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Little change in council appointments

NOAA Fisheries made very few changes to fishery management councils in this year’s appoinement process. with almost everyone reappointed to new three-year terms.

The New England Council will have Matthew McKenzie of Ct.; Terry Alexander of Maine; John Quinn from Maine; and Eric Reid of R.I. in the obligatory seats plus Vincent Balzano of Maine at-large.

In the Mid-Atlantic, Tony Dilernia  of N.Y. returns along with Adam Nowalsky of N.J., Peter Defur of Vir., and Sara Windslow from North Carolina.

It appears that the early thunder and lightning scared off most fishermen as there were no reports. The marine forecast had warnings for hazardous seas into tonight, though the wind forecasts for the rest of the week are only 5-10 mph from the west.

 

Capt. Stan Zagleski of Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands reports fluke being cleaned on his boat often have mantis shrimp in their stomachs. That strange-looking creature has long been a favorite of stripers and weakfish in Raritan Bay. They’re also a great permit bait in Northwest Channel at Key West if you can find them in shrimp boat “trash” (by-catch)

mantis shrimp.jpg

It’s Mako Mania time

The 33rd Greater Point Pleasant Charter Boat Association’s Mako Mania Tournament gets started this evening with a 6:30 p.m. captains meeting at Wehrlen Brothers Marina on Princeton Ave. in Brick. N.J.  Anglers can fish either of the next two days — or opt to fish both by paying two entry fees. All boats sail out of Manasquan Inlet, and weigh-ins are from 4 to7 each day at Capt. Bill’s Lamding in Point Pleasant.

There’s expected to be about $250,000 in cash prizes, and Lester Glenn Auto Group will present a 2018 Chevy Silverado to the angler who breaks the state shortfin mako record of 856 pounds.  There’s also a provision this year that if no mako making the new 83-inch minimum length (a straight line measurement from the tip of the nose to the fork of the tail) is weighed, the largest thresher shark of at least 66 inches will be eligible for all prizes.+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Remember that each boat is limited to one shark. If last weekend’s BTB Mako Rodeo is any guide,  it doesn’t appear that they’ll be any problem in finding a few big makos among a large fleet.

Nor’Easter put a 729-pound mako on the scale at Hoffman’s Marina in Brielle to run away with that contest and blew away the old tournament record of 401 pounds. Other makos and threshers were weighed in, and Fin-Ominal won the first mako Calcutta with a 242-pounder.

The 40th Jersey Coast Shark Angler’s Mako Fever continues through Sunday. Anglers entered in that contest were relieved to find that Nor-Easter’s mako wasn’t also in Mako Fever. However, Big Nutz Required jumped on top of the leaderboard this week with a 258-pound mako.

The N.J. sea bass season concluded today. so there will be more pressure on ocean fluking.  Raritan Bay fluking wasn’t very good today, and Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands said he couldn’t fish every spot as it got a bit nasty at times in the east wind. Yet, there was one limit, and the pool fluke was 4.5 pounds.

Tank Matraxia joined the family and friends fluke charter arranged by Marty Gras of Lyndhurst today on the Bingo out of Atlantic Highlands. He said fluking was a tough pick in the bay with only a few keepers, though the kids caught a couple of 23 1/2 and 24 inches. With about 30 people aboard, there were only 30 short fluke big enough to be tagged by the American Littoral Society volunteers aboard.

The bluefish fleet in Raritan Reach had a tough day of jigging. The Golden Eagle from Belmar  reported it was nothing like the last four days as they only got a few brief shots of big blues. Miss Belmar Princess only got a shot of small blues early before scratching out some up to 12 pounds as there was none of the surface action they had been seeing.

Point Pleasant Canal was quiet this morning except for one very excited little girl who fought a 30-inch striper to the landing net.

Vinny D’Anton of Wall was happy to catch two small stripers on his Chug Bug in Shark River before heading to the surf. The east wind created good white water conditions for fishing sand fleas, and he quickly caught two stripers — including a 32-incher. I went down to take pictures of his fish, and gave it a try that resulted in a 29 1/4-inch release before losing two others on-and-off with circle hooks.

Vinny’s bass was so fat that we expected it was full of sand fleas. Yet, it turned out that it only had hard-shell calico crabs and a rock crab in the stomach — and was still carrying roe though the spawning period was over a month ago. Some stripers don’t spawn every year, and reabsorb their roe.

The Jamaica from Brielle will be making another tilefish trip that departs at 10 p.m. Sunday. Call 732 528-5014 for details and reservations.

Those who would like to fish fresh waters in New York State have the opportunity to do it for free this weekend.

Maren Toleno of Point Pleasant was surprised by this houndfish while casting a popper on the bay side of Island Beach State Park recently, but Jerry Lasko’s dog Bunker was properly wary of those small, but sharp teeth

Bunker & houndfish.jpg

Blues show up in ocean again

It’s been a poor season for bluefish, but there was some hope this morning when the Golden Eagle from Belmar got into jigging blues ranging from 4 to 10 pounds. Up to this point, there’s only been off-and-on ocean jigging north of Shark River for small blues except for one short-lived shot of the bigger choppers that used to provide the basic charter and party boat action all summer. As it’s been so far, bluefish boats have had to switch to sea bass during the day after any early bluefish bite in order to send their fares home with some fish. However, that sport has been getting tougher as shorts remain abundant while keepers are a different story. The Capt. Cal II from Belmar has switched to fluke, which are showing signs of improving as ocean water temperatures rise.

The early inshore run of big blues was a flop after a few years when river and bay fishermen had great sport with heavy blues. That problem seems to affect the whole coast as there have been only three entries so far with the 15-pound minimum in The Fisherman’s 2018 Dream Boat Fishing Challenge which covers from North Carolina to Maine.

By the way, I only this week realized that The Fisherman has swapped out yellowfin tuna as one of their eligible species for something the average fishermen is much more likely to encounter — the sea robin. The ten spots in that category have been filled with a minimum size of 2 pounds. The leader so far weighed 3.9 pounds and came from Long Island  — as did all of the other entries.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc was looking forward to a south wind today for a good fluke drift on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, but it was actually SW, and didn’t help at all until it switched to SE. His anglers still picked away with fluke up to the pool fish of just under 5 pounds.

Allen Riley of South Plainfield said the sunrise was the only feature of this morning’s Sandy Hook surf fishing. Lures produced nothing in the calm, 67-degree surf, and only a skate ate the bunker he also fished as crabs feasted on that bait.

Vinny D’Anton of Wall found Shark River to be dead this morning, but was then pleased to release two stripers up to 24 inches that hit his Chug Bug in the local surf. I couldn’t hook a fish in Point Pleasant Canal this morning, though I did have a few bumps. A scattering of small blues provided most of the action for other anglers.

Kevin Kuriawa fished Raritan Bay on Father’s Day with his 97-year-old dad plus his brother and son. He was only 1 1/2 miles from the dock when the day became even more special as he hooked a 26.5-inch, 8-pound fluke.

Kevin 8-lb

 

 

Opening day fluking was promising

The opening day of the N.J. fluke season was probably better than most anglers expected as weather conditions were perfect.

Capt. Ron Santee was pleased with the drift in Raritan Bay as wind and the outgoing tide were together for anglers on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands. Fluke were located in many areas. and keepers were well represented.  Robert Neilsen and his wife combined for five. The pool fluke was a 6.3-pounder.

Capt. Stan Zagleski said his early start with Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands gave him a jump on the competition as fluke were found in several areas and there were some limits. He’ll continue to sail at 6 a.m. through Memorial Day.

Elaine B fluke

Capt. Rob Semkewyc is sticking with the striped bass on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands . The last couple of days have been slower, but today’s catch was topped by a 27-pounder fought by Jon  Keidel. The skipper hopes the full moon coming up will spark the striper action.

Capt. Sal Cursi relocated to Florida. but didn’t forget everything he learned from years of running his Cathy Sea from Sewaren. He Joined Capt. Hans Kaspersetz and his crew on Sheri Berri from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands as they scratched out a few fussy stripers plus some opening day fluke.

Cursi said they only had one bluefish at a time of year when we used to be overrun with them. Yet, Nick Honachefsky reports that Keith Schaudecker got into 15 gator blues up to 16 pounds Wednesday off Port Monmouth on live bunkers from his Castaway.

It took awhile to find them, but Bob Correll of Bay Head and I had plenty of action with 3-to-4-pound blues while casting Thursday afternoon in Manasquan River from his Boston Whaler. Metal was the best bet, but Bob also got hits flycasting.

At Belmar, the Golden Eagle had no luck with stripers and blues before switching to sea bass for a good pick along with a few ling. Miss Belmar Princess ran north, but didn’t find stripers and blues before finishing up with sea bass.

At Point Pleasant, the Queen Mary had a good catch of sea bass today, Don Marantz and his party fished yesterday on Barb-Gail for limits of sea bass and some ling. Mimi VI will be sailing open on Tuesday. Call 732 370-8019 for reservations.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported surfcasting was slower Thursday, but bluefish are hitting bunker chunks off local docks.  Billy Martin checked into Betty & Nick’s early this morning with two 19-inch fluke taken in IBSP on a white bucktail with a chartreuse Gulp.

Joe Melillo, at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant,  weighed a 35-pound, 14-ounce striper caught from a boat for Bill McCrystal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A tough day in Raritan Bay

After a great Tuesday morning jigging bite, party boat striper fishermen had a much tougher time Wednesday, when only a few keepers and shorts were hooked. That was actually very good compared to Thursday. Capt. Ron Santee ran his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands all over the bay without marking all the bait and fish seen the day before — ending up without a bite. The Golden Eagle from Belmar read some fish and bait, but got no hits.

Don Marantz of Clarksburg had a charter on Billchaser out of Twin Lights Marina in Highlands. They started out with a 27-inch bass, but after that only had a skate and a big sea robin chunking —  while trolling was also unproductive,

Chuck Many said it was tougher on his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands than it was Tuesday when four of us released 30 bass up to 33 pounds on live bunkers.  Yet, he and three other anglers managed to release 17 stripers on both live bunkers and chunks today. The largest was a Ty Man season best of 40 pounds, though the next largest was only about half that size.

I gave the Sea Girt surf a brief try this morning, and got blanked there for the third time this spring. Jimmy Wilson felt the water and said the temperature had dropped quite a bit due to upwelling from the gusty southwest afternoon winds.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported John Alcoriza released both a large bluefish and a decent bass Wednesday night in the surf. Betty & Nick’s had the first blowfish reports in the surf. Adult bunkers have moved in close enough to be snagged, but there have been no reports of hook-ups.

Big bass38-pounder before release from Ty Man on Wednesday.

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.

 

 

Raritan Bay comes alive with stripers

Just about everyone caught legal stripers today in Raritan Bay — and with both lures and live bait — while surfcasting produced mostly shorts in many areas.

I joined Chuck Many of Annandale for an afternoon trip on his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands along with Rob Rommel of Highlands who had already cast netted a live swell full of bunkers. Many set up very long drifts in shallow waters and we had blow-ups on the live baits all afternoon as 30 stripers from about 12 pounds up to Many’s 33-pounder were released. We must have raised about 100 bass in order to do that as most just played with the live bunkers and never ate them. Changing to fresh very lively baits was most effective, and we had to make another run to net bunkers during the afternoon.

30-pound bassThis 30-pounder is loaded with roe that will be shed very shortly in the Hudson River. Photo by Rob Rommel

Chuck Many will be coming in a bit earlier on Wednesday to explain how he releases so many stripers during a free seminar for the Staten Island Tuna Club to be held at the Great Kills Yacht Club from 7-9 p.m.

Boaters who got out in the morning were greeted with stripers on the surface. The Atlantic Highlands party boat fleet got into its first jig fishing of the year for legal bass as swim shads and metal with tube tails worked best. Capt. Rob Semkewyc said everyone ended up with a keeper on his Sea Hunter. Capt. Ron  Santee had a similar report from the Fishermen, as they picked on bait after the jigging bite stopped — but the outgoing was no good. Erick Simbard had a 20-pound pool winner.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had more keeper stripers than had been the case while fishing both lures and bait.

There were very good surf striper reports all the way from Sandy Hook to Island Beach State Park. Most of the fish were small, but some keepers were mixed in. Nothing compared to the 58.10-pound striper weighed at Julian’s Tackle in Atlantic Highlands by John Callahan, who caught it at Sandy Hook on a bunker chunk. That was his only hit in three hours, and it took 30 minutes to bring in what might end up to be the largest surf striper of the year.

 

Where did all the mackerel go?

While cleaning my office on a rainy day, I came across one of my old logbooks and opened it up to April 25, 1970 to see what I was catching on that Saturday when I was still living on Long Island. It turned out that I fished with a couple of friends on their boat out of Jones Inlet as I jigged 102 mackerel and two herring.

That was just a routine day of spring mackerel jigging then, and in almost every other spring after I started saltwater fishing. Huge schools of mackerel started their northern migration off Virginia, and moved steadily up the coast during April before ending up in New England waters within a few weeks. Some years were better than others, but catching 100 or more a man was routine, and party boat fleets thrived on the great fishery for both food and a freezer full of bait for the months to come.

The foreign fleets caught millions of pounds and put a big dent in that fishery, but mackerel did come back after the 200-mile limit went into effect.  Yet, foreign fleets were allowed to continue taking mackerel if they participated in joint ventures with American trawlers. NOAA Fisheries considered mackerel to be underfished at that time, but after a few more years the spring runs diminished and then virtually disappeared even as NOAA Fisheries kept setting large quotas that weren’t being filled. When I called them about this, they admitted to be using an old stock assessment. There were some years when there was a good winter mackerel run off the N.J and L.I coasts, but even that has died out — and party boat skippers who used to run experimental trips for mackerel in the spring now don’t even bother. From millions of fish to none at all!

Due to today’s weather, there have been no reports. There was a very good one about surf stripers that came in after last night’s blog. Jerry Lasko and Maren Toleno from Point Pleasant cast Kettle Creek paddletail jigs in the Ocean County surf to release dozens of small bass in a spot where they never got a hit the afternoon before when the surf was calm.  A bit of white water turned the stripers  on, though the largest was only 22 inches.  It may take another day for the surf to settle and clear.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park has been reporting small bass in the surf for over a week, and Betty & Nick’s notes the surf temperature has warmed to 50 degrees.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar will be sailing for stripers at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

There is a thick fog warning until 7 a.m. before a west wind kicks in.

The first two stripers caught last Thursday morning on bunker chunks before release from Ty Man in Raritan Bay

Ty Man morning stripers

Rain & wind coming Wednesday, but it looks good after that

The weather from N.J. to Long Island isn’t looking good for Wednesday with rain and gusty winds in the forecast, but it’s supposed to be back to just 10 to 15 knots from the west for Thursday — and the weekend looks good.

The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands clammed in Raritan Bay today, but it was mostly short bass that responded. There were some keepers topped by Eric Nova’s 15-pounder. Capt. Rob Semkewyc won’t be sailing tomorrow due to the weather, but will be ready to go on Thursday.

Tank Matraxia and his crew from Lyndhurst fished with Capt. John Contello aboard Just Sayin from Keyport. After casting produced only one short, they switched to trolling mo-jos and limited out with keepers up to about 32 inches. Matraxia was also able to put ALS tags in five legal bass and a short. One of those bass had a fairly recent bite taken out of it — possibly by a seal. The action was in the back of the bay where there were lots of boats and kayaks.

At Belmar, the Big Mohawk reported a good blackfish bite today, but won’t sail again until Thursday. The Ocean Explorer had good blackfishing Monday with some limits.

The Gambler has been getting out from Point Pleasant. but blackfishing has been slow so far due to cold waters. The Queen Mary starts striper fishing out of that port on Saturday.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reports small stripers are hitting in the surf on small pieces of bait and lures. An angler fishing bunker chunks reported losing a better fish in the wash. An ODM rod demo will be held at Grumpy’s on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

 

Sandy Hook Late April SunriseAllen Riley photo of Sandy Hook at dawn Monday. Don’t expect that tomorrow!

Boat traffic slows striper bite

It was a beautiful Sunday on the water, but boat traffic seemed to slow the striped bass bite in Raritan Bay. Capt. Rob Semkewyc was coming off a very good day of clamming with his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, but only put a few bass aboard today as he felt the volume of trollers passing close to him was the problem. There was one highlight, as Andy Sokol of Manalapan boated a 41-inch, 29-pound striper.

001Andy Sokol 29 lb

Capt. Joe Massa found the trolling to also  be way off from Saturday as Carl Drehwing, Bob Correll and I joined him on his larger My Three Sons (a Grady White 30) from Morgan Marina.  Yesterday he had trolled 15 bass, though all were shorts. We started out casting shads around scattered marks where I caught a small bass right away — but there were no more hits. A crowd of boaters trying to net bunkers in Great Kills convinced Joe to troll instead — especially since he had spent three hours Saturday chunking on good marks without a hit. We did hook a half-dozen bass on Rapala X-Raps, but they were very small, and there were no hits on the larger stretch lures. There were lots of boats trolling in the back of the bay, but I didn’t notice anyone stropping to fight fish before we headed back early.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar read some bait and fish, but couldn’t get any bites, and won’t sail again for stripers until Thursday.

Capt. Stan Zagleski started blackfishing daily with his Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands on Saturday as he found one spot to be dead but picked away with tog and even a few cod on another. Art Garrett of Red Bank won the pool with a cod. Clams were most effective for both species.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reports small stripers in the surf for those casting small pieces of clam or bunker. Skimmer clams are back in stock along with fresh bunker. There’s still no word of bluefish, but there has been talk of weakfish in the southern end of Barnegat Bay.  Betty & Nick’s noted that small stripers hit in the surf yesterday before the wind came up in the afternoon.