An August shore trifecta

Anglers don’t necessarily need a boat in order to enjoy New Jersey’s mid-summer variety. That was certainly the case for me this morning as I started casting from shore into Shark River, and then moved to the beach in Belmar,

Though there was little current in the river at first light, I managed to release three small stripers on a silver shad Z Man SwimmerZ. Then I tried casting a Chug Bug into an area where I hadn’t raised anything in a month, and started getting some surface action culminating in a blast by a 20-inch bluefish. Unfortunately, that was it for that spot, and I decided to give the surf a shot.

It was rough, but very fishable in an increasing SW wind. Nothing came up on the popper, but a bather told me she’d seen fins in the water. I switched to a Tsunami Shad, and it only took three casts before a cownose ray was headed offshore with my lure.  After a pitched battle for 10 minutes or so, I had the ray at the drop-off where it was able to prevent me from pulling it onto the sand until a larger wave provided  the opportunity to slide it in those last few feet. As a youngster volunteered to hold my rod, I was able to dislodge the lure and get the ray of about 40 pounds back in the water. Releasing heavy rays isn’t that easy once  they’re well above the wash as there’s no obvious gripping area. Yet, I’ve found that by potting a finger in each of the large eye sockets and pressing upwards against the solid head it’s easy to lift rays for release into deep enough surf.

Since I still had a jacket on from fishing at dawn, I worked up a sweat and decided that one ray was enough on a warm morning. I probably should have switched to fluke and added another species.

Stripers, a blue and a cownose ray all within a couple of hours and a few miles. Nice action for the shore-bound in a heavily-populated area during the dog days of summer.

Capt. Chris DiStefano  reported that there was a city at sea Saturday night in Hudson Canyon, and most of the boats there loaded up on yellowfin tuna chunking at night.  That should have set up a great trip without the mob scene for Sunday night on Frank Criscola’s Crisdel from Brielle Yacht Club.  Instead. there was hardly any action in the fleet. They had to troll most of the next day to jump off a small white marlin and troll three yellowfins in order to break the ice — though it looked as if the bite was developing when they headed in at 4 p.m.  Di Stefano  heard from other skippers that one boat had a mako of about 700 to 800 pounds hanging alongside Sunday night.

Adam La Rosa reports the Canyon Runner fleet from Point Pleasant had a great weekend. The Viking was into yellowfins during the Friday to Saturday overnighter for an open boat party, while the Kevin McDermott party was fishing on the Ritchie Howell. Those boats had over 40 yellowfins, with more than half of them on the chunk.

Fishing was slower the next few trips, but the bigeye trolling bite continued. Capt. Phil Dulanie found three bigeyes for the Tom Cirsicks party.  An open boat trip produced an 68-inch bluefin as well as a blue marlin. Most of the bigeyes have been hitting Canyon Runner Green Machine spreader bars.

The weather reports must have scared off many anglers as there were few reports today. The Golden Eagle from Belmar noted that the ocean was a bit nasty today, but that didn’t bother the sea bass at all as they even hit diamond jigs and Sabicki rigs. Some ling and keeper fluke were also caught.

Capt. Vinny Vetere got into lots of big stripers up to the forties this week trolling his Ho-Jo lures from Katfish out of Great Kills. He may be running open on Thursday.Katfish striper

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.

Canyon fishing has been hot

Adam La Rosa reports the spring canyon season has left little to be desired for his Point Pleasant boats. The two boats combined for 42 yellowfin tuna, 10 bluefin tuna, four mako sharks, and two bigeye tuna during one overnight trip. The makos caught at night were released as they were short of the new 83-inch minimum. Though most of those fish were caught in the canyons, some of the bluefins were trolled coming or going in the Glory Hole — such as the one below.

ffCR Glory Hole bluefin

Fluke fishing was surprisingly good for the northern party boats depite the east wind being against the current all day as skippers used their engines to create drift. At Atlantic Highlands, Capt. Rob Semkewyc had five limits on his Sea Hunter, while Capt. Ron Santee, Sr. put on a clinic by catching fluke of 5 and 7 pounds on his son’s Fishermen while others were happy with the number of  3-5 1/2-pound fluke sprinkled in. Capt. Stan Zagleski reported a 5 1/2-pound pool winner for Mike Pylypyshyn of Little Egg Harbor on his Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands.   \

 

 

Elaine B limitAs good as the fluking was in Raritan Bay, it was the opposite when Tank Matraxia and his Lyndhurst crew fished in the normally productive and protected waters of the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers with Capt. Fletcher Chayes on Two Rivers Charters from Highlands as only a few shorts and sea robins hit.

The bluefish fleet had another tough day after being spoiled by all those huge blues jigged last week in Raritan Reach.

Capt. Vinnie Vetere lost last Saturday to the weather, but made up for it Sunday with a good striper catch on Katfish Charters from Great Kills.

Vinny D’Anton of Wall had a hot hand in the Spring Lake surf Monday morning when he caught three 21-inch stripers on a MirrOlure  plug, and later added two more releases to 24 inches on his Chug Bug — before finishing up with a 23-incher on sand fleas. There were three anglers, including me, keeping Vinny company this morning, but nothing was caught.

Allen Riley and John Mazzeo of South Plainfield fished the Sandy Hook surf early Monday morning, and enjoyed the great sunrise while catching only a very small fluke and a few sea robins on Gulp.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park is encouraged with two verified reports of sand eels in the local surf.

Just ounces short of $100,000

Winning a tournament is a thrill for any angler, but the joy is modified somewhat when it turns out that the winning fish fell just ounces short of being worth $100,000.

John Frione from Ct. was fishing with Joe Bartnecki on KB3 from Shark River in the Staten Island Tuna Club’s Saturday contest that had a $100,000 prize for the largest striped bass over 50 pounds. Anthony Arcabascio Jr. was trolling near them off Sandy Hook when Frione trolled a bass of about the right size on one of Anthony’s father’s lures — a Tony Maja Magic Mojo. Frione was a runaway winner of the modest contest purse, but the scale recorded 48.9 pounds — just short of the magic $10,000 50-pound mark.

Capt. Vinnie Vetere was fishing the contest with his Katfish Charters from Great Kills, and managed to put together a striper catch — but without a bass to challenge the leader. He noted that Frione is a friend, and on the next day another friend caught the bass he needed the day before as Capt. Rudy on Lady L. II boated a 52-pounder.

h17 oz from $100,000

 

Yet another “50” was caught on Father’s Day — the eighth to be weighed so far this season at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina. Jason Hadzimichalis was trolling a Tony Maja bunker spoon from High Life off Asbury Park with his father William when the 54-pounder hit.

Father's day 54  The Canyon Runner from Point Pleasant almost never has room on any of their canyon tournament trips, but the group scheduled for the Ocean City, Md. Tuna Tournament from July 13-15 fell apart. The Canyon Runner fleet has won lots of money in canyon tournaments, and this is an unusual opportunity for a group to pick up at the last moment.

It’s taken some time to track down last weekend’s shark weigh-ins at Brielle, but it appears that a 729.5-pound mako was weighed at Hoffman’s Marina for the Brett T. Bailey Mako Rodeo from Nor’ Easter. Capt. Tom Savastano had heard about that weigh-in over the weekend, but thought it wasn’t in a contest. I couldn’t find it on Hoffman’s web site, but came across it on their Facebook today. The Mako Rodeo organizers don’t send out press releases or maintain their web site. Last year it took weeks and many requests before I could find any results from that contest. In addition to the huge mako, there were other weigh-ins for Mako Rodeo listed in Hoffman’s facebook as follows: A 242-pound mako on Fin-ominal; a 206.5-pound thresher from Tra Sea Ann; and even a 196-pound bluefin tuna from Lucky Strike.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc was surprised to see very few fluke fishermen at Atlantic Highlands this morning. They must have read weather reports from earlier in the week that had predicted possible showers and thunderstorms in the morning. I didn’t see any of that in the forecast last night, and it was a picture perfect day. Semkewyc said fluking was also pretty good on his Sea Hunter with a couple of limits and a couple of 5-pounders.

The Jamaica from Brielle was in on yesterday’s big bluefish jigging bite that started out with 2-to-4-pounders. It was topped by the largest bluefish I’ve heard of this year — reported as a 20-pounder by Stephen Chesonis of Hopatcong. If he’s a Fisherman subscriber that blue would blow away the current leader in that division of the Dream Boat Challenge which is just 16.56 pounds from Long Island. As noted here last night, four of the 10 places in bluefish have been filled due to the 15-pound minimum. Golden Eagle from Belmar reported blues up to 18 pounds yesterday, but there was no report when this blog was published,

Speaking fof big blues, Vinny D’Anton of Wall was shocked to hook a 36-incher this morning in the Belmar surf on his Chug Bug. He said the fight lasted at least 15 minutes before he was able to release the chopper which may have been the largest in the Jersey surf during this disappointing season.  D’Anton also plugged two stripers up to 25 inches.

I had been casting at Spring Lake, but never raised anything to my popper there. A quick stop at Point Pleasant Canal on the way home around 7:30 revealed no one fishing at the public access, but I decided to make a few casts with the Z Man 6-inch jig — and I was surprised to catch two small stripers.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park had a big surf bass weighed in Monday as Terry Mcquad used bunker to attract a 42-inch, 31.10-pound striper.

Those attending tonight’s meeting of the Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County are in for a treat as famed fluke pro Dave Lilly of Hazlet is the guest speaker.  Lilly is a regular winner in almost every fluke tournament along the Jersey Shore. The 8 p.m. meeting is at the American Legion, 33 W. Passaic St., Rochelle Park.

Mimi VI from Point Pleasant has scheduled a Hudson Canyon open trip that will leave at 10 p.m. Monday night and return at that time Tuesday. It’s limited to 12 at a $400 fare.  Call 732 370-8019 for reservations.. That boat is also open for bottom fishing at 7 a.m. on Friday.

Sea bass fishing in good shape

Though the opening of the sea bass season in N.J.  wasn’t good for everyone, that fishery has bounced back for most. Bud Mc Arthur of Brick was one of those who were disappointed in the opener, but today was a different story as he fished with Gerald D’Luisi of Verona on Hook & Cook from Brick for a four-man catch of 39 keepers out of about 80 sea bass  on the Axel Carsen Reef. Mc Arthur was also surprised by a 22-inch fluke he released after it hit a bergall strip.

Tank Matraxia and his crew from Lyndhurst limited with sea bass this week on Lock & Load from Belmar. They added one ling, and Matraxia was able to put ALS tags in three out-of-season blackfish.

The N.J. fluke season opens Friday, and there will be a big fleet waiting to greet them. That won’t include the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands as Capt. Rob Semkewyc has decided to stick with daily stripers which are providing good action.  He said today’s pool bass was in the mid-to-upper twenties.

Capt. Vinny Vetere had another fine day of striper trolling with his Ho-Jo’s from Katfish Charters out of Great Kills.  They kept three out of 18 large bass, and were back by 9:30.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar fished the ocean, but bass and blues weren’t cooperative today.

The Canyon Runner from Point Pleasant continues to find bluefin tuna while trolling in several canyons.  A few blue sharks were caught at night, when a possible giant tuna broke off after a long fight.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reports small stripers are still hitting well on clams in the surf, while bluefish are becoming more abundant in Barnegat Bay. I posted the results of Sunday’s Governor’s Surf Fishing Tournament in a separate blog this morning.

I had planned to try the Manasquan River bluefish this morning, but missed my exit and continued on to Point Pleasant Canal. Without much hope, I cast an Ava 007 with a short red tail because that’s what I had on my light spinning rod from my last river pick of 3-pound blues. It was a shock when I hooked a good fish that tore across the canal just as the first boat was coming through. Fortunately, the boater responded to my waving and moved over. Though I assumed I had a big blue on, the fish turned out to be a 29-inch striper with the small hook buried in the corner of its jaw so I could reach down and grab the lure to lift it up for the release. 

 

 

 

Ho-jo's bassKatfish Charters striper on Ho-Jo

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.