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For-Hire fishing being considered

It’s been a long process, but there now seems to be some movement toward reopening party and charter boat fishing with many restrictions.

Jim Hutchinson Jr. of The Fisherman was at Thursday night’s N.J. Marine Fisheries Council meeting when a letter was sent to Gov. Murphy urging such an action with the social distancing provisions worked out by the United Boatmen and RFA.

The Council also noted unanimously to retain the season openings. They could have postponed them in order to add seasons later when more anglers may be fishing.

Fred Golofaro, editor of The Fisherman’s Long Island edition, said New York has worked up similar restrictions, including a 50% capacity cap, that they hope to consolidate with Connecticut and New Jersey for a possible joint for-hire opening.  Gov. Murphy of N.J. did note at this afternoon’s press conference that a charter boat opening was under consideration.

Though the N.J. sea bass season opened today to good morning weather, there were no reports. There was also an opening of the N,J, Striped Bass Bonus Program (SBBP) today, though Bud McArthur said that when he had applied for his tag it was noted that they wouldn’t be available for several weeks. Thus, without the tag to apply, the open season is meaningless. I tried calling the Division of Marine Fisheries late in the afternoon, but the phone wasn’t answered and the mailbox was full.

Storms were predicted for this afternoon, but they may be restricted to the north. A southwest wind gusting to 25 knots is predicted for late afternoon, but it’s down to northwest at 5-10 knots by morning before going to southeast in the afternoon.

N.J. sea bass season opens Friday

Bottom fishermen in N.J.  have been waiting for the sea bass season to open, and tomorrow is the day. However, they’d better have a private boat in order to participate in the fishery which has a daily limit of 10 sea bass at a 12 ]/2-inch minim

Party and charter boats still don’t have permission to sail even under the social distancing guidelines they’ve adopted voluntarily Gov. Murphy opened up beach restrictions starting Friday in preparation for Memorial Day.  He also noted in today’s press conference that recreational fishing rules are being reviewed.

Both the Jamaica from Brielle and the Big Mohawk from Belmar were taking reservations for the sea bass opener in hopes they’d be able to sail. The Jamaica has canceled for tomorrow, but is still holding out hope for the weekend in case Murphy has a change of heart tomorrow. I wouldn’t count on that. Also don’t count on catching sea bass as large as those boated on a the Jamaica during a fall offshore wreck trip.

Jamaica sea bass

 

Though it’s blowing hard southwest as this is being written, that wind is forecast to drop to 10-15 knots by morning along with showers before increasing to 15-20 in the afternoon.

Dave Lilly said there were stripers swirling and chasing bunkers on the surface all over around the mouth of Raritan Bay this morning. He quickly trolled one of about 30 pounds, then another in the 20-pound class  on a Tony Maja bunker spoon before losing another good one- before bass in the low teens took over.  They would come back up right after boats ran over them, and everyone caught them on anything they used. Surprisingly, the water temperature had dropped to 48 degrees.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported lots of fresh clams and bunker in stock. Clams seem to be working best, and small pieces will also attract blowfish. Blues are scattered in the bay, and range from 2 to 10 pounds. They’re hitting a variety of lures.

Capt. Hans Kaspersetz with a Raritan Bay bass on his Sheri Berri from Highhands. Hans bass

 

 

Poor start to Sandy Hook surfcasting

Allen Riley and Duke Matero made their first Sandy Hook surfcasting effort of the year this morning, and had pretty good conditions with a calm surf and enough water.  Though Lot A is closed, there were other lots available at the southern end on a chilly, but pleasant day. Allen fished sandworms and Duke used fresh bunker chunks, but they didn’t even have a tap.

There was better surf  news from Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park. All of the local beach is open to anglers, and lots of short stripers are being hooked on small pieces of fresh shucked clam. It’s the same story at IBSP, where the hours are from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free, but a 2020 permit is required in order to drive the beach.

Mark Roy started off this morning with his Release Me from Raritan Marina in Hazlet off the Navy Pier, but only saw small stripers being caught there. After only catching one there, and not getting any hits from swirling bass, he ran to the back of the bay  where trolling mo-jos produced better-sized stripers for Robert and Jacob Foehner of Warren even though there was no sign of bunkers. The fish count was up to eight when I talked to him at 5 p.m.

The Thursday morning forecast looks good with a northeast breeze at just 5 knots before going south in the afternoon at 15-20 with gusts to 25 knots plus 4-6-foot seas.

The latest standings in the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association Catch & Release  contest (supplied by Joe Albanese) were topped by a 42.5-inch boat striper that was also the Calcutta leader. The largest from shore was a 34-incher, and a 29-inch bass from shore was the largest released with a tag.

 

 

Blowout tides limit surfcasting

Gusty northwest winds have resulted in both near-record low morning temperatures and blowout tides making for poor dawn and dusk surf fishing’ However, John Bushell Jr. at Betty & Nick’s in Seaside Park reported the release of a 25-pound striper by one of his customers a couple of days ago.

Though  some all-time low temperatures for the date may be set in the morning, there should be a big change after that. Small craft warnings are coming down tonight, and the morning forecast is for northwest winds at 5-10 knots before going southwest at 10-15 with gusts to 20 in the afternoon.

Raritan Bay remains the hot spot for stripers. Eugene Jones  reported he was also one of the few on the bay Monday for the hot bite despite crazy squalls. He said he caught 10 bass up to 50 pounds.

 

Bigger bass in Raritan Bay

Dave Lilly celebrated his 65th birthday this morning by fishing out of Highlands and finding stripers of 25 to 35 pounds in the mouth of Raritan Bay.  He quickly got worn out reeling in the bigger fish on wire line with Tony Maja bunker spoons.  One of the released bass was followed in by several others of the same size.

Surprisingly, there were no other boaters in the area on a calm morning.

I’ve had a lot of computer problems today, and didn’t think I could publish — so I’m shooting this out and hoping to catch up tomorrow.

R.I.P. Dave Arbeitman

Tom Fote had bad news for me this morning, as he’d received word that Dave Arbeitman of the Reel Seat in Brielle has passed away.

Chris Di Stefano said Dave suffered a stroke last week, but died in the hospital yesterday at just 64. Dave built a reputation as a rod builder decades ago in smaller shops than the present elegant Reel Seat. He was also a very skilled angler in everything from surfcasting to big game. He particularly enjoyed tilefishing with his own customized tackle in the great canyon depths, and the variety fishing at Key West during his winter vacations. I’m sure he’s scouting out some new hot spots in Heavenly waters now.

Bluefish were being caught in Manasquan River yesterday. Joe Blaze heard there was a fleet off the mouth of the canal where they were not responding to poppers, but jumped on shad lures. Bob Correll got word from the canal this morning that anglers were being broken off by big blues.

At Seaside Park, Betty & Nick’s reported there was a surf mini-blitz Friday morning of cocktail blues plus some small bass.  Shorts are also hitting clams in the surf, and a couple of keepers were reported.

The note in yesterday’s blog about the summer season for sea bass was wrong. I have some sticky keys, and missed correcting the July start which should have been July 1 — not 11.

Small craft warnings are up through late tonight for southwest gusts to 30 knots. They drop to 10-15 with gusts to 20 knots by morning.

 

Sea bass & fluke coming up in N.J.

Fishing has been in the grips of the pandemic, but the assigned seasons keep coming. New Jersey opens up for sea bass on May 15, with the first portion of that season running through June 22 with 10 bass at a 12 1/2-inch  minimum. That’s followed by July 11 to Aug. 31 with the two fluke by-catch intended to put something in the fluke angler’s bag. The 12 1/2-inch minimum continues. That goes up to 13 inches with 15 bass in the last season from Nov. 11-Dec. 31.

The fluke season opens on May 22, and runs through Sept. 19 unless the ASMFC decides at its June meeting to extend seasons in view of quotas not being filled due to the pandemic.

Frank Rucznski said it hurt to put this fluke back before the opener as fluke are showing up in all inshore areas. This as probably in Barnegat Bay.

Frank fluke The west wind is gusting to 40 knots as this is being written, but the morning forecast is down to 15-20 with gusts to 30.  Hopefully, there won’t be any snow again to the north — but you can be sure that there won’t be much water on the beach at low tide.

Winds increasing

Small craft warnings go up at 6 p.m., before a switch to northwest winds gusting to 35 knots tomorrow — and a gale watch. That cold wind will result in freeze warnings in far northern areas, but surfcasters should be in good shape with winds from that direction.

Capt. Chris Di Stefano got a report from a friend about stripers in the 40-pound class being hooked in Raritan Reach. A boater out of Shark River Yacht Club  found lots of fluke waiting for the season to open in Shark River. Chris also heard about a bluefin tuna in the giant class being released short of the canyons recently. Scallop boats have been spotting bluefins following their nets.

Phil Fischer ran out to the rough bottom at Scotland this week from Highlands for a good catch of ling plus a small cod, and even an early sea bass that was released.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle noted that town’s beaches are open for anglers. IBSP is also open, and lots f small stripers are being caught on shucked clams which are also attracting the first blowfish.

John Bushell Jr. had sad news at Betty & Nick’s as his uncle George has passed away. He was the brother of the original Betty.

NJ Striped Bass Bonus Program opens May 15

As originally planned, the New Jersey Striped Bass Bonus Program will start on May 15 and run through the end of the year if the allocation isn’t taken.

That program is derived from the state’s commercial share of the stock that isn’t used by the commercial sector since N.J. became a game fish state. Anglers can now apply to the N.J. Division of Fish and Game website for a SBBP permit that allows for one striper from 24 to less than 28 inches. That is in addition to the standard one from 28 to less than 38 inches daily limit.

The N.J. for-hire fleet has been suffering from a shutdown while their bills just keep coming. They’ve proposed social distancing procedures which would allow them to operate, but Gov. Murphy hasn’t publicly acknowledged those requests. However, the federal government is coming to the rescue as the CARES Act has $300 million for the fishing industry that includes for-hire boats.  If skippers can get paid like some farmers do for not planting crops, they may never sail again.

Fred Golofaro of The Fisherman magazine N.Y. edition reports Monday’s fluke season opener in New York was generally slow in cold ocean waters.  The best reports were from shallow inshore waters during warmer ebb tides. Golofaro noted that weakfish and porgies are just getting started in Peconic Bay, and bluefish are late arriving in N.Y. waters– which he hopes is due to the water temperatures rather than a continuing scarcity.

Jim Tynan e-mailed a report about a friend who fished Shrewsbury River from shore below  the bridge over the weekend and caught a 10-pound blue as well as short stripers.

There’s another good day coming up as Friday starts at northwest 10-15 knots before switching to south in the afternoon with likely rain and a gale watch at night into Saturday evening.

Lilly calls Raritan Bay a sure thing if you move around

Dave Lilly says he hasn’t had a bad day out of Keyport with stripers in Raritan Bay since the big fish arrived early on March 10.

The only problem is that the bass move around the bay. His advice is not to get locked into where you caught them the last trip.  He’s caught them everywhere except in the channels — and on both sides while trolling both Tony Maja mo-jos and bunker spoons.  Most of the bass he’s been releasing are in the 15-18-pound class.

Phil Fischer took advantage of Monday’s nice weather to find lots of action with 15 stripers in Shrewsbury River from his boat out of Highlands. There were more shorts than keepers, and they only kept one. Bunkers were plentiful, but there was no mention of blues which are usually plentiful there in May.

Betty & Nick’s Tackle in Seaside Park reports the local beach was opened today, and Lavallette was already open along with IBSP from dawn to dusk. Island Heights docks and bulkheads are open, and small stripers are plentiful in the bay — though there hasn’t been much word of blues.

News12 TV reported the opening of Belmar beaches coming up on Friday.

Thursday looks good with northwest winds at 10-15 knots that shift to southwest in the afternoon.