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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.

Take it easy on Raritan Bay stripers

Raritan Bay has been producing good numbers of legal striped bass, but anglers should avoid killing most of those fish since the Hudson River spawning stock not only maintains our high quality local spring fishery, but also provides a summer fishery after the coastal migrants have moved far to the east.

It’s a good bet that any bass weighing 20 pounds or more will be a female just weeks away from contributing to the Hudson River stock. If you’re going to keep a bass, select one closer to the 28-inch minimum that may well be a male.

Capt. Ian Devlin of East Norwalk, Ct. has decided to release all of the stripers taken on his charter trips in Long Island Sound, unless they’re unrecoverable, in response to the coastal overfishing problem. That’s a tough move for a charter skipper as it eliminates a portion of his potential patronage, but a courageous one.

The larger stripers were hiding today from the Sea Hunter out of Atlantic Highlands as it was strictly shorts after days when legal bass were common. A rarely used provision gave the pool to the first short released.

Stripers didn’t show in the ocean again, but the fleet will be looking for them over the weekend. That will include the Jamaica from Brielle which will seek bass both days.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar found good blackfish action on bottom today, and added a few ling and cod. Some fares limited on tog. They’ll sail at 7 a.m.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reports a few small bass being caught on bait in the surf, though there are more to be had on worms and small plugs in the back bay.





















Raritan Bay best bet for stripers

Sea Hunter ThursdayPhil's sons bassThe ocean stripers didn’t show again today, but Raritan Bay continues to produce. Phillip Sciortino  had both of his sons back from military service this week, and they all got together with Matt Calabria on Uruguay Fly to catch bass up to 29 pounds on mo-jos soaked in Fin Essence bunker oil.   SECOND PHOTO

The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands again stayed in the bay to pick both keepers and shorts. TOP PHOTO

Tank Matraxia and his Lyndhurst crew got out today with Capt. Anthony on Hard Bottom from Sewaren. Tank lost his first striper, cut then broke the ice by tagging a 27 1/2-inch (fork length) bass , and tagged six in all up to 32 inches fork length with ALS tags.

Though the stripers didn’t show again, the Big Mohawk and Ocean Explorer had a decent bottom bite of short and keeper blackfish.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar has cancelled for tomorrow due to the weather, but will be after the stripers again on the weekend.

The Big Mohawk sails in the morning  at 7, and the Ocean Explorer at 7:30.

Though the forecast tonight is for gusty south winds, it’s only supposed to be southeast at 10-15 knots in the morning.


Ocean stripers won’t hit

Party boats reported seeing birds and bait while also reading fish, but couldn’t get a hit from ocean stripers. The Big Mohawk from Belmar fad good bottom action with mostly short blackfish up to a 7 1/2-pounder. The Ocean Explorer from Belmar had a similar report of bottom life with some keepers plus a shot of ling and cod. The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands also did nothing in the ocean, but returned to Raritan Bay to catch some shorts and keepers.

Bryan Yanish has been catching stripers in Staten Island at night, and released his personal beast this week by livelining a 38.8-pounder by formula — length to fork of tail times girth divided by 800  That’s the largest shore striper I’ve heard of so far this season.

Allen Riley and John Mazzeo of South Plainfield tried to break the surf casting ice this morning. The conditions were good, but the water was cold — and nothing hit their  sandworms, bunker and soft plastics at  Sandy Hook.

Capt. Vinne Vetere  of Katfish Charters in Great Kills joined two N.J. boats over  the weekend to troll stripers up to 27 pounds on his Ho-Jos both days. The N.Y. season opens April 15.

Thursday’s forecast is for northeast winds of 5-10 knots switching to southeast 5-10 in the afternoon.

Fog kills ocean striper bite

Today’s cold fog made it difficult to find stripers in the ocean, and both the Big Mohawk and Ocean Explorer from Belmar reported not being able to find any stripers. They switched to blackfishing which was basically a pick of mostly shorts with good life on bottom. The Ocean Explorer also noted the ocean was lumpy, but they added some ling. The Big Mohawk sails at 6 a.m., while the Explorer and Golden Eagle sail at 7:30.

The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands couldn’t find anything in the ocean, and returned to the bay to cast shads which produced one keeper bass and a short while another was lost. They’ll be trying again tomorrow when the weather looks fine for spotting fish. The forecast is for northwest at 10-15 knots.

Dave Lilly of Hazlet didn’t let the fog keep him from trolling stripers in the upper teens in the bay  while fishing this morning with Rick Martel out of Sea Bright. The bass weren’t in the 12-foot depths they favored on the weekend, but a move to 25 feet in the middle of the bay resulted in the release of a dozen bass in short order despite the tough conditions on incoming tide. Lilly was using mo-jos soaked in Fin Essence bunker oil, and had a 40-pounder hooked which came off just as they were reaching for the leader. He also had a fish on briefly that was acting like a bluefish. The water temperature was 51 degrees.

Bob Matthews reports from Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina that John Reilly trolled two 40-pound stripers on Magic Tail 20-ounce Mo-Jos, releasing one. Matthews says surf reports have been few, but there are more bass on the inside. He tried with plugs one night and  hooked bass to 32 inches. Blackfishing shows promise offshore, but has been slow in Shark River Inlet and Point Pleasant Canal.

The Jamaica from Brielle is in drydock, but will start striper fishing in mid-April — while 10 p.m. Sunday tilefish trips are set for April 12 and 27 plus May 3 and 19. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations.

Mimi VI from Point Pleasant will have a special blackfishing trip Thursday that’s  limited to 12 fares at $120. Call 753 370-8019.

Pesca Panama is coming off one of its best ever weeks with massive numbers of yellowfin tuna. Owner Mike Auget has openings for April 21-26 that are available for two to four anglers at a deep discount. Call him at 716 868-4432.

Crazy Alberto — Planning, Patience & Persistence pays off

Crazy Alberto Knie has established a reputation over the years as an expert fisherman for every species of fish found not only in the northern areas where he started out, but also in his adopted residence in Florida. His keys to success are simple ones — planning, patience and persistence.

That was all on display Monday as Alberto sought to get me into my first snakehead. The snakehead is a popular sport and eating fish in the fresh waters of southeast Asia, but an invasive species in Florida. Though the state would like to get rid of them, snakeheads have become a new target for anglers since they are a challenge to seek out and hook on lures. They certainly aren’t anyone’s idea of a beautiful tropical fish, but it are a worthy opponent.

Alberto picked me up in Ft. Myers for the long trip across the state to the Fort Lauderdale area where he’s caught snakeheads in several places. He warned that we wouldn’t be back until after dark, and that was certainly the case. There were no secret spots, as we fished parks and open areas accessible to anyone.

Unfortunately, the snakeheads didn’t cooperate at all in areas where we cast weedless Ribbit Frog lures over lilly pads and moss beds without effect. Alberto did hook a single largemouth bass of about 14 inches, and later added a couple of cichlids at another area where we were looking for peacock bass — another invasive which is now well-established and accepted by the state.

Alberto was planning to fly rod peacocks once the sun got higher and they could be sighted for sight casting. We never did see many, and Alberto ended up spotting one in a pothole almost up to the road. He made flip cast after flip cast into that hole with a fly on spinning tackle — and kept doing that for about 15 minutes before he finally annoyed it into taking the fly.

Alberto was holding back his best snakehead spots until evening as that’s the only time he felt they would hit. That’s exactly what happened at the first canal where he missed a big hit at the edge before breaking the ice with about a 3-pound snakehead.   He rushed me out of there to what he felt would be a better dusk spot. We had to walk across a busy highway to get to it, but I soon raised a snakehead before getting one on a big strike next to shore. The fish jumped and its undulating body looked like I was fighting an eel in the water before landing the thick 6.2-pounder as it was getting dark — just as Alberto had predicted and planned for.

Bullseye Snakehead

I’ll be adding another blog when the day’s striper results are in.


Big Mohawk reports fantastic striper fishing

Sorry for the late blog. I’m in Florida and was fishing with Crazy Alberto Knie to after dark. More about that Tuesday. The only report I found was from the Big Mohawk out of Belmar. They said they had fantastic striper fishing Monday, including lots of releases. They sail for stripers and blackfish at 6 a.m.