“It’s my Christmas morning,” enthused a fired-up Peter Clarke while discussing the May 17 opening of the black sea bass season during an interview on Saturday, May 13 broadcast of the Rack & Fin Radio program on 97.3 ESPN FM.

Clarke is a fisheries biologist with the New Jersey DEP’s Bureau of marine fisheries overseeing summer flounder (fluke), sea bass, and porgy (scup), and is also the state’s artificial reef coordinator. He was discussing the abundant sea bass population and the new management program dictating the current regulation, size limit, and possession limit(s). He also gave his two thumbs-up prospectus for the May 17-June 19 season (it runs again July 1-August 31, October 1-31, and November 1-December 31; bag limits vary), and named his six favorite southern New Jersey artificial reefs to catch this delectable quarry.

Continued Clarke, “And, with fluke season going on at the same time, and the fact that they’re also caught on these reefs, well, it really is like a month of Christmas. I can’t wait for next Wednesday!”

Mad Hatter Charters
Mad Hatter Charters

His excitement was palpable and had my recently re-tuned ticker going into A-fib. To be sure, it’s shaping to be a wild drop ‘n reel scenario numbers and size-wise, at least during the first three weeks. By the last week, things are picked over, with shorts becoming the dominant catch. There are enough keepers in the mix by then, but icing a limit will most likely take more time and effort.

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Fresh, salted, and rainbow clams are top baits, with squid strips and various Fishbites (shrimp, blue crab, clam, and squid) pieces and strips also putting sea bass in the buckets.

Jigging has its devotees, and on a drop-per-size basis, jigs will catch bigger sea bass. The standard diamond jig like the AVA-17, 27, and 47 are locks, as are the various butterfly and slow-pitch metals. Some sharpies utilize bucktails with a Berkely Gulp! Grub, Shrimp or Sand Eel attached and score big hits.

Mad Hatter Charters
Mad Hatter Charters

The daily limit is 10 with a 12.5-inch minimum length.

A heads up: Clarke points to the Little Egg, Atlantic City, Ocean City, Townsend’s Inlet, Wildwood, and Cape May reefs as the white-hot spots for  “opening season” sea bass.

You can hear the interview on the May 13 Rack & Fin Radio podcast.

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