R. I P. Walter F. Johnson III

The Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club got their White Marlin Invitational underway today, and I’ll add a blog later if there are any weigh-ins this evening. The registration gathering last night was stunned with the news that the club’s greatest striped bass fisherman has died. As best I can determine at this time, Walter F. Johnson III was only 66.

Walt’s proudest catch among many he made was a 59.40-pound striper  boated in 2008. I had the privilege of fishing with him and his daughter Allison from Vermont aboard Chuck Many’s Tyman from Highlands a couple of years ago. I’ll have more information about the passing of one of New Jersey’s famed anglers as it becomes available.

Walter Johnson III

Speaking of huge stripers, Fred Golofaro reports from the Long Island edition of The Fisherman magazine that quite a few 50-and-60-pound trophy bass have been caught at Montauk and Block Island this summer. However, Capt. Vinnie Vetere  has been proving that there are still similar lunkers to the west. He did a crew trip earlier this week with his Katfish from Great Kills and trolled his Ho-Jos to not only boat a 60.10-pounder himself — but added a 53 for a friend. He was hoping he’d found the ultimate honey hole for huge stripers, but a charter party the next day had to settle for a limit up to the twenties.

Vetere -62

Though many boats sailed into much better weather conditions today, there were few reports.   The Golden Eagle from Belmar had no trouble filling the two-fish limits of sea bass once again along with some fluke and ling plus a few of the targeted, but so far scarce bluefish.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc wasn’t happy with the fluking is found on a beautiful day with his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands. It wasn’t nearly as good as yesterday as there were relatively few keepers among the shorts.

Shore fishermen benefited from the poor weather earlier in the week when there was no boat traffic. That changed today, and I only released two school stripers in Shark River. However, Vinny D’Anton caught two before I arrived on jigs, and later waded to an area where his Chug Bug raised bass up to a 24-incher during a brief flurry that was the first surface showing in some time.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported better surf conditions and continued good fluking  there. Rays also returned to the calmer surf.

Allen Riley of South Plainfield didn’t have high hopes for Sandy Hook this morning, but found the surf to be quite fishable. There were some snappers popping out of range, and they didn’t bother his Gulp in the wash that produced two small fluke while another hit a bunker chunk.

The big money Grandpa Savino Memorial Fluke Tournament will be contested out of Great Kills on Saturday after having been postponed last Saturday due to the weather forecast.

The weather forecast for the weekend sounds pretty good if you can handle the forecasted 5-10-knot winds.

A loss and a win from the surf

Surfcasting along the Jersey Shore is frustrating under the best of circumstances, and especially during the dog days of summer. We rarely see any large stripers except during the spring and fall migratory runs, and there’s usually so little bait present during the summer that the resident school stripers have little to feed on except crabs.

That’s not a good situation for casting lures, but persistence may provide the occasional bass. I was trying for that needle in a haystack yesterday evening despite the low tide at Sea Girt and didn’t raise anything to a popper before switching to a 4-inch white Tsunami Shad that had saved the evening during my previous two trips there with a small striper hitting it in the wash at dusk,

That lure is light enough to swim in very shallow waters, small enough to attract even small predators — and large enough not to be passed up by a big fish. It came through again yesterday evening, but I knew what smashed it immediately as line started pouring off my Canyon spinning reel. A cownose ray was heading for the horizon as I tightened down the drag, not being afraid to straighten the hook with my 30-pound braid. That slowed it down, and I had enough capacity to carry out what should have been a protracted but successful battle with what was probably a 30-to-50-pound fish — except that I couldn’t stop it from going across the tip of an adjacent jetty. I tried to get a clearing angle, but it had likely run my line around an underwater rock.  I sure wasn’t going out on those moss-covered jetty rocks in bare feet, and eventually had to break off — leaving only some mono backing for re-rigging last night.

This morning started off better as I released three small stripers on jigs in Shark River.  Vinny D’Anton released four small bass there, and then made a move to try sand fleas in the Spring Lake surf. I went down there to make a few casts with a Shug Bug in order to tighten up the braid I’d wound on last night. I made a half-hearted cast about 50 feet out into white water hitting the sand  and was sjocked to see the popper smashed by a fish that started taking line. That 28 1/2-inch first cast miracle fish was released — but proved that anything is possible if you have a lure in the water. Of course , we didn’t raise another fish during a brief attempt before having to leave the beach for bathers.

Those anglers entered in the Grandpa Savino Memorial Fluke Tournament at Great Kills will have to put off spending the $25,000 they were planning on winning for the heaviest  doormat over 13 pounds. The Staten Island Tuna Club has postponed the contest to next Saturday since gale warnings have been posted for tomorrow evening — though it may be fishable early in the day despite east winds.

The captains meeting for Saturday’s  Point Pleasant Elks Fluke Tournament is going on this evening,. and they are going ahead as Sunday will also be windy. Fluke can be caught in protected river and bay waters if it’s too rough in the ocean.

The Raritan Bay Anglers Charity Fluke Tournament is also set for Saturday.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc said Raritan Bay fluke fishing wasn’t even nearly as good as on Thursday for anglers on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands.

At Belmar, the Big Mohawk reported good ocean fluking with a 9-pound pool winner.

The Golden Eagle had another good day of sea bass fishing along with quite a few ling, a few blues, a couple of chub mackerel, and good fluking though mostly shorts. Since you’re only allowed two sea bass. it pays to wait for big ones!

Sea bass on GE

Some of those big ocean fluke are starting to show up. The Jamaica II from Brielle reported that Ed Nolen of Manasquan took the lead in the Monthly pool on Monday when he boated an 8.4-pounder in the morning  — only to watch  Rich Caputo deck a 10.1-pounder that afternoon — only the second party boat N.J. doormat reported so far. Fluking has been best during days with a fast drift, and sea bass up to 5 pounds are being added.  The Jamaica II sails half-day trips at 8 and 2 — except for Monday’s Fluke Marathon from 7:30 to 4:30.

Jim Hutchinson Sr, reports:

“The fishing action in the Beach Haven area is getting interesting for the captains of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association. The water is warming, and fish from the southern climes are joining the mix.

 

Captain Jimmy Zavacki had the Cramer family out on the “Reel Determined” and they caught good numbers of short fluke and black sea bass. One of the anglers made an unusual catch when he reeled in an Atlantic Angel Shark.

 

Captain Ray Lopez had the Duston Lehman Group from Arizona aboard the “Miss Liane.” They caught many fish while enjoying a beautiful day on the water. The Arnett Group made up another group and caught a boatload of sea bass and fluke out on a local reef.

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Captain John Lewis reports a good week on the “Insatiable” with keeper sea robins, sea bass and fluke. Each day the fishing was different. One day the Di Salvo party took home a mixed bag of tasty robins, sea bass and fluke. Another day the Marquis family wanted to only “catch and release” their fish. The family caught a total of 37 fish including some of the largest sea bass of the year.  On Saturday the Hovan party caught mostly fluke up to 22-inches as well as an abundance of shorts.

 

Captain Brett Taylor of “Reel Fantasea” Sportfishing has been busy running seven days a week with quite a few double-charter days. He has been concentrating his efforts in the bay but will be heading out to the ocean very shortly. His bay fishing has been averaging anywhere between 20 to 35 fish per trip and keeper numbers ranging from 1 to 5 per trip.  His anglers have scored some 5, 6, and 8 pound fish.  The key has been finding biting fish, which at times has been a little challenging.

 

For the second year in a row the “Hot Tuna” with Captain Bob Gerkens won the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club’s First Offshore Tournament.  This year it was with a 42.5-pound yellowfin tuna. Captain Bob was joined by Bryan Medford, Justin Crisp, John Humphries and John Clementson. The Hot Tuna also released a white marlin and had several smaller yellowfin. The fish were all caught inshore.