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Rugged weather coming up

It’s been a generally pleasant summer for anglers, but we may be paying our dues the next two days.

The forecast for tomorrow is east winds at 15-20 knots, increasing to 20-25 in the afternoon. Then it gets worse on Saturday as small craft are advised to stay in port. There is better news Saturday night with a shift to northwest winds that should set up a fishable Sunday. Of course, you can still fish in protected bay and river waters during the easterly blow, but the surf is already a mess.

Another alternative is to attend the free N.J. Wild Expo at Colliers Mills WMA in Jackson Township from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. That state-sponsored show features numerous displays, and vendors are there with food and drink.

The last N.J. striped bass public hearing is coming up on Thursday, Sept. 12 in Bay Ave. Community Center, 775 East Bay Ave.,Manahawkin from 6 to 9:30 p.m.  There are a wide range of options available to achieve the reduction in catch required to turn around the decline in spawning stock biomass.

The surf was already rough when I made only a few casts at Manasquan this morning before retreating to Shark River for bluefish.  Popper fishing was only a pick today, but by putting in about three hours of constant casting I released 10 blues which were a mixture of 3-4-pounders and 5-6-pounders before the last was about 8 pounds. Capt. Chris De Stefano says a friend of his fishing from a small boat with a fly rod has been catching stripers up to 30 inches at night in the river. Chris also knew of several fluke limit catches in the river.

Spanish mackerel are still in the area, and Bob Correll of Bay Head caught one in his local surf yesterday evening along with a couple of cocktail blues.

Large fluke turn on off Raritan Bay

Capt. Ron Santee says he hit the change of tide just right this morning with his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands, and knew he had the right drift when the first fluke caught was a 6.4-pounder. Larger fluke kept coming as Joe Gaydos took the pool with a 7.1-pounder and added fluke of 3.1 and 6.4 pounds. Adam Dretchim wasn’t in the pool, but had the big fluke with a 27-inch, 7.2-pounder. Santee reported there were some other fluke from 4 pounds up to almost 7 — plus large porgies which are starting to show up.  He’ll try to get out tomorrow, but has already cancelled for Friday and Saturday.

The Tackle Box in Hazlet weighed a 10 1/2-pound doormat fluke which was caught Aug. 31 at the end of Sandy Hook Channel by Rich Spitzner of Jamesburg on Fisherman’s Choice squid strips marinated in crab oil. See photo below instead of here where it was supposed to insert here.

Bob Matthews reports from Fis0herman’s Den in Belmar Marina that fluking has been good in the ocean, while shorts dominate in the river. Bob weighed in an 11 3/8-pound doormat boated on the Ocean Explorer last week. He also noted that school stripers are being caught on poppers in the surf and soft plastics in the back. Snappers are abundant at the docks, and little tunny have been spotted at the inlet. 

The Golden Eagle from Belmar has cancelled bluefish trips on Thursday and Friday. The forecast for Thursday morning is northeast winds at 10-15 knots with gusts to 20, but just 5-10 in the afternoon.

The fish shown in  a recent photo for identification has been confirmed by several readers as a pompano. It was caught on shrimp at Spring Lake. Since those fish are rarely found alone, it’s surprising that others haven’t been caught by anglers fishing there for stripers with sand flies — which are the pompano’s favorite food.

Tackle Box flukeSince the incoming tide in Shark River didn’t start until well after daylight, I decided to give the local surf a shot before the big swells arrive from the hurricane.  The surf looked fine except for low water, and I soon had a small bluefish hit my Tactical Anglers Bomb Jr.   popper. On my next cast into waves breaking on shallow waters I got hit immediately and released a 26-inch striper. Unfortunately, that was it for the surf.

A move to Shark River produced bluefish again, but it was nothing like yesterday’s hot popper action when I released 17. Though there was lots of bait coming through, there was once again nothing blasting them. Yet, blind casting produced five releases of 5-and-6-pounders plus a couple lost and a few blow-ups. Vinny D’Anton was also catching blues up to 6 pounds on his Chug Bug,

Bluefish population looking better

After a couple of years when there didn’t seem to be many bluefish much more than a pound in size in NY/NJ Bight, there have been some promising signs this summer. The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported yet another day of great bluefishing for choppers from 2 to 6 pounds with “all you want” catches on jigs. Even before they got offshore, the Shark River regulars were raising blues to poppers regularly after there had been only scattered fish the previous morning.

Tommy Cox said he released at least 20 before leaving, with the largest estimated at 8 pounds. I stayed a little longer, and kept picking blues from 3 to 5 or 6 pounds and ended up releasing 17 — leaving  them biting as the current got too strong for comfortable wading and handling fish in rising waters.  Vinnie D’Anton caught his share of blues, but also managed to catch three stripers up to a 27-incher on his Chug Bug.

Though bait was coming through, this was all blind casting. I never saw a swirl except on lures.

There was also good news from Bay Head as Jim Gates caught some larger blues where it’s been almost strictly 12-inch cocktails since June.

The Golden Eagle also had some fluke and porgies up to about 5 pounds. If there really was a 5-pounder, I hope it was brought to an official scale since the last time I checked the IGFA world record was just 4 9/16 pounds.  If the angler was a Fisherman subscriber, a 5-pound porgy would take over first place in that division of the coastal Dream Boat contest since  the leader as of 8/20 was only 4 pounds.

More good news was reported by fluke boats. Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter at Atlantic Highlands said the weather and drifting conditions were good as his fares had a solid pick of keepers in the ocean with a 5.5-pound pool winner. The skipper hasn’t been getting many people down on Wednesdays, and urges customers to call him this evening so he can decide by 8 if he’ll have enough to sail.

The forecast is fine for the morning at 10-15 knots south before increasing to 15-20 in the afternoon,

The Big Mohawk from Belmar had a very good day fluking with many limits and a 9.1-pound pool winner. They will sail tomorrow at 6.

Tank Matraxia had an unusual day fluking Friday at Sea Girt Reef on Lock & Load from Neptune. He snagged nine short fluke in a row before finally catching a 17 1/2-incher in the mouth. He did catch a large sea robin, and his buddies from Lyndhurst had a few legal fluke.

Joe Blaze fished Manasquan River this morning and didn’t see any bait or fish while his fly was also ignored.



Big yellowfin boated during MRMTC Offshore Open

As noted in last night’s blog, the big winners in the Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna Club Offshore Open were bigeye tuna as Tastego boated a 241-pounder  Saturday — followed by a 228.5 on Hubris and a 164.5-pounder on Unavailable.  However, there was also an impressive for this area 114.75-pound yellowfin tuna on Tra Sea Ann that won the Ray Catena Challenge Award and was part of the Tuna Stringer Calcutta with a two-fish weight of 194.7 pounds that beat Internal Fixation with 170.45 pounds.  Bigeyes weren’t eligible for the stringer award.

Also very impressive was the 59.55-pound albacore that won the Longfin Tuna Challenge. Very few of those fish have been reported so far.

Hubris added the swordfish winner at 104.2 pounds over a 73.75-pounder on Kellly Lynn.  Poppa Bear took the Small Boat Calcutta , and also had a 30.6-pound wahoo to edge a 23.05-pounder on Christine. Jersey Nutz had the largest dolphin at 21.20 pounds and added the Mahi Stringer with 42.40 pounds.

In the Costa Release categories, Caitlin won in blue marlin with a release on Day 1 over The Right Place with one on Day 4.  Polorizer released three white marlin to one for Tra Sea Ann. The Tournament Champion Trophy was awarded to Unavailable with 428 points.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported good jigging for bluefish today, though there weren’t many of the larger fish. Some porgies were added.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc said drifting conditions were again poor for fares on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, and he had to finish up in Sandy Hook Bay where the fluke are small. He’s looking for a return to Saturday’s good fluking with a forecast of north winds at just 5-10 knots in the morning  before shifting to the southeast in the afternoon,

Joe Blaze said there was nothing doing this morning in Manasquan River during a very strong incoming tide. A few evenings ago the river had been loaded with small bait, though there was nothing on them and he couldn’t get a hit on his fly.

The current was also very strong this morning in Shark River, but there were a few 3-pound blues hitting poppers occasionally.

Capt. Hans Kaspersetz of Sheri Berri at Twin Lights Marina in Highlands fighting a marlin during a recent trip on Pacific Fly out of Quepos, Costa Rica


Hans fighting - CR




MRMTC Offshore Open ends with a blast of bigeyes

The 39th annual Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna Club Offshore Open ended yesterday with a blast of bigeyes that made it the most successful offshore tournament of the year in tuna results even though there was only a 48-boat field.

Practically all the leaders from earlier in the week, when northeast winds kept most boats in port, were knocked off.

Tashtego was the big winner with a 241-pound bigeye — followed by Hubris at 228.5 pounds and Unavailable with a 164.5-pound entry.  I’ll have more results in tomorrow’s blog.

As noted here last night, the forecast for today was a modest 10-15-knot  east wind with 2-3-foot seas. It didn’t turn out like that at all! The flags were flying straight out as I fought a suddenly rough surf at Belmar and Spring Lake to no avail.

Dave Lilly of Hazlet went out on his friend Tony’s 25-foot Parker that handled the Raritan Bay waves. However,  they got soaked in the process of getting to Ambrose Channel where they quickly limited with fluke to 5 pounds and ran  back before the wind turned into the tide. Lilly actually had a double limit as he was surprised by a weakfish of about 22 inches — which has a one-fish limit.

Capt. Ron Santee reported the 20-knot wind and strong current resulted in a bummer on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands after having good fluking Saturday when Erin Minervini of Middletown boated a 29-inch, 8.15-pound fluke.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported good bluefishing on jigs again, though the blues were somewhat smaller,  The Jamaica from Brielle had a good report from Saturday, though the blues weren’t as voracious on jigs as they had been. Ramon Arias of Philadelphia won the pool with a 7-pound chopper. There were also a few bonito and sea bass, while chub mackerel hit late in the trip as they stayed overtime to take advantage of that bite.

The forecast for Labor Day is south at 10-15 knots with possible showers.

Here is the photo, provided by Greg Tirpak, mentioned in last night’s blog of a possible pompano or permit from the Spring Lake surf on shrimp. What do you think?

Spring Lake pompano


Yellowfins breaking in Hudson Canyon

The Manasquan Marlin & Tuna Club Offshore Open concluded today as boaters finally got the right weather for an overnighter that will probably shake up the leaderboards.

Capt. Chris De Stefano was part of the crew on Frank Criscola’s Crisdel out of Brielle Yacht Club called to report they were heading to the scales with a box full of yellowfin tuna that might be in competition for the “stringer” Calcutta. Chris had heard there were a couple of bigeyes caught, and there were two 92.45-pound tuna on Blue Runner and Let It Bleed that were tied going into the last day.

Chris said not everyone scored even though there were schools of yellowfins breaking on the surface — though they wouldn’t hit for trollers. As has been the case, night fishing was a dud. I’ll have more about this in tomorrow’s blog plus the contest results.

There was more good news from the Raritan Bay fleet relative to fluking. Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands said there were relatively few fares aboard, but everyone went home with fish as both keeper fluke and sea bass cooperated.  There was one limit, a 7.5-pound fluke took the pool, and there were several in the 3-5-pound class.

The forecast for tomorrow is good, with east winds at 10-15 knots and 2-3-foot seas.

I did nothing in the Spring Lake surf this morning. There was some very small bait present, but only a couple of small blues were reported. There was some excitement Friday as an angler fishing with shrimp caught a strange fish that looks to be a very small permit or a large pompano. The photo passed over to me by Greg  Tirpak for identification isn’t much good for that purpose, but I”ll try to get it in tomorrow’s blog.

Jim Gates got into cocktail blues in the Bay Head surf this morning — and added a Spanish mackerel.


Would you believe — a fluke on a popper

The water looked beautiful this morning at Manasquan as the swell was down  far enough to produce ideal casting conditions for striped bass. However, I didn’t raise a thing until a long cast in the surf produced a small fish hook-up that I thought might be a cocktail blue. You can imagine my surprise when I didn’t see anything splashing at the end of my line when the fish hit the beach because it blended in with the sand  — a 17 1/2-inch fluke hooked in the mouth on a 2-ounce Tactical Anglers Bomb Jr. popper.

This should have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I had actually done the same thing several years ago just a bit further north — and with the same plug except for the color which was a white model then and green now. Tommy Cox was casting along the beach with his ironworker buddy Harry when the latter released a school striper on a popper. I almost got lucky as I was talking to them about a dead adult bunker on the beach and dragging my plug in the wash when a small bass suddenly got hooked before getting off in the wash.

Allen Riley, John Mazzeo and Duke Matero found good conditions in the Sandy Hook surf where Riley quickly caught a couple of cocktail blues and had other hits on a Mann’s Super Stretch 1-Minus, though they wouldn’t hit metal lures. Bluefish strips produced lots of short fluke — but they ignored the usually effective Gulp.

The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands had good fluking with keepers to 4.5 pounds.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had good news about the bluefish jigging as it not only continued today but the fish got bigger at 3 to 8 pounds. They also had a 6-pound fluke plus some sea bass and porgies.

The forecast for Saturday is northeast winds again, but at only 10 knots before going east in the afternoon.


A state record lost?

Catching a state or world record fish isn’t easy to do, and it’s a shame when the rare moment is lost because no one realizes the possibility in time.

That happened a couple of years ago on an Atlantic Highlands charter boat when a 5-pound scup (porgy) was officially weighed in, but only the state record was checked. Ironically, it turned out that the IGFA world record was lower at 4 pounds, 9 ounces. That can happen because the IGFA didn’t start listing records for the species until a few decades ago. Unfortunately, by the time I found out about that catch the fish was filleted and taken home. That prevented identification according to IGFA procedures.

The latest possible miss was on the Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands on Wednesday. Capt. Ron Santee had a good day of fluking, and noted that there was also the largest triggerfish he’s ever seen — 8 pounds.  Unfortunately, even the photo of that fish didn’t come out. It took me only a minute to find that the state record for grey triggerfish was set in 2016 at 6 pounds, 11 ounces. The IGFA world record is much larger at 13 pounds, 9 ounces from Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina.  The grey triggerfish has become very common in N.Y. and N.J. waters over the last several decades. I’ve never heard of any other triggerfish caught locally, though the slightly larger ocean triggerfish or ocean tally averages somewhat larger in the open ocean where it’s easily distinguished from the grey. The queen triggerfish is a tropical species with a body coloration that looks like a Picasso painting.

If there’s any question about a record possibility just Google the state’s recreational state record fish — and you’ll have an answer right away. The IGFA search (IGFA world record fish) will take a couple of minutes . Keep this in mind should the opportunity ever occur.

Ocean bluefishing held up again today. The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported some medium blues were mixed in with the small fish  — and some big porgies were also jigged. The Big Jamaica from Brielle had a similar bluefish report, and they also jigged some sea bass.

The Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna Club Offshore Open got off to a very slow start due to the northeast winds this week. Andrea’s Toy got offshore to troll skipjacks, eight yellowfin tuna and 30 dolphin. They weighed in tuna of 16.75 nd 15.90 pounds plus an 11.55-pound dolphin. Bug took the lead in tuna at 59.25 pounds. The 48-boat field is either heading out how for their overnighter, or will be using their last day tomorrow,

The surf has cleared up, though there’s still a large swell. It was rough, but very fishable this morning at Spring Lake where Vinny D’Anton caught two stripers up to 25 inches on his Chug Bug. I only raised one fish at Manasquan, and released a 24-inch striper on a Tactical Anglers Bomb Jr. popper before joining Vinny to fish sand fleas in the whitewater surf without a hit.  The west winds should make the surf even more fishable this weekend.

Capt. Hans Kaspersetz, of Sheri Berri from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands, has returned from another trip to Quepos, Costa Rica where he fished on the Pacific Fly to catch nine marlin, one dorado (dolphin) and three tuna.













Ocean bluefish bite continues

Bluefish in the 2-5-pound class were breaking on the surface again today, and the Golden Eagle from Belmar reported that it was “all you want” fishing again.

The Jamaica from Brielle was into that action yesterday, and reported a sew bigger blues among them — such as the pool-winning 10-pounder by Jose Mendoza of Philadelphia. Some bonito and Spanish mackerel were mixed in along with even a blackfish. They noted that there are two large bodies of blues in the area.

Capt. Ron Santee had a good day with larger fluke on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands. Capt. Ron Santee Sr. was along to boat a 7.9-pound fluke. The pool went to Allan Mustachio, who had 5-pounder in a cooler of five keepers caught along with his brother. Santee also mentioned an 8-pound triggerfish. More about that tomorrow.  He also noted that anglers should bring heavy rods as 10-ounce sinkers may be required.

There was less wind today, and the forecast for the morning finally includes west winds that might settle the ocean except for swells from the offshore hurricane. The morning should see 10-15-knot northwest winds with 3-4-foot seas.

The surf was still rough and unproductive this morning when Vinny D’Anton tried to plug at Manasquan. A move to Shark River got him into good conditions, but the fish didn’t cooperate.

I worked Point Pleasant Canal with Z Man paddletails, but didn’t hook up with a 4-pound bluefish until almost the end of the incoming. A few small blues were caught, and Jim Gates had a blue of about 8 pounds on that spit the hook on the surface. He later jigged two small stripers. Joe Melillo, at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant, said a 26-inch fluke was caught at the canal pier yesterday by an angler casting mullet.

Tred Barta R.I.P.

Tred Barta, a pioneering figure in canyon fishing and a controversial one, passed away on Aug. 12 after a long battle with an illness that left a great outdoorsman in a wheelchair.

Barta started fishing the canyons in a relatively small boat out of Shinnecock, Long Island, and quickly developed a reputation for catching bigeye tuna when those fish were just becoming known to the sportfishing community. The photo below is of the young Barta with a world record bigeye. Tred was outspoken and opinionated – traits which made him both friends and enemies. He seemed to enjoy the controversy  – and named his Versus Channel TV show “The Best and the Worst of Tred Barta.”

Tred also was a regular contributer to Sport Fishing magazine, and involved with boat companies in designing craft suitable for offshore fishing. Eventually he also got involved in running tournaments for charity and getting kids started in fishing. I used to see him at boat shows, and we always had cordial conversations with none of the bluster that some accused him of.

While on a hunting trip in the west, Barta was struck with a rare spinal stroke that suddenly immobilized him one night. Very shortly he was paralyzed from the armpits down. Yet, Barta managed to go on with his writing and TV. I remember him doing a show catching a sailfish from his wheelchair.

Barta, who also fought cancer, was born on March 28, 1952 and lived a very full though short life. Yet, his fishing and rigging tips will be remembered  by anglers for many years to come.

Tred Barta

The Golden Eagle finally got out of Belmar as the ocean calmed a bit, and they once again found super bluefish jigging. The action with 2-5-pounders was so fast that they were releasing by 10:30. Some king mackerel and porgies plus a few bonito and sea bass were added.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc, of the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, said that ” All in all, it was  a decent day” as there was one fluke limit plus a fair amount of keepers even though he couldn’t fish some areas due to the sea conditions. He emphasized that just dragging bait with catch some shorts, few keepers are hooked unless the rod is being worked.

Vinny D’Anton tried to fish the Manasquan surf, but said the waves were actually dangerous and left after a couple of casts. Betty & Nick’s in Seaside Park reported the weather has been good, but five days of northeast winds stained the waters. The inshore forecast is east winds at 5-10 knots tomorrow with 2-4-foot seas.  The surf should become fishable during the next two days.

I fished Point Pleasant Canal for bluefish this morning and never had a hit, though I was told a few had been picked before I arrived.