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Dense fog advisory for the morning

Though the wind forecast for the morning is better, along with fairly mild temperatures, the marine forecast includes a dense fog advisory up to 6 a.m.

Surprisingly, the forecast doesn’t mention that as the morning continues with southwest winds at 5-10 knots. More wind is predicted after midnight tomorrow with northeast gusts to 20 knots.

Phil Fischler worked the Navesink River with his boat from Highlands yesterday morning and came up with just one 16-inch flounder before switching to stripers. A few were caught, including one keeper, before the cold rain drove him home.

Blogger Dan tried fishing from shore in Shrewsbury River and Sandy Hook Bay this morning, but had no luck with stripers which he speculated must be further back in Raritan Bay.

Indeed, that’s where Joe Massa found large bass from his My Three Sons out of Morgan Marina on Friday as he had his best release fishing in years as stripers hit both large plastic shads — and glomped live bunkers without hesitation.

striper on bunker

Small craft warnings up again

East winds are gusting to 25 knots tonight, but it looks better by Sunday afternoon.

The morning forecast is for east at 15-20 knots before dropping to 10-15 in the afternoon. There will likely be some rain, drizzle and fog during the day.

While large stripers are the attraction in Raritan Bay, there’s been a showing of small bass for shore fishermen further south. Jerry Lasko and Maren Toleno fished an Ocean County beach this morning, and caught a few on paddeltails — though they were only 12 to 14 inches.

Though you can’t prove it by me, there are some small bass in Point Pleasant Canal. I saw an angler release one this morning, and he said he also caught another. I cast a Tsunami shad for about an hour during a moderate outgoing tide without a bump.

Below is the 18-inch blackfish released in the canal this week by Bill Hoblitzell after it hit a worm intended for flounder.

Bill's tog

Stripers best bet for weekend

Striped bass in Raritan Bay are the best bet at present, if you can find a way to get at them. Relatively few anglers have boats in the water so far, and getting launched may be a problem as marinas aren’t considered to be an essential business. To top it off, there are no party boats sailing in the bay, and some charter skippers aren’t sailing until the legality of doing so is settled.

Joe Massa went out himself with his My Three Sons from Morgan Marina today and had steady action casting a large shad. He then netted some bunkers and found that the bass responded to them as well. The stripers were mostly 15-20-pounders, but he also released a 40-incher.

Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina can supply bait, and reported a pick of flounder from the docks.  One angler told them that he had done well with stripers at Union Beach. A few small stripers have been taken on lures in the local surf.

At Seaside Park, Betty & Nick’s  is open for food take-outs, and the rest of the store is accessible for bait and tackle purchases. John Bushell continues to report a strong smell of bluefish blowing in from the surf, though it’s very early for blues.

Grumpy’s Tackle is closed, but the mail order business continues for those using Pay Pal.

Bill Hoblitzell has been raking worms and fishing for flounder, but only catching shorts lately. Yet, he did get a surprise in Point Pleasant Canal when a very early 18-inch blackfish put up a spirited battle on light tackle before the release.

Lots of N.J. anglers are still in Florida. Ric Gross of Point Pleasant said he had a fine offshore trip Wednesday with a boat  out of Hillsboro Inlet which trolled lots of blackfin tuna plus little tunny.

Tommy Cox bought a kayak, and has been doing very well in Lemon Bay on the west coast with seatrout, redfish and snook –including a 30-incher yesterday.

Vinny D’Anton is still wading in the Sarasota area, and finding good action as the waters have warmed to 80 degrees. Snook have been hitting the Zara Spook, though it’s been hard to get hooks in them. Seatrout and ladyfish have also been abundant.

Bob Corell of Bay Head and his wife Mary Agnes hosted his brother Todd and wife Karen on his Sea Vee out of Marathon yesterday as they finally got a calm day which produced a good catch of dolphin and blackfin tuna trolling out at the Hump.

Capt. Sal Cursi, who ran the Cathy Sea from Seawaren for many years,  took advantage of the good weather a couple of days ago to get out in his small boat at Palm Bay for a limit of mangrove snappers while releasing a few puppy black drum.


Stripers hot in Raritan Bay

Dave Lilly reported striper fishing as hot as it was last week in Raritan Bay, but with bigger fish. The bass were in shallow waters at the back of the bay when he came out of Keyport, and it was the Tony Maja 5-ounce mo-jos that did the job trolling. His friends kept a couple and released others steadily before returning early in the morning.  They only came across one short, and released bass up to about the 38 inches that is supposed to go into effect as the maximum on April 1 if the governor signs that provision. Right now we’re still fishing on the old regulations.

Dave said that 30 to 40 boats were taking advantage of the perfect weather and what Tony Arcabscio used to call “stupid fishing” when he was chunking out of Great Kills over a decade ago and fishing was so easy that even beginners could drop an anchor anywhere and chunk tripers.  Kayackers were doing as well as power boaters in the exceptionally clear waters, though Dave saw no signs of fish. There wasn’t much to mark in shallow waters, and he never saw a bunker or a bird dive.

The N.J. D.E.P. issued a press release today encouraging outdoor activities except in groups. Commissioner Catherine McCabe emphasized that the state parks and Wildlife Management Areas are open and not charging fees. The rest rooms are closed, as are the offices. Anyone needing any sort of license must go online.  Social distancing is required. Be sure to stay at least six feet away from anyone else.

West winds of 10-15 knots are forecast for tonight with gusts to 20 and rain after midnight. Friday starts with west winds of 5-10 knots and rain before switching to north in the afternoon.

Some easy reading for tough times

With seemingly nothing but bad news being thrown at us every day, it’s nice to be able to savor some inspiration from fellow anglers about our favorite sport.

The Angler’s Book of Favorite Fishing Quotations is a small format hard cover from Hatherleigh Press that’s distributed by Penguin Random House.

The 104 pages each contain thoughts about fishing by well-known authors, fishermen and commentators — such as Mark Twain who advised “Don’t tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.”

Even presidents had their feelings  about fishing, with Herbert Hoover noting that “Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.”

Comedians also had their say, such as George Carlin who observed “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.”

I was pleased to see quotes from some departed friends I  fished with over the years such as Charley Waterman, Lefty Kreh and Lee Wulff. One of Lee’s quotes was one that the Izaak Walton of our time was most associated with — “Gamefish are too valuable to be caught only once”.

It’s unfortunate that a few pages weren’t added to identify the authors which were almost all familiar to me, but might not be to others. It will make a good gift for anglers who aren’t “readers”, as they can read portions at any time — but will probably not be able to put the book down once started.

There was a lot more east wind today, and small craft warnings continue into tomorrow afternoon. The morning starts with north winds at 15-20 knots and 4-6-foot seas before dropping to 5-10 knots in the afternoon.

Time to discuss easing fluke rules

Though fishing is legal in N.J. and N.Y. at this point, it’s likely that regulations relating to the pandemic will greatly impact the sport this year. That being the case, even the small fluke quota assigned to the public will probably not be filled. It would be appropriate now for the ASMFC and MAFMC to consider loosening fluke regulations in order that those taking advantage of restricted fishing opportunities will have a reasonable chance of bringing home a meal.

Reduced fishing pressure comes at the right time for the striped bass population which needs rebuilding, but fluke are in such good shape that the agencies even added to the commercial quota last year. Then there’s the possibility that if recreational fishermen aren’t filling their quota that the agencies will transfer the unused portion to the commercial side — just as they did with bluefish despite any provision in the management plan to do so.  To top it off, the greatly reduced recreational catch may be used next year as an excuse to further lower the public quota.

Lowering the minimum size would be the best way as a 16 or 17 inch fluke is a reasonable eating size that’s been readily available inshore and in the surf. It wouldn’t be necessary to go all the way down to the 14-inch fluke provided to commercial fishermen even though they have a huge advantage by dragging nets over miles of bottom.

Due to the social distancing provisions of the governor’s order, it doesn’t look good for party and charter boats at this point. It’s hard to find any written guidance with state offices closed, but a woman in the N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife thought there was no problem with fishing with a friend as long as the group restrictions are followed. Shore fishing should be fine as fishing distancing for casting is greater than social distancing.

Keep in mind the fact that we’re still fishing under last year’s regulations. The new striper regs are supposed to go into effect on April 1, but the governor still hasn’t signed that authorization.

Phil Sciortino said the phone (732 264-7711) was ringing steadily at The Tackle Box in Hazlet today. Though the shop is closed, he will take credit card orders over the phone for worms and tackle which he’ll drop off at homes or marinas, or leave in front of the store,

The Golden Eagle from Belmar is supposed to start fishing on  April 4, but they don’t know at this time if that will be possible.

The small craft warning is coming down at 6 p.m., but Wednesday starts with east winds at 15-20 knots which increase to 20-25 in the afternoon with rain and 4-to-7-foot seas.


A perfectly miserable day

As noted yesterday, it didn’t look good for today — and that is exactly what happened. If staying home with nothing in particular to do is rarely good, but this had to be that day as rain and wind rattled the windows.  Unfortunately, there’s not much light on the horizon.

Small craft warnings remain up through Tuesday afternoon. Though north winds are predicted to drop to 10-15 knots by the morning, there will still be gusts to 20.  There is another temporary drop to 5-10 knots in the afternoon, but rain arrives again after midnight  — and Wednesday doesn’t look good.

There’s still a lot of uncertainty about when and how we can fish. One blogger reported his marina is closed for retail operations, but open for repairs — and is launching boats.

The Tackle Box in Hazlet had to close due to the governor’s order, but Phil Sciortino will be delivering  bait and tackle to doorsteps or other designated spots if you prepay by credit card or Pay Pal. He’s having bloodworms being overnighted from Maine, and there are plenty of stripers awaiting them in Raritan Bay. Call him at 732 264-7711.

Phil Fischer reported he was releasing school stripers in Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers on Saturday. Tom O’Connor tried his local South Amboy beach that morning, but only released two bass of 14 and 26 inches.  He moved to the Belmar docks in the afternoon where he caught only a 9-inch winter flounder and a sun dial.

Yet another meeting will be impacted by the pandemic. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management will be turned into a webinar event from April 7-8.


Uncertainty about fishing

The striped bass fishery is underway, but there’s a lot of uncertainty about whether we’ll be able to fish.

I read Gov. Murphy’s N.J. shutdown order, but it didn’t refer specifically to fishing or boating at all.  Yet, the state parks and Wildlife Management Areas are open for public use — though with offices and rest rooms closed. I’ll try to get more detailed info tomorrow.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park closed today until further notice. Apparently bait and tackle shops are considered nonessential, but the governor is allowing liquor stores to operate. Isn’t an obsession with healthy fishing better than one with booze?

You won’t be missing much tomorrow weather-wise. There are small craft warnings up into the afternoon. East winds at 20-25 knots with gusts to 30 plus rain and 4-6-foot seas are predicted.

Windy & cold, but Raritan stripers hit

Worms were on the driveways after the last rain, so Dave Lilly knew it was time to start his striped bass season today — and the bass didn’t disappoint.

Dave trolled in the back of Raritan Bay for constant action on mo-jos with mostly keeper bass in the teens. No big fish, but all he could ask for as his friends caught all they wanted and returned to Keyport early in the morning.

Surprisingly, Lilly didn’t see or read any bunkers. Gannets were flying high, but he only saw one dive.

As noted yesterday, Capt. Freddy Gamboa had a very different experience on Friday as those stripers still hadn’t swallowed bunkers before hitting lures cast or trolled from his Andrea’s Toy out of Keyport. Yet, the only thing that didn’t work was live-lining bunkers, even though a few hits were missed.

Andreas Toy spring bass

Jerry Lasko and Maren Toleno fished the bay side of Bay Head yesterday evening, as she caught two stripers of about 22 and 24 inches.

N.J. trout waters will be closed (except for special regulation waters) next week. We can’t blame the pandemic for that. It’s to allow successful stocking before the opener.

Some anglers are wondering what will happen to party boats due to restrictions on groups gathering. A captain I talked to isn’t sure if he’ll be able to operate at this point. However, the Ocean Explorer from Belmar has been sailing on good weather days so far. Crowding hasn’t been a problem up to this point, and there’s been no specific policy relating the their operation that I’m aware of.

The shutdown of nonessential business operations could be a problem for tackle shops, but Betty & Nick’s in Seaside Park will be open for take-out food and the tackle portion of the building will be available to anglers.

Windy weather continues tonight with northeast gusts to 20 knots. The morning forecast is for east at 10-15 knots plus gusts to 20 before increasing to 15-20 with gusts to 25 later.


Raritan Bay stripers ready for the weekend

The spring striped bass run in Raritan Bay is right on time, along with lots of bunkers that should keep them there.

The Andrea’s Toy crew at Keyport got boat maintenance  finished in time to get out on the water  for stripers in the teens so ravenous that Capt. Freddy Gamboa said many of them still had bunkers in the mouth when they struck the lures.

Nick Honachefsky picked up worms from The Tackle Box in Hazlet yesterday and soaked them in Finesscense as he released 23 shorts from shore up to a 27-incher.

Barnegat Bay is also producing school bass on both bloodworms and small lures.  There’s been no word from the surf as yet, but Betty & Nick’s in Seaside Park reported a smell of bluefish or bunker — or both, today. They also noted that the park personnel have been very cooperative with fishermen.

New Jersey state parks and Wildlife Management Areas are open for fishing, but the offices are closed and rest rooms not available.

Small craft warnings are up through Saturday afternoon. The morning starts with north winds at 15-20 knots plus higher gusts before dropping to 10-15 with gusts to 20 in the afternoon.