Big stripers invade N.J.

Many anglers seeking sea bass and bluefish were surprised to find themselves wrestling with jumbo stripers off the northern N.J. Shore today.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar got into bonito and chub mackerel in the morning, but crushed big bass in the afternoon. About 15 lines were snapped and rods shattered as all the bass were “huge” — 25 pounds and way up.

Tank Matraxia sailed in Tagged Fish from Highlands. He caught a bass in the 30’s  as the boat limit was taken — leaving no room for the biggest of all which was hooked by the mate while they were sea bass fishing nearby. That provided the opportunity for Tank to put an ALS tag in a 54-incher that weighed 52 pounds on the boat’s Boga Grip before being released. Tank also noted that some very small weakfish were caught while bottom fishing.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar also got into the bass , and will run a special open trip for them tomorrow at 5:30 a.m.

Though small craft warnings go up in the morning, the winds start at only 10-15 knots southeast before increasing to 15-20 in the afternoon as a gale warning will be posted for Thursday.

Some stripers are now showing in the surf, though they are quite a bit smaller. Vinny D’Anton started at Manasquan this morning without success, but kept moving north  and ended up releasing six bass from 23 inches up to a 27-incher on the Tsunami Eel. Linda had used that lure to catch a bass at Manasquan yesterday, but didn’t score this morning.

It was a different story at Lavallette, where John Mazzeo had caught bass up to a 28-incher yesterday. This morning all he saw were beach buggies and fishermen — but never got a hit.

Jerry Lasko got word of bait schools moving down the northern Ocean County beaches — but with no fish on them.

Joe Melillo, at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant said he lost a good-sized blue while casting metal in the canal yesterday. He noted that the canal is loaded with blowfish, and blackfishing is good.

Nick Honachefsky provided additional info about the weekend Beach Brawl. as follows:

“The striper category was won by Bob Misak, It was a random draw out of the 21 bass photos. Chris Bodner had high hook with 5 bass, and he also split the mystery fish pool with Liam Rea who released a strange spotted hake overnight. Most of the bass were reportedly caught at IBSP, though a few were in Lavallette and Mantoloking on a variety of cut mullet, metal jigs, and rubber baits. A 50/50 was held for a cash donation to St. Gregory’s Pantry to help the homeless and hungry. The after party at Playa Bowls and Crab’s Claw was legendary. We look forward to putting on the 2nd annual next year!”

Tomorrow’s blog may be late as I’ll be in Baltimore for the ASMFC Striped Bass Advisory Panel meeting to discuss next year’s regulations.

Tog won top prizes in Beach Brawl

Blackfish were the big winners in the first Barrier Island Beach Brawl surf fishing contest held over the weekend. Nick Honachefsky’s release follows:

“The 1st Annual Barrier Island Beach Brawl brought fun, fishing and camaraderie to all anglers. Having to battle remnants of the Nor’Easter,  185 anglers managed to release 21 striped bass while tallying up three blackfish that took all the top prizes. First place went to Jesse Avagnado with a 2.68 pound blackfish. Second was earned by Dom Mancuso and his 2.44 pound blackfish, just eeking out Elihu Torres who won third place with a 2.42 pound tog. Unbelievably, no bluefish were checked in during the tournament. Tournament Director Nick Honachefsky expresses many thanks to all sponsors and anglers participating in the tournament and looks forward to the 2nd annual next year! ”

The northeast storm may have finally started moving some migratory stripers to the west. Capt. Chris De Stefano had word of big bass being trolled off Fire Island, and will be out there tomorrow morning on Frank Criscola’s Crisdel from Brielle Yacht Club to check it out.

Jerry Lasko fished the northern Ocean County surf this morning to catch four school stripers on Kettle Creek paddletails  — and a couple of them were carrying sea lice. That sign of migratory bass wasn’t the only noteworthy event as Maren Toleno couldn’t hook up after many trips of almost invariably outfishing Jerry.

Allen Riley fished Sandy Hook under good conditions  this morning and found no fish, no birds and no bait. However, he did get a report from his usual partner, John Mazzeo, who is staying at Lavallette and did nothing over the weekend, but caught bass of 24 and 28 inches today on a Crippled Herring while losing a couple of others in the rough wash.

I fished the Manasquan surf and didn’t raise a thing to my popper, but talked to an angler who had caught a bass on metal.

Bob Matthews reports from Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina that school stripers are hitting in the surf primarily at dawn and dusk. Blackfishing was hot in the inlet yesterday. Sea bass fishing is recovering from the swell, and the Ocean Explorer had sea bass up to 5 1/4 pounds on Sunday.

The Ocean Explorer notes that the sea bass are feeding on sand eels — and the best bet is jigging with a sand eel teaser rigged above the jig.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar got into a pick of blues. sea bass and porgies early today before heading offshore for bigger bass and porgies. They finished up inshore and were surprised to see “monster” tuna splashing around the boat. They weren’t successful at trying to catch them , but added chub mackerel.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant reported a good mix of bonito, little tunny and small blues plus a few sea bass and porgies,

At Atlantic Highlands, the Fishermen had a good mixed bag Sunday with blackfish up to a 6-pounder plus porgies, sea bass and blowfish.

The Sea Hunter started striped bass fishing today, with the emphasis on eeling which requires tackle that can handle sinkers up to 12 ounces.

Joe Blaze joined a friend to run north from Manasquan Inlet. They came across schools of adult bunkers with nothing under them. Trolling small lures for little tunny didn’t produce, but they marked fish on bottom at Sandy Hook Reef and jigged some 9-10-inch weakfish,

The forecast is for north winds at 5-10 knots with gusts to 20 in the morning before going west in the afternoon,

Below is a photo of Joe Massa with the 20-inch tog that topped our Sunday catch on his My Three Sons out of Morgan Marina — as described in yesterday’s blog. 


Massa 20-inch tog.jpg

Columbus Day looking good

After last week’s northeaster, we deserve a nice day — and the Columbus Day holiday should be just that in the morning.

The forecast is for north winds at 5-10 knots before a switch to southwest gusts to 20 in the afternoon.

That won’t do General category giant tuna fishermen any good as NOAA Fisheries has closed that season as of 11:30 tonight. That category will reopen on Dec. 1 with a one giant bluefin limit.

Sea bass fishing wasn’t great after a week of big swells, but the Big Mohawk from Belmar reported some limits today. Some porgies were also caught. They will sail a limited trip at 6 a.m, but have a few spots for those without reservations if they show up by 5 a.m.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported blues didn’t bite well today, but that fishing should improve as the swell continues to drop. Some blues and porgies were jigged, and an 11-pound blue took the pool.

I’ll have results of the Barrier Island Beach Brawl in tomorrow’ blog.

I joined Capt. Joe Massa today on his My Three Sons from Morgan Marina. Joe got all the bunkers we needed with one castnet throw, but we didn’t see anything going on in N.Y. Harbor, and didn’t read any stripers. As a result, Joe ran south to Shrewsbury for blackfish. His first shallow water spot didn’t produce a bite, and I was afraid the swell had turned them off. Yet, a short move to a 26-foot drop resulted in a steady bite. We ended up catching about 50 tog. Most were 13-14 inches, but about a third were 15 inches or better up to a 20-incher for Joe. The present limit is just one a man, but prospects for the fall season are looking good.

We were using one-handed spinning rod which provided great sport as they hit green crabs on light jigs. The only variety was a 4-inch sea bass that I hooked on the crab-baited jig. Anyone can hook a fish with a big mouth, but it takes skill to hook one with a small mouth!


A few surf stripers released as Beach Brawl begins

Despite very poor surf conditions, the Barrier Island Beach Brawl got started today as some stripers were released after a photo measurement. Nick Honachefsky provided a photo of the leaderboard so far. There are no lengths, but only the time of release. There will be much better conditions as the contest concludes on Sunday.

The forecast is for north winds at just 5-10 knots before becoming west in the afternoon. Seas will drop to 3-5 feet, mostly from an east swell.  Boaters should be aware of rough inlets on the outgoing tide.

I’m sure all party and charter boats will sail on Sunday, but there were no reports today. The Golden Eagle from Belmar has cancelled tonight’s 7:30 p.m. bluefish trip.

Beach Brawl leaderboard


Better weather coming — I hope!

It finally appears that the offshore storm is moving off, and will be followed by a week of good fishing weather.

The forecast still includes a gale warning through tonight., but only 15-20-knot north winds in the morning which should diminish to northwest 5-10 in the afternoon. Light northwest winds Sunday will usher in a week of light west winds.

Unfortunately, that big swell isn’t going to go away for a while, and its effect on bottom fishing may be a problem for a couple of days. The surf is very dirty now, and it may take a couple of tide changes to put it back in fishable shape. Bob Correll reported that Bay Head had surf coming over the beach to the stairs this morning.

Good luck to anglers fishing the Barrier Island Beach Brawl starting in the morning after a delay due to the gale forecast. Fortunately there are plenty of protected waters to fish, and you never know when stripers may attack a school of mullet even in a rough and discolored surf.

Anglers should check with skippers before coming down. At Belmar, the Big Mohawk has cancelled through Saturday, but the Golden Eagle will sail for blues at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, and again at 7:30 p.m. for night blues.

I did get a boat report from yesterday as Joe Blaze fished Manasquan River with his Boston Whaler and fly rodded two 3-4-pound blues. He noted that there were spearing and peanut bunkers in the river.

Vinny D’Anton tried Shark River this afternoon, but found that the wind held the water in the river and delayed the change of tide. He couldn’t wade very far, and had no hits.

It was pleasant again in Point Pleasant Canal, where I gave casting a brief try during the end of the incoming. I only saw one small blue caught before switching to blackfishing on the slack. That wasn’t as good as yesterday, though I released a couple of shorts. One rocked me out twice before coming out when I slacked the line. Castaways Tackle had been out of green crabs, but got a shipment later in the morning. Joe Melillo noted that the Spring Lake Live Liners are still open for new members. That’s a great opportunity for surfcasters to learn from some of the best anglers on the Shore — and to get in the “loop” with fishing info. Call Joe at Castaways (732 899-1363) or talk to Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina.

At Seaside Park, John Bushell Jr. noted that his father passed away on the beach at IBSP 14 years ago yesterday. It seemed like just yesterday that I was fishing with that great angler as we battled big blues in the surf shortly after I started doing my column in The Star-Ledger.

Grumpy’s Tackle will be running an ODM casting demo from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow.

Beach Brawl delayed

The continuing northeaster has pretty much wiped out the opening of the N.J. sea bass season — and now resulted in the delay of this weekend’s Barrier Island Beach Brawl .

Nick Honachefsky said the storm seems to be peaking on Friday, so the contest is being moved to Oct. 12 and 13. Fishing will start at 5 a.m.  Saturday and end at 4 p.m. Sunday — with awards being presented at 5 p.m.  Any questions can be directed to

Gale warnings are posted through Friday afternoon. The forecast is for north winds at 25-30 knots with gusts to 45 and seas of 8-13 feet, plus likely rain. Saturday begins with north winds of 15-20 knots that diminish to 10-15 in the afternoon. Sunday looks fine with a switch to west at 5-10 knots and seas down to 3-5 feet. However, the surf may be dirty, and bottom fishing could be affected by the big swells we’ve been experiencing.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar has cancelled all trips through Saturday, but will be sailing Sunday.

The weather was fine for me this morning as I fished in Point Pleasant Canal with green crabs from nearby Castaways Tackle. Blackfish cooperated during the brief slack tide as I released five from 11 inches up to a legal 15-incher that were good sport on my light spinning tackle.

Last call for Beach Brawl at 9 p.m.

The Barrier Island Beach Brawl shore fishing tournament has issued a last call for 9 p.m. to sign up for the weekend contest. Visit Nick Honachefsky  has gathered up so many prizes that entrants may exceed their $40 entry in door prizes without even catching a fish.

This is a most unusual blowout week, but it may improve just in time for the contest. The northeast winds may diminish by Saturday, and Sunday looks good with northwest clearing winds.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar had already cancelled the special limited sea bass trips through today, and has added those scheduled for Thursday and Friday — while holding off a decision on Saturday. Thursday’s forecast is for north winds at 25-30 knots with gusts to 45 plus likely rain.

The Jamaica from Brielle got in one of their limited bonito and little tunny trips on Monday, and here was action from start to finish on both jigs and bait. It was about 50-50 between the two species plus a few blues and several Spanish and king mackerel. Alan Deutsch of Hamilton took the pool with a 12-pound little tunny.  They’ll be scheduling more of these trips, but the weather this week is too bad for even the Big Jamaica.

I gave it a very short try in Shark River this morning, but the river was exceptionally  high and I only made a few casts with a jig before retreating.

Gale watch going up tomorrow

Fishing is going to be a challenge this week as there are small craft warnings up through Friday, and a gale watch will be posted for tomorrow.

Northeast winds at 20-25 knots with gusts to 35 are forecast for Wednesday along with showers and 7-10-foot seas.

It wasn’t too bad this morning as I hid from the wind a bit in Shark River to release five bluefish in  the 3-4-pound class on poppers. Vinnie D’Anton had a friend up from Sarasota , Florida who enjoyed a similar pick of small blues on Chug Bugs later in the morning. Bob Frech, originally from Michigan, was also able to hook the 8 1/2-pound chopper pictured from among the smaller blues. Vinny also took him to the beach, but they couldn’t hook up in the rough surf.

Bob Frech blue

Capt. Vinny Vetere was able to take advantage of the relatively calm early morning, and put his party on Katfish from Great Kills into 12 stripers on live bunters, They kept their limit up to 30 pounds, and were back by 10:30. Vetere noted that the water temperature had dropped to 65 degrees.

This was the opening day of the sea bass season in N.J. , but sea conditions certainly weren’t favorable. The Big Mohawk from Belmar cancelled their special limited trips for today and tomorrow, and will reschedule them as soon as possible.

Bob Correll of Bay Head had much better conditions in Southport, North Carolina as he fished with a friend to catch his first red drum plus a flounder, croakers and spot. His redfish was abut 17 inches, but he had a shot at a much bigger one chasing bait in shoreline weeds that ignored his lure.

The deadline for entering Nick Honachefsky’s Barrier Island Beach Brawl shore fishing tournament this weekend is upon us. To enter the $40 contest which offers thousands of dollars in prizes visit — or sign up at such shops as Fisherman’s Supply, Gabriel Tackle and Charlie’s.



You still have to go south for big red drum

Chuck Many, of Ty Man from Highlands went all the way to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina recently in order to catch and release trophy red drum. Yet, a hundred years ago he could have done he same thing much closer to home as the channel bass capitol of the world was the central New Jersey coast.

red drum 3.jpg


This was prime time for catching huge red drum (then known as channel bass)  in the Barnegat area and at other inlets in the area. The drum were all large, and the first couple of world records were N.J. fish. Climate change seems to have changed all that, since big reds are only available now from Virginia south — which is contrary to the theory.

According to Climate Change theory, we’ve been in a very long term warming phase. NOAA Fisheries has advised anglers in the north to learn how to catch red drum that should be pushing into warmer northern waters. The only problem is that NOAA forgot to tell the fish about that.

A couple of years ago I caught puppy drum two days in a row in Point Pleasant Canal, and there were few other small ones reported. However, there have been no northern N.J. reports since then. There’s been no lack of anglers fishing the surf where trophy channel bass were so abundant as to be a nuisance to those seeking kingfish and weakfish with tackle too light to hold bull reds. Along with the cold water seals that have become common in southerly waters in recent years, they remain a challenge to Climate Change theory that I’ve never heard a scientist explain.

The N.J. sea bass season reopens tomorrow. Through the rest of the month the size limit of 12 1/2 inches holds with the bag up to 10.

Some party boats have scheduled special limited trips with extended hours, but there’s a possible problem with weather. After blowing hard from the south today, there’s a big shift to northeast at 15-20 knots with gusts to 25 tomorrow. It gets worse the next day with gusts to 30 and a chance of rain. The big party boats may fish through that, but be sure to check with them before heading down.

Protected waters fishing remains possible through a week of northeast winds. Bob Matthews reports from Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina that some anglers have tried to beat the season by fishing from the docks there for winter flounder. The waters are still too warm, but they have caught a few kingfish and blowfish on worms and clams.

The surf was rough in this morning’s southwest wind, but I was able to fish at Manasquan. The only hit came from a 17-inch bluefish that engulfed a Chug Bug. That’s when I found that I’d forgotten to take my pliers. Fortunately, Linda, a regular there and a blog follower, was fishing nearby and offered her pliers  for what turned out to be an operation on that greedy chopper.

Vinny D’Anton hasn’t been doing much in Shark River, but got into a pick of small blues on his Chug Bug.


Tough weather week coming up

Today was no bargain, but the rest of the week looks much worse for most fishing.

The forecast for Monday is south winds at 15 knots with gusts to 25 plus showers in the afternoon. Small craft warnings are up into Tuesday — and then it gets worse with gusty northeast winds through the week.

Capt. Ron Santee said it was rough for anglers on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands, and unlike Saturday it didn’t get any better when the tide turned. Porgy fishing was poor, and he doesn’t expect to be able to get out again for days to come.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar saw bluefish breaking today, but very few would hit jigs. Some porgies and a little tunny were caught along with sea bass that aren’t legal until Oct. 8.

Surf conditions weren’t good this morning, but I tried my local Monmouth County beach  anyway. I raised a very small blue that swatted a Chug Bug, and later got a better hit in the white water that was a 23 1/2-inch striper. That was it, and I was satisfied with one bass under the circumstances.