Page 3 of 6

Capt. Jim Freda outfishes WMO fleet for yellowfins — and does it in local waters

There were 319 of the finest fishing yachts along the east coast fishing during yesterday’s White Marlin Open at Ocean City, Md., but I only counted five tuna weighed in. At the same time, Capt. Jim Freda of Shore Catch Charters put a party from the Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County into 11 yellowfin tuna from 25 to 55 pounds while fishing the 30 line south of Chicken Canyon and looking for life — whales, dolphins and birds as everything is feeding on sand eels. The 55-pounder  being held by mate Jimmy Freda in the photo, would have been fourth in tuna at the WMO

 

Jimmy Freda yellowfin

As noted in last night’s late blog, there was one “see if you can beat that” fish weighed at the WMO. The 881-pound blue marlin weighed by Joe Rahman on Auspicious was the sixth largest in the 45-year history of the event.  That blue will be hard to dislodge from a potential; $700.000 payoff.

WMO blue marlin

Other than that there wasn’t much action on the first day despite good conditions.  The three white marlin brought in were all of legal length, but failed to make the WMO minimum weight of 70 pounds.  There were a few dolphin, with a 36-pounder by Doxie Boys taking over first from Halycon’s 30-pounder.  David Rose’s Dialed-In from Spring Lake took over second in tuna at 69 pounds behind the 71-pounder by Rhonda’s Osprey. Makai is third at 61 pounds. Those tuna entries aren’t likely to stand. There are 150 boats fishing today, and I’ll have the results in a late blog.

The Canyon Runner fleet from Point Pleasant reports there’s been a great night chunking bite for yellowfins in local canyons. They have last minute openings for charters or open boat seats on the weekend. Call Adam La Rosa at 732 272-4445.

At Atlantic Highlands, Capt. Rob Semkewyc was disappointed in fluking from his Sea Hunter as only a few keepers were caught. Capt. Ron Santee of the Fishermen noted that while there was good fishing yesterday with no current, it was slower today with a good drift. However, one angler had a 8 5/16-pound pool winner plus a 5 1/4-pounder. Sea bass saved the day for some fares.

At Castaways Tackle in Point Peasant, Joe Melillo had word of a hot bite of fluke over 20 inches yesterday on Sea Girt Reef.  He has green crabs in stock for blackfish in Point Peasant Canal.

Shark River was dead for both Vinny D’Anton and me this morning, and the Belmar surf was no better.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported continued good fluking in the surf’. Shane Carney brought in this 25.5-inch, 6.35-pounder. Shane Carney

Waiting for the late summer variety

The usual surge of late summer visitors from the south hasn’t really started yet despite very warm waters,

There haven’t been any red drum reports so far, after some indications last year that those semi-tropical fish might be moving north with climate change as NMFS has been predicting.  I caught a puppy drum two days in a row from Point Peasant Canal last August, and wrote an article about several northern N.J. red drum catches which has been published in the August New Jersey-Delaware Bay edition of The Fisherman magazine.

Those who followed my columns and blogs in the Star-Ledger are aware of the fact red drum were not only present in N.J. waters a century ago — but were the primary inshore game fish of the central Jersey coast.

They were called channel bass in in those days. and almost all of them were over 20 pounds rather than the few small red drum we see today. The first two world records for the species came from the central Shore as anglers all over the country flocked to Barnegat Inlet to seek 40-pounders in late summer and early fall.

The minimum size for red drum in N.J. is only 18 inches, but there’s also a maximum set by the ASMFC at 27 inches. Thus, the 55-pounder caught in Great Bay in 1985 by Dan Yaniro (now owner of Captains Quarters Bait & Tackle on Long Beach Island) will stand until regulations may be changed in the future.

The first southern visitors I heard about were caught several weeks ago.  Raritan Bay pro Matt Calabria caught a small cobia there while fluking — just as I had done many years ago while weakfishing in the bay with Lou Grazioso. Then Maren Toleno caught a houndfish on a popper in Barnegat Bay, behind Island Beach State Park. Capt. Al Crudele of Bayhound from Sea Isle City  had a report on Facebook of several cobia in his area this week,

Southern species such as gray triggerfish and cownose rays have become regular summer visitors to northern shores, but sheepshead remain common only up to the south jetty of Barnegat Inlet — and unheard of in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

Paul Haertel of the JCAA  sends the following reminder:

JCAA Fluke Tournament 8/4 – Win 50 K – Last Call

The JCAA fluke tournament is this Saturday. You may register online until 11:59 PM on 8/3. You may also call the office and register on the phone during the day today or Friday. The recent marine forecast has improved as has the fluke fishing during the last week or so. This is our biggest fund raiser so we really need your support so that we can continue to work on behalf of our recreational fishermen.

Visit http://www.jcaa.org to register.

At Belmar, the Big Mohawk took a rare day off, but the Ocean Explorer reports the weatherman was wrong as the ocean was calm and they picked away at fluke. The Golden Eagle continues to enjoy good action with sea bass along with some ling and fluke.

The Jamaica from Brielle had plenty of chub mackerel on its Tuesday and Wednesday trips along with some small blues plus sea bass and ling. John Sanecki (10) won a pool with a 4-pound sea bass.

The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands reports it was mostly short fluke today, but more keepers were taken than yesterday.

Joe Melillo reports from Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant that blackfish became legal again on Aug. 1, even though it’s only one at a 15-inch minimum. Green crabs are in stock, and one of the regulars had a 4-pound tautog to open the season in Point Pleasant Canal.

Shark River shore fishing was very slow the last two days. I managed only two small stripers on jigs Tuesday evening (down from four the previous evening) and just one this morning when Vinny D’Anton hooked a 23-inch striper on a 7 1/2-inch Sluggo.  Tommy Cox quickly plugged four blues on a white popper Tuesday afternoon, but never had another hit.

 

 

 

 

 

The WMIT is set to roll

The Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club’s White Marlin Invitational begins the summer series of offshore tournaments with lots of money involved. That contest begins Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. with registration at the Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club, followed by fishing from Thursday through Sunday after everything had to be moved forward a day due to offshore weather forecasts.. Fishing hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

In addition to the Beach Haven weigh-in, there will be another at Hoffman’s Marina in Brielle.  For details visit http://www.thewmit.com — or call Dave Ridley at 908 963-5924′

The Canyon Runner from Point Pleasant will be fishing that contest with high hopes after doing very well with bigeye tuna this summer.  Indeed, Friday’s bigeye catches were unprecedented as the Viking 48 had 14 and the 60-foot Ritchie Howell added nine. bigeyes on canyon rnunner

Bigeyes were scarce during last year’s tournaments, and Jersey Nutz won $78,000 in the WMIT Treasure Chest with a “mere” 62.5-pound tuna. Almost any bigeye should be large enough to clear yellowfins off the leaderboard.

The lack of bigeyes  was a problem during the July 11-14 South Jersey Yacht Sales Offshore Showdown at Cape May as Jack Beattie won the tuna division with a 52-pounder that was barely ahead of three 51-pounders, a 50 and a 49.

The Canyon Runner fleet has an unusual open Saturday overnighter on both boats which can be chartered — or seats reserved on an open boat basis for $899. Call La Rosa at 732 272-4445.  They will also be fishing the fifth HUK Big Fish Classic that will be run out of ports from N.J. to Virginia from July 27-29  for overnight fishing. For info on that contest visit bigfishclassic.com.

Thanks to Al Hrehowsik for sending the results of Saturday’s Raritan Bay Anglers Fluke Tournament out of Perth Amboy that was won by Manual Prado of Union with a 7.85-pounder worth $1098. That fluke hit Gulp fished near the Verrazano Bridge as he and Cassiano Dos Santos added five other keepers up to 4 pounds.  See photo below with the trophy presentation.

Second and $500 went to a 5.57-pounder that Billy Anderson of Bedminster caught while fishing with Bryan Pieros of Leonardo on his Bid Time in Ambrose Channel. Brian Cleary from Bayonne was third for $323 as he used Gulp in N.Y. Harbor to catch a 5.4-pound fluke from Jason Zebrowski’s boat. Scott and Kathy Jo Kaelin of Parlin won $210 for fourth with a 4.92-pounder as both had limits in Raritan Reach.

 

A tug and tow ended up stuck on the sand bars at Lavallette this morning, and efforts to pull it off during low tides were fruitless. Hopefully, that can be accomplished om the high tide tonight. Bob De Pietri of Sharky’s Machine took the following shots:

barge aground off Lavallette

 

tug on beachThe weather forecast probably kept most anglers home today. I didn’t see a single boat while casting from shore in Shark River, but didn’t see many fish either. I managed two small stripers on a jig, and Bill Hoblitzell  got one on a fly while Frank Manzi raised a fish to his popper.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported some fluke were caught in the surf despite rough and dirty waters yesterday morning. They note that snappers are getting larger and more common both in the bay and surf. That’s bad news for surfcasters using Gulp as they’ll be sacrificing a lot of Gulp tails to snappers from now on. Grumpy’s also noted that before the rough seas there were “tons” of cownose rays in the surf.

Joe Melillo. at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant says fluke are being caught at the south end of Point Pleasant Canal — and boaters are doing very well with them from there into Barnegat Bay. Crabbing has been outstanding.

The only boat report today came from Capt. Rob Semkewyc, who barely had enough customers to sail his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands. The south wind was a problem right away — and then it got worse. Semkewyc had to fish calmer waters that produced mostly short fluke as there were fewer keepers than yesterday. With the forecast of more wind plus rain for tomorrow, the Sea Hunter won’t be sailing until Thursday.

 

Last chances for JCAA Fluke Tournament early entry

 

The 34th annual JCAA Fluke Tournament is coming up on August 4 with seven regions and 11 weigh-in stations from Jersey City to Cape May. Those planning to fish that event should take advantage of the early entry fee of $130 per boat which must be paid by July 23. After that the fee is $160.

Each region features a $1200 first prize plus other prizes through tenth — and there’s also a Doormat Fluke Category worth $50,000 for the largest fluke over 12 pounds.

To top it off, this unique contest provides an opportunity for any entrant to be a big winner as all are eligible for prize drawings at the awards on Thursday, Aug. 9 in the Clarion Motel, Toms River. Topping those prizes is a boat combo consisting of a 14-foot Starcraft, Yamaha outboard and Yacht Club trailer. That grand prize is usually won by someone who never even weighed a fluke. To enter visit http://www.jcaa.org and use your credit card.

As noted last night, the Grandpa Savino Memorial Fluke Tournament was postponed to next Saturday due to the weather forecast, and the Point Pleasant Elks cancelled their contest at the last moment — but don’t have a make-up date as yet.  The Raritan Bay Anglers Charity Fluke Tournament was contested in poor conditions. I’ll have those results in tomorrow’s blog.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported a nice start to bottom fishing, but the ocean got “cranky” in short order. They still caught quite a few sea bass, some ling and a 5-pound fluke. Following tonight’s gale warning and rain, Sunday is forecast to be very windy — and the Golden Eagle will not sail.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc reported a tough day for fluking on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands as he had to end up hiding from rough waters. The Sea Hunter will not sail Sunday.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant didn’t sail today, but reported lots of chub mackerel plus sea bass and ling on Friday’s trip. They will not sail Sunday.

Shark River was very pleasant early this morning, but shore fishing was slow. I scratched out two small stripers on jigs, and flyrodder Bill Hoblitzell also caught two. The previous morning he had caught three 4-to-5-pound blues on fly poppers and got bitten off by another — but there was no sign of them today. I made a few casts into the Belmar surf that was marginally fishable in the east wind — but full of marsh weed.

Bluefish haven’t only been scarce in Shark River this summer. Scott Leadbeater of Haddon Heights has found very few in Raritan Bay even though he sees many bunker schools there.

Sportfshing groups hail House passage of Modern Fish Act

Major Step Toward Becoming Law

The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed H.R. 200, a bipartisan bill that includes the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 (Modern Fish Act). This historic vote marks the first time the priorities of the recreational fishing sector are included in the reauthorization of our nation’s primary marine fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Recreational fishing organizations, led by the American Sportfishing Association, unified to pass this legislation which incorporates the recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission — allowing alternative management tools for recreational fishing which is enjoyed by 11 million saltwater anglers who have a $163 billion economic impact and support 440,000 jobs.

Unfortunately, some so-called environmental groups fought against the interests of the recreational fishing public. Though H.R. 200 passed by a vote of 222 to193, the bipartisan bill was opposed by Democrats 178 to 9.

The Natural Resources Defense Fund (NRDF) portrayed the bill as opposing protections for fish stock rebuilding  while displaying an almost child-like view of the accuracy of marine science. As the organizer and director of the Emergency Committee to Save America;s Marine Resources in the fight for the 200-mile fisheries limit, and a member of the first Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, I can testify as to the accuracy of the science we operate under.  The NRDF appears to be completely unaware that the two largest volume fisheries in the NY-NJ Bight have almost completely disappeared under that science — the annual migration of Atlantic mackerel and the Mud Hole whiting (silver hake) fishery — both of which came back after the devastations of the foreign fleets but are now only a memory.

That science has also come up with such estimates as New Jersey’s  shore fishermen catching 168,000 more tautog than the entire party/charter fleet along the whole east coast caught in March/April, 2010 — when any fisherman or marine biologist can tell you there are few, if any, blackfish in shallow waters during very low water temperatures.  Yet, crazy numbers like that are used to set regulations. More recently, there was a similar big number for N.J. shore fishermen on sea bass. We do catch lots of very small young-of-the year sea bass from late summer to fall, but I’ve never heard of a legal sea bass caught from shore in New Jersey. If any reader knows where that can be done, I’d appreciate knowing about it.

The New Jersey House delegation was split in it’s support of recreational fishing, with long-time sportfishing supporter Rep. Frank Pallone being the only state Democrat in support as Gottheimer, Norcross, Pascrall,, Sires, Payne and Watson-Coleman all voted against the interests of their sportfishing constituents. Republicans LoBiondo, McArthur, Smith, and Frelinghuysen voted in favor — but Leonard Lance was one of just 15 House Republicans to vote no,

The next step is to get Senate approval before an almost sure presidential signature.

The Raritan Bay Anglers 28th annual Charity Fluke Tournament starts off a busy fluke contest weekend, but the captains meeting for that Saturday contest is this evening at 7 in the Moose Lodge, 989 Convery Blvd., Perth Amboy. There will be $11,220 in prize money (based on 200 boats). Call 732 489-6360 for information.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc reported better fluking today for anglers on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands as they also enjoyed a picture perfect day.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant reported catching lots of chub mackerel and sea bass during Wednesday’s trip — but also their first dolphin of the season and a blacktip shark.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reported good surf fluking, and noted that all you need is Gulp. Every fluke weighed there so far has been on Gulp. Betty & Nick’s reports outstanding crabbing in the bay, where snappers are building up for perfect big fluke bait.

Vinny D’Anton of Wall was surprised to find a rough surf at Belmar this morning despite the lack of wind, but he still managed one small striper on a Chug Bug. Three more were added in Shark River on small Storm Searchbait and Zoom jigs, but when some small bait showed up on the surface later in the morning the only thing that worked on the small bass was a 7-inch Sluggo. that was much larger than the bait fish.

Gluggo

White Marlin Invitational opens during bigeye blitz

Boaters registering this evening for the Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club’s 49th annual White Marlin Invitational will be anxious to start fishing Wednesday in what Adam La Rosa of the Canyon Runner fleet in Point Pleasant calls possibly the best bigeye tuna bite ever.

Bigeyes have been hard to come by during offshore tournaments in recent years, and just one can wipe all the yellowfins off the board in an instant — and possibly win the big money if no white marlin large enough to weigh is brought in. Yet, La Rosa says bigeye caches have ranged up to an incredible 12 by Capt. Mark De Cabia.

Capt. Deane Lambros came in from an overnighter with “only” two bigeyes on the Canyon Runner in the course of catching over 50 yellowfins during an overnighter — which would ordinarily be considered a fine bigeye catch. bigeye being leadered

La Rosa has a last minute opening for a Friday overnighter that can be filled for the entire boat or on an open boat basis of $899 per person “all-in”.  Call him at 732 272-4445.

The Beach Haven registration is from 6 to 8 p.m. today in the clubhouse at Beach Haven. Fishing days run from Wednesday through Saturday — with the awards ceremony+ at 9 p.m. that night.

Chairman Dave Ridley expects there will be over 50 boats competing in the contest which also permits weigh-ins at Hoffman’s Marina in Brielle as well as at the headquarters. For information visit wmit@bhmtc.com or call Ridley at 908 963-5824.

There was a lack of reports today. Joe Melillo . at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant said the best bet has been crabbing which has been good everywhere — but especially at the Mantoloking Bridge. He weighed an impressive 6.5-pound fluke this week that was caught from a kayak at the south end of the canal by Doug Withstandley of Point Pleasant.

The Queen Mary from that town got into a showing of small blues during their Monday afternoon trip to go along with chub mackerel, sea bass and ling. They are sailing in the morning, but are chartered on Thursday and Saturday  mornings

Fluking a little better

Though there were no hot reports, fluke fishing seemed to be a bit better on another beautiful day — and despite the big ocean swell.

At Atlantic Highlands, the Sea Hunter reported improved fluking with one limit taken and others with two. The Fishermen had decent fishing until the current got too strong. Kurt Wieditz boated a 6.11-pound fluke to run away with the pool. but there was also a 4 1/2-pounder and a couple in the 3 pound class. Capt. Ron Santee said grandpa John Sabonis brought his 15-year-old granddaughter Slyler Mosselle who caught three fluke on her first fluke trip. Some sea bass were also caught. The Fishermen is chartered from Friday through Sunday.

At Belmar, the Ocean Explorer had good action with fluke and sea bass. There were three or four fluke in the 4-pound class. The Golden Eagle had no problem filling two-fish limits of sea bass along with some ling and keeper fluke.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant caught sea bass plus some porgies and triggerfish on Wednesday — and fought a sand tiger shark.

Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst was invited to join a NMFS crew seeking live sea bass for studies aboard Tagged Fish from Highlands on Tuesday and Thursday. They fished in 40 feet the first day to ensure the sea bass would survive, but only ended up with small fish — though Marty Gras of Lyndhurst fought a sand tiger to the boat.  The Thursday trip to 70 feet produced bigger sea bass, including a 19-incher by Tank.

Shark River produced a pick of school stripers from 15 to 21 inches this morning as I cast a light paddletail jig to release seven plus a 20-inch bluefish that was my first there in almost a month. Vinny D’Anton had some short hits on his Chug Bug, and caught a small bass on a Zoom jig.  We then went to the surf to fight a much larger sea than yesterday’s — resulting from the far offshore hurricane. It didn’t look good for fishing, but I was shocked by a 21-inch striper that blasted my Chug Bug in the wash. That was it for us as sea weed was also a problem.

I was later surprised to hear from Allen Riley of South Plainfield, who took his wife, son Kevin of Raleigh, N.C. and two granddaughters to Sandy Hook and said it was calm there.  They managed to catch some short fluke on Gulp.

Reader John Westerdale saw lots of cownose rays in the Monmouth County surf this week, but they ignored bunker heads and lures. He’s been picking at 15-to-20-inch stripers on swim shads in Point Pleasant Canal — even during mid-day.  He fished last month on Cape Cod with Capt.  Ray Ransom on Bass River Charters at Dennis to catch lots of 15-pound stripers at Monomoy and jumbo sea bass off Chatham.

 

Capt. Pete Wagner of Hyper Striper at Highlands will be back to fluking this weekend after brief trip to Los Suenos in Costa Rica with his daughter Nicole and niece Amanda.  They fished aboard a friend’s L&H boat to get into lots of small dorado (dolphin), two small wahoo, a bigeye trevally, a cubera snapper on live bait — and Nicole’s first sailfish.

Wagner cuberaT

That cubera snapper is he same species as the one I’m pictured with at the head of this blog — which was released from Pesca Panama in March but weighed over 73 pounds by formula.

Nicole's first sail

Nicole’s first sailfish before release

Great gain for recreational fishing due to Reef Rescue

There was some very good news for recreational fishermen from NOAA Fisheries this week as the final rule to implement Special Management Zone status for artificial reefs in federal waters off New Jersey was approved. That rule, long ago requested by the N.J. D.E.P. and approved by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, restricts allowable gear for fishing on those reefs to handlines, rod and reel, and spears. Commercial fishermen must remove their pots by Aug. 8. That gear conflict was a problem for anglers attempting to drift the reefs which were created for recreational fishing, paid for primarily  by the public, and maintained in large part by funds coming from the excise tax on fishing tackle,

This was a huge victory for Capt. Pete Grimbilis and reef creator Bill Figley who formed Reef Rescue well over a decade ago to save the reefs for their original purpose. The inshore reefs have received some protection through a compromise plan, but the new rule will protect such popular reefs as Sea Girt and Shark River plus most of those off South Jersey. I’ll have more about this in future blogs.

Today’s northeast wind put a big crimp in fishing, and resulted in some party boat trips being cancelled. The Golden Eagle from Belmar sailed into a very nasty sea and didn’t even look for bluefish,. Instead they found plenty of bottom action with sea bass, ling and fluke. Two sea bass per person can be kept during the summer by-catch season.

The Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands had a slow start until the tide changed, but then had a decent pick of up to two keeper fluke and many shorts. The pool winner of 5 9/16 pounds was boated at the end of the day. Capt. Ron Santee said a big swell from the northeast wind slowed the bite in the channels.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant cancelled due to the conditions, and they are chartered tomorrow.

The northeast wind was dropping off during the afternoon, and is only supposed to be 5 knots on Sunday. Indeed, there isn’t any wind over 10 knots in the forecast right through Thursday.

Vinny D’Anton got into a blind blitz of small stripers in Shark River this morning. They weren’t showing, and wouldn’t look at a popper, but the 18-to-20-inchers hit a variety of plastic jigs.  Frank Manzi and I also got into the action. Usually those small bass are only picked at in the river, but they may be enjoying the complete lack of bluefish there this summer. I haven’t caught or heard of a blue in Shark River since June 13.

 

 

My Christine wins Bluefin Open at 191.5 pounds

The Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna Club took advantage of the improved bluefin tuna fishing this year, and sponsored a successful first annual Bluefin Open tournament that was won by Neil Franzoni’s My Christine with a 191.5-pound bluefin that took the basic entry $7,040 prize. Douglas Johnson was second on Double D at 180.5 pounds, and Robert Wedeking third on Over Ride with a 155-pounder. Haley Adyson took the day 3 prize with a 132-pound bluefin. The yellowfin tuna Calcutta was won by The Right Place with a 64.55-pound entry, and the small boat Calcutta (35 feet or smaller) went to On The Line for a 48.7-pound bluefin. No one could come up with a dolphin for that prize.

The MRMTC Jack Meyer Trolling Tournament also concluded with a big change after Frank Criscola’s Crisdel had a sweep going until the end. Pete Torcicollo on Clean Livin took over first with an 81.20-pound yellowfin, followed by Rob Wedeking’s Over Ride at 53.60 pounds — while Crisdel hung on for third with a 48.65-pound yellowfin.

Capt. Chris Di Stefano said the big yellowfin bite in the canyons cooled off as the waters blended and most of those trolled were small.

That jumbo bluefish jigging that the Queen Mary from Point Pleasant found Sunday and Monday wasn’t repeated today. The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported the blues didn’t cooperate so they switched to bottom fishing for a boat limit of sea bass (two per man) plus some porgies and a couple of ling. They will sail at 7:30 a.m. for July 4 blues. Miss Belmar Princess stayed with the bluefish hunt until mid-morning before switching to sea bass and porgies. They’ll also be seeking blues on July 4 at 7:30 a.m.

The Big Mohawk from Belmar reported it was a lot cooler on the water today than forecasted, and fluking was OK with a showing of 3-to-6-pounders plus a pool fluke just under 7 pounds. They note that spinning rods and Gulp have proven to be a “huge game changer”.

The Sea Hunter had the only report from Atlantic Highlands, and Capt. Rob Semkewyc notes that he only had a few anglers aboard due to the weather forecast — though the heat wasn’t bad at all today as they had a slow start before finishing up well. A 5.6-pound fluke took the pool.

Capt. Stan Zagleski had a tight finish for the pool during Monday’s trip with Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands as Bob Evans of Waldwick (center) and Anthani Limaxes from New Milford each had 7 1/16-pound fluke — but were nosed out when young Dominic Rocco of Parsippany boated his first keeper fluke on his first fluke trip at 7 1/4 pounds.

Elaine B three 7's

Vinny D’Anton of Wall found the right trough in the surf this morning and released seven small stripers on his Chug Bug. I tried Shark River and quickly caught a 21-inch striper on a jig, but never had another hit.

Steve Mirande, a follower of this blog, reports he was catching fluke from the Bay Head surf on Monday morning when he was surprised by a 23-inch striper that hit his jig.

The Jamaica from Brielle will be bluefishing at 7:30 a.m. on July 4. A $15 coupon for adult or senior fares is available on their web site.

Queen Mary jigs jumbo blues

Capt. Dave Riback welcomed jumbo blues back to Raritan Bay with his Queen Mary from Point Pleasant. The long ride was worthwhile as his fares jigged blues up to about 18 pounds — and he had them to himself today.

Riback said bigger jigs worked best as the blues are chasing bunkers, and they did better working on readings rather than when the choppers came up on the bunkers. As is always the case with large blues, many were lost. The Queen Mary is chartered the mornings of July 3, 8,15 and 21. Below are some of Sunday’s blues.

Queen Mary blues

Fluking was a lot tougher today in Raritan Bay due to the continuing lack of drift. Capt. Rob Semkewyc said he still managed a decent catch on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands though some only hooked shorts.

Allen Riley of South Plainfield surprised even himself during a beautiful morning in the Sandy Hook surf. He had only caught a sea robin early on a 4-inch Gulp fluorescent Swimming Mullet, and was about to retreat from the rising heat when a 23-inch fluke slammed his lure. It weighed 4 pounds at the Tackle Box in Hazlet.

Riley fluke

Vinny D’Anton managed another small striper on his Chug Bug this morning at Belmar, while I tried the same lure at Manasquan and Sea Girt without success.

The state budget problem was settled in time to allow fishing to continue at Island Beach State Park on Sunday, but Betty & Nick’s in Seaside Park noted that flies were a problem though fluke were also biting. Be sure to bring repellent if it’s calm or there’s a west wind.

The Jamaica from Brielle is running a fishing and Long Branch fireworks trip from 5-9:30 p.m. on July 4. There’s a $15 discount coupon on their web site.