- 0         9. Total # of bass caught for South Shore-0

4. Total # of hours for North Shore- 15           10.Total # of bass caught-62

5. Total hours for South Shore-2                     11.Total # of blues caught-0

6. Other- 0                                                        12. Total # of weakfish caught- 0                                                            

13.Total # of bass 10-15 lbs- 0                         17.  % Of charters that caught fish-no charters

14. Total# of bass 16-25lbs-0                           18. Total # of skunks with and without charters-4

15. Total number of bass 17- 35lbs-0

16. Total number of bass above 35lbs-0




19. Total fish caught from new to full (up swing)-54

20. Hours fished from new to full-11.5

21. Total fish caught from full to new (down swing)-8

22. Hours fished from full to new-5.5

23. Total fish caught on FULL-0 (fished 1 hour)

24. Total fished caught on NEW- Not fished


    I decided to throw in the moon phase on my stats this year, as it should be interesting in the months to follow. I don’t believe that the moon plays a significant role in the month of April. Water temperatures and sustained winds will have the greatest impact. No matter were you fish every month and every day conditions will change, and these conditions should dictate your approach. Moon, tide, water temps, wind, water clarity, available bait, and time of year will all play a role either individually or independently.



2003 brought us a cold winter and a cold April. On 4/23/03 I measured the Oyster Bay water temperature on a mud flat at 49 degrees. This really slowed the migration.  I usually prefer the moons down swing, however in April I took most of my fish on the up swing. Two things to realize; I fished double the hours on the up swing and most of the fish were caught at Keyspan power plant, which does not conform to typical spring patterns. The total number of bass caught was pretty good, however  there was not one fish over 10 pounds. This is for the most part due to low water temps. Smaller fish are more tolerable of the lower and higher temps, which made my focus mainly finesse baits and schoolie bass. In 2002 when April water temps rose to really high levels there were bigger bass to be had. Hours fished can also be misleading, as it includes days when I did more scouting than wetting a line. Scouting is part of the hunt, and surf fishing is all about hunting. Number of skunks always seems to be an interest to people. A skunk doesn’t mean much to me if I learned something.




It’s always hard to predict what will happen in the coming months, but if I had to guess I would expect a good sand eel population to begin their invasion in April 2004. According to my logs, which date back to the early eighties, cold winters yield excellent sand eels populations. I said the same thing last year, and what we got was a sand eel population that was only slightly better then 2002 (from what I witnessed) So we will see!. This cold winter will probably delay things as it did in 2003. I suspect a very slow April. My focus will be on exploration in the way of the South Shore Back Bay flats. I don’t expect to catch much there in April, but I will learn as many ledges, rips, holes, and cuts I can. More importantly, how the Back Bay water that runs through them is affected by wind and tide. Lots of work- with it paying off in May—I hope.

NOTE: Check out the report section in the non- subscriber area and scroll down to April to get day to day specifics.


Copyright, Jan.2004

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