Fluke better today for northern boaters

The lack of reports from boats fishing for fluke in the Raritan Bay area had me worried about that fishery, but Capt. Ron Santee noted that both short and keeper fluke responded better today on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands. The action was on incoming tide, and one fare managed a three-fish limit.

Bad news from there was relayed by Scott Leadbeater, who saw a boat on fire this morning in mid-bay at 8:30. He heard that the people aboard were rescued. A few stripers were being picked in the Old Orchard area by boaters fishing a variety of lures and baits.

Sea bass held up for the Golden Eagle as anglers on that Belmar party boat had big bass plus some ling during a fine day. A “nice” striper was lost due to a broken line.

If you get lucky while bottom fishing you might catch a 12-pound blackfish like Greg Harms of Untion did while fishing recently on Kaitlyn Nicole out of Sandy Hook Bay Marina recently. Capt. Chris Mahon released the trophy tog which was out of season

blackfish - 12 lbs

Chuck Many continues to release big stripers from his Ty Man out of Gateway Marina in Highlands. He had Ian Gardner and Alex Katyan aboard Saturday as 22 up to 48 pounds were caught — 15 on eels and six on live bunkers.

Small craft warnings go down tonight, and the morning forecast is for just 5-10 knot southeast winds plus patchy fog.

Bumpy morning turns out well

The only report I could find today came from the Golden Eagle out of Belmar which reported a bumpy start before an unexpected calming of the ocean which resulted in a good catch of sea bass along with some ling and winter flounder.  Some anglers anglers managed sea bass limits.

The Queen Mary did not sail from Point Pleasant, but will be going Monday.

The Jamaica from Brielle is sold out for Memorial Day, but is taking reservations for Tuesday and the rest of the week.

There was a lack of wind and poor drifting conditions for the Raritan Bay fluke fleet yesterday, but no reports today when there was east wind that should have been good in Sandy Hook Bay.

The Little Hawk from Atlantic Highlands posted a video of releasing a 52-pound striper on Friday which was far larger than this year’s 38 inch maximum  in N.J. waters.

Capt. Jim Freda reports it’s been slow developing, but he got into bluefish Friday in Manasquan River with his Shore Catch.

Freda blue

Small craft warnings are up tonight with northeast gusts to 20 knots, but it’s forecast to drop to east at just 5-10 knots by morning as seas settle to 3 to 5 feet.

 

Ling bite in the rain

A few claps of thunder early in the morning and some rain may have scared off most anglers as there are hardly any reports today.

At Belmar, the Golden Eagle noted a slow start again due to a strong current, but once that slowed down the sea bass hit — and there were many more ling than yesterday.  The Big Mohawk only noted that they had a good day. They had limited on sea bass during Friday’s trip while adding ling and the first whiting I’ve heard of in a long time.

There were no fluke reports from the northern fleet, but Nick Honachefsky caught a keeper yesterday in Manasquan Inlet along with shorts in just 1 1/2 hours of fishing.

Capt. Chris Di Stefano was expecting to do much better with fluke yesterday in Shark River but instead found a mass of boats and only one keeper for his crew among 32 fluke.

Kevin Kuriawa made the right move by fishing the south end of Barnegat Bay with Andy Hoydich as they boated four keeper fluke and released others that were close. Andy caught a small bluefish, and it was fillets from that fish on bucktails that produced all the fluke despite an abundance of grass.

The Mimi VI will sail open from Point Pleasant at 6:30 a.m. on Monday and Friday. The limited trip for sea bass costs $120. Reservations must be made by calling 732 370-9019.

Small craft warnings go up at 6 p.m. into late  Sunday night. Northeast winds gust to 30 knots tonight, but drop to 15-20 by morning before switching to east at 10-15 knots in the afternoon.

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.

 

Trophy tuna closes tonight – NJ fluke starts tomorrow

If you want to boat a Trophy giant tuna in the Angling category, you’d better get right out there now as the northern Trophy allowance will be closed at 11:30 p.m. — and through Dec. 31. That classification for permitted boats allows for the one giant that can’t be sold and is often quickly filled. Thus, the surprising run of inshore giants in NY/NJ Bight will now be catch and release.  However, the new bluefin rules allow private boaters one large medium from 47 inches up to below the giant minimum of 73 inches — and two of that size for charter boats.

Of more interest to most anglers in N.J., the fluke season opens tomorrow with lots of that species having already been released in the coastal rivers. The regulations are the same as last year — with three at an 18-inch minimum being the bag limit.

Ocean waters are still cold(the Weather Service listed 47 degrees at Point Pleasant), but it should be much warmer in the rivers and bays — especially on outgoing tides.

No Shore party boat has indicated to me that they’ll be fluking right away, as sea bass are a much better target at present. The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reported “crushing” sea bass today, with many scoring limits (10) of 12 1/2-inch minimum bass along with ling. The Golden Eagle from Belmar will be sailing for sea bass at 7 a.m. — and also on their first magic hours trip at 4:30 p.m., which will be repeated Sunday afternoon.

The Raritan Bay fluke fleet will be out in force tomorrow.  As with the ocean boats, reservations are required for boats that will fill up quickly due to limited capacities and social distancing. Masks will be required, and possibly also gloves. Don’t expect any special fares under these conditions. Check for new sailing times.

Drifting conditions should be good with a south-southeast wind of about 11 knots on a sunny, cool day. More wind is forecast for Saturday with 18 knots from the north-northeast. That should be perfect for the Bug Light drift at Sandy Hook.

Capt. Chris Di Stefano said the report he got this morning was that the striper fishing was slow for the second day in a row.  Those fish should be spawning in the Hudson River aroud this time.

Surfcasters should find better conditions tomorrow with chest high waves forecasted, it’s questionable if surf waters will have cleared by then.

 

Gale warning for tomorrow

No sooner did party and charter boats in N.J. get a chance to sail again than the weather is going to shut them out for a couple of days.

At Belmar, the Golden Eagle and Ocean Princess both reported good sea bass fishing today along with ling and some pollock and winter flounder, but the small craft warnings up now will go to a gale watch through Tuesday afternoon. It will be northeast 20-25 knots by morning along with gusts to 40 — plus 7-10-foot seas.  The Golden Eagle, which also pursued some bluefish reports to no avail,  has canceled through Thursday.  The Ocean Explorer has only called off trips through Wednesday so far. At least it now appears we’re not going to get much rain from Arthur. Photo below reflects Covid-19 bottom fishing variety on the Golden Eagle.

GE-COVID 19

It looks better for the opening of the fluke season on Friday. Capt. Chris Di Stefano saw a boat with a hook & line commercial fluke permit loading up in Sandy Hook Bay today, while shore anglers were casting for cocktail blues.  Unfortunately for Chris, he was in the bay because the Raritan Bay striper bite was off. His friend from Highlands had lots of releases Sunday, but bunker spoons only produced a large male of 22 pounds that had an eel in its stomach. Chris said he only saw one other bass caught, and a couple of charter boats that braved a run to the Romer Shoal area came back quickly. Chris noted that some bass were trolled in the ocean on Sunday.

Phil Fischer said he was trolling bass in Raritan Bay yesterday morning before moving into Sandy Hook Bay where two 30-pounders hit. He noted that those bass had a lavender coloration which is typical of stripers migrating in from the ocean.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

NE wind made it tough on anglers

As noted last night, there was going to be a lot of northeast wind today, but I wasn’t counting on all the rain that came with it.  I was able to hide from the worst of it in Shark River, and watched boats go out and soon come back.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar was an exception, and they reported good action with sea bass despite the nasty ocean. Some ling were added along with “tommy cod”.  I very much doubt that tomcod were found offshore as they are a small inshore species. It’s likely those fish were spotted hake, a similarly-shaped small member of the cod family which can be identified by the line of white spots along its lateral line. Though fairly common, they rarely are as large as a pound.  The Golden Eagle also marked chub mackerel on their fish finder, and plan to chum for them tomorrow.

Small craft warnings for gusty NE winds continue into Monday afternoon.  The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands sent customers home this morning due to the wind and rain. Check with them about tomorrow. The Angler has already decided not to sail until Tuesday as they won’t be able to get to the areas that have been producing larger fluke.

The MidAtlantic begins fishing days tomorrow from Cape May and Ocean City, Maryland.  Many skippers like to get a jump on the field during the first day, but I suspect few will fight rough seas when the rest of the week looks better. I’ll have late blogs with results after the weigh-ins close through Friday.

Bob Matthews reports from Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina that fluking was excellent on Saturday. The Ozark Club Tournament produced fluke weigh-ins at the northern store up to 11 pounds, and up to 7 pounds at Belmar.  The river was also good as Jesse Thomas of Wall had a fluke limit in just two hours.

I only managed three small stripers in the rain this morning from shore in Shark River, and paid dearly for them as my surf rod (Tsunami 8-foot, 10-inch Elite with Canyon 3500 spinning reel) disappeared from behind my back. There was just one “stranger” on the shore, and he left during the rain while I was a casting a jig with the lighter tackle.