Slow start to NJ fluke

It was a beautiful day for fishing, but I didn’t get many reports of hot fishing.

The only report from the northern fluke boats came from Capt. Ron Santee of the Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands. He said it started very slowly, with only a couple of shorts before the tide turned and brought in warmer waters from the river. After that they picked away with a couple of fares bagging their three fluke limit. A 3-pounder took the pool. Santee emphasized the importance of reserving a spot as Gov. Murphy is allowing only up to 25 anglers on a party boat.

Bob Correll had to work his way through a fluke fleet to get out of Manasquan River with his Sea Vee to fish Axel Carlsen Reef for a pick of sea bass on the drift. He heard on the radio that some boaters did well with fluke in the back, though the mob working the inlet did little. Some cocktail blues were also caught in the river.

Capt. Arthur Stokes fished Shark River with his 16-foot trailered boat as his son (8) boated the only keeper among shorts. There had been lots of fluke there before the season opened, but Arthur said the water felt very cold.

Party boat sea bass reports were better. At Belmar, the Ocean Explorer limited out as jigs and sand eel teasers worked best. Some ling and a few cod were also caught. The morning trip is sold out, but there are openings on the 3:30 p.m. weekend sailings.

The Golden Eagle reported a slow start in a strong current before they ended up with many limits of sea bass plus ling.

Frank Huza of Aberdeen made the long walk at Sandy Hook to find cold water and both sides of the tip closed to all uses. He saw the fleet of party and private boats drifting off the Bug Light. That spot will be even more crowded Sunday as it’s perfect in a northeast wind which is predicted for the afternoon after starting at just 5 knots from the east. The wind builds up to 10-15 northeast with gusts to 20 knots. Showers are also forecast.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported Monday was the best surf day with many 22-to- 27-inch stripers caught on clam and bunker, though lures weren’t producing. Small blues have been best in the south end of the bay, along with good numbers of blowfish.

John Bushell, Jr. at Betty & Nick’s said he’s heard that large blues are hitting in the bay, though only at night.

 

For–hire fishing a go for tomorrow

Much to my surprise, Gov. Murphy  opened up party and charter boat fishing in N.J. , plus boat rentals, as of 6 a.m. Sunday under restrictions that weren’t specified, but are probably those already proposed by the United Boatmen and RFA and checked by the DEP.

You will have to make payment in advance in order to eliminate payment contact, and provide name, address and phone contact information for possible contact tracing. No one with a temperature or virus symptoms will be allowed aboard, and the boat may require facial coverings and gloves.

The Jamaica from Brielle will be sailing for sea bass at 6:01 a.m. Since that trip had been cancelled, even those with reservations have to call 732 528-5014 to confirm they are included in the reduced capacity required for social distancing.

The Golden Eagle will open its season from Belmar at 7:30 a.m. Sunday and Monday.

Bud McArthur of Brick fished with friends in 60-70–foot local waters today, and reported legal sea bass (12 1/2 inches) were scarce. The water temperature was fine at 52 degrees, and there was lots of life on bottom even though it was mostly shorts plus bergalls and dogfish. Surprisingly, they did catch some Atlantic mackerel of a foot or so — as did other boats. There was also a report from the Axel Carlsen Reef of some cod.

Bud finished up by trolling bunker spoons for stripers. They had no hits, but a friend doing that off Deal came up with the first ocean bass I’ve heard of so far –a keeper, but not one of the big spawned-out bass coming up from southern spawning grounds.

The Hudson River Fisherman’s Assn. Catch & Release Striper Derby  finished up this weekend as Doug Palmer easily won the tagging division with 22 releases.  There were 35 bass released with ALS tags during the contest.

Joe Albanese sent a quick recap of the 2020 Derby.  Despite only 34 anglers competing, uncooperative winds & weather and low water temperatures we still had a successful Derby. Those fishing further north in the Hudson River had much more success than those fishing Haverstraw or south. We opened the Derby up this year to tributaries of the Hudson River and received a bunch of photos of bass captured in the Hackensack River from Dirk van Everdingen. In WEEK-1 there were only 12 stripers entered. Two photos were disqualified. However, two of the biggest fish were entered just a few hours into the Derby start. They were from Douglas Dean and Shane Dean. In WEEK-2 there were only 7 stripers entered.  In WEEK-3 there were 9 entries and 1 disqualification. In WEEK-4 the action turned hot and heavy up around the Newburg area. We had 27 entries this last week, 22 from Doug Palmer.
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The morning weather looks great with an east breeze of 10 knots forecast — with mild temperatures and no showers until after midnight.

Betty and Nick’s Tackle in Seaside Park didn’t have any special word on surfcasting except for blowfish.

Congratulations to C.J. Parker (7) who caught his first keeper striped bass yesterday from his father’s boat in Raritan Bay while casting and jigging a 6-ounce white glow Tony Maja mojo with no assistance throughout the fight.

 

 

 

Winds increasing

Small craft warnings go up at 6 p.m., before a switch to northwest winds gusting to 35 knots tomorrow — and a gale watch. That cold wind will result in freeze warnings in far northern areas, but surfcasters should be in good shape with winds from that direction.

Capt. Chris Di Stefano got a report from a friend about stripers in the 40-pound class being hooked in Raritan Reach. A boater out of Shark River Yacht Club  found lots of fluke waiting for the season to open in Shark River. Chris also heard about a bluefin tuna in the giant class being released short of the canyons recently. Scallop boats have been spotting bluefins following their nets.

Phil Fischer ran out to the rough bottom at Scotland this week from Highlands for a good catch of ling plus a small cod, and even an early sea bass that was released.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle noted that town’s beaches are open for anglers. IBSP is also open, and lots f small stripers are being caught on shucked clams which are also attracting the first blowfish.

John Bushell Jr. had sad news at Betty & Nick’s as his uncle George has passed away. He was the brother of the original Betty.

Lilly trolls an “exotic” — a bluefish

Dave Lilly called this morning with news that he ad trolled an “exotic” — at least by last year’s standard in Raritan Bay — a bluefish.

Lilly went east from Keyport and saw nothing but a lot of boats on a calm morning.  Therefore, he went to the back of the bay where he’s been doing well by trolling 3-ounce Tony Maja mo-jos and caught the blue of about 8 pounds before starting a pick of bass in the 30-34-inch class that got better before he came in later in the morning. Dave said the radio was pretty quiet. He did see bunkers flipping in the back of the bay.

Capt. Chris Di Stefano said a friend trolled mo-jos in the bay to catch 30-inch  bass. He also had a report of cod at Sandy Hook Reef, including a 20-pounder. Another boater had lots of both short and keeper blackfish at Sea Girt Reef. In addition there were 18-22-inch winter flounder and the first showing of big sea bass that are out of season.

Unfortunately, those areas may not be fishable Sunday as small craft warnings are up. East winds of 20 to 25 knots are predicted along with gusts to 30, plus showers.

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.

First party boat striper jigging catch reported

The first significant party boat striper jigging catch was taken today by the Brooklyn VI out of Sheepshead Bay. They reported a near boat limit catch with a pool bass of about 25 pounds. It wasn’t specified whether that jigging took place in the ocean or Raritan Bay. They will also be carrying bait tomorrow, but don’t expect to need it.

There was also good news on bait, from the Sea Hunter out of Atlantic Highlands. Capt. Rob Semkewyc had a slow Saturday, and Sunday started out the same. However, a move resulted in a hot bite of both shorts and keepers. They ended up with a boat limit of bass from 28 inches up to a pool winner in the 20-pound class.

That was the only report from Atlantic Highlands today, though the Atlantic Star had a 20-pound pool winner Saturday morning, and a 25 1/2-pounder on the Saturday afternoon trip.  The Sea Tiger II had a boat limit of legal bass on Saturday running up to one over 20 pounds.

At Belmar, the Ocean Explorer reported a lively bottom that produced a good mixture of short and keeper blackfish on a flat calm ocean created by west winds. A few legal cod were also boated. The blackfish season closes after the Monday trip which should have similar conditions from continuing west winds.

Saturday’s report from the Golden Eagle about a bluefish blitz on the Manasquan Inlet jetties led to my checking out Manasquan River early this morning, where a few anglers were doing nothing –before moving to the inlet, where there was no one casting on either side in the light rain. It didn’t look as if a blitz had occurred the day before.

There was good news from Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park as they had their first two striper weigh-ins of the year on Saturday. Doug Cobb had a 30-inch, 9.05-pounder on clam from the back bay, but Dave Hankins came in late Saturday with a 37-inch, 19.85-pound bass that hit an SP Minnow in the surf. That fish was a new arrival full of sea lice.

The surf was clearing today, and should be calm by the morning.

Chuck Many, with a recent striper released from his Ty Man, will be doing a seminar on striper fishing at the Staten Island Tuna Club on Wednesday evening. Details in tomorrow’s blog.Chuck striper

Boat traffic slows striper bite

It was a beautiful Sunday on the water, but boat traffic seemed to slow the striped bass bite in Raritan Bay. Capt. Rob Semkewyc was coming off a very good day of clamming with his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, but only put a few bass aboard today as he felt the volume of trollers passing close to him was the problem. There was one highlight, as Andy Sokol of Manalapan boated a 41-inch, 29-pound striper.

001Andy Sokol 29 lb

Capt. Joe Massa found the trolling to also  be way off from Saturday as Carl Drehwing, Bob Correll and I joined him on his larger My Three Sons (a Grady White 30) from Morgan Marina.  Yesterday he had trolled 15 bass, though all were shorts. We started out casting shads around scattered marks where I caught a small bass right away — but there were no more hits. A crowd of boaters trying to net bunkers in Great Kills convinced Joe to troll instead — especially since he had spent three hours Saturday chunking on good marks without a hit. We did hook a half-dozen bass on Rapala X-Raps, but they were very small, and there were no hits on the larger stretch lures. There were lots of boats trolling in the back of the bay, but I didn’t notice anyone stropping to fight fish before we headed back early.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar read some bait and fish, but couldn’t get any bites, and won’t sail again for stripers until Thursday.

Capt. Stan Zagleski started blackfishing daily with his Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands on Saturday as he found one spot to be dead but picked away with tog and even a few cod on another. Art Garrett of Red Bank won the pool with a cod. Clams were most effective for both species.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reports small stripers in the surf for those casting small pieces of clam or bunker. Skimmer clams are back in stock along with fresh bunker. There’s still no word of bluefish, but there has been talk of weakfish in the southern end of Barnegat Bay.  Betty & Nick’s noted that small stripers hit in the surf yesterday before the wind came up in the afternoon.

Stripers cooperate in Raritan Bay

With a good forecast drawing lots of boaters, I suspected that striper fishing in Rartan Bay might have been tough today — but that wasn’t the case! At Atlantic Highlands, Capt. Ron Santee of the Fishermen had his best action right away as Chris Zotti caught two legal bass and three shorts in the first hour before ending up with a total of seven legal bass and 14 shorts.  Morris Duckett boated a 23-pound pool bass, and the first fluke of the season was released  — a 4-pounder. Santee said clams worked best as they caught over 20 keeper bass plus lots of shorts.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc had a similar report from his Sea Hunter with a super start followed by a pick the rest of the day.

Sea Hunter bass

A Sea Hunter striper from last Saturday

At Belmar, the Golden Eagle reported a beautiful ocean as they saw some stripers, but the fish wouldn’t hit.

The Ocean Explorer found lots of bottom life in the flat ocean, and a 7-pound blackfish that came up early ended up taking the pool. A few fares bagged two to three tog, and there were also some legal cod and a pollock.

The forecast for Sunday is NW 5-10 knots, switching to SW in the afternoon. Seas range from one foot early to two feet in the afternoon.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reports lots of small bass in the surf on clams, paddletails, bucktails and small swimmers.  One angler reported bunkers coming close enough to be snagged, but there were no takers for that live bait.

Sunday is the last day for pre-registration for the Governor’s Surf  Fishing Tournament on May 20 at Island Beach State Park. The adult fee of $20 is reduced to $15, and you won’t have to be at Pavillion 2 that morning in order to sign up at 5:30 a.m. for the 6:30-1 contest.  Visit http://www.njfishandwildlife.com for forms and info.

Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst and Emil Pavalac fished a couple of days last week at Cedar Key on the northern Gulf coast of Florida. Cousins Steve and Jimbo Keith put them into limits of spotted sea trout and redfish, including eight redfish that got ALS tags,  but Tank lost a big tripletail after working hard to get a hit from those fish that hang around crab pot buoys and channel markers.

Matt 44-inchThe Tackle Box in Hazlet sent along this shot of Matthew Loiselle of the Urban Jersey Fishing Team with a 44-inch striper from shore before  its release

Give pregnant stripers a break

Raritan Bay-area striper fishing looks as if it will be breaking open any day now, but the downside to the good fishing is that it’s mostly on females ready to spawn in a week or two.

Actually, almost all stripers over 20 pounds are females. The very occasional male that large will probably be easily identified as it leaks milt when lifted. There are fair numbers of amaller males and immature females around if you want a fish for the table, but it’s clearly a shame to take a bass bursting with eggs that will be rejuvenating the stock in just a few days.  That’s especially the case in Raritan Bay where the Hudson River stock has been providing us with fine summer fishing after the southern spawners are long gone to the east.

Pregnant striper.jpg

Bob Bowden with an obviously pregnant striper released in Raritan Bay recently from Ty Man  to spawn in the Hudson River next month.

The Atlantic Highlands fleet is getting into action. The Sea Hunter had a few keepers and some shorts Saturday, though trollers were doing better on the scattered fish.  They’re fishing daily except Friday when a Coast Guard inspection is scheduled. Capt. Ron Santee started his season Saturday on the Fishermen by observing a whale in the bay within a mile of the jetty before finding bait and some short bass plus three keepers up to 31 inches.

Capt. Stan Zagleski begins daily blackfishing at 7 a.m. with his Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands on Saturday.

At Belmar,  the Golden Eagle sails for stripers on Thursday, while the Ocean Explorer and Big Mohawk seek blackfish and cod. Miss Belmar Princess joins the striper fleet on Saturday. So far, the weekend looks fishable — especially on Sunday.

The Gambler from Point Pleasant is running Lazy Man Tog trips from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Wednesdays to Sundays.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park had reports of some legal stripers in Toms River. Betty & Nick’s reported a calming and clear surf.

Allen Riley of South Plainfield gave the Sandy Hook surf a brief try with very expensive sandworms that were ignored in the calm surf that’s still a cold 43 degrees. The 38-degree air temperature and continuing blustery west wind this morning didn’t help.

N.Y. Marine District opens for stripers

The striped bass season in New York’s Marine District opened today, though I doubt if anyone was out there to enjoy it during a thoroughly miserable cold, damp and very windy day.

Saturday was a different story as there was the first big turnout of boats in Raritan Bay this spring. Indeed, Capt. John Kolias of Reel Fun from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands  said boat traffic turned off the bite in the morning before he trolled three keeper stripers later up to mate Rick’s 39-inch, 22-pounder. The best news was that the water temperature finally got up to  50 degrees.

Dave Lilly of Hazlet  couldn’t find any life under gannets diving in the bay Saturday morning, but on the end of the outgoing he got into all legal bass in just 12 feet at the back of the bay. It was too shallow for stretch plugs, but he took shads off an umbrella rig, put them on jig heads and trolled for steady action with bass from 29 1/2 up to 35 inches.

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar was out Saturday in a “monster” swell that they were afraid would kill the bottom bite. Yet, there was good life until a hard wind developed. Catches ranged up to three blackfish, and there were also a couple of legal cod and some shorts. Fishing will resume when the weather straightens out, but the forecast for Monday is no good.

 

 

Mike Greene & Bob Bowden with bass in Raritan Bay Friday on Ty Man before release — and my 29-inch legal bass on a Tsunami Shad during my first striper trip of the season before also being released.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park got a report of a surfcaster releasing a legal striper on a clam. Still no word of bluefish.