Spanish mackerel in the surf

A very unusual showing of Spanish mackerel within range of surfcasters occurred today.  Some years we see a few jumping a little too far out, but that semi-tropical species does come in closer at times. You just have to be at the right place at the right time.

I was at the right place this morning as I cast a popper for stripers at Bay Head around dawn without raising anything or seeing any bait.  Joe Melillo, of Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant,  arrived as I left and caught two big sea robins casting a Run Off Sand Eel jig  — and was still there when the Spanish showed up. He could barely reach them, but caught three on that jig. I also heard that Joe Milko was fishing north of Manasquan Inlet when he saw another angler catch a Spanish on a metal before he switched to a metal and also caught one.  The best bet for them is to make long casts to where they are showing and reel the jig as fast as possible.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park didn’t report ant exotics, but noted some small blues are hitting metal in the surf — and fluking in the surf remains very good. They say all you need is Gulp and a bucktail. The Gulp 4-inch Swimming Mullet is standard, but those using the 5-inch Gulp Swinning Mullet or 6-inch Grub are catching more keepers while not getting as many hits.

Shell E. Caris fluke

Shell E. Caris is a famed surf striper pro, but even he is giving fluking some time. This 22-incher weighed 3.55 pounds.

There was lots of short fluke action out of Atlantic Highlands today. Capt. Rob Semkewyc said there were DEP employees aboard his Sea Hunter today who selected several anglers to check. Paul Schuckalo kept them busy as he caught 26 shorts and two keepers.  Capt. Ron Santee was into that short action on the Fishermen, but Scott Ure and his son combined for five keepers. Despite the forecast, it was a beautiful day without a drop of rain.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar had catches of up to a bucket of chub mackerel today along with some sea bass, blues and ling.

Joe Massa decided to make a mid-afternoon  trip with his My Three Sons from Morgan Marina after it became obvious that the dire predictions weren’t likely to occur. The only problem with going out then is that bait is a lot harder to castnet than early in the morning. We couldn’t find any adult bunkers, and only  a few peanuts, but gave the Hudson River a quick shot anyway. I got a good fight out of a 15-pound striper on light conventional tackle before the release, and Joe released a similar bass before we ran back as the south wind started to blow harder.

 

 

WMIT ended with few changes — Doormat on Sea Hunter

The 49th White Marlin Invitational ended Sunday evening at Beach Haven with the only big change being the weigh-ins of two respectable dolphin — 10.9 pounds on Marine Max and 12.9 pounds by Outer Limits.  The 22-boat fleet ended the tournament with mixed results as Hard Four led the way with three white marlin releases plus tuna of 59.5 and 102.5 pounds. Smokin Again, Business and Melina each had a white release, and Endless Drifter boated a 66-pound bigeye.

That brought the tournament total for 22 boats fishing two days each to 12 white marlin releases. 37 tuna weighed, four dolphin, and one blue marlin. Melina had the 356-pound blue, and was the winner on points over Hard Four, Jersey Nutz (with a Saturday catch of a white release plus bigeyes of 140.5, 115 and 111 pounds), Nora Angela, and Reel Determined. However, Jersey Nutz came out slightly ahead in Calcutta earnings with $22,308 to Melina’s $21,622.  Mary Joe (the MJ’s crew)  won their tuna specialty with Friday’s 156.2-pound bigeye and had $11,250 in Calcutta winnings. Nora Angela won $10,246, and Reel Determined earned $2,668.

The volume of bigeyes in the canyons continued to be impressive, though many weren’t much larger than yellowfins. The volume of white marlin was disappointing, though it wasn’t surprising that one large enough to weigh wasn’t brought in. So far, dolphin remain as scarce as they were in last year’s canyon tournaments, and no wahoo were encountered. There’s been no word so far on winners of the various prizes other than Calcuttas.

The first doormat fluke reported so far by the Raritan Bay fleet was boated today on the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands by Willie Meyer.  Capt. Rob Semkewyc said it weighed 11.8 pounds,  and there were also some  4-to-6-pounders as the fishing was much improved.  A couple of fares had limits and there was lots of action,

Willie Meyer-11.88

At Belmar, the Big Mohawk reported solid fluking with a good number of 4-5-pounders and a pool fluke of about 9 pounds. They’ll be sailing no later than 6 a. m. tomorrow.

The Golden Eagle had hot sea bass fishing for a boat limit (two per man) plus ling.

Allen Riley and John Mazzeo of South Plainfield plus Duke Matero from Piscataway fished the calm Sandy Hook surf this morning, but weren’t using Gulp for long as masses of snappers were nipping their tails off. Instead, they cast snapper poppers to catch the baby blues for fluke bait.  Though no fluke hit them, Mazzeo released a 3-pound bluefish and lost another in the wash — the first blues they’ve seen in some time. Allen ended up releasing a large sea robin.

I finally raised some fish to surface  lures in Shark River this morning, but the only one I hooked came off quickly. Vinny D’Anton caught two small stripers on his Chug Bug at the same time.  Flycaster Bill Hoblitzell had earlier caught a mix of school bass and blues.

Jerry Lasko and Maren Toleno from Point Pleasant fished for sharks at Island Beach State Park  yesterday evening to release three browns and a blacktip. on chub mackerel. Though those sharks were in the 40-pound class, much bigger sand tigers are a possibility.

Maren with shark

Matt Slobodjian at Jim’s Tackle in Cape May sent the following report: “The weather finally broke, and for the first time in a week people are starting to get out. Fluke fishing has been best at the Old Grounds the last couple of days. There have been quite a few boats coming home with limits; but the bigger fish are tight to the bottom structure. There are a lot of fish on the Cape May Reef, but a ton of shorts with only a few keepers mixed in. There is still plenty of action in the backwaters for fluke. We’ve seen some nice fluke coming from Cape May Harbor and the intercoastal waterway heading up to Wildwood. We are starting to get some reports from Brown Shoal in Delaware Bay of some decent fluke catches. Tuna are still at Massey’s Canyon. The “Hooked Up” caught 4 bluefin trolling the area around Massey’s. It was an early bite and the action was over by 8 am. The canyon bite was ok, but not on fire. There was a bite between the Wilmington and the Spencer for tuna and a few marlin were caught there as well.
The beach fishing is slow, but more kingfish are starting to show up in the surf. By far the best beach fishing has been for sharks, with multiple releases of browns, sand tigers and a few blacktip hookups.”

A few spaces remain available for the Outdoor Women of NJ Workshop, to be held Saturday, Aug. 4 at the Sedge Island Natural Resource Education Center  off Island Beach State Park.

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.

 

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.

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

 

 

Fluke fishing improving — 9.4-lb. boated

Fluke fishing is improving in northern N.J., and the largest reported to this blog was boated today on the Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands  — a 29-inch, 9.4-pounder boated by Scott Ure. That was his second largest fluke ever, as several years ago he caught an 11.2-pound doormat on the Fishermen. A 5-pounder took second in the pool, and Capt. Ron Santee said the morning action was much better than yesterday. The Madison Boy Scouts were aboard to enjoy the day.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc said he had tough conditions for his first fluking trip of the season — and was happy with his new full-day schedule. The Atlantic Highlands boats will try to get out Sunday despite a forecast of gusty NE winds.

Capt. Stan Zagleski was happy with the morning fluke bite on his Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands as some regulars managed limits among lots of shorts. Zagleski will be sailing early at 6 a.m. Sunday.

The entire bluefish fleet from Brooklyn to Point Pleasant gathered at  Shrewsbury Rocks to jig the small bluefish that have been dependable all week. I joined Bob Correll of Bay Head in his Boston Whaler to look for stripers north of Manasquan Inlet, and we ere able to snag some bunkers from occasional flips, but saw no signs of stripers. When we got to the Shrewsbury fleet there were only a very few blues being hooked amid a constant blasting of horns as party boats kept moving to jump on readings due to a lack of birds on rainfish . Bob lost the only blue he hooked, but we did jig a few small sea bass and windowpanes off bottom along with a sea robin and a skate during a brief attempt. The blues must have turned on at other times as party boats reported fair to good bluefish catches. The Golden Eagle from Belmar also added sea bass and even winter flounder.

Capt. Chris Di Stefano was part of the crew on Frank Criscola’s Crisdel from Brielle Yacht Club on Friday that trolled seven large stripers from Deal to Flynn’s Knoll. They were fishing in the ongoing Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna Clun Striped Bas Tournament and weighed in bass of 39 and 42 pounds — but are just behind entries of 42 and 45 pounds. Di Stefano said today’s trolling reports were very spotty, but he heard there was a showing of bass on top very early in the morning off the Red Church.  Capt. Dave De Gennaro ran his Hi Flier from Barnegat all the way up there, but had no luck trolling. He bailed out in Barnegat Inlet on the way back as his party cast shads to 3-to-4-pound blues. De Gennaro said the early Barnegat Bay run of jumbo blues just didn’t happen this year after three straight great springs.