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.

 

Get some Spanish mackerel while they last

The present abundance of rainfish has attracted great numbers of small blues to the Jersey Shore, along with some bonito, little tunny, chub mackerel and even Spanish mackerel. The latter is a semi-tropical species which is only spotted here during some late summers. and normally is hard to get a shot at as they only arc out of the water and disappear.  Though Spanish mackerel are commonly caught from the surf on both sides of Florida, they’re a relative rarity here. Like bonito, they usually respond best to small, very fast moving lures such as small metals and bucktails.

The Spanish mackerel we see here are normally small. Yet I can testify to the fact that they grow larger. When I was a Navy officer stationed at the Naval Base in Trinidad, West Indies in 1961 I used to troll many of them in the Caribbean from a 20-foot pirogue carved from a single tree and powered by an old West Bend 12 hp outboard. Most were just a couple of pounds, and I’d never caught one over 5 pounds until Oct. 18 that year when I was shocked to boat an 11-pounder on a small white feather. The IGFA didn’t keep world records for Spanish mackerel until many decades later and the present world record isn’t much larger — at 13 pounds from Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. Thus, I suspect my personal best will continue to stand. Nick Honachefsky took this shot of his surf-caught Spanish mackerel this week.Spanish.JPG

Bonito are also unusually abundant close to shore, though mostly quite small.  Nick Honachefsky, of the Saltwater Underground daily video, got into a big blast of them during an afternoon trip outside  Manasquan Inlet this week with Jerry Malanga and Alex Kondas as over 30 were caught among all the bluefish.

bonito on boat.JPG

They also fished killies at pots further offshore to catch some chicken dolphin.  The cold front predicted for this weekend could be a problem for our semi-tropical fishing.

Joe Melillo of Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant ran his small boat out the inlet yesterday evening and said there were so many birds working over feeding blues that he could only cast side arm to keep the line low and avoid tangling birds on every cast.

At Atlantic Highlands, there was a big improvement in fluke fishing as drifting conditions were good all day. Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter said the bottom of Ambrose Channel seemed to be paved with fluke even though most are shorts. A couple of fares caught over 30, but there was a 4.5-pound pool winner.  Semkewyc said a basic rig was best with just a Gulp and spearing worked off bottom.

Capt. Ron Santee had a charter with McCarter & English on his Fishermen as everyone went home with dinner.  Pink Slime Gulp  with a fresh peanut bunker worked well.

The Angler had a new leader in both the Big and monthly pools Wednesday when Lance Reis of Morristown boated an 8 3/8-pound fluke — but Jim Custer boated an identical fluke the next day to share the lead.

Tank Matraxia joined friends from Lyndhurst on a charter aboard the Bingo today, The boat was anchored off Sea Bright for porgies, but very few were caught along with some sea bass. Tank caught a good-sized grey triggerfish.  A few anglers cast bucktails off the stern and boated a few legal fluke while Tank put 4 ALS tags in the shorts.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had another great start with hot jigging for 1-to-3-pound blues, plus some bonito and chub mackerel mixed in,  before that died late in the morning — and then went off to add some fluke and sea bass.

My second cast into Shark River this morning produced a 20-inch striper on a Kettle Creek paddletail, but the next hit resulted in a missing tail. I switched to a bluefish-proof Z Man Swimmereez to end up with three stripers plus two blues in the 3-pound class. Frank Manzi caught a 22-inch bass on a popper.  Vinny D’Anton worked the beach and released five bass in the 18-inch class that hit his Chug Bug.

 

Loads of small blues for boaters

It was just a few days ago that I was discussing the lack of bluefish this season with some other writers, but all that has changed for boaters. Shore party boats are running into whitewater action with mostly 1-to-3-pound blues as their anglers catch 15-fish limits quickly before the boats head offshore to chum large quantities of chub mackerel and possibly some slightly larger blues while hooking sea bass, ling and fluke on bottom. Joe Melillo of Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant said he counted 37 boats fishing in front of Manasquan Inlet during the middle of the morning.

A few bonito, Spanish mackerel and small little tunny may be mixed in with the blues. Surfcasters get shots at those fish, but the action is sporadic with low tides at dawn and dusk while beaches are full of bathers and parking is often impossible during the day. While fishing the Manasquan surf early this morning, I saw a young angler cast metal at some fish that popped up within casting range and catch two very small bonito.

Nick Honachefsky  managed to catch his first Spanish mackerel casting from shore in N.J. yesterday morning.

Nick Spanish.jpg

The Jamaica from Brielle had one of those slightly larger blues offshore yesterday when Bruce Bates of Philadelphia won the pool with a 4-pounder.

Atlantic Highlands party boats had to fight strong currents today in their quest for fluke.  Capt. Ron Santee of the Fishermen said he never had to work so hard with so little to show for it. The Ambrose current was strong on the bottom while running in the opposite direction on top. A run offshore resulted in more current problems, while there was no drift further inshore. There was finally a bite late in the day, but it was mostly shorts. Yet, the pool fluke was just under 7 pounds, and there were a couple of very large sea bass boated.  The Fishermen is chartered Friday morning.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc was also frustrated by the poor drifting conditions on his Sea Hunter, but put together a catch of keepers among the shorts.

Capt. Stan Zagleski  didn’t fight the current conditions and went into shallower waters to pick some keepers on Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands.

The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reports it was such a nice day that there was little drift offshore. Fluking was way off from the previous day, but some fluke and sea bass were picked during short drifts on rock piles.