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Where are the albacore?


The lack of yellowfin tuna in the canyons right now wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the mysterious lack of albacore in those waters. We’ve come to depend on an albacore run from late-summer well into the fall. At times they’ve been so abundant as to be a problem for those seeking yellowfins.

A few decades ago, while chartering out of Manasquan Inlet with my old Aquasport 28 center console Sheri Berri II, we had good chunking and jigging for bluefin and yellowfin  tuna at the Texas Tower — where it was only a few more miles to get out to Hudson Canyon. The couple of times my party decided to take advantage of calm weather to make that extra run it didn’t take long before the trolling rods were bending and we had all the 30-to-40-pound albacore they could handle before an early return home.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen every year — and I haven’t heard of any longfins so far. That’s a particularly big problem this fall because yellowfins have been very scarce lately.

Albacore are the most oceanic of our tunas as they rarely move inshore of the canyons. I remember once many years ago with the late Capt. Bob Pisano trolling albacore in the Texas Tower area, and I once caught a few while giant tuna fishing within sight of Montauk Lighthouse. Even more unusual was the 1985 chunking on the west bank of Butterfish Hole when an abundance of big sand eels drew in a mixture  of bluefins, yellowfins and albacore to that area only about 20 miles offshore of Montauk. You never knew what would hit a chunk dropped into the slick — and some boaters even caught white marlin and large dolphin. My personal record 60-pound albacore was hooked there on Aug. 12, 1985 just before returning to N.J. for the birth of my youngest daughter and future mate, Cyndi.

Party boat skippers love albacore because they’re more oriented to biting in the daytime and are a lot less fussy about baits and leaders than their cousins.  They also prefer cooler waters and will stick around into November when abundant. Capt. Chris Di Stefano checked with some longliner friends who told him there was no sign of albacore so far  — and that the yellowfins have been on the other side of the Gulf Steam off North Carolina .

The north wind created tough surfcasting conditions early this morning, but I got lucky on one cast into the white water with a Chug Bug at Spring Lake and released a 25 1/2-inch striper. Jim Lauro of Spring Lake then added another, and missed one down the beach — but that was it as the wind increased. Vinny D’Anton said he caught a small bass at Manasquan before it got too bad.  I finished up at Point Pleasant Canal and released a 3-pound bluefish on a Z Man 6-inch Swimmereez just as the tide started out. Only one other fish was lost after that during a short attempt.

Capt. Dave De Gennaro will be running his Hi Flier from Barnegat open Sunday and Monday. He’ll be chumming with live grass shrimp in the bay for weakfish that vary in size from day to day from 12 to 19 inches. Very light spinning tackle is used with a tiny jig tipped with shrimp for steady action with a variety of species. Call 732 681-6144 for info.

Capt. Stan Zagleski reported good catch-and-release blackfishing from his Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands on Thursday. Everyone got their one keeper from many tog up to 6 pounds. There were also some blowfish, and lots of sea bass were released before Monday’s opening of that season when Stan will be sailing daily at 7 a.m. Other bottom fishing boats will be switching over that day, but some are taking reservations for extended hours trips. There will be one more catch-and-release tog trip aboard Elaine B. II on Sunday.

blackfish-EB II




Most boats probably stayed in today due to the north wind and rough seas. The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported good bluefish jigging Thursday for 3-8-pound choppers. Light winds are forecast for the weekend, and conditions should be very good. The Golden Eagle also has some openings on the Oct. 14 24-hour canyon trip. Call 732 681-6144 for reservations.

There was some better news from the Queen Mary out of Point Pleasant as their tuna trip produced yellowfins plus dolphin up to 20 pounds.

Capt. Vinnie Vetere said striper fishing has been tougher on his Katfish out of Great Kills, but they’re still catching them.




Little tunny etiquette


With lots of boaters racing around to get casts into schools of little tunny, blog follower George Shave contributed his thoughts on boat fishing for our greatest fighting fish in inshore waters. I also originally called this fish false albacore, a name probably given to it by anglers due to its shape like the albacore that anglers in my youth thought were a Pacific species before canyon fishing started off the east coast and albacore were found to be often abundant in the canyons at this time of year. The albacore is a member of the tuna clan which can’t be mistaken for any other due to its extended pectoral fins which stretch almost to the tail and earned them the nickname “longfin”. The little tunny has very short pectorals and distinguishing spots. Furthermore, the albacore  is the white-meat tuna while the little tunny has coarse meat which requires blanching as table food. The worst part about the false albacore name is that it has become shortened to just albacore — creating confusion. I’ve even seen party boats advertising albacore trips when they have no intention of running to the canyons for that species and no chance of catching them inshore.

George’s contribution follows:
“Don’t Let Albie Fever Ruin It For Everyone.
Contributor: George Shave, 20’ Jones Brothers.It’s that time of the year when the False Albacore arrive and offer recreational fisherman a chance to tangle with an exciting adversary of the inshore waters. False Albacore, AKA Albies, offer an incredible light tackle angling experience. When these speedsters appear, ALBIE FEVER can quickly take over and we forget to use Albie Etiquette.

Here are some reminders to make everyone’s experience more enjoyable:

– RESPECT BEACH FISHERMAN. They are far less mobile and in places like Sandy Hook, those anglers humped to get out there. If fish are blitzing on the beaches, leave them to the beach fisherman. It’s only a matter of time until they show further out.

– RESPECT THE FLY GUYS. A Fly Rod has an effective range of 60 feet or so if you’re a good caster in optimal winds. Spinning Rods can throw three times that distance without trying. Give the Fly Guys a little grace when they’re trying to make those casts.

– DON’T RUN UP ON BLITZING FISH. Run & Gun is a tactic that might get you to the fish first but scatters the bait and puts the Albies down quickly. Better to approach with little wake and hold a reasonable distance from fish and other boats. It’s not only good etiquette but you’ll find that the Albies feed longer.

– DON’T MUSCLE IN. If there are already a number of boats on a pod of fish, wait for another pod to present themselves – IT WILL HAPPEN! Albies will run line off, especially for the guys chasing them with a fly rod.…give those anglers room to fight their fish. If you’re with someone else and hook a fish, have your buddy ease the boat out of the pod so another boat can get a turn.

– “WAS THAT A LURE THAT ALMOST HIT ME? C’mon man…don’t be throwing your Deadly Dicks around boat traffic and fisherman where you could risk hitting their boat or even the anglers.

– THE ALBIES ARE STILL THERE. Just because you don’t see them blitzing after they sound, doesn’t mean they have moved on. Chances are those fish are chasing Rain Bait below the surface. Take some time and put in a few casts…you might be pleasantly surprised. That’s going to cut down on the Run & Gun BS which scatters the bait and the Albies, and give us all better chances of success.

Have a great season…make some Albie memories…and just be respectful toward others. It’s really that simple. ”

albie-George Shave
Surfcasters haven’t needed much consideration from boaters so far as little tunny have remained far out of reach even though boaters have found lots of them from Shrewsbury Rocks to the Highlands Bridge. Allen Riley of South Plainfield made yet another trip to Monmouth Beach this morning and found little of the previously abundant bait in the surf there. He watched boaters chasing flocks of birds, but there was nothing close to the calm beach. He had a Storm Shad tail bitten off, and caught a small blue on metal, “Albacore Tony” Martino of Ocean Township was on the beach looking for little tunny within reach as he has for weeks without success.
Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst and his crew were out there today on an open trip of Tagged Fish from Highlands. Off Sandy Hook they only found small bluefish on top, but there were shots at little tunny off Sea Bright. He only lost one at the boat, but some of the anglers aboard caught several. Tank noted that the blackfishing which followed in shallow waters was very picky for the one allowed at present, though one angler had the touch and caught several on green crabs.
I still haven’t seen any little tunny from the surf to the south. Casting a popper for stripers in the Spring Lake surf produced only two hits before I moved to Point Pleasant Canal and caught a small striper on a Z Man 6-inch Swimmereez  with my fourth cast. There were no more hits after that during a brief try. Vinnie D’Anton fought the low water conditions at Manasquan and managed one striper.
At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reports continued good action with small blues in the surf on mullet; Small plugs are producing mostly short bass in the surf at night — and also in the back bay.
Miss Belmar Princess reported continued good bluefishing inside the Mud Hole with long drifts and good readings both in the deep and on top of hills. Most of the blues are 2-to-4-pounders with a few 6-pounders mixed in plus a showing of bonito and little tunny. They won’t be fishing Friday due to a forecast of NE winds gusting up to 25 knots. However, that’s predicted to diminish in the afternoon and drop to light winds over the weekend.

Little tunny building up off the beach

Capt. Chris Di Stefano was fishing Monday on Frank Criscola’s Crisdel from Brielle Yacht Club  as striped bass failed to cooperate at Shrewsbury Rocks and nearby rough bottoms. However, he saw the small boat fleet doing very well chasing birds to catch little tunny from the Rocks to the Highlands Bridge.

Though it’s still early in very high water temperatures, Chris was surprised that they didn’t even mark any bass. There were plenty of small blues, and they went through about 40 shads replacing those with bitten-off tails on the shad rigs.

As abundant as the little tunny are out there, I haven’t had any surf reports so far. I’ve been surfcasting at several places recently an still haven’t seen any birds working or tunny jumping — even out of range,

A pick of stripers continues almost everywhere in the surf. After not liking the lack of bait or any sign of fish at dawn in Shark River, I moved to the Belmar surf where I broke the ice when a 23-inch bass blasted a Chug Bug in the wash just before I lifted it out of the water. That illustrates the importance of working lures right to the sand or jetty as many bass hit at the last moment. Unfortunately, that was my only shot in the low water conditions.

Miss Belmar Princess reported a slow start to jigging blues to the east this morning, but it Improved during the day and some limits of 3-6-pounders were taken plus some bonito. The Golden Eagle from Belmar had blues up to 8 pounds yesterday along with lots of little tunny for those who fished for them.

Bob Matthews weighed blackfish being caught daily now in Shark River Inlet. Anthony Pettillo of Manasquan had a 5-pounder, and Jack Kruger of  Neptune a 4 9/16-pounder at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina. Bob says the bait has moved out of the river and should spark better surf fishing.

Capt. Ron Santee tried a new area for porgies with his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands today, and after the strong current slowed he saw jumbo scup coming up. A 3-pounder won the pool and there were others close to it.

Mimi VI from Point Pleasant will be sailing open at 7 a.m. tomorrow. The fare for bottom fishing is $75. Call 732 370-8019 for reservations.


Vetere’s Team Rocco won Striper Cup

Capt. Vinnie Vetere put his Team Rocco in position to win the annual Striper Cup competition covering the coast by catching a 62.05-pound trophy striper from his Katfish out of Great Kills. That trophy was presented on Saturday at the Striperfest Awards on Cape Cod.

Phillip O’Connor added a 58.7 boat entry and Ray Soyka a 52-pounder, while Anthony Pandolfi boated a 50.37-pounder and Jennifer Zuppe a 47.37 from shore as the latter two earned extra points to edge out the Not On Call Team that had four boat-caught fifties.

Capt. Vinnie Vetere with mount of his 62.05-pound striper and his Ho-Jo lure trolled from Katfish Charters.

Vinny Vetere with mount

Vetere -62

Vetere  above with the bass when boated.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had very good dolphin action on Monday’s canyon trip, but there were only a couple of missed tuna bites. They were scheduled to fish for blues today, but there was no report as of the time this was written. Miss Belmar Princess reported that Monday’s bluefish bite to the east produced limits of 3-to-6-pound choppers along with some bonito and little tunny.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant reported good Monday jigging for blues up to 9 pounds. They sail at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and Friday — and there’s one spot left on the midnight Thursday tuna trip.

The Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands reports non-stop porgy action along with bluefish, blowfish and sea bass (which have to be released). The first couple of weakfish were caught Monday.

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reported blackfish bit well on Monday when porgy fishing was spotty.

blackfish-Ocean Explorer

Vinny D’Anton couldn’t raise school stripers to his Chug Bug in Shark River this morning, but got three small bass on the Storm Searchbait while Frank Manzi  added another. Vinnie then caught a small bass in the Belmar surf.  I found very shallow waters at Manasquan this morning, and couldn’t raise a thing. Another angler said he’d released two fluke that hit an SP Minnow.

Joe Melillo reports from Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant that the canal has been producing some stripers and blues on Swing Shads and blackfish. on green crabs.  Joe Spinelli of Jackson weighed in an 18 1/2-pound striper, but with no details. Bob Longo had an 11 1/4-pound bass on a Bomber at Bay Head.





Nice weather continues

Metro area fishermen haven’t had much to complain about weather-wise the last few days, and there’s more good weather ahead except for a brief blast of southwest wind Tuesday night. Small craft warnings are posted from then into Wednesday morning even though the winds drop back to 5-10 knots by then. Next weekend is looking very good so far.

The big seas far offshore are still a slight problem for surfcasters, but the surf is fishable. The problem now is low tides during the prime early morning and evening periods.  I had a hit within five minutes of starting at Spring Lake this morning, but that was it for a long time while covering a lot of beach and casting into every fishable pocket. Just before leaving I returned to a spot where I had all my action Sunday except for the 28-inch release. There had been nothing there earlier, but the tide was at the point I had while getting hits yesterday. I quickly had a fish crash the lure, but was surprised to beach a 23-inch striper that had hit the Castaways teaser  ahead of the popper just as the 28-incher had done. That teaser is out of the water most of the time while working a popper. Unfortunately, that was my only hit before having to leave.

Vinny D’Anton did a lot of traveling in order to catch a few bass. He got one in Shark River  before the current died, and added another in the Belmar surf. Moving south he spotted some bass in the large waves, but he and two other anglers couldn’t get them to hit anything. Vinnie caught a fluke on a Tsunami Sand Eel, and finally nailed a bass on a Bomber shad-like plug just before leaving.

Allen Riley of South Plainfield and Duke Matero from Piscataway were hoping to see little tunny when they fished the Monmouth Beach surf this morning, despite the very low tide , but only small blues were in the area to chase mullet. They were just as fussy as little tunny and wouldn’t hit metal on a shock leader. Lures had to be tied right to the mono line to draw hits. Allen caught a couple of the 2-pound blues and lost others in the wash.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar is on an offshore tuna trip, but will be back bluefishing tomorrow morning.

Capt. Stan Zagleski reported his Sunday catch-and-release blackfish trip on Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands started slowly in dirty waters before ending up with good release action after the one keeper tog per angler was allowed was boated. A couple of blowfish and triggerfish were also caught. His next such trip will be at 7 a.m. Thursday.  Zagleski noted that he saw bluefish swirling north of the Highlands Bridge.

Some larger stripers in the surf

Though waters are still very warm and only resident stripers are in the cards now, the mullet run seems to be attracting at least a few bass larger than the usual 18-to-24-inchers. I hadn’t heard of any keepers in the Monmouth County surf, and was therefore shocked around dawn when the first hit I had at Spring Lake turned out to be a fat bass that just made the 28-inch legal size. Even more surprisingly, though I was casting a Chug Bug popper the bass was hooked on a Castaways Tackle teaser. I don’t usually use teasers with poppers since the teaser s out of the water most of the time. However, I had that rig on so I could change to a sub-surface lure when the teaser could prove effective/. Though there wasn’t much water on the beach early in the morning, I also released another bass of about 26 inches, lost another and had  three other hits. Furthermore, I saw another angler release a good-sized striper that he said was 34 inches. Jim Louro of Spring Lake also released a couple of schoolies.

Vinny D’Anton tried Shark River first, and was surprised by s 26-inch striper plus a smaller one and a small blue on his Chug Bug. The Seaside Park tackle shops continue to report lots of small blues in the surf, particularly on mullet baits.

Bluefish haven’t been common in the surf further north, but Bob Correll of Bay Head caught two small blues on a popper this morning at his local beach,

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported slower bluefishing today after a very good jigging bite Saturday.  The blues ran up to a 7-pounder, and there were a few little tunny and porgies jigged as well. They’re on an offshore tuna trip Monday, but will sail again for blues at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reported good porgy fishing along with a few triggerfish.



Great fishing weather

Whether you caught fish or not today, if you were fishing you had to enjoy the nicest day of the fall with light west winds, warm temperatures and lots of sunshine. Some anglers also had good fishing.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had to anchor up yesterday in rough seas to catch 3-to-4-pound blues plus little tunny, some bonito and lots of porgies.  On the other hand, today was gorgeous as jigging produced lots of those species.  The same sort of weather is predicted for Sunday,

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reports red hot fishing for porgies and the one blackfish allowed in just 40 to 50 feet.  The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant reported blues up to 8 pounds, along with bonito, little tunny, porgies and even a dolphin.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reports a continuation of abundant small bluefish in the surf — primarily on mullet. Here’s  Jaydon Alemany with a typical cocktail blue.

cocktail blue

Betty & Nick’s also noted that some slot-size stripers are being hooked.

Jim Louro of Spring Lake hit it right this morning and plugged 10 school stripers in his local surf.

Manasquan was pretty slow despite perfect plugging conditions. Vinny D’Anton released one on a Chug Bug and missed a few bass, After he left I scratched out two stripers on the same lure.’

Bob Correll of Bay Head found some mullet at his beach and managed a small striper on a popper.

Allen Riley of South Plainfield rarely surfcasts on a weekends, but he couldn’t pass up such great weather at Sandy Hook. The tide was low and there was little water, but mullet were abundant. He caught a 2-pound blue on metal with his first cast, but the choppers stopped chasing the abundant bait and no other lures were hit in the 71 degree waters.

Porgies & blues best bets for weekend

The pre-dawn rain seems to have kept most anglers at home. However, there was very good bluefishing jigging offshore on Thursday — and that fishing should continue on both day and night trips.

The Atlantic Highlands fleet has been catching lots of porgies along with some triggerfish and blackfish (for which the limit is one at 15 inches in N.J.) while the sea bass have to be released at this time in Garden State waters,  The Ocean Explorer from Belmar will also join in that fishery, while Elaine B II from Bahrs in Highlands is concentrating on catch-and-release blackfishing until the season opens,

Though rain didn’t turn out to be a problem after dawn, the surf was rough today. From what I raised to my popper this morning at Manasquan I would also say it was fishless except that Vinny D’Anton managed to catch four stripers up to 24 inches on his Chug Bug. I also tried metal with no hits,

Jim Hutchinson Sr, reports for the BHCFA as follows:

“Fall officially arrived this week, and recent cooler temperatures have the captains of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association starting to think about the arrival of the area’s greatest inshore sport fish, the striped bass.

Just like “snowbirds” heading down to Florida when winter arrives, the striped bass on their way south for the winter stop by local waters looking for food. When they find abundant food, they have been known to remain for quite some time. Right now with a good supply of mullet and bunker, they will be sure to stop in to fill their bellies.

To commemorate the presence of striped bass in the fall, there are several local striped bass tournaments, most for boats only. To mention a few-the Sea Shell Club, the Maximilian Foundation, the Stafford Township PBA, and the Red Men Lodge in Tuckerton all have e vents set for this fall. Most of these are for charitable causes and come with cash prizes, calcuttas, and various parties replete with good food.

Fishermen do not have to own a boat or be an expert to be competitive in one or more of these tournaments. Some of the captains of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association are available to take anglers out to compete in these events. A good boat and expert captain can make a difference in coming home with fish or empty handed.

To see how fishing with one of these experts might be accomplished, go the association’s website at and get in touch with one or more of the captains to see what can be worked out.”


Rough seas, but blues still bite offshore

The combination of a gusty northeast wind and a southeast swell made for a rough day offshore, but anglers aboard the Golden Eagle from Belmar still were able to jig limits of bluefish ranging from 1 1/2 to 8 pounds plus some little tunny.

The Big Jamaica from Brielle will also be seeking those fish over the weekend during Saturday’s 7:30 a.m. and p.m. trips. They reported a good bluefish bite last Saturday night, and will seek a combination of blues, little tunny and bonito during the day.  The blues (see below)  have ranged all the way up to 11 pounds.

Big Jamaica blues

The northeast wind was moderate this morning, so I decided to give the surf a try to see if it had cleared up yet. It was rough at Manasquan, but fishable — so I gave it some time with a 2-ounce Tactical Anglers Bomb Jr. popper which produced three small stripers up to 22 inches while another got off. Those fish were plucked from different spots along the beach, and there was no follow-up hit at any of them.

It felt like fall, but I was still in my summer “uniform” of AFTCO shorts which were perfect in the still very warm waters of over 70 degrees. There was no sign of bait, and no birds were working. Everything was on blind casts. We’re still a long time away from what we expect from fall striper fishing along the northern Shore where we’re also not seeing bluefish.

On the other hand, the Seaside Park tackle shops report plenty of small blues and a few bigger ones in that area — where mullet have been common. Some small bass have also been mixed in there.

Capt. Dave De Gennaro of Hi Flier at Barnegat is looking at the weather and only committing to fish for “stuff” during an open trip at 7 a.m. Sunday. It could be grass shrimping for weakfish in the bay; casting for blues in the inlet; checking the shoreline for little tunny; or trolling Barnegat Ridge for bonito — or a combination of those possibilities. Check with him at hiflierfishing@verizon,net

Actually, aside from some rain predicted for tomorrow, there seems to be good weather coming up for the weekend with light winds and even some westerly breeze.

Bonanza of blues to the east for Golden Eagle

The Golden Eagle from Belmar only had a small group aboard this morning, but took a shot at running out to the east where they had a blast of bluefish Saturday night. That worked out as anglers had hits on every drop with jigs from choppers ranging from 3 to 10 pounds. They also added a dolphin and jumbo porgies.

Capt. Ron Santee reports his first few porgy trips with the Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands were very good for the target species plus a mix of triggerfish, blowfish and winter flounder.  Triggers in the 4-to-5-pound class took the pools.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park had a striper to report as Sal Timpani released a fat 28-incher in the surf there.

Sal Timpani 28-inch bass

Small blues have been hitting mullet in the surf from there to IBSP, but that’s the only surf action I’ve heard of. Vinny D’Anton took a look at the surf further north and said it was still high and discolored. He fished in Shark River to no avail. I worked Point Pleasant Canal after daylight, but there was nothing doing there.