Mid-range school tuna fishing today was more a matter of avoiding sharks than of finding bluefins willing to bite.

It was a beautiful day at sea after a 90-mile run offshore with Capt. Derik Bielitz and mate Jimmy on his 31 Contender Fisher Price from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands. It turned out to be a day of negative firsts in my northern fishing career as I watched big sharks strike poppers and witnessed carnage by them on hooked tuna that I only previously saw in tropical areas.

Shortly after first light we saw lots of dolphins jumping along with a good showing of big whales. At our first stop, Lou Grazioso jigged an under bluefin, and I lost one after a few secnds, while Chuck Many had a blast on his popper that turned out to be a big dusky or brown shark after a tough fight on spinning tackle. Many kept raising sharks to the popper and broke off another before we went on the troll.

It took some trolling through breezing schools of bluefins before five rods went off. Yet, only one under was boated out of all that as the other tuna plus the sidetracker spreader bars were lost to sharks. After getting everything replaced there was a blast of four tuna with only one boated as sharks decimated the lures. We then switched to casting again, and Chuck managed to hook a bluefin of about 40 inches that was released since we had the charter boat limit of three under bluefins. Chuck also hooked a much bigger tuna that got cut off, and Lou lost his popper to a huge hammerhead shark after a short battle.

The sea basssumason opened today, and the Golden Eagle from Belmar reported a boat limit of them at two per angler at a 12 1/2-inch minimum. They started chasing small blues which were skittish. The variety included the first mention of Spanish mackerel as well as bonito, chub mackerel, ling and fluke.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant reported slow bluefishing, but added sea bass, ling and chub mackerel.

The calm weather is predicted to continue tomorrow with northwest winds at 5 knots switching to southwest in the afternoon.

Hoping for Spanish mackerel

Spanish mackerel are a tropical species which often put in a brief appearance in NY/NJ Bight late in the summer when our waters are at their warmest. While boaters troll quite a few some summers, they are a real challenge to catch from the surf when they make a rare visit. Getting a small netal and sparse teaser to them at just the right time and at high speed isn’t easy to do.

I missed out on a decent showing during the summer of 2018, but never expected to get another shot at them last June — two months earlier than expected. I could hardly believe that the typical arching leaps of Spanish mackerel were being spotted. Yet on June 29 last year I caught two in the Bay Head surf, along with eight small blues, to finally broke the ice with them in the N.J. surf at an unprecedented time of year. Quite a few Spanish were caught around that time before it became a pick into early fall.

I wouldn’t bet that it will happen again, but look for those distinctive leaps and take advantage of a rare opportunity if it occurs.

Both the Fishermen and the Sea Hunter reported picky fluke fishing out of Atlantic Highlands today, but with more keepers in the mix. The Sea Hunter won’t be sailing tomorrow due to a lack of customers expected.

The Jamaica from Brielle is sticking with ling fishing before switching to the normal bluefishing. In addition to the daily 7:30 a.m. trip, they have 7:30 p,m. Friday and Saturday ling trips — and a Sunday afternoon sailing from 4:30 to 8:30. Lyle Murdock from Atlanta won yesterday’s pool with a 15-inch winter flounder and added a cooler of ling.

Allen Riley made his first surf trip in some time, and tried a bit south of Sandy Hook yesterday morning. Using only lures, he managed to release five short fluke though there was no sign of bait. Mike the Tin Man tried the Sea Bright surf that morning and released four small fluke on his lures plus Gulp — before being surprised by a 20-inch striper which he was unhooking in the wash when a swell inundated him.

The Wednesday forecast is for south winds at 5 knots, with a chance of showers and thunder storms in the afternoon.

Summer stripers cooperate in N.Y. Harbor

The spring run of stripers in the N.Y. Harbor area has long been over, but some bass can be caught all summer if you have patience and knowledge — which is what Chuck Many has plenty of. I had missed all the early fishing due to the pandemic, but made up for some of that when I joined Chuck on his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands at 4:30 a.m. That timing turned out t be critical as the first stop provided a few marks before the anchor was dropped. Chunking only attracted smooth dogfish at first, but bass were there also. We had to release 15 dogfish in order to release four hefty summer bass from 16 to 28 pounds — and later added a 34-incher on a live bunker on the surface,

All of those bass were bright stripers without a mark on them, and none needed any help to shoot away when released. Surprisingly, the usually abundant small stripers in the Hudson and East rivers showed no respect for Chuck’s $90 a flat sandworms and we caught only two small fluke and a 14 3/4-inch porgy with them.

Bob Correll reported a successful school tuna trip on Mike Heaney’s new Cabo 42 from Clarks Landing in Point Pleasant as the crew trolled 15 “unders” near the Texas Tower. Two much larger bluefins were lost as one broke 80-pound line after a long battle, while another was eaten by a big shark near the boat.

Also at Clarks, the Canyon Runner reported continued great canyon trolling with catches such as seven bigeyes, 13 yellowfins and a big blue marlin for the Mike Davie party. The Peter Wilcox party had an 400-pound class giant tuna. One open boat seat has opened up for July 8-9. Call 732 272-4445.

Frank Criscola is back from Florida with his Crisdel out of Brielle Yacht Club. Capt. Chris De Stefano was part of the crew this week when they trolled the Carteret for six yellowfins and a blue marlin before releasing a 50-70-pound daytime swordfish — the first reported to this blog so far.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar picked away at small blues with some limit catches over the weekend, and had a few fat bonito mixed in. Today they started inshore for bigger blues , but had a hard time hooking them. There were shots of the smaller blues offshore though they didn’t last long.

Phil Fischer looked for a big fluke on the weekend out of Highlands, but was instead surprised by a 25-pound black drum on a strip of squid. A move out to Scotland resulted in good ling fishing — and he just made it back as the rain hit.

Computer Problems

The captain’s computer is on the fritz. He will hopefully be back with you all tomorrow. Until then, good luck figuring out the finny creatures of the sea with pea sized brains!

The Captain’s Daughter

Small blues cooperate again

Miss Belmar Princess reported having to work harder for them, but found 2-4-pound blues on top and worked hard to fool them with Ava 27 jigs as most fares had their five bluefish limits.

Capt. Ron Santee had to move around to scratch out fluke on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands, but Mike Lee proved that working hard can produce even when the bite isn’t on as he jigged all day to bag his limit. The pool fluke was 4 pounds.

Capt. Freddy Gamboa had another fine offshore trip with his Andrea’s Toy yesterday as he bent the rods quickly with bluefin tuna up to 55 inches, and then switched to tilefish as his party boxed two dozen ranging up to a 20-pounder.

The howling winds this afternoon should diminish overnight to southwest at 5-10 knots by morning. Once again there’s a chance of showers and thunder storms in the afternoon,

Raritan Bay doormat

The first doormat fluke reported to me from N.J. was caught today by Joe Jones of Allentown, Pa. in Raritan Bay, and it had plenty of room to spare at 12 pounds, 13 ounces. According to Kevin Kuriawa, Capt. Craig Kuminski was drifting in Raritan Bay with Vitamin Sea from Keyport when the slim 32-incher hit a jig tipped with Gulp that fell out of its mouth when it hit the deck in a striper net. Ironically, the same angler caught an 8-pounder when he chartered the boat last week,

Capt. Ron Santee said fluking was tough Thursday on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands when no wind resulted in little drift. Yet, Joe Ciervo of Middletown boated fluke of 5 1/2 and 4 pounds,

The best bet for the weekend may be the ocean fishing for small bluefish. Despite the poor shape of bluefish stocks, there’s been pretty consistent jigging action for 1-4-pounders which may have a few 5 to 6 pounders among them. Party boat anglers can keep five blues, and the action on jigs and teasers usually results in boat limits plus many releases. Bring reasonably light spinning tackle for the best results and most sport.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported having to go further and make lots of short moves in order to do well today with blues up to 5 pounds.

Dan Sheehan has been into 2-4-pound blues at Sea Bright, but notes it’s been ” Lots of casts for too few bites” in shallow morning waters.

Jim Hutchinson Sr. reports for the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association that although the black sea bass season has closed for a period in New Jersey, there are plenty of other species to keep anglers happy. Fluke are plentiful in the bay waters and will be massing by the inlets in a matter of weeks to migrate into the ocean.

Captain Ray Lopez and mate Kieran Chenoweth-Hafner got into some bluefin tuna on a recent trip on the “Miss Liane.” They had Keith and his crew on an inshore bluefin trip. The group caught 8 bluefin to 40-inches. Kieran noted it was a beautiful day with wildlife around the boat.

There have been good bluefin trolling reports from the mid-range grounds, and the canyons have been hot for bigeyes and yellowfins.

The Mimi VI from Point Pleasant will be running open for bottom fishing on July 1 and 2. The fare is $90 and they sail at 6:30 a.m. Call 732 370-8010 for reservations.

Saturday’s forecast is for southwest winds at just 10 knots, but increasing to 15-20 plus gusts to 25 knots — and the possibility of showers and thunder storms.

Bigger blues show in ocean

Bluefish in the 6-8-pound class were reported among the abundant 2-5-pounders today by the Golden Eagle out of Belmar. Though a slow drift made it harder to fool them, there were many five-fish limits.

Capt. Dave Riback of the Queen Mary from Point Pl easant says some of his trips have been providing “old time” bluefish jigging with enough 5-pounders among them to provide several meals. He also saw his first bonito last week as they were jigging blues, but knows there were lots more as a gillnetter in the area caught 700 pounds.

The Jamaica from Brielle has switched to ling fishing which has been good. Frank Amaya of Mays Landing had a 24-inch cod to win yesterday’s pool, and a 23-incher won today for Greg Stewart from Sharon Hill, Virginia. Anglers can now board without reservations and pay on the boat.

Capt. Ron Santee Jr. had John Uhl of Plugbaits aboard his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands yesterday as samples of the Gulp-like bait were passed out and produced good numbers of shoert and keeper fluke up to a 4-pound pool winner. The Tackle Box in Hazlet is handling that new product. Santee noted that he’s fishing in the ocean where medium action rods are required to handle 6-8-ounce sinkers.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reports bait has been the best bet in the surf. A 15-pound striper was weighed in today, and there was word of two bass over the 38-inch maximum being released. They also noted that rays have been spotted — so don’t walk away from rods being fished out of sand spikes!

Tomorrow’s forecast is for southwest winds at 5-10 knots before going south at 10-15 in the afternoon.

Bigeyes blast

Multiple canyon trolling catches of bigeye tuna have been almost common lately, but if recent seasoms are any guide they will become scarce come big money tournament time. Reports from the Canyon Runner out of Point Pleasant follow.:

Capt. Deane Lambros & Capt. Mike Zajac had a very busy past week getting in 4 overnighters with highlights on each trip. From dozens of big-eyes, to multiple 20 yellowfin/Big-eye trips, to perhaps the best hour of fishing in a decade.
Specific highlights included the Peter Wilcox charter with 3 nice big-eyes and 17 fat yellowfin, the Frank Tedesco charter with our biggest big-eye this year well over 200 pounds, the Jason Hutt family with 4 more big-eyes and a hold full of yellowfin and finally the Mike Davie charter just loading up with perhaps the best one hour of fishing in a decade – 3 passes over the edge in the first hour in the canyon and they had 7 big-eyes and 3 yellowfin – they finished up with 7 big-eyes, 13 big yellowfin and a big blue marlin.
But what’s really got us excited is when we look at our Canyon Runner Coaching and Fishing Report Member reports plus Deane’s and Mark DeCabia’s – they’ve accounted already for over 100 big-eyes this year.
And the fishing isn’t just in one spot – on one day a few days back between the Member’s and Mark and Deane we had big-eyes caught in Block, Dip, Babylon, Jones, Hendrickson, Spencer, Wilmington, Baltimore and Poormans Canyons. Just all out epic fishing!!!

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had a boat limit of 2-5-pound bluefish this morning and released many more on jigs. A few fluke were caught and sea bass released.

The report in last night’s blog about the Queen Mary’s bluefish and sea bass catches were actually from Monday’s fishing.

The first day of daily 6 a.m. fluke fishing on the Big Mohawk from Belmar produced some limits as those fishing with spinning tackle and Gulp badly outfished the bait draggers.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for west winds at 5 knots — shifting to the south in the afternoon.

Better fluking to north

Though today’s fluke fishing on the Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands wasn’t anything like the big fluke Bonanza that Dave Lilly had yesterday, it was a big improvement in party boat action during a season when three fish limits have been unusual.

Capt. Ron Santee reported a good bite of keepers and shorts that resulted in three limits being bagged and a 3 1/2-pound pool fluke.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant had a good bite of sea bass and bluefish early , but Capt. Dave Riback said “The rest of the day stunk”.

The Canyon Runner from Point Pleasant will be running a free canyon overnighter for the Military and First Responders from June 29-30. Those who qualify should call 732 272-4445 right away.

I’ll have more about the great tuna action the Canyon Runner has had in tomorrows blog, but I also talked to another angler who was frustrated yesterday on a day trip.

There were more whales than he’s ever seen in Lindenkohl Canyon, and lots of bait. Yet, they couldn’t troll a thing. After hearing there had been an early bite in Spencer Canyon, they moved there only to see the same signs and no hits while only one boat in the fleet was hooking up.

Striped bass from the surf big enough to weigh have been rare so far, but Betty and Nick’s in Seaside Park weighed a 23-pounder caught on clam this morning right from the local surf.

I tried casting a plug in the Bay Head surf after dawn, but there was so little water that it was a waste of time. Despite how bad Point Pleasant Canal has been, I went there and found no change though one small striper hit my Z Man paddeltail to save the day.

The morning forecast is for south winds at 10-15 knots with a possibility of showers and thunder storms.

Lilly nails big fluke offshore

Ocean fluking has been off to a very slow start due to cold bottom waters, but fluke pro Dave Lilly proved today that large fluke are there if you hit the right spots at the right time.

Lilly returned to Highlands with a limit that recorded 6.5, 7.1 and 8.2 pounds on the Boga Grip. He also released other keepers plus sea bass and the first sun dials he’s seen this year. Dave’s spot provided a one hour bite until the wind killed the drift.

Tank Matraxia made his first trip of the season a good one as he and “Typhoon” Emil” limited on sea bass during the last day of the N.J. season. Tank also made me jealous by jigging the first sea robin as they fished with Capt. Fletcher Chayes on Two Rivers Charters from Highlands. A small blue was also caught at the Rattlesnake.

Tank recently got an interesting ALS tag return of a striper he tagged three years ago at the Statue of Liberty when it was 26 1/2 inches to the fork of the tail before being caught in Catskill Creek this spring at 35 3/4 inches by a 9-year-old kid who had the thrill of his life.

There wasn’t much weed this morning in Point Pleasant Canal on the outgoing tide, but that didn’t help the fishing as only one small blue was caught. I never had a touch.

Tomorrow looks good again with south winds at 5-10 knots before increasing to 10-15 in the afternoon with gusts to 20.