Tips for fussy spring blues

Quite in contrast to the usually aggressive spring bluefish arriving inshore this month, choppers in the ocean can be very frustrating — especially for party boat anglers who can’t get hits on the metal jigs they normally use. That seemed to be the case Tuesday on the Golden Eagle from Belmar which reported breaking blues and lots of bunkers, but few blues caught.

I experienced the same thing decades ago before finding a relatively simple solution. The problem seems to be that early blues aren’t actually feeding on the surface, but rather just enjoying the warmth of sun-warmed surface waters. They weren’t interested in following a jig into the cold depths. Even poppers didn’t always work on those lazy blues. Yet, by casting a small swimming plug such as a Mambo Minnow, Bomber, or Rebel just far enough beyond and ahead of a surfacing blue and reeling it right by its head the lure would invariably be hit. I hate to deal with the treble hooks. but the results were outstanding. This is a good time to use up any already beat-up plugs with rusty hooks!

Ironically, another good way I found for getting a few early season shark baits in the boat was to very slowly troll the areas blues were showing with small metal jigs that will ride just under the surface. If you catch a “racer” blue that’s long and very skinny, don’t bother bringing it to the fillet board as you’ll find that it has grayish meat and very little of it.

Thursday’s forecast is for northwest winds at 15-20 knots with gusts to 30 which drop to 15-20 in the afternoon.

Blues fussy, but Raritan Bay school stripers hit bait

There was both good and bad news from party boats today as ocean blues were spotted but didn’t want to bite, while the Raritan Bay stripers that haven’t been cooperating for party boats finally showed some interest in bait.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported seeing blues plus lots of bunkers, but couldn’t jig very many. On the other hand, they finally jigged a short striper and also had an Atlantic mackerel.

At Atlantic Highlands, there were few customers, but at least they had some striper action. Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter had shots of action on both tides though there were no big bass. Capt. Ron Santee of the Fishermen said there were both shorts and keepers on bait after shads didn’t attract any interest. A 42-incher provided some real excitement.

The threat of showers tomorrow may result in some boats not sailing, so be sure to call before coming down. Southeast winds at 10-15 knots are predicted before a switch to west in the afternoon.

Nick Honachefsky recently celebrated his birthday with his first bluefish of the year.

Party boat bluefishing underway

Some Jersey Shore party boats haven’t even started sailing yet, and the ocean striper run is way overdue — but bluefishing is off to a good start. The Golden Eagle from Belmar had some limits of blues from 3 to 15 pounds on Sunday, and did the same thing today with the best jigging being early in the trip. Anthony Rocco posted this photo on Facebook of both shore anglers and boaters enjoying the bluefish run in Manasquan Inlet

There were no party boat striper reports from Raritan Bay — which is a bad sign..

West winds at 5-10 knots are predicted for the morning before a switch to south.

Boat traffic slowed striper bite in Raritan Bay

Capt. Rob Semkewyc saw some hope for the Raritan Bay striper bite on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands this morning as casting shads produced a legal striper plus a few shorts before trollers started working the area. A move to try bait fishing produced some shorts before it also went dead in the boat traffic. Semkewyc is looking forward to the morning for a fresh start without so much boat traffic.

The forecast is for south winds at 5-10 knots; with a possibility of showers or thunder storms in the afternoon.

Shore anglers have been taking advantage of bluefish blasts whenever they occur. Sarah Nadine caught these blues in the Seaside Park area.

Big stripers a trolling no-brainer?

Capt. Vinnie Vetere is ready to start chartering with his Katfish from Great Kills, but exploratory trips have revealed an influx of big bass into Raritan Bay which are a “no-brainer” for trolling. Vetere can be contacted at 917 693-8908

Party boats have been having a hard time getting hits from the many stripers they’ve been marking, but there were good reports of feeding schooliies in the bay before the winds got too strong.

The wind forecast kept most boaters in port today, but many will be itching to get out tomorrow with southwest winds down to 10-15 knots — though still with gusts to 25.

The west winds have been fine for surfcasters who have been picking away at mostly short stripers on clams while hoping to get into blasts of newly-arrived jumbo blues on poppers or any other lures cast to them. Bob Matthews, at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina says those blues have also been coming into both Manasquan and Shark River inlets.

Good news for tuna anglers

NOAA Fisheries is adjusting Atlantic bluefin tuna daily retention limits for recreational
fishermen. The adjusted limits go into effect on May 2, 2021, and extend through
December 31, 2021, unless modified by later action.
What is changing?
 Limit per Vessel per Day/Trip Adjusted Retention Limit per Vessel per Day/Trip
Private vessels with a Highly
Migratory Species (HMS
Angling category permit 2 school bluefin tuna (27 to <47”) &1 large school/small
medium (47 to <73”)

Charter boats with an HMS
Charter/Headboat permit fishing
recreationally 3 school & 1 large school/small medium
Headboats with an HMS
Charter/Headboat permit fishing
recreationally 6 school & 2 large school/small medium 
Who is affected
The changes apply to HMS Angling category permitted vessels and HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels when fishing recreationally. The daily retention limits are effective for all areas except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NOAA Fisheries does not allow targeted fishing for bluefin tuna. Anglers may still catch and release or tag and release bluefin tuna of all sizes, subject to the requirements of HM gale warning S catch-and-release and tag-and-release programs. All released bluefin tuna must be handled in a manner that will maximize survivability and without removing the fish from the water.
Catch reporting
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 landing or the end of each trip by:Accessing the HMS Permit Shop. Using the HMS Catch Reporting app. Calling 888-872-8862 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.).

A gale warning is up through late tonight for west gusts to 45 knots. That’s fine for surfcasters, and will knock down the swell, but boaters will look forward to Sunday with northwest 15-20 knots dropping to 10-15 in the afternoon.

Wind will impact fishing Friday & Saturday

After some days of modest winds, NY/NJ Bight will be getting blasted the next two days.

The shame of it was that so few anglers showed up at Atlantic Highlands this morning that boats couldn’t get out when the charter boat Little Hawk from that port reported bass on top and hitting lures at 7:40 a.m. in Raritan Bay. The Sea Hunter had a decent bait bite Tuesday morning, before the current died, which produced four keeper bass as well as shorts. They are canceling Friday and Saturday due to strong west winds.

Jerry Lasko said anglers fishing Manasquan Inlet yesterday got into lots of big blues. It wasn’t as good this morning, and some smaller choppers were mixed in. The early bluefish run is surprising since stocks of those fish have been low. Anglers should take advantage of this opportunity as it may not result in the summer bluefishing we used to take for granted.

The west winds will be fine for surfcasters. Small craft warnings are up through Friday morning before changing to a gale warning from Friday afternoon to late night with gusts to 40 knots.

Capt. Dave De Gennaro just got his Hi Flier in the water at Barnegat. and is ready to start chartering with a Sunday noon trip. His son, Capt. Nick, was casting topwater lures in Barnegat Bay this morning along with a friend and catching school stripers that were mostly from 18 to 24 inches, but included some from 24 to 28 inches.

Chuck Many fished eels yesterday afternoon with his Ty Man from Highlands and released seven stripers up to 33 pounds.

Blues showing up

Bluefish are showing up in both surf and boat catches despite continuing cold water temperatures in NY/NJ Bight.

Both Betty & Nicks and Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported surf catches, and the former also had a school striper surf report from yesterday evening on lures. One angler also reported two 30-inchers. Grumpy’s posted a shot of Thomas with a surf blue this morning.

Andreas Toy from Keyport got into a limit of Raritan Bay stripers this morning with bass up to 35 inches before looking for surface action with those fish, but only finding gator blues! That may be a blessing for party boats which have been struggling to get bites from legal stripers despite lots of marks. The choppers may be more willing biters. Capt. Rob Semkewyc reported another frustrating trip yesterday with his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands as the marks didn’t result into any bass larger than 27 inches.

Blackfishing closes with the end of the month; but Capt. Joe Massa found it to be very good yesterday as he and Bobby Glynn caught about 25 of legal size from about 100 off Long Branch on My Three Sons out of Morgan Marina and added a cod.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar reported a good pick of blacks on Tuesday with some limits and lots of shorts plus sea bass that had to be released.

The fine weather starts to turn as southwest winds at just 5-10 knots also produce patchy fog and a chance of showers in the morning which are also possible in the afternoon as the wind gusts to 20 knots at night.

HRFA striper contest leaders

Following are the leaders in the HRFA Fred Rung Memorial Fishing Tournament :

Current WEEK 2 LEADER BOARD(Week 2 ends 7:00 AM Saturday May 2nd)
Largest: Jerry Crean (39.67″ entered 4/25 at 9:51 AM)2nd Largest: Keith Baez (39.67″ entered 4/25 at 8:36 PM)3rd Largest: Charlie Spindelman (25.00″)4th Largest: Dirk VanEverdingen (25.00″)5th Largest: Carl Hartmann (25.00″)

Largest from Shore: Dirk VanEverdingen (25.00″)Largest Tagged: Jerry Crean (39.67″)Most Tagged: Charlie Spindelman (14)2nd Most Tagged: Chris Palmer (13)

The great fishing weather continues with the morning forecast of 5-10 knots south winds.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar still hasn’t found ocean stripers yet, but did well with blackfish this morning as there were three limits and lots of shorts plus a few ling, cod and mackerel.

Capt. Ron Santee reports conditions weren’t favorable this morning as he only picked at small stripers with wind against current in Raritan Bay with his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands.

Jim Hutchinson Sr. reports for the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Assn. as follows:

The captains of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association are noticing a slow increase in water temperatures which has them looking eagerly ahead to an increase in fishing action. Some have already found some of that action. 

Right now, striped bass and bluefish seasons are wide open. The tog action has been good, but that season will close on May 1 until August 1. Black sea bass opens on May 15, and summer flounder become legal prey on May 22.

Captain Carl Sheppard has already had some groups out on the Star Fish working some inshore structure for bottom action. Although keepers have been a little hard to come by, black sea bass and tog have been keeping the rods bent. The top fish so far has been a beauty of a tog measuring out to 18.5-inches.

Captain Gary Dugan of the Irish Jig has been catching striped bass in Great Bay and tog on the reefs. One recent trip resulted in two keeper tog to 21-inches.

Captain Brett Taylor of Reel Reaction Sport fishing had Max Cavallaro and friends on a bay and inlet trip. They picked a few tog on a jetty with one keeper while fishing with fly rods. On another trip he had I had Howie Tanenbaum with his 5-year-old son Penn on their 1st ever charter. Fishing in shallow water for bass both anglers managed to boat bass. A highlight of the trip was a sighting of a small seal.

Captain John Lewis has been busy setting up his spring schedule of boat deliveries. He is one of the top captains around for ferrying boats back and forth from winter harbors in the south. He says he has some open dates open for a couple more deliveries.

The Junior Mate classes this year will be starting on Thursday June 24 at 7:00 PM. The 2021 schedule has been posted on the Association website at

Classes will be held at the Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna complete with social distancing and all activities outside under an overhang. This year will feature a new variety of classes designed to be relevant to teenagers.

Additional information at .

The Tackle Box in Hazlet sent this photo of s big pre-spawning striper before a Raritan Bay release from his kayack by Mike Nolan Sr. of Holmdel.

Weather shaping up for boaters

The northwest wind seems to have kept most boaters ashore today, but light winds and modest seas should dominate until Thursday night. West winds at just 5-10 knots are forecast for Tuesday before going southwest in the afternoon.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar reported a picky bottom bite on Sunday though there were some blackfish limits and many shorts. The Golden Eagle from that port will be sailing daily this week while looking for the first ocean stripers and bottom fishing if they don’t bite.

The Jamaica from Brielle is already looking ahead to the sea bass season and taking reservations for Sea Bass Marathons that still have openings on May 16 from 6-4, and May 17 from 7:30 to 3:30. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations.

Striped bass fishing in Raritan Bay has been tough for some, but Chuck Many’s crews on Ty Man have been releasing big bass regularly.