The long winter season is over! Now all the fishing rods, fresh and salt, are back in operation as trout, largemouth bass and stripe bass action is hot and will stay hot for awhile to come.

The rust only took a short time to shake off those reels and now you're ready to go. The reports are in from my favorite places and are very encouraging. Without further ado, here is the first report of the season.

NORTH SHORE -- The Merrimack River has been producing sub-legal stripers but plenty of them. So far, the 26-inch mark has been tops on a sluggo. Out front, head for Parking Lot 1 on the Refuge and try worms and plugs at first light. Both have produced schoolies, but the keeper is just a cast away. Also, here are flounder up to 18 inches. Stripers all small but many of them are in the Portsmouth area. Here, too, they await the arrival of the first keeper. This entire area is loaded with schoolies, which is great for the fly fisherman.

BOSTON HARBOR -- Boston is just full of flounder with some as giant 4-pound monsters. Winthrop Harbor, Thompson, Deer Island and Castle Island are all full of willing doormats. If it's stripers you want, the first keeper arrived here this week at the Amelia Dam, chasing the thousands of herring running up the Mystic River. The sluggo will do the trick but remember there are lots of sub-legal fish, too. A keeper is a 28-inch bass and you are allowed two fish per day. Also, there are tautog at the outer harbor crushing the green crabs.

CAPE COD -- If you're making the trip to the Cape, by all means stop at the Herring run on the Canal. The first shipment of 15 to 20-pound stripers moved in this week. This will be followed closely by their fathers and grandfathers. Soon you could be looking at another 50-pound bass at this spot as it did last year. South Cape also has put out the welcome mat with stripers, tautog and mackerals.

FRESH WATER -- The state has finished stocking the ponds and rivers until fall. A great boost the fishery was given last week and this week with trout stocked in the Nissitissit River, Baddacook, Long Sought for, Spot, Upper Wrights, and Walden. Use eggs for the best results. Zac Wheeler hit his favorite spot using garden hackle and took four brookies. He said he would have caught more but he only had six worms to start with at Witch Brook. Shad Fishing is fantastic at the Lawrence Dam. Use sad darts spaced 18 to 24 inches apart. Throw slightly upstream and with a slight twitch bring the line down. Reel in the line until you feel the strike and set the hook lightly. The mouth of the shad is very tender and when you set the hook you want the entire fish, not just lips, when you reel it in.

-- BILL BISWANGER