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NJ sea bass ending with a flourish

Sea bass stoks off the N.J. coast have been taking a beating this month as ocean fluking has been poor, but they still appear to be abundant as the season ends tomorrow.

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reported limit catches today as those using jigs and teasers greatly outfished fares sticking with bait.

Capt. Ron Santee Jr, gave the edge of the channel a try this morning with his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands, but only drifted short fluke before dogfish took over. Then he ran down the beach where some sea bass and ling were taken among the shorts while a whale put on a show. However, the best news came at the dock when Ron’s son showed up unexpectedly after flying in from L.A. for Father’s Day.

The small blues that have been providing some action for surfcasters at Bay Head the last two days didn’t show up this morning, but Jim Gates got a surprise hit in the wash from a decent school striper that he released.

Andrea’s Toy had a great tilefish trip last week with 30 up to 30 pounds before adding tuna on the surface during the trip home.

Paul Haertel of the JCAA had a real variety trip offshore of Barnegat Inlet last week with two tuna, one cod, one pollock, one bluefish, one fluke, two ling and some sea bass.

The forecast continues good with southwest winds of 5-10 knots — increasing to 10-15 in the afternoon.

Last chance for N.J. sea bass on Monday

Sea bass fishing has held up during the spring season in N.J. with the 10 fish bag, but that ends after Monday — which should lead to more effort on ocean fluking.

Very cold ocean bottom waters have resulted in the best fluking having been in shallow inshore waters that are much warmer. Most probes into normally productive bottoms off the Jersey Shore haven’t worked out well. Bruce Vitale said he drifted aboard the Jamaica II from Brielle one morning this week when there were only some shorts on that fluke specialist. A little more hope came from Capt. Ron Santee Jr. on the Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands as he noted that the ocean finally settled a bit by the end of the week when he managed to find some shorts and keepers — including an 8 3/16-pound personal best for Mike Ramos. The Sea Hunter from that port changes its daily fluking hours on Monday to 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant reported good bluefish and sea bass fishing early today, before it became a pick after that.

There’s another great forecast for Sunday with south winds at just 5-10 knots. Patchy fog is possible in the morning.

A little more hope was worked out well so f

R. I. P. Capt. Jeff Gutman

There was sad news today as Capt. Jeff Gutman passed away after a battle with cancer. Jeff ran the Voyager from Pt. Pleasant, and specialized in trips far offshore for tilefish.

Decades ago I drove down to North Carolina as that trend-setting pro tried to establish a winter party boat fishery for large school bluefin tuna. We were successful that day, but the logistics of that fishery didn’t work out for a party boat. I’m sure Jeff is scouting out some even better fisheries in heavenly waters right nowl

Fluking on the Sea Hunter out of Atlantic Highlands on a fine day was as usual this spring mostly shorts with a few keepers, but there was one very happy angler as Troy Sgozzafava from Central Valley, Pa. fought a 38-inch striped bass which hit a Gulp intended for fluke.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported a run of black drum on clams in the IBSP surf. They noted that one angler weighed in two over 24 pounds, but there was nothing on their weigh-in list. The shop also mentioned some bluefish action on plugs in the back of the bay.

There was a brief flurry in the Bay Head surf this morning as decent-sized blues hit plugs and metal. I had just checked that area after doing nothing in the canal, and it seemed to be quiet. As I headed home there was a call about the bite being on – but I missed it again after turning around. That almost never works out.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant got into those blues in the river Wednesday as Capt. Dave Riback was heading out. They ended up with about 100 up to their largest of the year at 8 pounds. The Ketchum family had a hot sea bass jigging bite on a Thursday charter, and limited our for an early return at 11 a.m.

The Saturday morning forecast looks good with south winds at 5-10 knots before increasing to 10-15 in the afternoon.

MyCharge a Father’s Day choice for night fishing

Having a virtually unlimited source of power with you while fishing at night comes in very handy for anglers putting in long hours seeking big stripers, blues and sharks from beaches. That makes MyCharge a fine Father’s Day gift for such fishermen as not only is light available for tying rigs, baiting hooks and, hopefully unhooking fish — but your cell phone and other devices can also be charged via two built-in USB ports. The 500 lumens LED lamp has four levels of brightness and a flashing SOS mode. An anti-corrosive metal kickstand is included. MyCharge is also handy to have in the house in the event of a power outage.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar caught its usual sea bass, ling and fluke today, but also tangled with a big one that got away. A very large thresher shark grabbed a hooked sea bass and was fought briefly. Threshers have such small teeth that some are actuallty caught by fluke fishermen with mono leaders, but this one was much too big. The Golden Eagle has some reservations available for weekend afternoon trips.

The Big Jamaica from Brielle has been catching many limits of sea bass as that season comes to an end on Monday — and will then switch to general bottom fishing for the ling plus some flounder and cod which are also hitting. A half-night ling trip will be run Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m.

At Seaside Park, John Bushell Jr. at Betty and Nick’s noted that the sixth straight day of northeast wind has made the surf dirty and full of babbage, but bluefish have been cooperating in both inlets for those who are on the scene when they flurry in.

I tried the Manasquan surf this morning, but found it to be quite rough and somewhat dirty.

The forecast for Friday is for south winds at merely 5-10 knots.

Bigeyes bite in canyons

The Canyon Runner from Pt. Pleasant reports bigeye tuna are building up in the canyons as per the following report:

Deane Lambros & Capt. Mike Zajac had a very busy beginning of June getting in 8 overnighters since the start of the month. Highlights included the Cameron Brown charter with 3 big-eyes, 30 bluefin and a yellowfin, the Matt Couzon charter with 3 big-eyes & 40 bluefin, the John Bridge group with 2 big-eyes and 42 bluefin, the Kieron Traynor charter with 2 big-eyes and 9 bluefin, the Jon Shuler group with 6 big bluefin between 60-75 inches and finally the Alan Freedman group finishing off this run on Saturday to Sunday with 4 more big-eyes and some yellowfin.

Those catches were made in Toms Canyon, except for the latter when a much longer run to the south was made to find yellowfins.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reports some black drum on clams in addition to the blues and stripers hitting at times in the surf. Betty and Nick’s had a report of 5-pound blues in both inlets.

Weed was a problem again today in the Bay Head surf, and that was also the case in the Point Pleasant Canal where I still managed to release a 26-inch blue that was my biggest this spring – plus a 16-inch striper on a Z Man paddeltail. It was nice to feel the light tackle drag working at last.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported very good sea bass fishing plus ling the last two days,

Though the ocean has been sloppy, light winds continue to prevail. The forecast for the morning is east at 5-10 knots.

Sea bass closes soon

The N.J. black sea bass season closes Monday, so anglers wishing to get in on the current opportunity shouldn’t hesitate to get out there. The June 22 closure is followed by a reopening on July 1 though Aug. 31 — but with a bag limit of only two. That’s intended as a by-catch for fluke fishermen during the summer.

The N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife added materials to two artificial reefs last week. A 150-foot caisson gate was dropped on the Deepwater Reef, and a 65-foot tug was added to Sandy Hook Reef as a memorial for Darren Cardinal. Details on those placements are available at the Division’s web site.

After a beautiful day, it looks as if there will be another tomorrow as the forecast is for east winds at just 5-10 knots.

The Jamaica from Brielle reports that Friday night’s ling trip produced catches up to just over 30 red hake. There was not only good sea bass action on Sunday, but Caren O’Neil of Trenton added a 7-pund cod, and Bill Jones of Lakewood had two winter flounder in addition to his sea bass limit.

Weed was a problem in the Bay Head surf this morning, and it also returned to Point Pleasant Canal — though some small blues were caught.

Out of Luck

The captain is having computer problems…yet again. He will hopefully be back with some reports tomorrow.

Tight Lines

Little shark news

June has been prime time for sharking along the Jersey Shore as well as on Long Island, but between the current mako regulations and the pandemic there’s been little interest in tournaments and charters — or even private boat sharking.

Last weekend’s South Jersey Shark Tournament in Cape May was the poorest ever with only 19 boats competing and very few sharks caught. There were no makos weighed in, and it appears the only two eligible entries were a 439-pound thresher on Meraki that was worth $1,260 — and a blue shark of 247 pounds by Gina L for $1,440.ournaments started decades ago with all species eligible, but over the years most switched to only makos, or makos and threshers, in order to avoid killing lots of sharks not normally desired for food. That probably hasn’t made much of an impact on mako stocks, but there’s been a huge increase in longlining for them that now involves most of the U.S. mako landings.’ve been sharking and writing about the sport since the early days on Long Island, and watched the sport change from a man against killer situation with all sharks killed to one in which almost all are released — including many with tags that provide scientific info at little cost. It’s always amazed me that makos could survive since they’ve never been abundant, have a very long gestation period, and produce only a few pups. Yet, they still have produced reasonable catches in line with what we had during those early days when there was hardly any pressure from either anglers or commercial fishermen. Small makos have often been caught in large numbers during tournaments, though they have all been released in recent years due to high minimums. However, now that NMFS has raised the minimum to 83 inches it’s much harder to boat a keeper. It appears that the biggest Long Island shark contest, the Freeport Hudson Anglers, will be contested next weekend, but the venerable Mako Mania of the Greater Point Peasant Charter Boat Association was changed to a tuna format before being cancelled due to the pandemic.

The horribly wrong calm forecast for Saturday resulted in lots of sore anglers, and it’s fortunate that everyone that believed in the 10 knot north prediction survived. Mark Roy ran down to the Resor with his Release Me from Raritan Marina in Hazlet on Friday night in order to be ready for te early bite. However, it was too rough to fish at night, and though a few fish were trolled at first light, they only caught one little tunny. t was too rough to head back in the ocean, so Roy went inside to go north and ended up trolling mojos in Raritan Bay up to dark in order to catch a striper. He also had six mojos chopped, indicating that blues have finally arrived there.

Jimmy Giles ran 15 miles off before turning back, but ran into birds working over tuna at 8 miles off. They were on sand eels, and wouldn’t hit anything.

I fished Point Pleasant Canal this morning and released two 22-inch blues on a 5-inch Z Man. That was a lot better than what’s been going in there lately.

Monday’s forecast is for 10-15 knot winds from the northeast, switching to east in the afternoon.

Worst weather forecast of the year

Sorry for no blog yesterday, but AOL kept putting me off the internet. Perhaps that may have been for the nest as I was going to pass along a fine weather forecast that was totally inaccurate.

That forecast was for north winds at 5-10 knots, but the reality was a strong north wind that turned the ocean into a mass of whitecaps. It was barely fishable for those trolling the medium range grounds for bluefin tuna. Not surprisingly, I only heard of a few isolated tuna on the marine radio. Even little tunny were generally scarce in the sloppy seas during a morning that turned out to be quite chilly as Joe Massa and I trolled the Resor area to no avail with Bob Correll on his Sea Vee 32 from Crystal Point Marina in Point Pleasant.

Just like yesterday, when Mike Heaney and I trolled Little Italy with Correll, we saw only a few scattered tuna chicks, no whales or slicks and no other surface signs of tuna. At least yesterday there were a few large little tunny and a couple of early arriving bonito hitting the tuna lures.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had good bottom fishing yesterday in fine conditions as sea bass and ling cooperated along with two

cod.

There were no reports today from the Seaside Park tackle shops, but they will be open for normal business on Monday.

Capt. Vinniy Vetere is back to chartering his Katfish out if Great Kills, and is catching lots of stripers — though most are too big to keep.

If you can believe it, there’s some good weather coming after tomorrow. Today’s afternoon forecast is northwest at 5-10 knots. After midnight it goes to northeast at 10-15 knots with gusts to 20. That holds for the morning, but changes in the afternoon to 5-10 knots.

Starting from scratch

Though the weather prediction is good, it will be a whole new ball game when anglers get back to fishing tomorrow. Today’s exceptionally strong winds followed by afternoon storms will shake up the ocean and muddy some inshore waters. All of what was learned before the bad weather may have to be discarded in favor of a new search.

That especially applies to the inshore bluefin tuna run which had been very good at Little Italy and even closer to the beach though Capt. Chris Di Stefano said he heard that Little Italy trollers had to go further south Wednesday in order to find school bluefins.

I suspect that most party boats stayed in port today, but the Golden Eagle is ready to sail from Belmar tomorrow– probably checking for schools of small blues before filling bags with sea bass and ling. The surf may require a few tide changes to clear up, but you never know. There had been sightings of bunkers out of range in many areas, and those who happen to be around when stripers attack them have scored with stripers on popping plugs.

Small blues are also a surf possibility. Dan Sheehan said bunkers stayed out of casting range yesterday morning at Sandy Hook, but some small blues hit Hogy epoxy jigs.

Point Pleasant Canal has been dead lately, but it was the only place I was sure would be fishable this morning. Casting a jig into the howling south wind wasn’t easy, but I actually had the opportunity to catch something. A fish fighting like a legal fluke came off at the surface with a splash at 5:20 when it wasn’t bright enough to identify it as the Z Man jig came out. Later, I had a small blue on for four jumps before it got rid of the jig next to the wall. There were also two other taps on the ebb before I left. The only other angler released about a 16-inch striper.

Ray Rogalski commented on Monday’s whale incident, and noted that he was trolling close to the beach recently when a whale seemed to make an aggressive move toward him. That’s something I’d never heard about before.

The south wind should decrease after midnight to north at 5-10 knots before switching to southwest in the afternoon.