Fishing during the pandemic


The Empire State’s marine striped bass season runs from April 15 to Dec. 15 with one bass of 28-35 inches.

The wind is shifting to northwest, with a forecast of 15-20 knots plus gusts to 30 in the morning — and 4-6-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.

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.

$3,368,490 on the line during last two days of the MidAtlantic

After a Wednesday during which all 157 boats entered took a lay day for the first time in the event’s 14-year history, the MidAtlantic was back in action today and concludes tomorrow at Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May and Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Maryland as the distribution of the $3,368,490 purse will be determined.

Though the ocean looked good inshore yesterday, there was an offshore forecast of 20-30 knot winds. Running a canyon trolling tournament in hurricane season is always risky, but the MidAtlantic has been blessed with fishable weather after a northeast wind blew through before the first day. The first two days produced a remarkable release total of 387 white marlin and 16 blue marlin as 44 boats fished the first marginal day after the northeaster with good results — and 156 were out the next day  — as the contest averaged over two billfish per boat day.

There was also a showing of bigeye tuna after they had been absent at the recent White Marlin Open where the tuna awards went to modest-sized yellowfins.  Indeed, Capt. Mark De Blasio strained the scales Tuesday with five bigeyes on Blue Runner, and is in a second place tie with Toddy Time at 114 pounds – just behind the 116-pounder by Da Sea.  Though impressive, there’s still plenty of room for improvement in that category as the MidAtlantic record is a 254-pound bigeye on Bernard and Drew Dinardi’s Absolut-ly in 1993.

The big-money white marlin category got filled in quickly as two 73-pounders were weighed the first day by Justin Blanning of Wall, N.J. on 3’s Enough and on Special Situation.  Andrew Hall of Chester, N.J. moved into third Tuesday with a 68-pounder on Lucky Lady Jean — just ahead of Intents at 66 pounds and Gusto with a 65-pounder. None of those whites are sure things as the MidAtlantic record is 95 pounds by Topless in 2009.

Maybe I should send my wife, Kathy, down there to help out as her only white marlin was a trophy caught while sharking with me before we were married, when I kept my Mako 22 in Montauk. She hooked a white that took a small bunker drifted in Butterfish Hole. Even after being out of the water all day, it still weighed 99 1/2 pounds at Montauk Marine Basin — winning the Outdoor Life national contest that year.

As noted in yesterday’s blog, the blue marlin category remains wide open with a 400-pound minimum, despite all the smaller blues that have been released. The 43-pound dolphin by First Light appears to be the most likely entry to stand, though the contest record is higher still at 56 pounds on American Lady in 2010. The Zipper leads in wahoo at 71 pounds, which could stand even though it’s well below the MidAtlantic record of 97 pounds set by Joanna in 2009.

I’ll have a late blog with updates after the weigh-ins close at 9 p.m.

I was wondering about Climate Change this morning as I was shivering in a light jacket while casting a Tactical Anglers Bomb Jr. popper into the surf  north of Manasquan Inlet. I’ve never before been chilled during an August morning on the beach, but that northwest wind was cool. A fat 23 1/2-inch striper hit the plug as I was about to lift it out of the water for another cast,  and I later also released my first surf bluefish of the year — a mere 17-incher.

Vinny D’Anton caught two small stripers nearby on a Storm Searchbait, and later moved further north to catch two more on a Chug Bug.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc said the last two days have been windy, creating a fast drift that produced good action though not as many keepers (see below) as he’d like to see on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands.

Flike on Sea Hunter

Tank Matraxia and his Lyndhurst crew had good fluking off the Rockaways with Capt. Chad Hacker on Tagged Fish from Highlands as the seven anglers totaled 21 keepers from 19 to 23 inches with only a few shorts. Tank only put ALS tags into four fluke. He had a particularly good day catching six legal fluke. Surprisingly, there was almost no variety with only a couple of sea robins boated.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported a fast drift to start, but it settled down for good sea bass and chub mackerel action plus some blues and fluke along with “some nice sharks”  — a notation I’ve never before seen from a party boat.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant reported a variety pick of blues, chub mackerel. sea bass, blues, fluke and bonito.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported lots of fluke were caught in the surf Wednesday, particularly in Island Beach State Park. They note that the 6-inch Gulp produces more keepers though there’s less action.  Matt and Megan Roser show off their 2.1-pound blue and 1.6-pound fluke from IBSP on bunker and Gulp.

Kid's blue & fluke

Looking for a big blue marlin in the MidAtlantic

While the other categories have had entries, there’s a big hole in the MidAtlantic tournament at Cape May and Ocean City, Maryland waiting for a blue marlin of at least 400 pounds to be caught during the last two days of the contest. For the first time in MidAtlantic history, all 157 boats decided to take a lay day with fine weather forecasted for the next two days. That was surprising as there are daily awards that a boat could do very well with for almost anything caught. With no weigh-ins, there will also be no late blog.

There have been quite a few blue marlin releases, but none have been close enough to even bring to the scale. The old 300-pound standard from the early days of what was then called the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 might have made a difference.

In 1995, it seemed that giant blues were becoming more common. I was fishing with Bernard and Drew Dinardi on their Absolut-Ly in the contest on Aug. 24 when a big blue came out of nowhere in the afternoon as I was the only angler in the cockpit. After a good battle, I boated what turned out to be a 503-pound blue that was only good enough for third at that point, and got knocked off the board the last day when the new leader was weighed.

I believe that was the only blue marlin over 500 pounds in MidAtlantic history that never won a penny — though combined with a blue release it did earn the Blue Marlin Points Trophy for Absolut-Ly. The minimum was then upped to 400 pounds as a conservation effort. but giant blues aren’t always available.

It looked yesterday evening as if lightning may have struck twice for Joe Rahman of Wanaque as his Auspicious came to the scale. Rahman won over $900,000 at the White Marlin Open with a first day 881-pound blue that swept the category, but this time there was only a white to be weighed — and it fell just a pound short of the 65-pound minimum to get on the board.

The volume of billfish releases has been excellent so far. Among the top release boats yesterday were Rhonda’s Osprey with two blues and three whites;  Texas Tea and Espadon with a blue and two whites; Canyon Lady with eight whites; Buckshot and Lights Out with seven whites; and both Business and Big Oil with six whites.

Billfisher is the overall points leader with 1507, ahead of 3’s Enough at 823; First Light 688.5; and Trust Me Too plus Reel Joy at 675.

Billfisher is also way in front of white marlin points with 1275, followed by Reel Joy, Trust Me Too and 3’s Enough at 675. In the Blue Marlin Points race, Southern C’s and Rhonda’s Osprey each have 300. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Capt. Mark De Blasio brought in five bigeye tuna yesterday on Blue Runner from Manasquan to take a strong lead in tuna points with 237.5 over Reel Estate with 131. However his biggest tuna of 114 pounds was tied by Toddy Time for second — and Da Sea took over first with a 116-pound entry.

There was a huge change in dolphin as First Light weighed a 43-pounder that may be hard to beat, putting them 10 pounds ahead of The Natural. The first two wahoo were a 71-pounder on The Zipper and a 46-pounder by Torta.

Andrew Hall of Chester, N.J. took over third in white marlin behind the two 73-pound leaders as his Lucky Lady Jean weighed a 68-pounder. Intents at 66 pounds and Gusto at a just eligible 65 pounds also got on the board.

Some party boats also took another day off, but the Golden Eagle from Belmar reported a boat limit of sea bass along with chub mackerel — though not as many as yesterday. The Ocean Explorer did well with fluke as experienced anglers limited. Mostly NW winds of 5 to 10 knots with two-foot seas are in the forecast up to Sunday

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported some cocktail blues were caught in the surf on metal yesterday, but fluking was the best bet.

Tom Spiller 23-inch 4.85-lb Tom Spicer beached this 23-inch, 4.85-pound fluke and weighed it Grumpy’s Tackle.

Despite a swell more pleasing to surfers, the surf at Manasquan was very fishable this morning though I never raised anything to a T.A. Bomb Jr. popper.

The Canyon Runner fleet at Point Pleasant has room on an open night chunking trip over the weekend. The cost per angler is $899 that covers everything– including food, drinks and tip.  Call Adam La Rosa at 732 272-4445.  Below is a Canyon Runner shot below of life in the canyons — whales, dolphins (mammals), tuna, shearwaters and tuna chicksCanyon Ruunner canyon life

 

 

 

Hot canyon fishing during MidAtlantic opener

Though only 44 boats out of 151 entered in the MidAtlantic Tournament out of Cape May and Ocean City, Maryland braved the NE wind forecast to fish Monday’s opener, most of those boats experienced very good fishing.

White marlin releases were reported steadily, and two 73-pounders took over the lead in that richest category for Special Situation and 3’s Enough. There were also several blue marlin releases, though none close to the 400-pound minimum for weighing.

The tuna category was a huge improvement over the recent White Marlin Open at Ocean City, where a mere 75.5-pounder won over $900,000. M.R. Ducks (below) weighed an 85-pound bigeye, but is only in third place at the MidAtlantic.

ccbigeye -85 M.R. Ducks.jpgReel Estate (below) and First Light were the tuna leaders as the former took over first, fourth and sixth with weigh-ins of 110, 77 and 74 pounds — while First Light is second at 102 pounds and fifth with a 75-pounder.

ThTheReel Estate bigeyesThe only two dolphin entered were just 18 pounds by Ringleader and 17 pounds by Game Changer.

The early points leader is Billfisher with 12 whites and a blue for 1050 points. Give It Away released eight whites. while Big Deal, First Light, Bar South and Goose had six each. Special Situation not only had the white marlin entry, but also five white releases along with Taylor Jean and Real Chaos. 3’s Enough added releases of six whites and a blue marlin to their 73-pound white.

There are 146 boats fishing today, and I’ll have another blog after the scales close at 9 p.m. to report the almost inevitable changes. By the way, the MidAtlantic recounted the purse which went up a bit to $3,368.490.

Though the ocean remained a bit nasty, some N.J. party boats got back out. The Golden Eagle from Belmar had also fished yesterday and managed sea bass plus chub mackerel and some blues  and bonito then– while today’s variety consisted of blues and little tunny.

At Atlantic Highlands, the Sea Hunter found the ocean to be too uncomfortable so they fished in the bay for a decent pick of keepers among good short fluke action. The Fishermen stuck it out in the ocean where some sea bass, blues and triggerfish were added to the fluke. Scott Scudieri won the pool with a 6.9-pound fluke.

Vinny D’Anton of Wall fished his local beach and released a small striper on a Chug Bug in a still somewhat rough surf. I worked Shark River and didn’t hook a fish. Fly fisherman Bill Hoblitzell had the same luck as of the time I left — and he had already tried Sea Girt with the same result. Surfcasting should improve as the waves settle somewhat in the lighter winds forecasted.

 

MidAtlantic opens with 151 boats competing for $3,246,760

MidAtlantic Tournament opened today out of Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May and Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Maryland with 151 boats seeking pieces of the $3,246,760 purse. Despite the northeast wind forecast,  it appears that 44 skippers decided to take their first day at sea during the opener.

Jeff Merrill told me that the forecast was better for Ocean City  boats, and there’s some windy weather forecast for Wednesday. Right now, the best day of the week for canyon fishing appears to be the final one on Friday. I’ll have the first day’s results later tonight after weigh-ins are completed at 9 p.m.

There was a lack of other fishing results today as many party boats cancelled trips in advance due to the continuing northeast forecast. Vinny D’Anton and I put in a couple of hours casting into Shark River where I released a 21 1/2-inch striper on a Z Man Swimmereez jig and lost another. Vinny moved around and came up with two small bass on a Chug Bug — and had a soft plastic jig tail bitten off by a blue.

Yesterday morning, I got hit four times in a row on a cast by what had to be one or more blues, but the bluefish-proof Z Man paddletail was unaffected even though my leader was full of chips from bluefish teeth.

 

 

Big change in weather coming tomorrow

Northeast winds gusting to 25 mph are forecast for later tonight, and it certainly should be cooler for fishing  tomorrow — but hopefully not too rough.

Getting a drift shouldn’t be the problem it was today for Capt. Rob Semkewyc on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands. He said there was too much bottom current in the deep, but the drift didn’t cover much ground. As a result, action was off from yesterday, the high hook only caught 12 to 15 shorts and there was just a pick of keepers.

Capt. Stan Zagleski said he left the strong bottom currents in the deep and found a fair number of keepers among shorts in shallower waters with his Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands.

The hot bluefishing of the last few days along the Shore wasn’t repeated after yesterday afternoon’s hard south winds lowered the inshore water temperatures. At Belmar, the Golden Eagle reported blues were hard to tempt. though better anglers managed about a dozen before they headed offshore for variety bottom fishing and jigging that produced some sea bass and chub mackerel plus a couple of 4-to-5-pound fluke among shorts.  The Ocean Explorer noted that the weatherman was wrong about the weather and they had a beautiful day for fluking.

The Jamaica from Brielle had hot jigging for small blues on their Friday morning trip along with some bonito, A move offshore added sea bass, fluke and chub mackerel. The Big Jamaica has another tilefish trip coming up on Sunday, Aug. 26 at 10 p.m.  Call 732 528-5014 for reservations. John Gorman boated a 50.2-pound tilefish on the last trip.

Jamaica variety below.

Jamaica varietyAt least there were no reports of whales overturning small boats today. This week’s incident off Deal serves as an alert for boaters, though there really isn’t anything you can do to prevent such a rare occurrence. Jerry Lasko of Point Pleasant had a whale almost do the same thing as he was running at high speed out of Manasquan Inlet a few years ago.

The northeast wind may upset casting for semi-tropical species, but I got a report of a cobia being caught yesterday at Manasquan Inlet.

Capt. Vinny Vetere had to do a lot of running with his Katfish from Great Kills on Friday, but he found striped bass that would hit trolled Ho Jos and live bunker in the western L.I. Sound, though chunking was no good. He may have an opening tomorrow.

There was no such excitement in Shark River this morning, but I had light tackle sport with four school stripers on the Z-Man Swimmereez jig.  Frank Manzi did the same on a jig, and finished up with a small bluefish. Vinny D’Anton had caught a schoolie on a Chug Bug in the surf at Belmar the last time I talked to him.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported lots of bait and small blues in the surf on Friday along with fluke and some exotics.

The MidAtlantic opens tomorrow with 4:30 p.m. captains meetings at Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May and Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Maryland. Fishing for a purse that should be well over a million dollars starts Monday and continues through Friday.