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Trollers have the upper hand with Raritan Bay stripers

It was another tough day with striped bass in Raritan Bay for party boats, but trollers did much better. Indeed, Capt. Paul Regula of Bounty Hunter from Point Pleasant said he had his best trip of the season as 34 bass from 30 to 41 inches were trolled on Mo-Jo’s.

Capt. Vinny Vetere has been doing very well mixing up trolling his Ho-Jo’s from Katfish out of Great Kills plus live-baiting bunker. However, stripers were scattered in the back of the bay today and wouldn’t hit live bunkers. Trolling  produced a pick of bass up to about 25 pounds, but with only one doubleheader.

At Atlantic Highlands, Capt. Ron Santee said the fishing has been “beyond tough.” Even bunker chunks haven’t been working on his Fishermen. Normally striper fishermen would be cursing at bluefish eating striper baits, but they’d be welcomed now. Santee hasn’t seen one in the bay or ocean though they are two weeks late.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc failed to find a keeper bass yesterday for the first time this season on his Sea Hunter, but did get one today. On the first drop there was a pick of shorts, but it died out with the tide — and they never got the current back.


Maja striper

Tony Arcabascio, manufacturer of Tony Maja bunker spoons and other tackle for big stripers. caught his first bass of the year behind his home in Bayville. Business has been so good that he hasn’t been able to get out for the big stripers.  Oh well, that bass will be big sometime in the future.

At Seaside Park, there was some good news from Grumpy’s Tackle of one angler catching blues from 5 to 10 pounds on bunker chunks locally Thursday night. Bait produced most of the bass and some blues caught in the surf yesterday.

Jim Louro of Spring Lake had intended to fish his local surf this morning, but I told him I had met an angler who had recorded the water temperature there as 43 degrees after yesterday afternoon’s hard south wind. Switching to Shark River, he caught 3 cocktail blues and 3 stripers up to 19 inches.

Blues are in Manasquan River — if you can find them

Bluefish have been very late in arriving compared to recent years, but there’s been enough action in Manasquan River to say they’re worth pursuing. I’ve been checking  the river , inlet and canal the last couple of days and have only seen two blues caught so far. The trick seems to be not being where I am. I’ve been hearing of better action before or after my appearances.  Capt. Jim Freda got into blues from Shore Catch in Manasquan River yesterday evening — and the blues were in only two-foot depths. Joe Melillo at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant got into heavy bluefish action last evening on shad lures and Kettle Creek jigs in the canal.

It was  a tough day for party boats in Raritan Bay. Capt. Rob Semkewyc said he watched trollers catching stripers near his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands. He started with shads, but only two shorts were caught. That was the same result after anchoring to fish bait. It was the first trip this season without a keeper.  The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported reading bass, but they wouldn’t hit. They are chartered Friday.

Capt. John Kolias got a late start Thursday due to the fog, but got into a few keepers at anchor after live baiting didn’t produce for his party on Reel Fun from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park weighed their largest surf striper of the season — a 42.5-inch, 27.7-pounder on a bunker chunk in Island Beach State Park by Polish Al. Chris Allen weighed a 26-inch, 9.05-pound black drum. Betty & Nick’s reported a quick shot of big blues in the surf yesterday.


It was a different day in Raritan Bay

After yesterday’s hot bite, and no major change in weather, I expected today to be red hot for every striper fisherman, but that wasn’t the case. Vinnie Vetere of Katfish at Great Kills had no complaints as he limited early with big bass on live bunkers before switching to trolling his Ho-Jo rigs for release action. They were greeted at the dock by N.Y. D.E.C. officers who had earlier seized an over limit striper catch that was donated to a church.

Yet, it was a different story for the party boat fleet that did so well yesterday on swirling bass with shad lures. Capt. Rob Semkewyc  of the Sea Hunter at Atlantic Highlands reported a crowd of good striper anglers aboard for a repeat, but the shads didn’t do the job today. The boat ended up with just one keeper and one short even though trollers nearby were catching bass. The Golden Eagle from Belmar also reported a poor day in beautiful weather. Hopefully, the bass will go on the feed again Thursday.

Tank Matraxia and his Lyndhurst crew picked the right day as they were out Tuesday with Capt. Fletcher Chayes on Two Rivers Charters from Highlands.   Tank said they kept their limit of four smaller stripers before he applied ALS tags to nine more larger spawners, including three from 30 to 37 1/2 inches fork length — as the ALS measures.

Kevin Kuriawa of Brick also was out for fine Tuesday striper action with Capt. Frank Maseria on Vitamin Sea from Brown’s in Keyport. Joe Kennedy and his son Devin plus Joe Prillo and his son James were in on the action as James on his first boat ride also caught his first fish. Instead of starting with stunted sunfish on a bamboo pole as I did, James began his lifetime of fishing with a striped bass.

Scott Leadbeater of Haddon Heights used his outboard from Atlantic Highlands Tuesday afternoon to troll two 30-inch stripers in Raritan Reach.

Julian’s Tackle in that town weighed a 48.9-pound striper caught Tuesday by Aaron Ciccia on George Conway’s Placid C’s skippered by Capt. Ken Gallup.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported almost everyone caught at least short bass in the surf on Tuesday — mostly on clams. There were also assorted size blues. A couple of keeper bass and four blues were weighed and two large bass were released. Nino Spiga had blues of 7.65 and 7.45 pounds this morning on an SP Minnow. Betty & Nick’s had a similar report, and added that there are “loads of black drum”.




Raritan Bay striper fishing breaks open

Party boat fishermen got a treat today in Raritan Bay as stripers were up chasing bait in the mouth of the bay, and continued to bite for quite a while even with lots of boat traffic.  At Atlantic Highlands, Capt. Rob Semkewyc reported a good shot of bass in the 20-pound class and a 29.5-pound pool winner on his Sea Hunter before that action slowed and only a few were caught on bait at anchor.  Capt. Ron Santee said his father, Capt. Ron Sr, and a few others caught two bass on the Fishermen before the fish turned off and bait was unproductive. Steve Toth had a 24-pound pool winner, and there were also bass of 18 and 19 pounds boated.

Chuck Many started out chunking in the Hudson River with his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands. That fishing was poor, so he ran back into the bay to find the large area  of stripers that occasionally came up, but didn’t stay there long. Though Many started with two live wells full of bunkers, Rob Rommel, Dave Glassberg and I got lots of blowups that didn’t turn into hooked bass. The key to success was changing live baits frequently — — so we ended up running back to castnet a fresh supply. That worked out well as we did better in the afternoon when few others were catching.  With Rob having the hottest hand, Ty Man ended up with 29 released bass up to 25 pounds.

Trollers were also doing well with those stripers. Capt. Vinny Vetere said it was a red letter day trolling his Ho-Jo’s from Katfish Charters as his customers caught bass up to 30 pounds before they switched over to live bunkers for another 15 bass.

Allen Riley of South Plainfield said the forecast of windy NE weather was off, and he actually had great surf conditions at Sandy Hook. Unfortunately, there was no action on lures or bait.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported a keeper bass weighed in Monday on clam and two more on Tuesday along with a 5-pound blue from the surf.

Betty & Nick’s Tackle reported Alex Krai of Barnegat weighed in a 29-inch striper and two black drum to 14 pounds on clams.  A 22-pound striper was caught Monday night in the Seaside Park surf on an SP Minnow by Marek B. of Brick.




NJ Marine Digest available at tackle shops

The 2018 New Jersey Marine Digest has been provided to tackle shops around the state, and can be picked up free of charge. All of the year’s regulations are included except for sea bass which was settled after publication. The sea bass season opens on May 15, and the Jamaica from Brielle has scheduled 10-hour Marathon trips for the first two days. The cost is $78, and reservations are required. Call 732 528-5014.

The striped bass situation in Raritan Bay didn’t change today as it remained tough for party boat fishing, but private and charter boats fishing with live bunkers do well.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc said he only had a few keepers today on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, though the readings he had on his third drop were the best of the season. Yet, they didn’t get a bite on them.

Chuck Many only fished a half-day with his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands, but Rob Rommel and Mike Greene helped in releasing 20 stripers which included bass of 24, 28, 29, 32 and 38 pounds.

After Capt. Jim Freda got everyone excited about the start of the inshore jumbo bluefish run when his  Saturday afternoon charter on Shore Catch Charters from Point Pleasant caught 15 by casting SP Minnows in Manasquan River. However, the following morning there were no bites on the cold incoming tide. John Wasnewski of Jackson was aboard late this afternoon along with your reporter as there were decent water temperatures in the mid-fifties during the ebb — but the blues were missing. John and the skipper at least each got a hit. None of the other boats caught anything either. Normally there’s a steady build-up of blues after the first catches, and Freda will be ready for them when they start biting again. Call him at 732 762-0870. Capt. Dave De Gennaro of Hi Flier at Barnegat found the same thing Sunday in his bay, even where water temperatures were over 60 degrees,

Jerry Lasko of Point Pleasant caught a blue on his first cast into the Manasquan this morning, but his popper didn’t raise another fish.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park only heard of a few blues in northern Barnegat Bay over the weekend. Anglers reported they were sluggish, rather than attacking poppers.

Bob Mathews, at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina, reports the Asbury Park Fishing Club, led by Gene Amato’s 17-pound striper, won the Spring Lake Live Liners Spring Tournament over the weekend with 64 points.  The Live Liners were second with 24 points, and the other clubs didn’t score. Matthews says Shark River is loaded with fluke up to 24 inches prior to the season opening.



Results from Striper Challenge


Following are the official results from Saturday’s Striper Challenge, the first leg of the Triple Challenge, as submitted by the organizers:
1st Place TY MAN 35.6lbs $5,000.002nd Place Surf N Turf (A Hojnowski) 32.2lbs $1,000.00

3rd Place Milling Around 30.2lbs FREE ENTRY NEXT YEAR AND Tony MaJa Custom Tackle EZ OUTRODDER.

1st Place Mike DeMarco 36″ $1,000.00
2nd Place Rob Nemeth 31″ $100.00
3rd Place Nick Rodriguez 29″ FREE ENTRY NEXT YEAR

CALCUTTAS… OVER $12,000.00 Combined!

$100 HEAVIEST 2 COMBINED 35.6 + 21.4 TYMAN
$250 HEAVIEST 2 COMBINED 35.6 + 21.4 TYMAN
$500 HEAVIEST 2 COMBINED 35.6 + 21.4 TYMAN

$25.00 BLUEFISH $150.00 Tom Loughron
$50.00 STRIPER $150.00 Mike Demark?


Over $21,000.00 in cash was given away today!

Chuck Many of Annandale was the big winner on his Tyman from Gateway Marina in Highlands with his crew of Rob Rommel of Highlands, Bob Bowden of Little Silver, Mike Greene from the Bronx and me.  Greene caught the big bass on our first drift after fishing started at 6 a,m. — but most of the bass were only in the 10-to-14-pound class as we caught 22. We needed a second bass to add to the big one for the Calcuttas that were cased on a two fish total weight. We couldn’t come up with anything very large for the second bass, but the 21.4-pounder I hooked late in the trip proved to be adequate.  Those bass were brought in alive for weighing so they could be released to spawn this month in the Hudson River. We were fishing with live bunkers, and found the bass to be very fussy about taking them. Changing baits frequently seemed to make a difference, and we had to take time out during the day to seek out a fresh supply of bunkers which we also ran out of. Bryan Pieros was fishing near us and had the same sort of action. He managed a pair of bass over 20 pounds among the “average” bass for an entry, but it wasn’t enough
Capt. Pete Wagner reported a striper of over 50 pounds was caught today on his Hyper Striper from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands.  Party boats reported somewhat better striper fishing over the weekend. The Atlantic Highlands boats got into a few better bass casting shads to surfacing fish before boat traffic put them down and just a few shorts and keepers were added on bait.
Capt. Dave De Gennaro trolled for stripers with his Hi Flier out of Barnegat, but found no life off Island Beach State Park as the water temperature had dropped to 45 degrees.  He had tried casting for the overdue blues in Barnegat Bay on Saturday, but didn’t raise anything.
At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported a pick of bass and blues in the surf on clams and bunker despite the cool waters.
Bluefish reports became more common on Saturday. In addition to the kayack winner in Raritan Bay that was listed above, there were some caught in Manasquan River.  Capt. Jim Freda of Shore Catch specializes in Manasquan River bluefishng, but noted the run is just beginning as cold seawater seems to be holding back the choppers. That could change at any moment, but I checked the river and inlet a couple of times today from shore and didn’t find anything going on.  Below is a jumbo blue caught in the Manasquan River on Saturday with Capt. Jim Freda on Shore Catch.
Manasquan River blue

Ty Man wins Striper Challenge

Sorry for the late blog, but I was part of the crew on Chuck Many’s Ty Man from Gateway Marina as he won all the money he was eligible for in that contest out of Baker’s Marina on the Bay in Highlands. Many had a game plan developed after fishing every day this week — and got a huge boost when Mike Greene from Long Beach Island boated a 35.6-pound striper on live bunker during the first drift. Late in the day I finally came through with a 21.4-pounder to provide the 75-pound total for the Calcuttas, We totaled 22 stripers, though most were only in the 12-to-15-pound class. I’ll have more about that contest in Sunday’s blog.

Striper fishing wasn’t easy in Raritan Bay on Saturday. The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands reported slow action, though they had a few more keepers than on the day before.

Though bluefish action didn’t break open in the Seaside Park and IBSP surf. there were more reports — primarily in the evening. There were also reports of blues in Manasquan River.Ty Man morning stripers

Small legal stripers are released from Ty Man after hitting live bunkers

Photo by Rob Rommel


Stanczyk boats 601-pound swordfish at Islamorada

Capt. Nick Stanczyk had only one angler aboard his charter boat from Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada, Florida Keys, but managed to boat a 601-pound swordfish on 50-pound stand-up tackle.

Nick’s father, Richard Stanczyk, was the pioneer of daytime swordfishing in the Keys, but Nick has become master of that sport as he regularly brings in multiple catches. If you want to catch the most elusive and prized of all billfish, a charter with Capt. Nick is the best bet. Contact him at 800 742-7945.

Nick-601-lb sword

Striped bass fishing in Raritan Bay was generally tough again today. Capt. Rob Semkewyc didn’t have any good readings with his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, but scratched out three keepers and some shorts — while a big bass broke a line.

Chuck Many and his crew on Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands were primarily looking for areas to fish during a tournament on Saturday. Live bunkers produced just eight striper releases that were in the 12-to-14-pound class except for a 23-pounder.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle weighed in a huge striper from back bay waters. Kevin Horvath was fishing  a bunker for the bluefish that should be in there now and instead caught a 45-inch, 28.6-pound striper.  The first surf bluefish weighed in was a 33-inch 10.5-pounder that hit an SP Minnow.  Short stripers are hitting best in the surf in the evening.

The Jamaica from Brielle adds a Saturday afternoon jigging trip on Saturday from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. The 6:30 a.m. trip will be run Saturday and Sunday– and the tilefish trip departs at 10 p.m. Sunday.  Call 732 528-5014 for reservations.

The Mimi Vi from Point Pleasant will be running open for bottom fishing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The fare is $75, and Capt. Ken Namowitz sails at 7 a.m. Call 732 370-8019 for reservations.

The New York fluke season opened today, and I heard good reports from both Moriches and Jamaica Bay.






















that hit an SP Minnow.School stripers have been hitting best in the devening.















45-inch, 28.6-poundr. The first surf bluefish weigh-in was a 33-inch, 10,5-pounder

A tough day in Raritan Bay

After a great Tuesday morning jigging bite, party boat striper fishermen had a much tougher time Wednesday, when only a few keepers and shorts were hooked. That was actually very good compared to Thursday. Capt. Ron Santee ran his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands all over the bay without marking all the bait and fish seen the day before — ending up without a bite. The Golden Eagle from Belmar read some fish and bait, but got no hits.

Don Marantz of Clarksburg had a charter on Billchaser out of Twin Lights Marina in Highlands. They started out with a 27-inch bass, but after that only had a skate and a big sea robin chunking —  while trolling was also unproductive,

Chuck Many said it was tougher on his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands than it was Tuesday when four of us released 30 bass up to 33 pounds on live bunkers.  Yet, he and three other anglers managed to release 17 stripers on both live bunkers and chunks today. The largest was a Ty Man season best of 40 pounds, though the next largest was only about half that size.

I gave the Sea Girt surf a brief try this morning, and got blanked there for the third time this spring. Jimmy Wilson felt the water and said the temperature had dropped quite a bit due to upwelling from the gusty southwest afternoon winds.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported John Alcoriza released both a large bluefish and a decent bass Wednesday night in the surf. Betty & Nick’s had the first blowfish reports in the surf. Adult bunkers have moved in close enough to be snagged, but there have been no reports of hook-ups.

Big bass38-pounder before release from Ty Man on Wednesday.

First bluefish in surf

We’ve been waiting for the bluefish to arrive in force as they usually do by the end of April, but nothing has been happening in N.J. — and Fred Golofaro of The Fisherman, Long Island edition had the same report from another early location at Fire Island Inlet. However, just before writing this blog I got a photo from outdoor writer Nick Honachefsky of Normandy Beach of a surfcaster with a good-sized bluefish. I picked a logbook from 1998, and found that my charter party was inundated with blues on May 1 in Raritan Bay. Yesterday, Honachefsky caught eight small bass (a 26-inch and micros) plus five hickory shad on a fly rod in the surf.

First surf blue

There have still been no reports of blues up there, and a message from Rob Rommel noted that he fished with Chuck Many on Ty Man as they released 20 stripers up to a 38-pounder.  in Yesterday’s release count when I was with them was 30 bass up to 33 pounds, but I forgot to credit Many with his best catch — the first sea robin reported from the bay,  an aggressive little fish that hit a 6-inch shad cast into small bait off Staten Island.

Reel Fun from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands had the Sean Basilone party with six legal stripers just a half-hour from the dock this morning, but Capt, John Kolias said they couldn’t come up with an over 43-incher.   Kolias usually trolls.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported they had some bass chasing their jigs, but none were caught. After yesterday’s hot early jigging reports from Raritan Bay, there were no reports today from Atlantic Highlands boats.

Capt. Vinny Vetere of Katfish Charters in Great Kills reported small bass dominated early as he trolled his Ho-Jo’s, but bigger bass hit as the tide ebbed. Green chartreuse was the hot color.

Jim Louro of Spring Lake fished Raritan Bay in an outboard during the afternoon and had to fight the southwest wind while trolling mo jo’s and casting shads. He said they marked fish, but had no hits and didn’t see anything caught on other boats. The forecast for the next two days is similar with light SW in the morning before gusty winds in the afternoon.

Allen Riley of South Plainfield was happy with his Tuesday morTodayndy Hook surf. After catching a very small bass on a Tsunami Shad before sun-up, small bass turned on to sandworms fished on a very light rod. He released bass of 22, 24, 25 and 28 inches before the bite ended at 8 am. John Mazzeo of South Plainfield fished a bunker chunk to release a 26-incher.