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You should have been out on Easter for monster bass

Striper fishing in Raritan Bay couldn’t have been any better when Matt Calabria took his father Hector out after Easter dinner. They started out doubling up trolling mo-jos, and then did the same chunking with bass to over 30 pounds — before the big girl took hold.

Hector eventually released a huge bass full of roe that was the fish of his life. It was 53 inches long to the fork of the tail with a 33 1/2-inch girth — and weighed 51 pounds on one scale and 50.8 on another. Yet, if the measurements are right it would have been much larger than that by the formula of length times girth squared divided by 800. It  was too big for Hector to hold, so the photo below is of Matt holding the trophy before her release to pass on her big bass genes in the Hudson River next month..

As good as that fishing was yesterday, it should have still been like that today in light winds. However, party boat reports were poor. Capt. Ron Santee of the Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands called it a bummer as he read fish that wouldn’t bite and ended up searching all over the bay and ocean for action. He even waited for the afternoon outgoing tide which didn’t change anything except bring some rain. Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands said the bass were very scattered and hard to catch. His fares caught a few and lost a couple, but it was very disappointing.  Of course, every day is different in fishing — and the forecast is fine with light west winds for days to come.



Calabria's monster bass

Red drum could have been a NJ catch 100 years ago

Rich Swisstack (see photo below) has been into a surf bite of big red drum at Cape Point, Hatteras, N.C., but a century ago those same fish were being caught along the central N.J. Shore where “channel bass” fishing in the Barnegat Inlet area was the best in the country — and those fish were the primary inshore game species for N.J. anglers.

The first two world records for red drum came from N.J. waters, and there were few caught that weighed less than 20 pounds. Though climate change theory indicates that warming has been occurring for decades, there’s been no explanation of why semi-tropical red drum were so abundant in what should have been cooler waters a century ago and why large red drum have long been a rarity north of Virginia.

Striped bass are now the primary inshore game fish, and that fishing should resume tomorrow, after the Easter break, in Raritan Bay.  The marine weather forecast is for just 5-10 knot north winds, while the big swell should drop to 4-7 feet. The Jamaica from Brielle joins the party boat striper fleet tomorrow on a daily basis at 7:30 a.m.

Red drum - Rich Swisstack

Weatherman screws up big time

As noted in yesterday’s blog, the marine forecast was for south winds gusting to 30 knots. Party boats were cancelling trips. and no party boat reports were filed by 6 p.m.  Yet, Dave Lilly of Hazlet said it was flat calm all day in Raritan Bay.

He ventured out with a friend in a small boat from Keyport, but there were dark clouds and they stayed in the back of the bay where there was plenty of trolling action with stretch plugs — but all from the same 18-23-inch bass we were catching in the back of the bay in March. The mo-jos that had been producing large bass were undisturbed as they were almost as big as the bass. The only heavier fish was a big surprise — a fluke of about 7 pounds released after hitting a stretch plug. Due to the black clouds they didn’t venture out to the Old Orchard area where the bigger bass were still abundant Friday. Yet, flags hung limply all day as the bad weather never happened. Water temperatures in the back are 57 to 58 degrees, but they drop into the forties closer to the ocean.

Party boats won’t be sailing on Easter Sunday in any case. Small craft warnings are still up through Sunday afternoon, though I can’t figure out why since the forecast Sunday is for south winds at a mere 10 knots. There is a big swell, as they are calling for 5-10-foot swells — which is of no concern in Raritan Bay.

The Mimi VI from Point Pleasant has 7 a.m. open blackfish trips at $75 with a limit of 25 anglers set for April 22-25 plus 29 and 30.  A Special  tog trip on Friday, April 26 is limited to 12 fares,  costs $120, leaves at 6:30, and includes whitelegger crabs for bait. Call 732 370-8019 for reservations.


Bay stripers bite again

Though the weather wasn’t the best, striped bass continued to bite in Raritan Bay.  Capt. Rob Semkewyc had a good crowd on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, and once again ended up with a boat limit plus many releases. He will be fishing into a tough forecast again tomorrow.

Capt. Ron Santee  made his first trip of the season with his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands, but was worried when he didn’t see any gannets diving. However, as soon as the tide started running, his father, Capt. Ron Sr., jigged the first bass. The bite was good on most drifts, and there were only a few shorts caught on 9-inch shads. Check with them before coming down tomorrow — and Easter is a no-go.

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reported the ocean was very lumpy today and bottom fishing was tough. They’ll be waiting out the windy weekend weather before sailing Monday.

The Saturday forecast is for south winds of 15-20 knots with gusts to 30 — and 7-10-foot seas plus morning showers. Small craft warnings are up through Saturday afternoon.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reports there are still lots of bass in the back bay. Due to Saturday’s poor forecast, the ODM rod demo has been moved back to 1-4 p.m.

Betty & Nick’s Tackle reports small bass are being caught off the docks, and one angler said he got bitten off. Blues could well show up this weekend. Ten-ounce sinkers were needed to hold bottom in the surf today.

Word press wouldn’t let me write script after I posted the photo of the 757.8-pound swordfish caught last month on Capt. Nick Stanczyk’s Freeman out of Bud ‘n Mary’s Marina in Islamorada , Florida Keys.

One of the largest swordfish ever recorded, that 73-inch girth sword was caught during daytime fishing in 1500 feet with a “bonito” (actually little tunny) belly bait. It fought for eight hours and the battle ended up 20 miles from the hook-up.

Unfortunately, it didn’t meet IGFA sportfishing standards as several anglers were involved and a harpoon was used at boatside rather than a gaff.

Capt. Nick Stanczyk has established himself as the top skipper in the relatively new sport of daytime swordfishing which his father Richard pioneered. Anyone who wants to catch the most elusive of all the billfish should get in touch with Stanczyk, who has an amazing success rate. Call 800 742-7945.

N.Y. outlaws purse seining menhaden

New York has outlawed purse seining of menhaden after a previous law was lost due to a sunset provision. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bills  sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Steve Englebright today. Fred Golofaro of The Fisherman magazine told me that purse seiners even moved into Peconic Bay last year to wipe out the important forage fish.

Surprisingly, there is a provision in the new law which allows the DEC to authorize the use of purse seines if there is an immanent threat of a bunker fish kill. Such die-offs  occur occasionally, but are unpredictable unless the fish get pushed into a dead end area where they use up all the oxygen. How that could be anticipated in order to quickly harvest those bunkers with purse seines is a mystery.

Though the weather wasn’t as nice, Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands said stripers bit much better today for a smaller crowd than was the case yesterday in fine weather. They quickly had a boat limit and were releasing. A 41.6-pounder won the pool for Sam Giacobbe from Bluebell, Pa.

Nick Honachefsky of Saltwater Underground was into the big Raritan Bay bass this week while fishing with Mike Brickle. Bass were rolling on top, and they cast Band of Anglers Popping Plugs which had to be used as swimming plugs with just a soft pop to fool those bass.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar got out for blackfish today and reported a better percentage of keepers. The pool tog was 7.5 pounds, and there were also some cod.

Friday’s forecast is for south winds at 15-20 knots with gusts to 30 and 5-8-foot seas. There’s also a chance of showers. Saturday is also looking tough with south winds of 15-20 knots and gusts to 25 — plus 7-10-foot seas.

Veterans can look forward to Saturday, May 4 when a Take a Veteran Fishing Day will be held at Lake Julianna in Millstone Township. A BBQ is included, and loaner tackle will be supplied. Vets can register at Call 732 785-9278 for details.




More traffic slows Bay striper bite

There was nothing to complain about, but increased boat traffic in Raritan Bay seemed to provide a pickier  striper bite. Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands said he’d settle for that bite any day as most fares managed a keeper and released others.

That was quite a contrast to Tuesday’s wild bite. Tank Matraxia noted that there were no lip-hooked bass as they all engulfed the shad lures,. Dave Lilly of Hazlet fished with a friend out of Keyport and trolled large bass trolling mo-jos almost everywhere they went. A couple of males were kept and the rest released during a short trip since the wind was blowing water out of the bay and they barely were able to dock at Keyport.

Chuck Many and Rob Rommel counted 83  bass from 12 to 34 pounds released from Ty Man out of Highlands while livelining bunkers on Tuesday.

Chuck 34

Chuck Many releasing an obviously female 34-lb. striper which will be spawning in the Hudson next month.

Thursday morning may be marginal as southeast winds of 15-20 knots are predicted with seas building to 4-6 feet in the afternoon.

The surf is finally producing stripers. Jerry Lasko and Maren Toleno from Point Pleasant fished the Seaside surf yesterday evening and released 34 small bass on Kettle Creek paddeltails.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported lots of bass from 18 to 24 inches being caught in the surf on bucktails and Kettle Creeks, though a local pro also released two keepers.

Bob Matthews reports from Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina notes some small stripers from the local beaches and the inlet jetty. Blackfish are turning on in Shark River Inlet and Point Pleasant Canal.

Allen Riley and John Mazzeo of South Plainfield tried to break the ice in the Sandy Hook surf this morning– and Riley did so with a 15-inch striper on a sandworm. Fifteen-year-old Mitchell Mc Kee from the same town was along for his first surf attempt, and kept casting a small popper until a 22-inch striper hit it.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Epic day in Raritan Bay

Yesterday’s blog title couldn’t have been more accurate as striped bass did indeed turn on in Raritan Bay after the northwest gale. There was still a bit of wind this morning, but it just made for a good drift. Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst was talking to me on the cell phone about the hot bite when his rod in the holder bent over as a large bass hit the shad lure being dead-sticked.

With the rod in hand, there was a hit on almost every cast in the open bay near where Old Orchard used to stand. Tank and Marty Gras released about 50 bass in the teens and up to the twenties. while fishing with Capt. Anthony on Hard Bottom from Sewaren . Tank hadn’t received a new supply of American Littoral Society tags and was only able to tag seven with the tags he had left. That included the one small fish of 19 inches fork length — and up to a 38 1/2-inch fork length bass. It was the best striper fishing they ever had.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc also had one of his best-ever striper days as he estimated the relatively few anglers on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands caught about 200 keepers while only 10 shorts were mixed in. They were releasing by 9:30. Greg from Staten Island counted 19 keepers hooked. Long drifts were possible as there were only about 10 charter boats out there and everyone moved back slowly in order not to turn off the bite.  The pool bass was a 26-pounder by Mike Casale from Dingmans Ferry, Pa., who was joined by his brother Pat with a 22-pounder.

Sea Hunter bass-Tuesday

Anglers had better take advantage of Wednesday’s weather as 5-10 knots northeast is forecast until going southeast in late afternoon. Thursday may be fishable early with southeast 10-15 knots, but bad weather starts arriving that afternoon with 15-20 knot winds and a chance of rain.







Stripers should hit again in bay after gale

Jim bass

Stripers like this one caught by Jim Louro of Spring Lake were hitting in Raritan Bay on Sunday. Jim and his partner released 18 on his Vicki Lynn from Manasquan which is being berthed in the bay for the early bite. Those fish were jigged on readings in heavy fog.

As noted in yesterday’s blog, the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands was also in on the bay bite as Capt. Rob Semkewyc had a boat limit of bass mostly in the teens and up to 32-pounder. He said the keepers and others released were all caught on shads and jigs.  Today’s gale forecast kept the boat at the dock, but they should be back out tomorrow.

John Andrea reported large stripers were chasing bunkers outside Great Kills Sunday evening, and he released bass up to 38 inches on whatever bunkers he could snag.

Though the very early striper showing in the ocean seems to have died out, party boats are finding good action on bottom with blackfish. The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reported perfect weather and fishing conditions Sunday when even newcomers to the sport were able to catch tog. High hooks caught up to a dozen shorts and a few keepers.

There was good news from the surf as Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported lots of short bass caught Sunday on lures in Island Beach State Park. Kevin Lorenze hooked over a dozen on bucktails. The shop’s first surf weigh-in from the park was recorded Saturday when Frank and Amber brought in a 32-inch striper that hit a bucktail and weighed 13.75 pounds.  The back bay areas also continue to produce school bass. Anthony Decaro released a 29-incher that hit a Glider Saturday night.

The gale warning is up until late tonight, but the morning forecast is down to west at 20-25 knots before diminishing to 15-20 in the afternoon.

Sea Hunter limits in fog

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands had good bass readings but few bites. Today that boat sat on anchor in the fog and limited on stripers up to a 32-pounder by Jesse Yip. After releasing others, they returned to the dock by 2 p.m. Unfortunately, due to the Monday weather forecast, they’ll be taking a day off.

Jesse yip 32-lb bass

There was no word of stripers showing in the ocean, but the Ocean Explorer from Belmar found decent bottom action with short blackfish plus some keepers, a legal pollock, a few cod and some ling.

Today was nice on the ocean, but small craft warnings went up today at 11 a.m. — and extend through late Monday night. Southwest winds shift to west with a gale watch tomorrow.

Nice day – slow fishing

Though the weather was good, fishing on Saturday was generally slow. The ocean stripers didn’t show, and the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands reported that stripers were read, but didn’t bite very often in Raritan Bay. When casting shads didn’t work, they anchored up and caught a couple of keepers plus some shorts. Hopefully that will change on Sunday.

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reported good life on bottom with short blackfish and some keepers plus a few cod and ling. The Golden Eagle is going into drydock and will resume sailing at the end of the month.

There are mall craft warnings up until 2 a.m., but by morning it should only be southeast at 5-10 knots which increases in the afternoon with possible showers, drizzle and fog.