The NJ Marine Fisheries Council agreed yesterday on a 2018 fluke season starting 5/25 and running to 9/22 with the same regulations as last year — a three-fish limit at a minimum of 18 inches. Paul Haertel of the JCAA said there were about 70 people at the meeting, with South Jersey back bay anglers seeking an earlier opening while those from the north wanted more days in September. Yet Cape May party boats also favored the later opening as they can’t fish the shallow back bay waters and the ocean is too cold for fluking this spring.
The sea bass rules were set, but here could be a change since New York and the states north of them have filed an appeal with the ASMFC against their regulations and that could end up reducing the N.J. quota. As it is, the N.J. season opens on 5/15 and runs to 6/22 with a bag of 10 at a 12 1/2-inch minimum. The summer by-catch opportunity for fluke fishermen runs from 7/1 to 8/31 with two at 12 1/2 inches. The fall season from !0/8 to 10/31 provides 10 sea bass at the same minimum, and the year finishes with 15 at a 13-inch minimum from 11/1 to 12/31.
The brutal spring weather continued today, and the weekend doesn’t look much better. New York cancelled its fishing festival at Belmont Lake State Park.
The Golden Eagle from Belmar cancelled Saturday fishing due to the weather, and also Sunday based on the wind prediction. However, they claim to have heard of some striper life and will start fishing daily for them on Monday. If the bass can’t be found, they’ll fish wrecks for cod and ling.
|Re: 2018 Fluke and Sea Bass Options|
Chuck Many of Annandale, N.J. isn’t easily discouraged, even by a forecast of gale force winds, so he and Bob Bowden went down to his Ty Man in Gateway Marina, Highlands at dawn and found the only problem was fog covering a flat calm Raritan Bay. They had been catching lots of small stripers while clamming off Keyport, but this trip was completely different before the front blew them off the water. There were only a few hits, but Bowden caught the first 20-pound bass reported from the bay so far this spring. They also released a 30-incher and a bass only about 18 inches. Many said the water temperature was in the narrow range of 44 to 45 degrees from the river to the bay. No bunkers were spotted in the bay, but gannets were diving in the ocean.
Capt. Chris De Stefano of Wall said he got a report of a big bluefish being caught in the Navesink River.
Bob Matthews, at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina, said the weather has made for tough fishing, but he finally saw six winter flounder caught from the docks on Sunday. The Atlantic Highlands store isn’t open yet, but anglers fishing from shore in Raritan Bay have been catching school stripers.
Fly rod pro, Joe Blaze of Brielle, holder of IGFA fly rod world records for bigeye trevally, turned his attention to bonefish from March 13-18, 2018. He reports “Fished Grand Bahama Island East End Lodge and Little Abaco for bonefish and mutton snapper as a guest of Joe Jefferson Club members including Henry Matri, Peter Marron, Sean Davis, Bob LaViano, Bob Hekemian and Rich Pellizzi. Weather and water was cool [65-75F], but significantly improving after the prior week of rain and overcast. Fishing and catching was excellent with each member landing many bonefish each day. A few permit spotted and one landed. Several mutton snapper landed too. Flies were the usual types including Crazy Charlie, Gotcha, Clouser minnows. ”
I’ll be holding a fishing tackle garage sale with loads of new and used gear at 1552 Osprey Ct., Manasquan Park, NJ 08736 on April 14-15. More information will follow as the event gets closer.
The one bit of good local fishing news around the snow, rain and wind came from The Tackle Box in Hazlet as they reported lots of short stripers and some keepers caught by shore anglers on worms over the weekend. Coleen Shea of Cranford landed a 33-incher Sunday night, and released five other bass. The shop also noted that the water temperature was up to 49 degrees, and lures were starting to work.
Capt. Joe Massa didn’t have such good fortune Saturday when he made a brief attempt with frozen clam bellies on his new My Three Sons from Morgan Marina. He chummed in very shallow waters, and got the skunk off with a short striper off Union Beach. Joe talked to Capt. Freddy Gamboa, who tried trolling in the bay on Andrea’s Toy from Keyport without success.
Gale warnings are up for Wednesday.
Though the Canyon Runner is concluding its winter tuna fishing out of Oregon Inlet today, that fishery remains hot. The Sam Mammiccio party waited around until the weather permitted Capt. Deane Lambros to get offshore where they had constant action on trolled Joe Shutes with balao as giant bluefins of about 450 and 525 pounds were released and another got off 50 feet from the boat. A bigeye tuna of about 125 pounds was boated along with small yellowfins. Adam La Rosa (732 272-4445) is booking the last few days of summer charters left on the Canyon Runner fleet out of Point Pleasant, but will recommend Oregon Inlet charter boats for those who want to make the trip.
The April snow was another setback to spring fishing further north, but the Ocean Explorer from Belmar was encouraged by a showing of blackfish on Sunday despite the cold waters recently. The Golden Eagle from that port got back offshore in nice weather on Saturday, but didn’t find any mackerel. They did go to bottom for a few short cod, a ling and lots of bergalls — and will switch to wreck fishing during upcoming trips until there are some mackerel reports.
Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park has had anglers buying bloodworms that are attracting small stripers in the bay. One customer claimed to have caught bluefish on the east side of the bay, but those were likely holdovers from the power plant.
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.
This 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!
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.”
Yellowfin tuna are great sport on relatively light spinning tackle I used at Pesca Panama recently along with nephews Bobby and Todd Correll.
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.
This was the first Midas, and the second looked like a copy. Both were males with the forehead lump.
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.
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.