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Happy Easter!

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Easter. Fishing may be at a minimum today, but I was reminded about my recent trip to Pesca Panama yesterday while watching Jay Feely announce the Michigan-Loyola Final Four game on TNT.  Jay was part of Bob Correll’s group that flew into Panama City om March 17, but didn’t overnight there as is usual, before taking an afternoon flight to David in order to get out fishing earlier on Sunday.  The smaller hotel in David couldn’t come up with the NCAA Tournament games on their TV, but we were advised to walk over to a chicken restaurant a few blocks away. They had big screens showing soccer, but we talked them into searching the satellite to find the basketball in both English and Spanish while we enjoyed the chicken and beer.

The change in overnighting plans didn’t actually didn’t make any difference in getting started the next day, but the trip out to the Pesca Panama  barge on Oceanmasters  turned out well for those who were able to catch some blue runners on Sabicki rigs for big roosterfish live baits in the nearby Parides area. The next several days then produced most of the other species that make the Isla Coiba area of Panama one of the best variety sportfishing locations on earth.

 

_DSC0740This is what the “normal” 25-to-30-pound cubera snapper caught on Pesca Panama trips looks like — unlike the 73-pounder at the head of the blog. This one hit a small live Lane snapper drifted on bottom over a high piece on heavy spinning tackle before being released It’s hard to believe that this same fish can jump several feet out of the water to inhale a big popper!

 

 

 

Tautog seasons opening April 1

It’s time to start fishing for blackfish again on April 1.  The spring season opens that day in every state from Massachusetts to Delaware, though there is some variation in closing dates, minimum lengths and bag limits. In Ct., N.Y. and N.J., the first season only runs through April 30, with two tog at a minimum of 16 inches allowed in Ct. and N.Y., while N.J. anglers can take four at a 15-inch minimum.

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar has been returning a few tautog that hit while cod were being sought on recent trips. About 15 cod were hooked on Thursday, but all were short. There were four legal cod Friday plus a dozen shorts despite a big ground swell and tough anchoring conditions.  They were planning on fishing Easter Sunday during normal hours, but check with them about that trip as small craft warnings have been posted for gusty SW winds Saturday night into Sunday. The Big Mohawk from that port has scheduled a trip for blackfish on Monday, but weather could be a problem there also with a mix of snow and rain in the forecast for Sunday night.

The weather is a lot nicer at Pesca Panama. Capt. Mike Augat reports “This week we had a 270lb tuna, one cubera over 50 lbs, good roosters, numerous other tuna 70-150 -lbs, a 24-lb snook, and two anglers had a species count contest- one took 25, the other won on the last day totaling 28 species.  Really fun week.”

 

 

 

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Yellowfin tuna are great sport on relatively light spinning tackle I used at Pesca Panama recently along with nephews Bobby and Todd Correll.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exotics in Florida

I joined Bruce Hrobek of Billy Bones Tackle in Port St. Lucie and Stuart  this week to fish Miami-area canals for some real exotic fish — Midas cichlids.  That invasive species from Central America is well-established in the clear water canals, and can be spotted before being baited. Though they feed on both plant and aquatic life, the most effective bait is a piece of white bread formed into a ball on a small hook. The strong south wind made it tough to present the virtually weightless bait, but I hooked one of the beautiful fish on my first attempt. It was 11-inches long and weighed 1 1/2 pounds — and I later caught another of the same size.

Midas1This was the first Midas, and the second looked like a copy. Both were males with the forehead lump.

Tanner midas

Tanner Hrobek with another big Midas. Tanner also caught a convict cichlid, which has the coloring of a sheepshead with black bars on the sides when it’s a juvenile.

Dr. Johnathon Levy of North London, England, was also with us as some peacock bass were added to the catch with live shiners.   Thanks to Hai Truing, the guide who directed us to these fish. He can be reached at wwwhaitruingfishing.com.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported the first small stripers being caught on bloodworms in the still cold local surf. Small bass are also hitting worms and small lures in the back bay — and Barnegat Bay is already loaded with bunkers — setting the stage for the spring run of big bluefish.

Bad news for northern anglers

NOAA has the following bad news about recreational regulations for cod and haddock in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank:

Proposed 2018 Groundfish Recreational Regulations – Open for Public Comment
By April 6, please submit your comments on proposed groundfish recreational measures for 2018. Recreational possession of Gulf of Maine cod would continue to be prohibited, the haddock possession limit would be reduced from 12 to 10 fish for the charter/party fleet, and a new closed season would be implemented in May for private anglers. For Georges Bank cod, we are proposing an increase to the minimum size from 22 to 24 inches, and a possession limit for the for-hire fleet, set at 10 fish.

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar will be sailing for cod on Thursday, while the Golden Eagle from that port gets started Friday for herring and mackerel.

Vinnie D’Anton reports from Sarasota that shore fishing was very good again today for spotted sea trout plus ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, snook and flounder all on the 3-inch Gulp  Shrimp in new penny color.

Joe Greco fished for redfish for the first time this spring on his small boat out of Fort Myers and cast for two of 20 and 22 inches.

Yesterday I fished from shore in the Miami area for some very unusual fish, and will have photos in tomorrow’s blog.

Wild giant tuna action in NC

The Canyon Runner from Point Pleasant has been enjoying great giant bluefin tuna action during their winter stay in North Carolina — whenever the weather permits them to get offshore. Adam La Rosa has been frustrated by so many charters being lost, but when the boat gets out the fishing has been spectacular. Seven giants to over 700 pounds were caught during the two most recent days at sea — March 19 and 24. On the first trip, the Mark Brzozowski party hooked an unheard of quadruple of giants at once after a slow morning. The next trip produced non-stop trolling action not only with giants but also yellowfin tuna and dolphin for the Matt Mozitis party. If you want to get in on this incredible bite, and are willing to wait out the weather, call Adam La Rosa at 732 272-4445.

 

The Tackle Box in Hazlet reports Matt Calabria has been picking away at small stripers in the back of Raritan Bay on bloodworms, and also caught the first keeper there.

Vinnie D’Anton  has been enjoying good light tackle casting from shorelines near his winter home in Sarasota, Fl. Spotted sea trout have been hitting 3-inch Gulp, and he topped yesterday morning’s catch with a 24-incher.

 

Fishing resuming in N.J.

The head photo is of the huge Pacific cubera snapper described in yesterday’s blog just before release from the Pesca Panama Oceanmaster I was fishing aboard last week.

The late March northeaster put a big dent in northern fishing activity, but things are looking up this week. The Ocean Explorer from Belmar plans to sail for cod on Wednesday and the rest of the week, while the Golden Eagle from that port resumes fishing on Friday at 7:30 a.m. for herring and mackerel until stripers get started next month. The Ocean Explorer got into some 12-to-15-pound cod during the last trip before the storm — and finally saw water temperatures up to 40 degrees. Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reports small stripers hitting small plugs in the back bay.

Inshore waters remain very cold, though that should change quickly. Joe Melillo, of Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant said it’s even been too cold for the largemouth bass in his local ponds. The shop is being refurbished, but they’re shooting for an opening next week.

Sometimes the one that got away makes a day more memorable than the catches. That was the case yesterday when I fished with my daughter Cyndi and her boyfriend Luis Gonzalez of Palmetto Bay, Fl. Luis ran his trailered 22-foot Pursuit, Sheri Berri III, to Pacific Reef off Miami. While the yellowtail snapper bite was slow, Cyndi suddenly found herself hooked up to a big fish on a very light spinning rod. My former mate on Sheri Berri II, when I had that boat at Point Pleasant and Brielle, did a fine job running around the boat with what we suspected was a toothy critter that had eaten a small fish on her line. Despite having no leader to a tiny jig, Cyndi hung on to the fish for quite some time and got a ray of hope when we saw the silver side of a big barracuda underwater before it finally cut the light mono. It was fun while it lasted!

Cyndi pic

Giant cubera release rather than record

The Pacific cubera snapper is noted for its ability to break off after being hooked in the rocky areas they populate from Mexico to Ecuador and out to the Galapagos Islands. I felt fortunate last week after catching yellowfin tuna out on Hannibal Bank to release a normal-sized 25-to-30-pound cubera  a that hit live Lane snapper on a stout Shimano spinning outfit while drifting over a high spot on the way back to the Pesca Panama barge. Since cuberas dive right into the rocks upon being hooked, spinning tackle seems an unlikely choice for stopping them just as it would be for trying to catch cod around wrecks. Yet, it worked again the next day when my nephew, Bobby Correll of Bay Head, and I returned to another underwater peak after catching tuna off Jicaron.

Felix, our mate on one of the Oceanmaster center consoles, had rigged the same spinning rod with a chunk of black skipjack (similar to our little tunny, and called bonito in the tropics), which I dropped to another high spot. No weight is used in order to prevent snags, and just the weight of the big bait is sufficient to get it to bottom on the drift as Capt. Thomas backs the boat a bit at times to stay in the pay-off zone for a few more seconds.

Bobby hooked up just before I lifted into a very heavy weight. He had a beautiful cubera of about 40 pounds to the boat before I had worked my fish hallway up twice only to have it dive back down again. Yet, because it didn’t break off in bottom after those dives I thought I might be fighting a big shark or amberjack. We were all shocked when I eventually saw the water turn red with the body of the largest cubera I’ve ever seen.

In the “old days” every big cubera was boated because they are a favorite food fish. However, Mike Augat, new owner of Pesca Panama, has established a conservation ethic for one of their most important species — and all are now released. The crew were all shocked at the size of the cubera, and were anxious to release it. I barely had time to get the tape I always carry in my pocket to measure it at 43 inches long with a huge 37-inch girth. What I didn’t do as they released the cubera was to measure it on the IGFA release length category tape that I received just before leaving for Panama. That tape is in centimeters.

After getting back, I used the formula (length times girth squared divided by 800) to get the approximate weight of the cubera which came out to be 73.58375 pounds. The all-tackle world record for Pacific cubera snapper in the 2017 IGFA World Record Game Fishes Book isn’t far larger at 78 pounds, 12 ounces from Costa Rica in 1988. That made me feel a lot better about the successful release of a great old warrior which I would never had expected could be caught on a spinning rod — and by an 81-year old!

Though probably everyone aboard Pesca Panama this week, including former Giants punter Jay Feely,  caught at least one tuna, and many added roosterfish and cubera releases, it was a slow week for black marlin. Connor Correll, son of my nephew Todd Correll from Fort Lauderdale, released the only black at over 300 pounds after 12 had been caught the previous week. Joe Massa, of My Three Sons at Morgan Marina in N.J. hooked a similar black on light spinning tackle after it took a black skipjack that he was bringing in for bait. Though the black threw the big bait after some time, the tiny treble of a Deadly Dick held it until the inevitable break-off much later.

For variety and the opportunity to hook world class game fish it’s hard to beat Pesca Panama!

Pesca Panama Sportfishing

Back from Pesca Panama

Just got back from Pesca Panama after joining my nephews, Bobby Correll of Bay Head, N.J. and Todd Correll from Fort Lauderdale on a charter for family and friends. Bobby and I got off to a great start as we released six roosterfish up to an estimated 45 pounds on live blue runners we had caught on Sabicki rigs last Sunday morning on the way out with one of the Oceanmaster center consoles from David to the barge.
The next morning we got into some yellowfin tuna at famed Hannibal Bank. God must have been looking out for me as I caught two tuna suitable for an old man on stand-up conventional tackle (about 45 and 80 pounds), but Bobby had no luck casting poppers. The following morning we were into tuna in very deep waters off Jicaron where I got involved with a 100-pounder that hit a live blue runner on a relatively light Shimano spinning tackle. It went straight down and tied me up for 1 1/2 hours before I could stop the runs down by holding on to the braid and turning the tuna. Later in the morning, Bobby and Todd made short work of an exciting double of 60-to-70-pounders on poppers. The most unusual catch was yet to come. I’ll post that tomorrow.

Back at it

Hopefully all of the many followers of the blog I was doing for the Star-Ledger and nj.com will join me on this new personal blog which will update fishing news on a regular basis — including everything from regulations to upcoming prospects.

I’m looking forward to everyone participating in this effort. Send reports and ask questions through my e-mail at cristori@aol.com. To clear up any confusion about that address, my daughter Cyndi set that up many years ago with the “c” for captain. Participation by other anglers is the only way this blog can be successful, and I’m looking forward to hearing from anglers of all skill levels and fishing for all species

Welcome aboard!IMG_5711