While cleaning my office on a rainy day, I came across one of my old logbooks and opened it up to April 25, 1970 to see what I was catching on that Saturday when I was still living on Long Island. It turned out that I fished with a couple of friends on their boat out of Jones Inlet as I jigged 102 mackerel and two herring.
That was just a routine day of spring mackerel jigging then, and in almost every other spring after I started saltwater fishing. Huge schools of mackerel started their northern migration off Virginia, and moved steadily up the coast during April before ending up in New England waters within a few weeks. Some years were better than others, but catching 100 or more a man was routine, and party boat fleets thrived on the great fishery for both food and a freezer full of bait for the months to come.
The foreign fleets caught millions of pounds and put a big dent in that fishery, but mackerel did come back after the 200-mile limit went into effect. Yet, foreign fleets were allowed to continue taking mackerel if they participated in joint ventures with American trawlers. NOAA Fisheries considered mackerel to be underfished at that time, but after a few more years the spring runs diminished and then virtually disappeared even as NOAA Fisheries kept setting large quotas that weren’t being filled. When I called them about this, they admitted to be using an old stock assessment. There were some years when there was a good winter mackerel run off the N.J and L.I coasts, but even that has died out — and party boat skippers who used to run experimental trips for mackerel in the spring now don’t even bother. From millions of fish to none at all!
Due to today’s weather, there have been no reports. There was a very good one about surf stripers that came in after last night’s blog. Jerry Lasko and Maren Toleno from Point Pleasant cast Kettle Creek paddletail jigs in the Ocean County surf to release dozens of small bass in a spot where they never got a hit the afternoon before when the surf was calm. A bit of white water turned the stripers on, though the largest was only 22 inches. It may take another day for the surf to settle and clear.
Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park has been reporting small bass in the surf for over a week, and Betty & Nick’s notes the surf temperature has warmed to 50 degrees.
The Golden Eagle from Belmar will be sailing for stripers at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
There is a thick fog warning until 7 a.m. before a west wind kicks in.
The first two stripers caught last Thursday morning on bunker chunks before release from Ty Man in Raritan Bay