Inches mattered in HRFA Tournament

As noted in the following HRFA release, even fractions of an inch were decisive in winning prizes during their recent catch-and-release striper tournament, in the Hudson River and its tributaries, based on photos of the catches:

The 2021 Fred Rung Memorial Striped Bass Derby

Mr. Fred Rung
The Grand Prize Winners1st Place $600 – Heather Baez (39.83″)2nd Place $300 – Jerry Crean (39.67″)3rd Place $150 – Keith Baez (39.67″)4th Place $75 – Chris Palmer (38.67″)5th Place $50 – Chris Vargo (38.5″)Largest from Shore $150 – Feby Philip (30.75″)NOTE: The HRFA is hoping to have an outdoors Derby Awards Ceremony mid-June. Stay tuned for more information.
The Jeff Dement Award WinnersLargest tagged $150 – Jerry Crean (39.67″)Most tagged $300 – Chris Palmer (103) Chris also wins a basket of fishing stuff from The Fisherman magazine PLUS gets to tag-along with Professor John Tiedemann, aboard a Monmouth University research vessel, on a striped bass acoustic tagging trip in the Sandy Hook area.
The Photo/Video Competition Winner ($25 Gift Card)Patrick Gagliardi
The Weekly Winners ($25 Gift Cards)Week-11st Place – Chris Vargo (38.5″)Best Photo/Video – Patrick GagliardiWeek-21st Place – Jerry Crean (39.67″)Best Photo/Video – Alex SpindelmanWeek-31st Place – Keith Baez (39.17″)Best Photo/Video – Bobby SydnorWeek-41st Place – Heather Baez (39.83″)Best Photo/Video – Scott Havner
Honorable Mentions (thanks for playing)6th Place – Patrick Gagliardi (38.0″)7th Place – Andrew Ward (35.5″)8th Place – Steve Plake (35.0″)9th Place – Bobby Sydnor (33.0″)10th Place – Feby Philip (30.75″)2nd Largest from Shore – Carl Hartmann (29.25″)2nd Most Tagged – Charlie Spindelman (33)2nd Largest Tagged – Chris Palmer (38.67″)
Thank you to those who supported the 2021 Derby!

Almost all N.J. party boats switched over to sea bass on Saturday, and there weren’t any negative reports as limits were common along with lots of shorts plus some ling and even a few cod and whiting. Capt. Ron Santee Jr. of the Fishermen at Atlantic Highlands had a couple of very unusual catches during a beautiful Sunday as a lone winter flounder was big enough to win the pool –and a 44-inch striped bass hit just as he blew the whistle to end the trip. Of course, that striper was way oversized and released. Santee has been lanning to switch to fluke when the N.J. season opens on Saturday, but may hold off if the ocean waters don’t warm up enough. After struggling to catch stripers before they were ready to bite, he’s not going to leave fine bottom fishing just because the calandar says it’s time for fluke.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar has been doing very well with sea bass, but said that fishing was only decent today with about half of the fares limiting from among numerous shorts plus a few cod and whiting They will not be sailing tomorrow in order to finish up the cabin air conditioning, but will be back at it on Wednesday.

Yet another beautiful day is in the forecast with southwest winds at 5-10 knots before increasing to 10-15 in the afternoon plus gusts to 20.

Vinny D’Anton is back from Sarasota, and checked out the Spring Lake and Belmar beaches this morning without success — though he did see a huge whale explode on bunkers not far from shore.

Big Mohawk sea bass!

Climate change? 25-pound cod off Pt. Pleasant

Instead of the channel bass (red drum) that were the most important inshore game fish along the central N.J. coast a hundred years ago coming back with Climate Change, cold water cod are being caught by anglers seeking sea bass in mid-May.

Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina reports that Ben Green of Ocean Township boated a 25-pound cod off Pt. Pleasant today. The Ocean Explorer reported cod were mixed in with numerous sea bass plus ling and a few whiting yesterday afternoon. Sand eel teasers and a jig have been producing more and larger sea bass than bait,

Capt, Ron Santee Jr, gladly switched to sea bass yesterday with his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands and not only caught plenty of them but also a dozen cold water whiting which have been a rare sight in recent years. The Sea Hunter from that port has only been picking some stripers and blues, and will not sail morrow. However, the boat will fish for stripers from Tuesday to Thursday before shifting to fluke on Saturday.

Matthews also reports that Scotty Lex caught a 25-pound striper on a plug north of Shark River, while Kenneth Rittman fed a clam to a 75-pound black drum off Convention Hall in Asbury Park. There are still blues in Shark River.

The great weather continues with sunshine and southwest winds at 5 knots going to southeast in the afternoon.

Capt. Chris De Stefano got word from Raritan Bay today that blues were making it difficult to get through to stripers. but trolling bunker spoons off the Shore has been producing large stripers.

Happy sea bass anglers aboard the Queen Mary from Pt. Pleasant yesterday.

Sea bass opens in NJ

The long-awaited sea bass opener in N.J. began in perfect calm weather, and the Golden Eagle from Belmar reported they had many limits plus some ling and even cod. That should continue tomorrow with a forecast of southwest winds at a mere 5-10 knots before going south at 10-15 knots in the afternoon.

There wasn’t such good news for party boat striper fishermen though the N.J. Bonus Bass program also opened today. At Atlantic Highlands, there’s been no report from the Sea Hunter since Wednesday when they had one keeper plus shorts. The half-day Sea Tiger has had poor striper fishing. but their anglers got a thrill this week when they spotted a whale inside Raritan Bay.

Striper trolling has been another story. Capt. Vinny Vetere says it could hardly be any better day and night for big bass on his Katfish from Great Kills. Walk-ons are welcomed for the 5-9:30 evening trips. Call Vetere at 917 693-8908.

A member of Betty & Nick’s Fishing Club reported lots of bunker and spot in the Seaside Park surf, but not a hit from 5:30 to 11 a.m.

Capt. Monty Hawkins also had a good sea bass opener on his Morning Star from Ocean City. Md. including this big male.

Check for party boat openings as N.J. sea bass season opens

Some N.J. party boats are sold out on morning trips for this weekend’s sea bass season opener, but there may be spaces available on afternoon sailings. The Jamaica from Brielle has room on their Saturday 4:30 p.m. trip, as does the Queen Mary from Point Pleasant on their 3-8 p.m. trip. The Paramount from Brielle may still have space on Sunday at 6:30 a.m. Be sure to check with boats to ensure a spot before the rush subsides during the week.

Miss Belmar Princess couldn’t find ocean stripers yesterday, so they went bottom fishing to catch some ling plus a few blues and cod while releasing lots of sea bass. The Queen Mary had a similar report during Thursday’s trip. The Golden Eagle from Belmar couldn’t find any stripers today, but picked some ling and cod on bottom. They will concentrate on sea bass and ling next week while keeping an eye out for stripers. There may be room on the Saturday evening and Sunday morning trips.

Capt. Ron Santee Jr. said today may have been the first time there wasn’t a hit from the target species on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands even when they were marked. He welcomes a switch to sea bass and ling tomorrow. Trollers were catching stripers today in the same areas.

The Fisherman magazine reported a 55-pound striped bass was trolled on a mo-jo earlier this week by the Little Hawk out of Atlantic Highlands. I wasn’t able to find any mention of that on their web site, though they noted a 51-pounder among the bass trolled yesterday morning. .

Don Marantz fished aboard the Dauntless from Point Pleasant yesterday and had 20 ling. One of the giant tuna caught offshore this week was stuffed with ling, which is a good sign since it had seemed as if spiny dogfish had taken over the Mud Hole in recent years.

At Seaside Park, John Bushell Jr. of Betty & Nick’s Tackle was surprised to see the surf packed with bunkers at sun-up when he did his daily video. Dolphins were holding the bunkers close to the beach, but there was no sign of fish on them.

Grumpy’s Tackle reported that clam and bunker baits have been producing large stripers in the surf, but lures haven’t been as good a bet at present. However, fluke up to 5 pounds are hitting lures well before the season opens on May 22.

Sea bass & Bonus stripers open Saturday in NJ

There will be a big change in NJ fishing this weekend as the sea bass season begins and striper anglers in the Bonus Program can keep a single striper between 24 and less than 28 inches; Party boats have been having a hard time finding standard keepers while releasing shorts that will now be legal. Anglers must be aware that this only applies in NJ waters, The same fish inspected in N.Y. are just shorts even if they were caught in N.J. waters.

Sea bass must be at least 12.5 inches. and 10 are allowed through June 22.

The weekend weather looks to be ideal as tomorrow starts with west winds at 5-10 knots and doesn’t change much over the weekend.

Several giant bluefin tuna were caught in NY/NJ Bight recently, but as noted in this blog earlier in the week the one giant allowed in the Angling category as a trophy catch is now closed.

Tony Arcabasio demonstrated there are big stripers off the southern Jersey coast by using his Tony Maja bunker spoons to troll four from 46 to 53 inches today.

Maren Toleno caught the striper below with her first cast at Island Beach State Park yesterday morning, but Jerry Lasko reports she only caught one small bass after that in crystal clear waters with no bait.

Ocean stripers take a day off

It took a long time for the ocean striped bass to turn on, but after a good bite yesterday on jigs and shads the Golden Eagle from Belmar only found bass today that wouldn’t hit. Hopefully that will change tomorrow as the forecast is ideal with northwest winds at 5-10 knots.

The Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands ran into a similar problem as Capt. Ron Santee Jr. went back to where he left big stripers biting on Tuesday only to find them unresponsive. By the end of the day he did end up with a few keepers to 30 inches, and some shorts including 26-27-inchers. He’ll finish up with stripers the next two days before switching to sea bass as that season opens on Saturday.

Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina reports there have been mostly 3-5-pound blues hitting a variety of lures in Shark River along with a few larger choppers.

Lou Truppi has been catching lots of large trout on N.J. and Pa. streams lately, including the beautiful palamino trout below.

Northern Trophy Bluefin season closed

NOAA Fisheries Closes the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Angling Category Northern Area Trophy Fishery

Fishermen aboard Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Angling category and Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels (when fishing recreationally) may not retain, possess, or land large medium or giant Atlantic bluefin tuna (i.e., measuring 73 inches curved fork length or greater) in the northern area after 11:30 p.m., May 11, 2021. The northern area is the area north of 39°18’ N. lat. (off Great Egg Inlet, NJ).
How long is the closure in effect? The Angling category fishery for trophy bluefin tuna will close effective 11:30 p.m., May 11, 2021, through December 31, 2021.
Why is the fishery closing? Based on the best available landings information, the 1.8-mt Angling category northern area “trophy” bluefin tuna (measuring 73 inches or greater) subquota has been reached and exceeded.

Who is affected? This action applies to HMS Angling category and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels fishing recreationally in the northern area (defined above).Note that the Angling category fishery for school, large school, or small medium bluefin tuna (27 to <73”) remains open in all areas except for the Gulf of Mexico, which is designated as bluefin tuna spawning grounds and where NOAA Fisheries does not allow targeted fishing for bluefin tuna.

HMS Angling category and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessel owners are required to report the catch of all bluefin retained or discarded dead within 24 hours of the landing(s) or end of each trip
There was good striper news today as the Golden Eagle from Belmar fished the ocean with jigs and shads for “quite a few” keepers plus 20-30 shorts and three bass too big to keep

At Atlantic Highlands, the Fishermen got into a bite of big bass on the ebb. Shads attracted bass up to a 37 1/2-inch pool winner as larger stripers up to a 43-incher had to be released. A stop to fish with bait didn’t last long as dogfish took over. The Sea Hunter didn’t have enough to sail, but will be going tomorrow.
The forecast is for northwest winds at 15-20 knots with gusts to 25. which drop to 10-15 in the afternoon.
The Mimi VI from Point Pleasant is sailing open for stripers on May 12 and 14 at 6:30 a.m. with a 15-man limit for $120. On the 13th they’ll make a run for cod at 5 a.m. with a 15-man limit for $150. Call 732 370-8019 for reservations.

Capt. Dave DeGennaro has an open trip for stripers out of Barnegat at noon tomorrow with a limit of four at $175 on his Hi Flier. Call 732 33

First NJ weakfish report from the surf

This used to be prime time for catching a trophy weakfish in Barnegat Bay, but if any have been hooked there so far the anglers are keeping it very quiet. However there was an unusual report of a weakfish in the surf this morning. Betty & Nick’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported the 5-pounder hit a pink Kettle Creek paddletail being cast by Noah Gomez. Weakfish have been very scarce in the surf during recent years, and we can only hope that this is a sign of better days to come.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc said he only got into short stripers today with his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, but the last stop was best — and that’s where he’ll start in the morning when the forecast is for northwest winds at 10-15 knots before going west in the afternoon. .

Capt. Vinny Vetere reports many big stripers were trolled over the weekend from his Katfish out of Great Kills on TGT bunker spoons.

Better striper bite on the Golden Eagle

After a Saturday trip only produced fish spotted on the surface that wouldn’t hit, the Golden Eagle from Belmar got into some keeper stripers plus shorts and some bluefish today which might set up good action in favorable conditions this week. See photo below.

Small craft warnings are up through Monday afternoon, but the direction is favorable with northwest at 10-15 knots plus gusts to 20, diminishing to 5-10 in the afternoon.

There wasn’t such good news from Raritan Bay today as Capt. Ron Santee Jr. of the Fishermen at Atlantic Highlands said striper fishing was a struggle despite perfect wind and current conditions until there were some short stripers plus a big black drum at the end of the day. As a result, he’s taking a day off before sailing again on Tuesday.

Scott Leadbeater had better news from Saturday morning’s trolling at the mouth of the bay with his Aquasport from Atlantic Highlands. It was cold, damp and drizzly, but trolling slowly with mo-jos produced a decent pick of mostly 30-34-inchers despite the big fleet.

There have been some better surf reports. Greg Tirpak got into some short stripers yesterday morning at Mantoloking on aYo-Zuri pencil popper and teaser. Betty & Nick’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported two bass to 43 inches by George Ford this morning while fishing clams;

The first sailfish is always a thrill

Though most northern anglers probably dream of catching a billfish, relatively few ever do so unless they arrange a trip to Florida for the relatively abundant Atlantic sailfish. Yet, there are even many Florida fishermen who also haven’t caught a sailfish because that effort usually involves specialized techniques such as kite fishing. Relatively few sails are caught by accident, but that just adds to the thrill.

When my son-in-law Luis Gonzalez and I joined Bob Correll of Bay Head on his Sea Vee 32 from his new home in Hutchinson Island this morning our goal was a large snapper or grouper from some hard bottom nine miles off St; Lucie Inlet. We had no problem loading up with threadfin herring on Sabiki rigs for a shot at pelagic species before heading offshore, and also had squid to tempt bottom fish.

I worked had to get through small fish for a tasty snapper, but the only fish I hooked that fought like the target was cut off halfway up. The same thing happened when Bob and Luis fought lengthy battles before being bitten off by unseen toothy critters. However, as Bob was bringing in a chopped off amberjack head he spotted a fish chasing the bait on Luis’ line – and that hook-up resulted in a small sailfish tearing up the surface to break our losing streak with a release. I was then surprised to hear Luis note that was his first sailfish despite years as a small boat fisherman from Jupiter to Miami. One of the greatest attractions of fishing is that you never know when the unexpected may produce a moment to remember forever.

At Atlantic Highlands, the Sea Hunter reported a pick of school stripers today, but won’t be sailing on Mothers Day due to a lack of reservations. The Fishermen also got into some striper action despite an ebb tide running into a southeast breeze. They were mostly shorts, but anglers caught up to three. Capt. Rin Santee thinks conditions will be good tomorrow and is sailing. The forecast is for west winds at 10-15 knots before going southwest in the afternoon with a chance of rain.

There was good surf news today from Jerry Lasko who got into stripers up to 27 inches on lures at an Ocean County beach. A few blues were mixed in.

Bob Misak of Betty & Nick’s Fishing Club released a 43-inch bass in that that area