Fluke season ended too soon

Though the fluke season in N.J. started slowly during the peak of the pandemic, it ended on a high note — but much too soon

Quite a few impressive fluke were caught in the ocean right up to the last day it was possible to fish there. Rich Reed of Stillwater boated the 9-pound, 1-ounce fluke seen below on the Elaine B. II from Highlands on Thursday.

Capt. Ron Santee Jr. of the Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands was generally pleased with the fluke season, but is looking forward to starting daily porgy fishing on Tuesday.

Bob Matthews of Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina was also happy with the fluke season. He noted that there was a good bite of kingfish and blowfish today in Shark River Inlet, along with blackfish for those using green crabs.

Stripers are becoming more active in the surf, and there are both snappers and small blues in Shark River.

I had urged the ASMFC and Mid-Atlantic Council to loosen fluke regs early in the season as it seemed like a sure thing that the quota wouldn’t be filled due to the pandemic. However, they didn’t even extend the season.

The small craft warning has been extended to Tuesday afternoon. Tomorrow’s forecast is for more northeast at 15-20 knots and 6-9-foot seas.

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Small craft warnings through Monday afterno

If you want even more rough seas, the forecast has just what you’re looking for with northeast winds at 15-20 knots on Sunday along with big swells from offshore storms. The small small craft warning has been extended to Monday afternoon, with seas running 4 to 7 feet.

Vinny D’Anton tried to get away from the surf conditions by casting in Shark River where blues were abundant yesterday afternoon, but nothing was caught today on the same tide.

I came across a message from Greg Tirpak that he sent Wednesday after plugging a 29-inch striper and three blues from 5-7-pounds at Mantoloking that \t morning. Hopefully, we’ll see surf fishing like that once the wind turns to the west.

NJ Fluke season fades away in northeaster

The fluke season in N.J. is going out tomorrow on a sour note for most as the northeast wind will probably prevent fishing in the ocean where most of the larger fluke are getting ready to head for offshore spawning and wintering grounds.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for north winds at 15-20 knots before shifting to northeast at 10-15 in the afternoon — but increasing to 15-20 with gusts to 25 on Sunday. Small craft warnings are up until at least late Saturday night.

The surf was barely fishable early this morning, but Vinny D’Anton managed one school striper on his Chug Bug. It was back to protected river fishing this afternoon for 3-4-pound blues on poppers, though Vinny found a 25-inch bass among them.

Tony Maja –blowfish king

Tony Arcabascio is best known for his Tony Maja products that are mostly related to striped bass fishing. However, his favorite eating fish is the northern puffer — better known as blowfish.

Tony has become a serious blowfish angler in Barnegat Bay, and doesn’t spare any cost in order to catch them. However, today he had to overcome the odds in order to score after I joined John De Bona of The Fisherman magazine to join Tony on his Sea Vee. When we arrived at the mid-bay 7-foot depths, John dropped the anchor, and Tony deployed the chum pots. That was when John realized that he’d left the fresh clams he’d cut into small pieces in his fridge!

It’s not easy to find surf clams for bait in Barnegat Bay, but after a number of calls Tony located a marina that had a couple of bags of frozen clams. Not ideal, but a trip saver. We lost a lot of time, but there was a good bite after we anchored again. Within a few hours 40 large blowfish were boated with over twice that in small ones released. We also had a half-dozen kingfish up to 12 inches and released a few tiny sea bass. That catch was far below what Tony is used to, but as I struggled to clean them for the first time in decades, I was glad there weren’t any more to deal with.

Striped bass have been on schools of mullet along Monmouth County beaches this week. Vinny D’Anton found the right spot this morning and released seven on his Chug Bug — including a 29-incher.Though a swell persists, surf conditions were good today. Unfortunately, we have stretch of northeast winds to screw it up.

. The morning forecast is for 15 to 20 knots with gusts to 30.

Offshore fishing hot when you can get there

Charter skippers have been delighted so far with an offshore fishery that’s been like the “good old days” during a summer when the weather has generally been in their favor — with few cancelations. The following Facebook entry from Blue Runner out of Manasquan tells the story as follows;

BLUE RUNNER Sept 13-14 We snuck out in a very small weather window with Frank, Hans, Min, Greg, Sean and Kevin. We saw good action and finished up with a box full of Yellowfins, 2 Bigeyes , some Mahi and Tile. We also pulled the hook on a nice Sword close to the boat .. very happy to get this trip in and see good fishing with limited time.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had a very good dolphin trip this week. They have a 16-hour exotics trip by reservation which leaves at 11 p.m. tomorrow and returns Friday afternoon Today’s bluefishing was very good for choppers from 2 to 10 pounds plus a big weakfish, porgies, short fluke and sea bass that have to be released.

The marine forecast is for southwest winds at 5-10 knots tomorrow, but increasing after midnight to north at 15-20 knots.

Following is the obit on Bruce Vitale:

Bruce Vitalephoto 
Lieutenant with Plainfield Fire Dept. , Navy veteran, 73
Bruce Vitale, 73, passed away on September 12, 2020, at Community Medical Center in Toms River, N.J. Born in Newark, N.J., to the late Cosmo and Doris (Van Harken) Vitale, Bruce lived in Warren, N.J., and Piscataway, N.J., for several years prior to retiring to Toms River.
Bruce was honorably discharged from the United States Navy in 1966. After over twenty years of service, he retired as a Lieutenant with the Plainfield Fire Department. Having a love for 50’s music, he was known as the doo-wop king. He was an avid outdoorsman who thoroughly loved hunting and fishing. Bruce was a very patriotic man, loved helping others as a fireman and enjoyed every minute he could with his children and grandchildren.
Predeceased by his step-son, Timothy Coates, in 2010, he is survived by his wife of 22 years, Anne C. Fox; sons, Douglas Vitale and his wife, Lana, of Howell, N.J., Philip Vitale of Middlesex, N.J.; daughter, Noel Tiarks of Tomah, WI and step-daughter, Jennifer Manna of Robbinsville, N.J. Bruce will be missed deeply by his brother, Brian Vitale and his wife, Diane, of Warren, N.J., four adored grandchildren, Brianna Spence, Caitlyn and Abigail Vitale and Nicholas Manna as well as by many friends.
Visitation will be held at the South Plainfield Funeral Home, 2456 Plainfield Avenue, South Plainfield, N.J. 07080 on Wednesday, September 16, 2020, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. and on Thursday, September 17, 2020m beginning at 10:30 a.m. Funeral services will be held in the funeral home on Thursday beginning 11 a.m., followed by burial at Resurrection Burial Park in Piscataway.
In lieu of flowers, donations sent in Bruce’s name to the NJ Conservation Foundation (njconservation.org) or to the New Jersey Fireman’s Home (www.njfh.org) would be appreciated. Please visit www.SouthPlainfieldFuneralHome.com to send online condolences to the family.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.Published in The Star-Ledger on Sep. 15, 2020.

Bruce Vitale will be missed

It was a shock to me when retired N.J. Capt. Sal Cursi, famed Raritan Bay striper skipper of Kathy Sea called from his home in Florida to tell me that our mutual friend Bruce Vitale had passed away last weekend at just 73.

Bruce was a Navy veteran and retired from the Plainfield Fire Dept. before ending up in Toms River with his wife Anne. No one loved fishing more than Bruce, who picked up the nickname Cuz during time spent at a second home in North Carolina. I hope to have an obituary in tomorrow’s blog.

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The northeast wind made for a rough ocean today, but the outlook for tomorrow is better with a southwest wind at 10-15 knots before shifting to south at the same speed plus gusts to 20 in the afternoon. However, the surf will probably remain rough due to the big swell. It has remained clear so far, and I managed to release a 25 1/2-inch striper on a Tsunami Shad at Spring Lake this evening.

NE wind adds to swell problem

A northeast wind predicted for tomorrow will add to the ocean swell problem caused by faraway Hurricane Paulette, resulting in small craft warnings through Tuesday afternoon though we may get an earlier break. The morning forecast is for northeast at 15-20 knots with gusts to 25 before dropping off to east at just 5-10 in the afternoon.

At Atlantic Highlands, Capt. Ron Santee is anxious to get out again with his Fishermen after even a nasty ocean on Sunday didn’t turn off the large fluke. Jung Kim took the pool with an 8 5/16-pounder that was ounces short of the 8 3/4-pounder he boated last week, Check with Santee about tomorrow. The Sea Hunter is waiting until at least Wednesday, and the Prowler won’t sail again until Thursday. The Prowler’s largest fluke of the season was taken on Aug. 31 when Mike Massoyan of Bloomfield had a 29-inch doormat that was 11.8 pounds on the digital scale.

The Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands won’t be fluking again until Wednesday.

The Canyon Runner from Point Pleasant reports the yellowfin tuna run remains hot. Though they are booked up, reservations are being taken for a former skipper running a similar boat. That boat has open boat spots at $995 a person leaving Tuesday night to fish Wednesday — and also on four dates in October.

Some mullet are being spotted in the surf as that annual fall run gets started. There’s been a bit of bass activity in the Monmouth County surf, where Tommy Cox had a hot bite on jigs Friday afternoon, and Vinny D’Anton released a 30-inch striper this morning after it hit his Chug bug in between waves. I cast a popper into rough surf at Spring Lake this morning, but saw no signs of life. Nick Nonachefsky of Saltwater Underground reported catching small blues in Manasquan River this morning.

Last week of fluke season may be tough in swell

With a 4-6-foot swell running, it hasn’t been comfortable on the ocean the last couple of days – and the outlook for the last week of fluking in N.J. is not good.

Capt. Rpb Semkewyc ran his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands out to the ocean this morning, but most of his fares couldn’t handle the conditions. A return .to the calm waters of the bay produced only the short fluke expected. Therefore, Rob is canceling trips until at least Wednesday. Those expecting to sail this week should check with their skipper before coming down.

The surf is also rough, but may be fishable.

The Monday forecast is north at 10-15 knots with gusts to 20.

Better forecast, but small craft warning still up

Though the wind forecast is better for Sunday, small craft warnings remain up through Monday night — probably due to the 4-6-foot seas.

At least the wind shifts out of the northeast to southeast at 5-10 knots. We’ll have to see if the surf got discolored from today’s northeast gusts. It make take a couple of tide changes to clear.

I doubt if anyone went out today, but some skippers will probably sail tomorrow. He sure to check first before coming down.

Where were you on 9/11?

There are some events in history so significant that we’ll always remember where we were when they occurred. Especially for those in the NY/NJ Bight area, 9/11 was certainly one of them.

Some of my charter fishing friends actually witnessed the attacks while fishing in Raritan Bay, but I was offshore that day and mystified by scraps of information coming over the VHF.

There had been a showing of giant tuna at the Lillian wreck off the northern New Jersey coast, and New Jersey’s greatest giant tuna skipper, the late Bob Pisano,. was intent on fishing that day despite a northwest wind forecast. The trip out wasn’t bad with the wind behind us, and fishing was possible in a moderately rough ocean. Though we weren’t very many nautical miles from N.Y.C. on a straight line, there was no indication of what was happening until we overheard some conversation on the radio about a plane crashing in the city. I was able to barely hear something on the TV, though we were too far out to understand from the scratchy audio what was happening. We had a bad feeling about the situation, and the usually unflappable Pisano decided to leave his favorite sport for a very early return. We surely would have seen the clouds of smoke over the city if not for the gusty northwester that blew the smoke low. We had no concept of how many people were being killed as we had been chunking in another world not far from one of the greatest tragedies in American history.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reports that bluefishing was very good today with a boat limit in the 3-8-pound class plus many releases. Thursday’s exotics trip wasn’t up to the previous trip’s standards, though some yellowfin tuna were caught and others lost. The Big Mohawk had an 11.2-pound doormat on Thursday along with some in the 8-pound class and several 3-5-pounders.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant had lots of action for Ivan Zimmerman’s group earlier in the week as a dozen mostly on the 60-80-pound class were boated and 30 lost. At times they had to fight through skipjacks and little tunny in order to hook tuna. The Thursday special bonito trip wasn’t so special, though there were lots of chub mackerel at first along with some little tunny and Spanish mackerel. Though more tunny were located, they were tough to catch. Skilled anglers had up to six, but novices struggled.

There are small craft warnings up through Saturday afternoon. East winds at 15 knots will gust to 20, and the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands has canceled Saturday fluking due to a rough ocean which is where the only decent fluking has been lately. Check with other party boats before coming down tomorrow.

Greg Tirpak had a pleasant surprise yesterday morning when a school striper hit his lure in the wash at Mantoloking. The traditional run of mullet in the surf may get underway after this northeast blow.