Fluke season drawing to an end

The fluke season ends on Sept. 21 in both N.J. and N.Y., leaving anglers with just a few days to stock the freezer or seek a personal best. The northeast winds that are forecast to start gusting tonight may be a complication in that quest. That’s especially he case with the big offshore swell we’re dealing with.

That combination seemed to have a negative effect on fluking during Sunday’s Triple Challenge Fluke Tournament as Dave Lilly of Hazlet ran all the way to Atlantic Beach Reef only to find it lifeless. There was a big crowd of boats from both N.Y. and N.J. there, but Lilly said he didn’t see a fluke caught. The same applied at several offshore spots  before he ended up in Ambrose Channel (where he was shut out pre-fishing on Saturday) — though the few 3-to-4-pounders there weren’t big enough to bother weighing in.  Until then, Lilly couldn’t give a bait away even to a short or a sea bass. Hopefully, we’ll get a break from the swell by the weekend, though it might actually get bigger.

The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands reported having to get out of the swell in Sandy Hook Bay on Sunday, but fishing was poor there. They drifted in the ocean today for a 5-pounder and some shorts plus porgies and a few sea bass releases.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar reported a lack of drift and slow fluking today though there was one limit.

The Monmouth County surf was fishable in a moderate surf this morning, and Vinny D’Anton released a small blue and two small stripers on his Chug Bug before I got there. I had one hit on my Tactical Anglers Bomb Jr. popper, but lost what I suspect was a small blue in the wash. As I had a few green crabs from Castaway’s Tackle in Point Pleasant that were still usable from last week, I stopped briefly at Point Pleasant Canal even though the incoming tide was strong. I fish for sport with one-handed spinning tackle and only a few little pinch-on weights to avoid hang-ups, and was surprised by a 15-inch blackfish — my first legal tog from the canal so far though it was released. Small sea bass were sucking the meat out of the cut crabs, so I finished up with a small whole crab that attracted a better tog which hung me up. However, after slacking the line it started moving and the rod took on a serious bend as I struggled to keep it out of bottom before a releasing an 18-incher.

Grumpy’s Tackle reports lots of cocktail blues in the Surf. The Seaside Park tackle Shop noted that 95 young anglers entered in Saturday’s NJBBA Kids Tournament weighed in 95 blues.  The mullet run is well underway after the full moon.

Tuesday’s forecast is for northeast winds of 10-15 knots with gusts to 20 — but diminishing to 5-10 knots in the afternoon.

More northeast coming

When I checked the marine forecast last night, it appeared that we were in for a period of calm weather. However, everything changed today.

Monday morning looks good with northwest winds at 5 knots, but it shifts to the east in the afternoon — and gets serious by midnight with northeast winds gusting to 25 knots.

The surf was already rough this morning without any significant wind — but due to a big swell. It was barely fishable, and I did get one splash on my popper from a small bass.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar found blues on the surface and had decent jigging for choppers up to 8 pounds. Some Spanish mackerel and fluke were added, and sea bass released. They will be offshore on a tuna trip Monday and Tuesday,

Bob Matthews reports from Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina that the fluke season is winding down this week. It’s your last chance to boat a doormat as Dan Walker from Levittown, Pa. did on a private boat with a 10 1/8-pounder.

It’s looking better for Sunday — and next week

Fishing is usually tough in the ocean after an extended northeast blow, and it seems that few boats even tried it today.

The Golden Eagle did make it out from Belmar, and managed fair bluefishing on jigs for choppers up to 6 pounds. Some anglers caught 15 while others only had one or two.

The Elaine B. II from Highlands found fluke fishing conditions to be passable, though the waters were still cloudy. They managed a few fluke, but tomorrow should be better.

The forecast for the morning is west winds at just 5-10 knots, with 3-5-foot seas — and the possibility of showers. The upcoming week looks good with light winds right up to Thursday.

Canyon fishing had dropped off before the weather turned. Capt. Chris Di Stefano was part of the crew aboard Frank Criscola’s Crisdel from Brielle Yacht Club as they ran all the way to Hendrickson’s Canyon for a 120-pound Allison tuna (a long-finned variation of the yellowfin) and a 50-pound albacore. The boat turned around for another trip to the Hudson, but only trolled a white marlin and a yellowfin there.

I cast in Point Pleasant Canal this morning, but only had a few light hits and saw just three cocktail blues caught while I was there.

The famed Spring Lake Live Liners club is welcoming new members. For details see Joe Melillo at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant, or call him during working hours at 732 899-1363.

NE wind shuts down most fishing — but weekend looks better

The northeast wind seems to have kept boaters in port today, but the forecast is for a shift to southeast at 10-15 knots after midnight — and south at 10-15 Saturday. Seas are predicted to drop from 4-7 feet to 3-5 tomorrow — though a small craft advisory is up through Saturday afternoon. Check with skippers before coming down in the morning. Dave Lilly reported that the Triple Challenge Fluke Tournament was postponed to Sunday.

Though the Big Mohawk from Belmar only casually mentioned it in their Thursday report, Vinnie Bazaz boated what might have been the largest doormat fluke on a party boat this year at 14 pounds, 5 ounces — and he tried to release it! Unfortunately, the giant fluke was bleeding too badly.  Fluking in the ocean was slow that day.

With the surf out of the question this morning, I started in Shark River, but found it to be too high and switched to Point Pleasant Canal. Anglers casting jigs were doing nothing there, though they had seen some big breaks.  Jim Gates caught a cocktail blue, and I lost another that jumped off as I had it within a few feet of the wall. There wasn’t a touch after that, and I was about to give up casting when I was shocked by a solid hit on my Z Man 6-inch white Swimmereez. That fish took off at high speed with the strong current, and I was pulled along with it before I saw a large bluefish jump. It turned out to be a 25-incher before being released. We often take blues for granted, but a totally unexpected hit like that when it seemed the only hope was for a cocktail blue is a real thrill.

The Big Jamaica from Brielle ended up with lots of variety on this week’s special trip aimed at school bluefin tuna. George Perez of Lakewood boated a 35-pounder for the pool, and another bluefin was released. In addition to the targeted bonito and little tunny, there were also both Spanish and king mackerel, sea bass, fluke, bluefish and dolphin caught. Both today’s special trip and the night tuna departure were cancelled due to the weather, but a weekend special trip will be run Saturday at 6:30 a.m. for a fare of $80 and a limit of 55 fares. Next week’s weather looks good, and special trips will be run at 6 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for $85 with a limit of 35. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations.

Last NJ striper hearing tonight — Haertel boats a doormat

The last striped bass hearing in N,J, is being run from 6-8:30 this evening at the Bay Ave. Community Center, 775East Bay Ave. in Manahawkin,

Paul Haertel came up with another big one yesterday when he fed a whole squid to a 10.35-pound doormat fluke that was weighed at Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park. That was Paul’s second lifetime doormat — and the second on his boat this year. He was drifting around a wreck in 82 feet off Barnegat Inlet.

The surf was beautiful, but unproductive for me this morning except for what was probably a small bluefish that hit my Tactical Anglers Bomb Jr. popper but got off in the undertow. The weather is turning on us, with 20-25-knot winds plus gusts to 25 tonight and into tomorrow when it shifts to east. It’s likely that party boats may cancel trips, so check first before coming down. It looks good for the weekend so far.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had all the blues you want jigging today with choppers up to 7 pounds. Some porgies were also jigged plus sea bass that were released.


Memories of Pisano on 9/11

Two of the most memorable days in my lifetime were spent with the late, great giant tuna pro Capt. Bob Pisano on 9/11.

The first was on 9/11 1980, when I fished in the Mud Hole with Pisano, his mate, Chis Di Stefano — and Roy Parsons. Roy caught a potential state record giant that morning, but I later fought one even larger. Both fish were too big to get through the fish door of the Runaway  boat that Pisano and Parsons had built — and had to be towed back in an increasing southwest wind after being tied up with the anchor line. My giant weighed 1022 pounds at Hoffman’s Anchorage in Brielle — the first “grander” tuna in N.J., and a state record displacing a giant that Pisano had also been the captain for.  Ironically, exactly a year later Parsons was with Pisano to break my record by a mere 7 pounds.

Who doesn’t remember where they were on 9/11 2001? Once again I was fishing with Pisano, this time where there had been a giant bite that week at the Lillian. We weren’t fishing very long before hearing talk on the marine radio about a plane flying into the World Trade Center. We could barely hear anything on the TV at that distance offshore, but Pisano had a bad feeling about the situation and decided to head in. We would have seen all the smoke coming up over NYC if not for the hard northwest wind which prevented it from rising.

Another outstanding skipper was taken from us much too early on August 29 when Capt. Jodi Di Stasio of Avon by the Sea and XTC Sportfishing in Belmar passed away at just 61 after a heart attack and following strokes. Jodi was one of the canyon pioneers and also a shark expert. His fish store featured a mako mount hanging in front of it.  He was very popular among the charter and private skippers along the Shore, and will be remembered Thursday with a memorial gathering from noon to 5 p.m. at O’Brien Funeral Home on Rt. 35 and 2028 New Bedford Rd.  in Wall.

John Letizia had a good catch of legal fluke from his boat in Manasquan River on Monday, and was expecting to do even better Tuesday after castnetting peanut bunkers for live bait. Yet, the river fluke bite was off, and he decided to try outside though boaters had found the bottom to be dead on Suday after the storm. His first drift at the Axel Carlsen Reef produced a 7 3/8-pound fluke — though there wasn’t much life after that.

The Monmouth County surf was rough this morning from a swell coming from far offshore, and both Vinny D’Anton and I had no luck though Vinny checked several beaches.

Allen Riley went to Monmouth Beach and found very good conditions there. There were mullet in the wash, but the only action were from two cocktail blues that he released. There were lots of dolphins close to the beach, and he saw some fish splashes well offshore plus a whale — but there was no sign of the little tunny, bonito or Spanish mackerel he was hoping for.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar got into big blues to over 10 pounds today among the smaller choppers, porgies, a bonito and some fluke.









When is an albacore not an albacore?

The Big Jamaica from Brielle is running a series of limited “Bonito Albacore Bluefin” trips on Sept. 12,13, 16 and 23. They’ll be fishing 20 miles or more offshore to target those species rather than inshore bluefish. The only problem is that I can almost guarantee that you won’t catch an albacore.

Albacore are high seas tuna found throughout much of the world in tropical and temperate seas. They very rarely enter continental shelf waters such as the Jamaica will be fishing. What you will catch is the little tunny, a completely different tuna than the albacore. To add to the confusion, the little tunny is balled bonito in the south, but little tunny is the only common name accepted by the American Fisheries Society and the IGFA.

When I was growing up on Long Island, I became familiar with a great fighting fish that everyone called false albacore. That was probably because fishermen at that time had never seen an albacore — which was thought to be a Pacific species. It wasn’t until canyon sportfishing started here that anglers realized there’s little resemblance between albacore and false albacore. The former has no markings on its dark blue above and white below body plus unmistakable long pectoral fins stretching almost to the tail They are frequently referred to as longfins. There’s also a world of difference in food quality as the albacore has white meat that’s excellent for canning, while the little tunny has course and bloody meat which requires some work to make it palatable for most fish eaters.

While even yellowfin tuna may move in as close as Manasquan Ridge on rare occasions off the NJ coast, I never hear of stray albacore inshore. Ironically, my personal record of 60 pounds was caught off Montauk Point at this time of year in 1985 as an abundance of large sand eels attracted a mix of bluefins, yellowfins and albacore to the west wall of Butterfish Hole in 120 feet not far offshore.

Unfortunately, over the years the “false” has been dropped by most anglers who simply refer to little tunny as albacore.  That’s even extended to a business advertising a trip for a species they are not even going to try to catch.

The Jamaica had good results jigging bonito and little tunny during Sunday’s trip, and lost one bluefin at the boat. Those trips are limited to 30 fares at a cost of $85. There’s  also a 31-hour canyon trip set for Sept. 28 — plus 22-hour canyon runs on Sept. 13 and 14. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations.

Capt. Ron Santee reported a big turnaround in fluking after two tough days on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands. It was mostly shorts at first before fluke of 6.5 and 5.5 pounds were boated. Then the larger fluke kept coming as Mike lee ended up with the pool at 6.10 pounds.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar managed some fluke limits today despite a lack of drift on too nice a day. The pool winner was 7.6 pounds. They sail at 6:30 a.m.

The forecast is fine for the morning with south winds at 10-15 knots, but that increases to 15-20 with gusts to 25 in the afternoon as small craft advisories are posted through midnight.

Vinny D’Anton returned to the Monmouth County surf this morning and used his Chug Bug to release a 24 1/2-inch striper and also a smaller one by casting into white waters in a rough, but fishable surf while I couldn’t raise a thing.  Jim Gates reported nothing in the Bay Head surf, and only a very few small blues were hooked in Point Pleasant Canal. Joe Melillo, at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant, said he had a big bass or blue on at dawn Monday that he couldn’t move, and then broke off as he applied too much pressure as a boat was passing by and the 20-pound leader snapped.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported another good day of bluefishing with jigs today along with some porgies and fluke. Little tunny and bonito were spotted. They’ve added a Saturday night bluefish trip from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Only a few spots are open on the Sept. 30, 31-hour canyon trip.

Prospects for canyon trips have improved greatly as yellowfins have finally turned on for the night chunking as well as daytime trolling. The Canyon Runner fleet from Point Pleasant reports that just before the storm, Capt. Deane Lambros put his party into 18 large yellowfins ( see photo below)  plus five white marlin trolling and didn’t even bother staying out overnight. Since then they’ve been into a good yellowfin night bite. Adam La Rosa says it’s like the night chinking used to be in September — and there’s also a good shot at a swordfish. A few charter and open boat spots remain. Call 732 272-4445 for reservations.

CR yellowfin

Surf mullet run underway

The long-awaited movement of mullet out of backwaters and into the surf for their migration to the south is finally getting underway.  That should activate school stripers, but that hasn’t happened as yet.

Vinny D’Anton fished three Monmouth County beaches this morning under ideal conditions, and found a school of mullet at one — but there was no sign of bass around them. It’s just a matter of time before stripers find one of their favorite prey items, and when they are on mullet there are many small plugs that become effective, especially poppers.

Allen Riley fished Sandy Hook this morning along with John Mazzeo and Duke Matero. They saw lots of mullet in the wash, though nothing was on them. Allen caught a couple of cocktail blues on a Mann-O-Lure at dawn, and strips from those fish attracted bites from fluke — though all were small.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported the mullet run started in earnest Sunday, and they’re now loaded with that fresh bait. Little tunny were spotted of the beaches on Saturday.

Bob Correll reported good casting conditions in the Bay Head surf this morning and late afternoon, but nothing was being caught.

There wasn’t much of a small bluefish bite on jigs in Pint Pleasant Canal this morning despite the lack of boat traffic. It had actually been better on Sunday with lots of boats going through,

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported having to chase bluefish around today, but ended up with a good catch on jigs along with some porgies and fluke.

Fluke fishing is picking up in the ocean as the bottom settles. The Big Mohawk from Belmar reported several limits today plus more shorts. The pool winner was around 6 1/2 pounds. They’ll be sailing at 6:30 a.m.

The forecast for tomorrow is east winds at 5-10 knots.

Ocean blues biting after storm

Fishing should improve as the ocean settles, but there was good news about the ocean blues as they were splashing on the surface again this morning. The Golden Eagle from Belmar just picked at them with jigs at first, but ended up with some limits plus porgies. There some bigger blues among the small choppers, and a 7-pounder took the pool

Bob Matthews reports from Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina that 40-foot depths off Long Branch produced a limit of fluke from 5 to 7 1/8 pounds for Jeff Kardmarz. Tim Palchenes boated an 8 1/4-pounder. The river fluke are mostly shorts, but snapper fishing is good.

Point Pleasant Canal produced a pick of very small blues plus a couple of bigger ones — but Joe Melillo of Castaways Tackle in that town fought a decent striper that spit the hook on his lure at the surface.

The forecast is for a return to northeast winds after midnight, but at only 10-15 knots.

Somewhat better forecast

There’s a little more hope for anglers this weekend in the updated forecast.

Instead of even more northeast on Saturday, there’s a shift to north at 20-25 knots with gusts to 30 before switching to northwest 10-15 with gusts to 20 in the afternoon. That will set up a nice Sunday with northwest 10-15 knot winds. The very big swells expected look as if they’ll peak at 11 feet after midnight — and drop to 3 to 4 feet on Sunday.

Fishing from shore has still been possible. Vinny D’Anton worked Shark River early this morning when there was little doing, though he managed two mini-bass to break the ice. I tried there later on the incoming and managed one bluefish release while losing another and being encouraged by a couple of blowups on poppers before getting blown off the river as the east wind gusted to over 30 and a drizzle turned to rain.

Joe Melillo, at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant, said blues are being caught in Point Pleasant Canal, and some anglers got into Spanish mackerel in the inlet this morning, He noted that he’s now carrying sand fleas for bait.