Page 2 of 12

Striper bite continues in Raritan Bay

Dave Lilly of Hazlet trolled up stripers in Raritan Bay again today, though it wasn’t as easy as it had been.

Lilly decided to head east from Keyport and never had a hit all the way to Romer Shoal before running to the back of the bay where about a dozen bass in the 34-35-inch class were trolled in 16-foot depths on Tony Maja 3-ounce mo-jos.  He only saw one bass caught to the east among a good fleet taking advantage of a calm morning — though some snow flakes were falling in the cold air when he started out. However, he did hear a radio report of a 7-pound fluke being trolled.  The water temperature was up a couple of degrees to 48 in the back, though there were no surface signs of bunkers or birds in the bay.

As noted in yesterday’s blog, Capt. Stan Zagleski passed away from cancer at 76. His son Stan sent this shot of his father with one of his top big fluke customers, Ashley, on Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands. Stan, Jr. will be running the boat as soon as party boat fishing is permitted.

 

Stan Zagleski

Capt. Art Hilliard was also lost to the for-hire fleet recently. He had run the large-group charter boat Eagle from Atlantic Highlands. R.I.P. Art.

Art Hilliard

Capt. Bob Garafano from Belmar also reported the recent loss of former party boat owner Marty Tave. Capt. Chris Di Stefano noted that he bought the Renegade from Tave and briefly ran it as a party boat.

Chis had some inshore cod news as a friend told him that 19 legal cod were boated at Sandy Hook Reef last weekend along with ling and blackfish. There was also a cod report from Sea Girt Reef.

Bob Correll of Bay Head has been hooking and jumping small tarpon from the back of a house he’s been living in at Islamorada in the Florida Keys, but finally got one that hung on for a photo a couple of nights ago.

Bob's tarpon

Rain is forecast after midnight, and the morning prediction is northeast winds at 15-20 knots with gusts to 25.

Stripers best bet for weekend

Striped bass in Raritan Bay are the best bet at present, if you can find a way to get at them. Relatively few anglers have boats in the water so far, and getting launched may be a problem as marinas aren’t considered to be an essential business. To top it off, there are no party boats sailing in the bay, and some charter skippers aren’t sailing until the legality of doing so is settled.

Joe Massa went out himself with his My Three Sons from Morgan Marina today and had steady action casting a large shad. He then netted some bunkers and found that the bass responded to them as well. The stripers were mostly 15-20-pounders, but he also released a 40-incher.

Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina can supply bait, and reported a pick of flounder from the docks.  One angler told them that he had done well with stripers at Union Beach. A few small stripers have been taken on lures in the local surf.

At Seaside Park, Betty & Nick’s  is open for food take-outs, and the rest of the store is accessible for bait and tackle purchases. John Bushell continues to report a strong smell of bluefish blowing in from the surf, though it’s very early for blues.

Grumpy’s Tackle is closed, but the mail order business continues for those using Pay Pal.

Bill Hoblitzell has been raking worms and fishing for flounder, but only catching shorts lately. Yet, he did get a surprise in Point Pleasant Canal when a very early 18-inch blackfish put up a spirited battle on light tackle before the release.

Lots of N.J. anglers are still in Florida. Ric Gross of Point Pleasant said he had a fine offshore trip Wednesday with a boat  out of Hillsboro Inlet which trolled lots of blackfin tuna plus little tunny.

Tommy Cox bought a kayak, and has been doing very well in Lemon Bay on the west coast with seatrout, redfish and snook –including a 30-incher yesterday.

Vinny D’Anton is still wading in the Sarasota area, and finding good action as the waters have warmed to 80 degrees. Snook have been hitting the Zara Spook, though it’s been hard to get hooks in them. Seatrout and ladyfish have also been abundant.

Bob Corell of Bay Head and his wife Mary Agnes hosted his brother Todd and wife Karen on his Sea Vee out of Marathon yesterday as they finally got a calm day which produced a good catch of dolphin and blackfin tuna trolling out at the Hump.

Capt. Sal Cursi, who ran the Cathy Sea from Seawaren for many years,  took advantage of the good weather a couple of days ago to get out in his small boat at Palm Bay for a limit of mangrove snappers while releasing a few puppy black drum.

 

Time to discuss easing fluke rules

Though fishing is legal in N.J. and N.Y. at this point, it’s likely that regulations relating to the pandemic will greatly impact the sport this year. That being the case, even the small fluke quota assigned to the public will probably not be filled. It would be appropriate now for the ASMFC and MAFMC to consider loosening fluke regulations in order that those taking advantage of restricted fishing opportunities will have a reasonable chance of bringing home a meal.

Reduced fishing pressure comes at the right time for the striped bass population which needs rebuilding, but fluke are in such good shape that the agencies even added to the commercial quota last year. Then there’s the possibility that if recreational fishermen aren’t filling their quota that the agencies will transfer the unused portion to the commercial side — just as they did with bluefish despite any provision in the management plan to do so.  To top it off, the greatly reduced recreational catch may be used next year as an excuse to further lower the public quota.

Lowering the minimum size would be the best way as a 16 or 17 inch fluke is a reasonable eating size that’s been readily available inshore and in the surf. It wouldn’t be necessary to go all the way down to the 14-inch fluke provided to commercial fishermen even though they have a huge advantage by dragging nets over miles of bottom.

Due to the social distancing provisions of the governor’s order, it doesn’t look good for party and charter boats at this point. It’s hard to find any written guidance with state offices closed, but a woman in the N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife thought there was no problem with fishing with a friend as long as the group restrictions are followed. Shore fishing should be fine as fishing distancing for casting is greater than social distancing.

Keep in mind the fact that we’re still fishing under last year’s regulations. The new striper regs are supposed to go into effect on April 1, but the governor still hasn’t signed that authorization.

Phil Sciortino said the phone (732 264-7711) was ringing steadily at The Tackle Box in Hazlet today. Though the shop is closed, he will take credit card orders over the phone for worms and tackle which he’ll drop off at homes or marinas, or leave in front of the store,

The Golden Eagle from Belmar is supposed to start fishing on  April 4, but they don’t know at this time if that will be possible.

The small craft warning is coming down at 6 p.m., but Wednesday starts with east winds at 15-20 knots which increase to 20-25 in the afternoon with rain and 4-to-7-foot seas.

 

Correction to bluefish comments address

The e-mail address in yesterday’s blog for comments on bluefish not submitted at last month’s bluefish scoping hearings was incorrect. It should be mseeley@mafmc.org. Your bluefish comments can be submitted prior to midnight.

I emphasized the fact that the Mid-Atlantic Council and ASMFC have to take part of the responsibility for he bluefish decline by allowing unused recreational quota to be transferred to commercial fisheries even as the shortage was developing. There was no provision in the management plan for such transfers, and it’s vital that such actions must be specifically prohibited by amendment to the plan.

Comments on fluke will also be accepted before midnight by e-mail to jbeaty@asmfc.org. My response emphasized the fact that NOAA Fisheries estimated the recreational summer flounder catch in 1970 (before management started) was 39 million pounds — nearly seven times the commercial landings. Yet, the management plan provided 60% of the quota to commercial interests in one of the worst abuses of the public trust since fisheries management started. The result has been ever-larger minimum sizes, short seasons and small bag limits for the public while dozens of party and charter boats have gone out of business.

The ASMFC has cancelled its spring meeting from May 4-7 in Arlington, Va. due to the pandemic. One day may be added to the summer meeting in August, and issues demanding quick action can be handled through webinars or by conference calls.

One more day of fishable weather is coming up as the forecast for Wednesday is for north winds at 5-10 knots before going to southeast in the afternoon — and blowing up to 15-20 after midnight along with rain.

The Ocean Explorer is planning to sail from Belmar for cod on Wednesday at 7:30 a.m.

Betty & Nicks Tackle in Seaside Park notes that the restaurant remains open though no one will be seated or waitress service provided. Orders will be delivered to your car.

A free Tady lure to those attending my Saturday striper seminar at the Saltwater Expo

The biggest and best show of the winter for saltwater anglers opens Friday in the N.J. Convention Center at Edison, and the Saltwater Fishing Expo continues through Sunday.

There’s lots to see at this show, which features complete displays from almost every major fishing tackle manufacturer and lots of seminars by local pros — but you can really make out by taking home a valuable Tady metal lure which will be presented to the first 100 attending my 11:30 Saturday morning seminar on catching big stripers.

As usual, Gary Quon will be aboard to explain how to get the most out of his Tady  metals which were developed in California but have spread to saltwaters worldwide.

There’s plenty of free parking at the Expo, which has an adult admission of $13. Youngsters 6-11 pay just $3, and those 5 and under are admitted free. Adults attending on Friday can save $3 by going online through Thursday at Sportshows.com to buy their ticket.

Windy weather persisted today, but it looks good for Thursday. Small craft warnings are up into Wednesday. After southwest gusts to 30 knots this afternoon, it’s down to northwest  at 10-15 with gusts to 20 by morning– but calming to north at 5 knots in the afternoon.

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar had nice weather Monday, but tracing down a cod report to the north didn’t work out and they ended up with ling.  They expect to sail for cod on Thursday.

Jeff Dement of the American Littoral Society will be a guest speaker at tonight’s 7:30 meeting of the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association in the Ridgefield Park Elks at 19 Cedar St.

Vinny D’Anton was into lots of spotted sea trout yesterday as he was wading at Sarasota, Fl. and casting a variety of lures. He usually gets into quite a few small blues at times down there during the winter, but they’ve been as scarce as blues were in our surf last fall. I’m sure that blues in the Gulf of Mexico are a different stock, but it’s curious that they’re also suddenly scarce.

Back to NW on Sunday

After some good fishing weather today, the southeast wind picked up with rain. but will quickly shift to northwest by morning and get gusty. That will be fishable for some. but the Big Mohawk from Belmar has cancelled.

At Atlantic Highlands, Capt. Rob Semkewyc had good action with short bass on his Sea Hunter. There were also some keepers and slots, but the bite died when the SE started blowing hard at 12:30. He couldn’t get on the bigger bass of the day before — possibly due to all the boat traffic.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported seeing lots of bass though they didn’t bite well and there was only a pick.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant got into lots of jigging action with short stripers while adding some keepers and slots.

I didn’t get any hot surf reports today, though Jerry Lasko and Maren Toleno had a pick of school bass on metal in Island Beach State Park.

I tried the Manasquan surf early and had ideal conditions but not a sign of fish or bait. Bob Correll said there were lots of anglers early in the Bay Head surf, but nothing was caught.

Calm weather produced stripers for boaters

Calm weather made fishing bearable for boaters this morning, and striper fishing seemed to be good for them.

At Atlantic Highlands, Capt. Rob Semkewyc had a light crowd for Black Friday on his Sea Hunter, but they ended up with a boat limit of bass over 28 inches plus slots and shorts. Capt. Ron Santee had good striper action on the Fishermen and noted that red-tailed jigs were most effective. He emphasized that anglers must turn the handle in this fishery rather than just bouncing bottom with jigs.  My usual technique is to hit bottom, give a good bounce like a sand eel coming out of the sand — and then retrieve to about 1/3 of the way to the surface before pausing. A lot of hits come on the pause. Then drop down and do it again.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had a good mixed jigging catch of short, slot and keeper stripers plus some blues.

Capt. Stan Zagleski said blackfishing was picky on his Elaine B II from Bahrs in Highlands, but those who worked at it did well.

The Mimi VI from Point Pleasant will be sailing open for tog at 7 a.m. Call 732 370=8019 for reservations at $75.

The Big Jamaica is sailing from Brielle at 11 p.m. for jumbo sea bass on far offshore wrecks. There are some spots open. Call 732 528-5014. They’ll be striper fishing Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

I was armed with hand warmers this morning, but didn’t see any of the birds dipping on tiny bait at Point Pleasant Beach — and didn’t brave the cold as anglers didn’t seem to be doing anything. I made a brief try at sun-down in “balmy” 32 degree temperatures and released a small bass on an old J&J lead quid with a swiveling green tube. That  was the only one I saw caught on the beach,

Jerry Lasko and Maren Toleno found a pick of school stripers in the Seaside surf during the day, and saw a few 30-inch bass caught from among them.

 

 

 

hooked a couple of small blues recently in the Point Pleasant surf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still working hard for stripers

The fall striped bass Bonanza we’ve been hoping for along the northern N.J. Shore still hasn’t started, but there have been some better signs.

The Atlantic Highlands fleet got into better jigging for mostly short bass today along with some keepers. Capt. Ron Santee said the jigging was held back by a very strong current, but when it dropped  to 2 knots there was good action with both plain and tailed diamonds. Capt. Rob Semkewyc said the bite from his Sea Hunter was on diamond jigs. He’s cancelling his Thanksgiving trip due to the forecast of extreme cold and wind, but Black Friday looks good,

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had good readings and saw fish splashing today, but they were very fussy and only a few stripers and a couple of blues were caught. They will be back out in the morning and are still planning a Thanksgiving trip from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Capt. Rob De Petri ran his Sharky’s Machine out of Barnegat Bay to troll stripers of 32 and 36 inches on green mo-jos for Ray Bonte. One was hooked off Lavallette in 60 feet and the other near the 3-mile line. There wasn’t much bait recorded.

Yesterday morning’s showing of small stripers in the Point Pleasant Beach surf didn’t occur again as most anglers left quickly. I found an old J&J lead squid with a swiveled green tube in my basement and decided to give it a try. Surprisingly, it produced the only two small bass caught in the area I was working.

Jimmy Louro of Spring Lake caught three small bass and Frank Manzi added another in the surf there during the morning — and Louro got into others late in the afternoon.

Capt. Vinnie Vetere said he stayed in calm river waters over the weekend to catch boat limits of stripers on Katfish from Great Kills. His Ho-Joes did the job with white being the best color.

The Jamaica from Brielle will be sailing to the far offshore wrecks for jumbo sea bass at 11 p.m. There are some openings that can be reserved by calling 732 528-5014. There were some limits on Sunday’s trip — and some cod up to 18 pounds and pollock to 16 pounds were added on the weekend runs along with white hake, ling and even a few barrellfish

It will be a lot windier and colder in coming days. A Small craft advisory will be increased to a gale warning from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday night. West winds of 15-20 knots tomorrow morning increase to 20-25 in the afternoon.

Get out Tuesday while the weather holds

While there didn’t seem to be any Bonanza striper fishing today, there were many caught in various areas. With colder and windier weather coming, it might be best to get your shots in Tuesday when the forecast is for NW 10-15 knots in the morning before increasing to 15-20 with gusts to 30 in the afternoon. Small craft warnings will be going up through Wednesday afternoon — to be followed by gale warnings Wednesday afternoon.

There was a decent early jigging bite in the Sandy Hook area. At Atlantic Highlands, the Sea Hunter reported better fishing with more shorts and keeper bass plus a few slots. The Fishermen reported 10 keeper bass plus some bonus fish through there wasn’t as much bait as on Sunday.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had good jigging on long drifts. It was mostly shorts with some keepers and slots and even a couple of blues.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant had a similar report with stripers up to 20 pounds.

Though surfcasting remains tough, there was at least a showing of shorts this morning in Point Pleasant Beach. I was surprised to see over a dozen anglers on the beach when I arrived just before sun-up, but it was well a——————————————-fter that before some rods started bending. The two small bass I cau-ght were both on a Castaways teaser rig rather than the sand eel jig, an-d the only two anglers who did more than pick were casting diamond- jigs with a red tail. Nothing great, but the best action I’ve seen so far this fall. I returned late in the afternoon and didn’t see a fish caught.-

Steve Mirande made the right move -late this afternoon when he fished Bay Head and cast both swim shads and metal to catch three small stripers — all of which hit his hand–tied sand eel teaser. Steve thought he’d hooked a big one that was taking drag before his monster surfaced — a three-foot waterlogged plank!

Waters clearing — stripers improving

Ocean waters continue to clean up after the storm. There’s been no resumption of Wednesday’s hot jigging, but that fishing was somewhat better today.

The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands jigged mostly shorts in local waters, but added a couple to take home.

At Belmar, the Golden Eagle got into two dozen shorts and a few keepers. The Big Mohawk is blackfishing, and that was tough today though some limits were taken. They sail at 6 a.m. Monday when the forecast is for west winds at 5-10 knots.

Surfcasting remains slow, though I heard of a few shorts being hooked on metal at Bay Head and Point Pleasant.

Capt. Dave Riback of the Queen Mary from Point Pleasant didn’t have to run all the way to the Rockaways again, and managed a pick of stripers off Sandy Hook. In addition to shorts, the boat had 10 keepers for the weekend plus a few slots. Ashley boated a personal record 32-inch striper.

 

 

Ashley bass