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More white marlin weigh-ins, but the two 73-pounders remain at the top

In the race for the million dollar white marlin at the MidAtlantic out of Cape May and Ocean City, Maryland there was no change today though 124 boats trolled the canyons. The two 73-pounders remain on top, but there were several close calls.

Gusto had barely made the board at the 65-pound minimum on Tuesday, but they tacked on four more pounds today — and that 69-pounder moved into third place by a pound over Lucky Lady Jean.  Two 67-pounders were weighed by April Fool and Lighten Up.

Once again there was no 400-pound minimum blue marlin to claim that money.

Espadon boated a 34-pound dolphin to move into second by a pound over The Natural, and Rhonda’s Osprey had a 27-pound dolphin that now stands fourth. Contrail weighed a 49-pound wahoo that’s second to The Zipper’s 71-pounder. 1 believe all of the 151 boats saved the last day to wind up the contest — and they’ve got perfect weather to make the final assault on well over a million dollars tomorrow.

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$3,368,490 on the line during last two days of the MidAtlantic

After a Wednesday during which all 157 boats entered took a lay day for the first time in the event’s 14-year history, the MidAtlantic was back in action today and concludes tomorrow at Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May and Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Maryland as the distribution of the $3,368,490 purse will be determined.

Though the ocean looked good inshore yesterday, there was an offshore forecast of 20-30 knot winds. Running a canyon trolling tournament in hurricane season is always risky, but the MidAtlantic has been blessed with fishable weather after a northeast wind blew through before the first day. The first two days produced a remarkable release total of 387 white marlin and 16 blue marlin as 44 boats fished the first marginal day after the northeaster with good results — and 156 were out the next day  — as the contest averaged over two billfish per boat day.

There was also a showing of bigeye tuna after they had been absent at the recent White Marlin Open where the tuna awards went to modest-sized yellowfins.  Indeed, Capt. Mark De Blasio strained the scales Tuesday with five bigeyes on Blue Runner, and is in a second place tie with Toddy Time at 114 pounds – just behind the 116-pounder by Da Sea.  Though impressive, there’s still plenty of room for improvement in that category as the MidAtlantic record is a 254-pound bigeye on Bernard and Drew Dinardi’s Absolut-ly in 1993.

The big-money white marlin category got filled in quickly as two 73-pounders were weighed the first day by Justin Blanning of Wall, N.J. on 3’s Enough and on Special Situation.  Andrew Hall of Chester, N.J. moved into third Tuesday with a 68-pounder on Lucky Lady Jean — just ahead of Intents at 66 pounds and Gusto with a 65-pounder. None of those whites are sure things as the MidAtlantic record is 95 pounds by Topless in 2009.

Maybe I should send my wife, Kathy, down there to help out as her only white marlin was a trophy caught while sharking with me before we were married, when I kept my Mako 22 in Montauk. She hooked a white that took a small bunker drifted in Butterfish Hole. Even after being out of the water all day, it still weighed 99 1/2 pounds at Montauk Marine Basin — winning the Outdoor Life national contest that year.

As noted in yesterday’s blog, the blue marlin category remains wide open with a 400-pound minimum, despite all the smaller blues that have been released. The 43-pound dolphin by First Light appears to be the most likely entry to stand, though the contest record is higher still at 56 pounds on American Lady in 2010. The Zipper leads in wahoo at 71 pounds, which could stand even though it’s well below the MidAtlantic record of 97 pounds set by Joanna in 2009.

I’ll have a late blog with updates after the weigh-ins close at 9 p.m.

I was wondering about Climate Change this morning as I was shivering in a light jacket while casting a Tactical Anglers Bomb Jr. popper into the surf  north of Manasquan Inlet. I’ve never before been chilled during an August morning on the beach, but that northwest wind was cool. A fat 23 1/2-inch striper hit the plug as I was about to lift it out of the water for another cast,  and I later also released my first surf bluefish of the year — a mere 17-incher.

Vinny D’Anton caught two small stripers nearby on a Storm Searchbait, and later moved further north to catch two more on a Chug Bug.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc said the last two days have been windy, creating a fast drift that produced good action though not as many keepers (see below) as he’d like to see on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands.

Flike on Sea Hunter

Tank Matraxia and his Lyndhurst crew had good fluking off the Rockaways with Capt. Chad Hacker on Tagged Fish from Highlands as the seven anglers totaled 21 keepers from 19 to 23 inches with only a few shorts. Tank only put ALS tags into four fluke. He had a particularly good day catching six legal fluke. Surprisingly, there was almost no variety with only a couple of sea robins boated.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported a fast drift to start, but it settled down for good sea bass and chub mackerel action plus some blues and fluke along with “some nice sharks”  — a notation I’ve never before seen from a party boat.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant reported a variety pick of blues, chub mackerel. sea bass, blues, fluke and bonito.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported lots of fluke were caught in the surf Wednesday, particularly in Island Beach State Park. They note that the 6-inch Gulp produces more keepers though there’s less action.  Matt and Megan Roser show off their 2.1-pound blue and 1.6-pound fluke from IBSP on bunker and Gulp.

Kid's blue & fluke

Looking for a big blue marlin in the MidAtlantic

While the other categories have had entries, there’s a big hole in the MidAtlantic tournament at Cape May and Ocean City, Maryland waiting for a blue marlin of at least 400 pounds to be caught during the last two days of the contest. For the first time in MidAtlantic history, all 157 boats decided to take a lay day with fine weather forecasted for the next two days. That was surprising as there are daily awards that a boat could do very well with for almost anything caught. With no weigh-ins, there will also be no late blog.

There have been quite a few blue marlin releases, but none have been close enough to even bring to the scale. The old 300-pound standard from the early days of what was then called the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 might have made a difference.

In 1995, it seemed that giant blues were becoming more common. I was fishing with Bernard and Drew Dinardi on their Absolut-Ly in the contest on Aug. 24 when a big blue came out of nowhere in the afternoon as I was the only angler in the cockpit. After a good battle, I boated what turned out to be a 503-pound blue that was only good enough for third at that point, and got knocked off the board the last day when the new leader was weighed.

I believe that was the only blue marlin over 500 pounds in MidAtlantic history that never won a penny — though combined with a blue release it did earn the Blue Marlin Points Trophy for Absolut-Ly. The minimum was then upped to 400 pounds as a conservation effort. but giant blues aren’t always available.

It looked yesterday evening as if lightning may have struck twice for Joe Rahman of Wanaque as his Auspicious came to the scale. Rahman won over $900,000 at the White Marlin Open with a first day 881-pound blue that swept the category, but this time there was only a white to be weighed — and it fell just a pound short of the 65-pound minimum to get on the board.

The volume of billfish releases has been excellent so far. Among the top release boats yesterday were Rhonda’s Osprey with two blues and three whites;  Texas Tea and Espadon with a blue and two whites; Canyon Lady with eight whites; Buckshot and Lights Out with seven whites; and both Business and Big Oil with six whites.

Billfisher is the overall points leader with 1507, ahead of 3’s Enough at 823; First Light 688.5; and Trust Me Too plus Reel Joy at 675.

Billfisher is also way in front of white marlin points with 1275, followed by Reel Joy, Trust Me Too and 3’s Enough at 675. In the Blue Marlin Points race, Southern C’s and Rhonda’s Osprey each have 300. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Capt. Mark De Blasio brought in five bigeye tuna yesterday on Blue Runner from Manasquan to take a strong lead in tuna points with 237.5 over Reel Estate with 131. However his biggest tuna of 114 pounds was tied by Toddy Time for second — and Da Sea took over first with a 116-pound entry.

There was a huge change in dolphin as First Light weighed a 43-pounder that may be hard to beat, putting them 10 pounds ahead of The Natural. The first two wahoo were a 71-pounder on The Zipper and a 46-pounder by Torta.

Andrew Hall of Chester, N.J. took over third in white marlin behind the two 73-pound leaders as his Lucky Lady Jean weighed a 68-pounder. Intents at 66 pounds and Gusto at a just eligible 65 pounds also got on the board.

Some party boats also took another day off, but the Golden Eagle from Belmar reported a boat limit of sea bass along with chub mackerel — though not as many as yesterday. The Ocean Explorer did well with fluke as experienced anglers limited. Mostly NW winds of 5 to 10 knots with two-foot seas are in the forecast up to Sunday

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported some cocktail blues were caught in the surf on metal yesterday, but fluking was the best bet.

Tom Spiller 23-inch 4.85-lb Tom Spicer beached this 23-inch, 4.85-pound fluke and weighed it Grumpy’s Tackle.

Despite a swell more pleasing to surfers, the surf at Manasquan was very fishable this morning though I never raised anything to a T.A. Bomb Jr. popper.

The Canyon Runner fleet at Point Pleasant has room on an open night chunking trip over the weekend. The cost per angler is $899 that covers everything– including food, drinks and tip.  Call Adam La Rosa at 732 272-4445.  Below is a Canyon Runner shot below of life in the canyons — whales, dolphins (mammals), tuna, shearwaters and tuna chicksCanyon Ruunner canyon life

 

 

 

Bigeyes scramble tuna standings at MidAtlantic

With 146 boats fishing today in the MidAtlantic out of Cape May and Ocean City, Maryland there were bound to be changes — and they sure happened in the tuna division  as well as in dolphin and wahoo.

The bigeyes that were missing a couple of weeks ago in the White Marlin Open have been popping up during the first two days of this event. Blue Runner came to the scales with five bigeyes this evening, but the largest was just 114 pounds which matched a bigeye on Toddy Time while barely short of the 116-pounder on Da Sea. With three days to go, I expect there will be more tuna changes coming.  Reel Estate, yesterday’s leader, fell to a tie for fourth at 110 pounds with Blue Runner’s second bigeye.

The dolphin category was turned upside down as First Light weighed a 43-pounder, followed by The Natural at 33 pounds — and Reelin Feelin with a 25-pound dolphin.

There were no wahoo the first day. but The Zipper took the lead at 71 pounds, and there was also a 46-pounder by Torta.

The two 73-pound white marlin remained unchallenged, but third place was filled in by Lucky Lady Jean at 68 pounds to edge Intents at 66 pounds and Gusto’s 65.

There have been no blue marlin weigh-ins so far. Check tomorrow’s blog for the points standings.

Hot canyon fishing during MidAtlantic opener

Though only 44 boats out of 151 entered in the MidAtlantic Tournament out of Cape May and Ocean City, Maryland braved the NE wind forecast to fish Monday’s opener, most of those boats experienced very good fishing.

White marlin releases were reported steadily, and two 73-pounders took over the lead in that richest category for Special Situation and 3’s Enough. There were also several blue marlin releases, though none close to the 400-pound minimum for weighing.

The tuna category was a huge improvement over the recent White Marlin Open at Ocean City, where a mere 75.5-pounder won over $900,000. M.R. Ducks (below) weighed an 85-pound bigeye, but is only in third place at the MidAtlantic.

ccbigeye -85 M.R. Ducks.jpgReel Estate (below) and First Light were the tuna leaders as the former took over first, fourth and sixth with weigh-ins of 110, 77 and 74 pounds — while First Light is second at 102 pounds and fifth with a 75-pounder.

ThTheReel Estate bigeyesThe only two dolphin entered were just 18 pounds by Ringleader and 17 pounds by Game Changer.

The early points leader is Billfisher with 12 whites and a blue for 1050 points. Give It Away released eight whites. while Big Deal, First Light, Bar South and Goose had six each. Special Situation not only had the white marlin entry, but also five white releases along with Taylor Jean and Real Chaos. 3’s Enough added releases of six whites and a blue marlin to their 73-pound white.

There are 146 boats fishing today, and I’ll have another blog after the scales close at 9 p.m. to report the almost inevitable changes. By the way, the MidAtlantic recounted the purse which went up a bit to $3,368.490.

Though the ocean remained a bit nasty, some N.J. party boats got back out. The Golden Eagle from Belmar had also fished yesterday and managed sea bass plus chub mackerel and some blues  and bonito then– while today’s variety consisted of blues and little tunny.

At Atlantic Highlands, the Sea Hunter found the ocean to be too uncomfortable so they fished in the bay for a decent pick of keepers among good short fluke action. The Fishermen stuck it out in the ocean where some sea bass, blues and triggerfish were added to the fluke. Scott Scudieri won the pool with a 6.9-pound fluke.

Vinny D’Anton of Wall fished his local beach and released a small striper on a Chug Bug in a still somewhat rough surf. I worked Shark River and didn’t hook a fish. Fly fisherman Bill Hoblitzell had the same luck as of the time I left — and he had already tried Sea Girt with the same result. Surfcasting should improve as the waves settle somewhat in the lighter winds forecasted.

 

Two 73-pound white marlin weighed in MidAtlantic

It was probably a bit rough for boats that sailed during the first day of The MidAtlantic out of Ocean City. Maryland and Cape May, but fishing was very good with lots of marlin caught along with a showing of larger tuna.

Both Special Situation (which also released five whites) and 3’s Enough weighed 73-pound white marlin. There were quite a few blue marlin caught, but no 400-pounders to be weighed.

Reel Estate weighed a 111-pound tuna that would have run away with the recent White Marlin Open tuna money, but they’re not far ahead of a 102-pounder by First Light. M.R Ducks is third at 85 pounds,  while Reel Estate holds both fourth and sixth at 77 and 74 pounds — with First Light in between at 75 pounds.

Ring Leader leads in dolphin with an 18-pounder just one pound ahead of Game Changer. Billfisher released three whites and a blue to take the release lead with 1052  points.

MidAtlantic opens with 151 boats competing for $3,246,760

MidAtlantic Tournament opened today out of Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May and Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Maryland with 151 boats seeking pieces of the $3,246,760 purse. Despite the northeast wind forecast,  it appears that 44 skippers decided to take their first day at sea during the opener.

Jeff Merrill told me that the forecast was better for Ocean City  boats, and there’s some windy weather forecast for Wednesday. Right now, the best day of the week for canyon fishing appears to be the final one on Friday. I’ll have the first day’s results later tonight after weigh-ins are completed at 9 p.m.

There was a lack of other fishing results today as many party boats cancelled trips in advance due to the continuing northeast forecast. Vinny D’Anton and I put in a couple of hours casting into Shark River where I released a 21 1/2-inch striper on a Z Man Swimmereez jig and lost another. Vinny moved around and came up with two small bass on a Chug Bug — and had a soft plastic jig tail bitten off by a blue.

Yesterday morning, I got hit four times in a row on a cast by what had to be one or more blues, but the bluefish-proof Z Man paddletail was unaffected even though my leader was full of chips from bluefish teeth.

 

 

NE wind made it tough on anglers

As noted last night, there was going to be a lot of northeast wind today, but I wasn’t counting on all the rain that came with it.  I was able to hide from the worst of it in Shark River, and watched boats go out and soon come back.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar was an exception, and they reported good action with sea bass despite the nasty ocean. Some ling were added along with “tommy cod”.  I very much doubt that tomcod were found offshore as they are a small inshore species. It’s likely those fish were spotted hake, a similarly-shaped small member of the cod family which can be identified by the line of white spots along its lateral line. Though fairly common, they rarely are as large as a pound.  The Golden Eagle also marked chub mackerel on their fish finder, and plan to chum for them tomorrow.

Small craft warnings for gusty NE winds continue into Monday afternoon.  The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands sent customers home this morning due to the wind and rain. Check with them about tomorrow. The Angler has already decided not to sail until Tuesday as they won’t be able to get to the areas that have been producing larger fluke.

The MidAtlantic begins fishing days tomorrow from Cape May and Ocean City, Maryland.  Many skippers like to get a jump on the field during the first day, but I suspect few will fight rough seas when the rest of the week looks better. I’ll have late blogs with results after the weigh-ins close through Friday.

Bob Matthews reports from Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina that fluking was excellent on Saturday. The Ozark Club Tournament produced fluke weigh-ins at the northern store up to 11 pounds, and up to 7 pounds at Belmar.  The river was also good as Jesse Thomas of Wall had a fluke limit in just two hours.

I only managed three small stripers in the rain this morning from shore in Shark River, and paid dearly for them as my surf rod (Tsunami 8-foot, 10-inch Elite with Canyon 3500 spinning reel) disappeared from behind my back. There was just one “stranger” on the shore, and he left during the rain while I was a casting a jig with the lighter tackle.

Big change in weather coming tomorrow

Northeast winds gusting to 25 mph are forecast for later tonight, and it certainly should be cooler for fishing  tomorrow — but hopefully not too rough.

Getting a drift shouldn’t be the problem it was today for Capt. Rob Semkewyc on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands. He said there was too much bottom current in the deep, but the drift didn’t cover much ground. As a result, action was off from yesterday, the high hook only caught 12 to 15 shorts and there was just a pick of keepers.

Capt. Stan Zagleski said he left the strong bottom currents in the deep and found a fair number of keepers among shorts in shallower waters with his Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands.

The hot bluefishing of the last few days along the Shore wasn’t repeated after yesterday afternoon’s hard south winds lowered the inshore water temperatures. At Belmar, the Golden Eagle reported blues were hard to tempt. though better anglers managed about a dozen before they headed offshore for variety bottom fishing and jigging that produced some sea bass and chub mackerel plus a couple of 4-to-5-pound fluke among shorts.  The Ocean Explorer noted that the weatherman was wrong about the weather and they had a beautiful day for fluking.

The Jamaica from Brielle had hot jigging for small blues on their Friday morning trip along with some bonito, A move offshore added sea bass, fluke and chub mackerel. The Big Jamaica has another tilefish trip coming up on Sunday, Aug. 26 at 10 p.m.  Call 732 528-5014 for reservations. John Gorman boated a 50.2-pound tilefish on the last trip.

Jamaica variety below.

Jamaica varietyAt least there were no reports of whales overturning small boats today. This week’s incident off Deal serves as an alert for boaters, though there really isn’t anything you can do to prevent such a rare occurrence. Jerry Lasko of Point Pleasant had a whale almost do the same thing as he was running at high speed out of Manasquan Inlet a few years ago.

The northeast wind may upset casting for semi-tropical species, but I got a report of a cobia being caught yesterday at Manasquan Inlet.

Capt. Vinny Vetere had to do a lot of running with his Katfish from Great Kills on Friday, but he found striped bass that would hit trolled Ho Jos and live bunker in the western L.I. Sound, though chunking was no good. He may have an opening tomorrow.

There was no such excitement in Shark River this morning, but I had light tackle sport with four school stripers on the Z-Man Swimmereez jig.  Frank Manzi did the same on a jig, and finished up with a small bluefish. Vinny D’Anton had caught a schoolie on a Chug Bug in the surf at Belmar the last time I talked to him.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported lots of bait and small blues in the surf on Friday along with fluke and some exotics.

The MidAtlantic opens tomorrow with 4:30 p.m. captains meetings at Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May and Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Maryland. Fishing for a purse that should be well over a million dollars starts Monday and continues through Friday.

 

 

Get some Spanish mackerel while they last

The present abundance of rainfish has attracted great numbers of small blues to the Jersey Shore, along with some bonito, little tunny, chub mackerel and even Spanish mackerel. The latter is a semi-tropical species which is only spotted here during some late summers. and normally is hard to get a shot at as they only arc out of the water and disappear.  Though Spanish mackerel are commonly caught from the surf on both sides of Florida, they’re a relative rarity here. Like bonito, they usually respond best to small, very fast moving lures such as small metals and bucktails.

The Spanish mackerel we see here are normally small. Yet I can testify to the fact that they grow larger. When I was a Navy officer stationed at the Naval Base in Trinidad, West Indies in 1961 I used to troll many of them in the Caribbean from a 20-foot pirogue carved from a single tree and powered by an old West Bend 12 hp outboard. Most were just a couple of pounds, and I’d never caught one over 5 pounds until Oct. 18 that year when I was shocked to boat an 11-pounder on a small white feather. The IGFA didn’t keep world records for Spanish mackerel until many decades later and the present world record isn’t much larger — at 13 pounds from Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. Thus, I suspect my personal best will continue to stand. Nick Honachefsky took this shot of his surf-caught Spanish mackerel this week.Spanish.JPG

Bonito are also unusually abundant close to shore, though mostly quite small.  Nick Honachefsky, of the Saltwater Underground daily video, got into a big blast of them during an afternoon trip outside  Manasquan Inlet this week with Jerry Malanga and Alex Kondas as over 30 were caught among all the bluefish.

bonito on boat.JPG

They also fished killies at pots further offshore to catch some chicken dolphin.  The cold front predicted for this weekend could be a problem for our semi-tropical fishing.

Joe Melillo of Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant ran his small boat out the inlet yesterday evening and said there were so many birds working over feeding blues that he could only cast side arm to keep the line low and avoid tangling birds on every cast.

At Atlantic Highlands, there was a big improvement in fluke fishing as drifting conditions were good all day. Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter said the bottom of Ambrose Channel seemed to be paved with fluke even though most are shorts. A couple of fares caught over 30, but there was a 4.5-pound pool winner.  Semkewyc said a basic rig was best with just a Gulp and spearing worked off bottom.

Capt. Ron Santee had a charter with McCarter & English on his Fishermen as everyone went home with dinner.  Pink Slime Gulp  with a fresh peanut bunker worked well.

The Angler had a new leader in both the Big and monthly pools Wednesday when Lance Reis of Morristown boated an 8 3/8-pound fluke — but Jim Custer boated an identical fluke the next day to share the lead.

Tank Matraxia joined friends from Lyndhurst on a charter aboard the Bingo today, The boat was anchored off Sea Bright for porgies, but very few were caught along with some sea bass. Tank caught a good-sized grey triggerfish.  A few anglers cast bucktails off the stern and boated a few legal fluke while Tank put 4 ALS tags in the shorts.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had another great start with hot jigging for 1-to-3-pound blues, plus some bonito and chub mackerel mixed in,  before that died late in the morning — and then went off to add some fluke and sea bass.

My second cast into Shark River this morning produced a 20-inch striper on a Kettle Creek paddletail, but the next hit resulted in a missing tail. I switched to a bluefish-proof Z Man Swimmereez to end up with three stripers plus two blues in the 3-pound class. Frank Manzi caught a 22-inch bass on a popper.  Vinny D’Anton worked the beach and released five bass in the 18-inch class that hit his Chug Bug.