The Atlantic Highlands party boat fleet is looking forward to Friday’s opening of the fluke season after a good start in April turned into a frustrating May when bass were marked regularly and trollers kept catching — but party boats had a hard time getting bites.

Capt. Ron Santee gave it his best effort Monday with the Fishermen, but even the blues wouldn’t bite. He didn’t fish the last two days while getting ready for fluke. Capt. Rob Semkewyc  usually sticks with stripers on his Sea Hunter into the start of fluking, but will make the final striper trip on Thursday.  He will probably set up some June afternoon trips for big bass.

The Sea Tiger II didn’t have enough to sail this morning, but the few who showed up for the afternoon trip were rewarded with a surprisingly good bluefish bite. If you want blues, Capt. Hal Hagaman suggests you bring wire-leadered hooks tomorrow.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant had a slow trip Tuesday until some blues were caught late in the day. After hours of searching, the Queen Mary got into some readings Sunday, and a few stripers up to 30 1/2 pounds were caught on 9-inch white shads and 6-ounce diamond jigs. They also jigged a few sea bass and a couple of blues.

Ocean trollers continue to pick a few big stripers, but the reports I got this morning from Capt. Bud Mc Arthur and Capt. Chris Di Stefano were negative along the northern Shore at that point. Pete Connell of Avon trolled a 42-pound striper on the weekend, but only missed one hit today.  Those skippers reported scattered bunkers popping

Following up the Canyon Runner report from yesterday, it was during a free trip for six military veterans that Capt. Charlie Vanderbeck  on the 48-footer put them into two giants and smaller bluefins plus an albacore and two makos. One of the makos was an 80-inch male (about 180-200 pounds) that met the standards for a legal catch and was kept.  Four hooks were found in it, including one in the liver. The Canyon Runner has only one date left before mid-July.

Capt. Vinny Vetere has had good striper fishing for bigger bass from his Katfish out of Great Kills. During the last week, there were four in the 40-pound class, and two in the 50-pound class. He’s open Thursday and Friday plus Wednesday to Friday next week.

I’ve been having a big problem with AOL, including e-mails coming in late or not being able to open them. Today I was also unable to reply — or to write an e-mail. If you haven’t seen your report or received an answer, try again or call me at 732 757-5531.  Please don’t text me as I don’t text and rarely remember to check for those messages.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar has been doing well with sea bass and ling, but will be sailing from Friday to Memorial Day only by reservation on limited trips.

Bob Matthews reported from Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina that he’d heard of stripers up to 54 pounds being caught by trollers off Ocean County. He weighed a 32-pounder for Jake Langerveld (10) from North Whales, Pa.  Blues are in the river, and small stripers in the surf. The Den’s rental boats are ready for Friday.

Paul Haertel of the JCAA had no luck trolling stripers out of Barnegat Inlet yesterday afternoon, and it was the same story with casting after dark in Point Pleasant Canal. I was on the other side with Jerry Lasko and Maren Toleno as we failed to follow up a successful night. Jerry quickly lost what he thought as a striper, and I had one run from a big blue before the hooks pulled. Maren later moved to another area to release a 22-inch striper. –

Joe Melillo reports from Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant that short stripers are feeding in the canal on cinder worms at night and are a fly rod target. He’s getting stocked up on fluke bait for Friday, and tying  sliding hook rigs so long baits for larger fluke can be presented properly. Anglers fishing the canal for stripers and blues have been catching large fluke for weeks.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported good action out front with blues from 8–14 pounds Tuesday on both bait and artificials, plus smaller ones in the evening. They had their first big blue weigh-in on a popper in the surf, and also heard of fluke being released on Kettle Creek shads — including a 5-pounder by Lou DeFonthey.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for a return to south winds, but at only 10-15 knots in the morning before increasing to 15-20 in the afternoon.

Jell Merrill took his son out bluefishing I from their small boat in Manasquan River yesterday as the cold front blew through. Steve, who graduated from Rider this week, was dressed like it was November, but caught a 10-pound blue on the surface after they left 50 degree water at Dog Beach and fished in 58 degrees at Treasure Island.

Steve Merrill (1) blue.jpg

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