Bigger blues show in ocean

Bluefish in the 6-8-pound class were reported among the abundant 2-5-pounders today by the Golden Eagle out of Belmar. Though a slow drift made it harder to fool them, there were many five-fish limits.

Capt. Dave Riback of the Queen Mary from Point Pl easant says some of his trips have been providing “old time” bluefish jigging with enough 5-pounders among them to provide several meals. He also saw his first bonito last week as they were jigging blues, but knows there were lots more as a gillnetter in the area caught 700 pounds.

The Jamaica from Brielle has switched to ling fishing which has been good. Frank Amaya of Mays Landing had a 24-inch cod to win yesterday’s pool, and a 23-incher won today for Greg Stewart from Sharon Hill, Virginia. Anglers can now board without reservations and pay on the boat.

Capt. Ron Santee Jr. had John Uhl of Plugbaits aboard his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands yesterday as samples of the Gulp-like bait were passed out and produced good numbers of shoert and keeper fluke up to a 4-pound pool winner. The Tackle Box in Hazlet is handling that new product. Santee noted that he’s fishing in the ocean where medium action rods are required to handle 6-8-ounce sinkers.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reports bait has been the best bet in the surf. A 15-pound striper was weighed in today, and there was word of two bass over the 38-inch maximum being released. They also noted that rays have been spotted — so don’t walk away from rods being fished out of sand spikes!

Tomorrow’s forecast is for southwest winds at 5-10 knots before going south at 10-15 in the afternoon.

Watch out for whales!

It’s a thrill to watch a huge whale fly out of the water before crashing back into the ocean — unless your boat happens to be where the whale is coming down.

Joe Daley passed along some info about that happening to an unfortunate boater yesterday off D St. in Seaside Park.

An internet check of various accounts indicated that the incident occurred about 11:50 a.m. yesterday, and that the two anglers were unhurt and able to swim to the nearby surf. The estimated 25-foot boat was trailered off the beach a few hours later.

When whales were making a comeback several decades ago, I was tuna fishing on Mako outboards out of Montauk and started seeing them swimming under the boat at times as I chunked. That was a little scary at the time, but they never seemed to rise up to threaten a boat that would have been only a toy to them.

However, shallow water is a different story. Boaters are usually fishing very close to a school of bunkers that the whale may also be interested in, and there’s nothing you can do short of moving away to prevent a long-shot accident.

There may not even be any sighting involved. I once hooked a whale while casting a 1/4-ounce bucktail jig for school stripers off Ocean Beach even though I hadn’t seen it surface at any time. By unning with the annoyed whale I was able to shake the tiny hook out of tough skin that I knew it couldn’t penetrate.

Tuna fishing relatively close to shore exploded today as Capt. Dave De Gennaro put a charter on his Hi Flier out of Barnegat into “lots of unders” before tangling with a 70-inch bluefin that was fought for 2 1/4 hours on stand-up tackle.

Allen Riley fished the Sandy Hook surf this morning with Duke Matero and Frank Huza. They had ideal conditions with the water temperature way up to 64.5 degrees. Riley had a hit on his bunker bait during the first cast, but that was it as nothing was caught by any of the anglers on the beach. There were bunkers well out of casting range, and two whales put on a show for them.

Despite having to avoid an armada of kayaks, Capt, Chris Di Stefano joined Jimmy Herrick for limits of fluke again in Navesink River. Just after the limits were filled, Chris had to cut loose a 7-8-pounder.

I tried casting into Manasquan River from shore for the first time this spring and only had one hit on a 5-inch Z Man paddletail, but that was from an unexpected 19 1/2-inch fluke that felt like a doormat after only having caught shorts this spring. It was released as thanks for saving my morning.

Tomorrow starts with light south winds of 5-10 knots, but goes to 15-20 with gusts to 25 knots in the afternoon.

Sea bass still a best bet

The beat goes on for boaters seeking sea bass.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported another very good day with limits around the boat plus some ling, fluke and whiting. Call them for reservations which are required.

On the other hand, there are still no reports coming in from the northern fluke party boat fleet.

Nick Honachefsky boated a 5-pound fluke while fishing in Manasquan Inlet on Jim Louro’s Vicky Lynn during yesterday morning’s fog. They also had two more keeper fluke plus 20 shorts — and added 3-pound blues on poppers.

The Seaside Park shops are reporting better surf fishing from there to IBSP.  Grumpy’s noted that one angler caught over 15 small blues. Mullet and bunker are best for them, but some are also hitting artificials. Small stripers are hitting clam, and a 16.5-pound black drum was reported. At this time last year, Grumpy’s weigh-in log was full of jumbo blues ,— but so far it’s been empty.

The wind came up earlier than predicted this morning and blew away the fog. Fog is predicted again in the morning along with south winds at 15-20 knots and possible showers.

 

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.

 

For–hire fishing a go for tomorrow

Much to my surprise, Gov. Murphy  opened up party and charter boat fishing in N.J. , plus boat rentals, as of 6 a.m. Sunday under restrictions that weren’t specified, but are probably those already proposed by the United Boatmen and RFA and checked by the DEP.

You will have to make payment in advance in order to eliminate payment contact, and provide name, address and phone contact information for possible contact tracing. No one with a temperature or virus symptoms will be allowed aboard, and the boat may require facial coverings and gloves.

The Jamaica from Brielle will be sailing for sea bass at 6:01 a.m. Since that trip had been cancelled, even those with reservations have to call 732 528-5014 to confirm they are included in the reduced capacity required for social distancing.

The Golden Eagle will open its season from Belmar at 7:30 a.m. Sunday and Monday.

Bud McArthur of Brick fished with friends in 60-70–foot local waters today, and reported legal sea bass (12 1/2 inches) were scarce. The water temperature was fine at 52 degrees, and there was lots of life on bottom even though it was mostly shorts plus bergalls and dogfish. Surprisingly, they did catch some Atlantic mackerel of a foot or so — as did other boats. There was also a report from the Axel Carlsen Reef of some cod.

Bud finished up by trolling bunker spoons for stripers. They had no hits, but a friend doing that off Deal came up with the first ocean bass I’ve heard of so far –a keeper, but not one of the big spawned-out bass coming up from southern spawning grounds.

The Hudson River Fisherman’s Assn. Catch & Release Striper Derby  finished up this weekend as Doug Palmer easily won the tagging division with 22 releases.  There were 35 bass released with ALS tags during the contest.

Joe Albanese sent a quick recap of the 2020 Derby.  Despite only 34 anglers competing, uncooperative winds & weather and low water temperatures we still had a successful Derby. Those fishing further north in the Hudson River had much more success than those fishing Haverstraw or south. We opened the Derby up this year to tributaries of the Hudson River and received a bunch of photos of bass captured in the Hackensack River from Dirk van Everdingen. In WEEK-1 there were only 12 stripers entered. Two photos were disqualified. However, two of the biggest fish were entered just a few hours into the Derby start. They were from Douglas Dean and Shane Dean. In WEEK-2 there were only 7 stripers entered.  In WEEK-3 there were 9 entries and 1 disqualification. In WEEK-4 the action turned hot and heavy up around the Newburg area. We had 27 entries this last week, 22 from Doug Palmer.
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The morning weather looks great with an east breeze of 10 knots forecast — with mild temperatures and no showers until after midnight.

Betty and Nick’s Tackle in Seaside Park didn’t have any special word on surfcasting except for blowfish.

Congratulations to C.J. Parker (7) who caught his first keeper striped bass yesterday from his father’s boat in Raritan Bay while casting and jigging a 6-ounce white glow Tony Maja mojo with no assistance throughout the fight.

 

 

 

N.J. sea bass season opens Friday

Bottom fishermen in N.J.  have been waiting for the sea bass season to open, and tomorrow is the day. However, they’d better have a private boat in order to participate in the fishery which has a daily limit of 10 sea bass at a 12 ]/2-inch minim

Party and charter boats still don’t have permission to sail even under the social distancing guidelines they’ve adopted voluntarily Gov. Murphy opened up beach restrictions starting Friday in preparation for Memorial Day.  He also noted in today’s press conference that recreational fishing rules are being reviewed.

Both the Jamaica from Brielle and the Big Mohawk from Belmar were taking reservations for the sea bass opener in hopes they’d be able to sail. The Jamaica has canceled for tomorrow, but is still holding out hope for the weekend in case Murphy has a change of heart tomorrow. I wouldn’t count on that. Also don’t count on catching sea bass as large as those boated on a the Jamaica during a fall offshore wreck trip.

Jamaica sea bass

 

Though it’s blowing hard southwest as this is being written, that wind is forecast to drop to 10-15 knots by morning along with showers before increasing to 15-20 in the afternoon.

Dave Lilly said there were stripers swirling and chasing bunkers on the surface all over around the mouth of Raritan Bay this morning. He quickly trolled one of about 30 pounds, then another in the 20-pound class  on a Tony Maja bunker spoon before losing another good one- before bass in the low teens took over.  They would come back up right after boats ran over them, and everyone caught them on anything they used. Surprisingly, the water temperature had dropped to 48 degrees.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reported lots of fresh clams and bunker in stock. Clams seem to be working best, and small pieces will also attract blowfish. Blues are scattered in the bay, and range from 2 to 10 pounds. They’re hitting a variety of lures.

Capt. Hans Kaspersetz with a Raritan Bay bass on his Sheri Berri from Highhands. Hans bass

 

 

Poor start to Sandy Hook surfcasting

Allen Riley and Duke Matero made their first Sandy Hook surfcasting effort of the year this morning, and had pretty good conditions with a calm surf and enough water.  Though Lot A is closed, there were other lots available at the southern end on a chilly, but pleasant day. Allen fished sandworms and Duke used fresh bunker chunks, but they didn’t even have a tap.

There was better surf  news from Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park. All of the local beach is open to anglers, and lots of short stripers are being hooked on small pieces of fresh shucked clam. It’s the same story at IBSP, where the hours are from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free, but a 2020 permit is required in order to drive the beach.

Mark Roy started off this morning with his Release Me from Raritan Marina in Hazlet off the Navy Pier, but only saw small stripers being caught there. After only catching one there, and not getting any hits from swirling bass, he ran to the back of the bay  where trolling mo-jos produced better-sized stripers for Robert and Jacob Foehner of Warren even though there was no sign of bunkers. The fish count was up to eight when I talked to him at 5 p.m.

The Thursday morning forecast looks good with a northeast breeze at just 5 knots before going south in the afternoon at 15-20 with gusts to 25 knots plus 4-6-foot seas.

The latest standings in the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association Catch & Release  contest (supplied by Joe Albanese) were topped by a 42.5-inch boat striper that was also the Calcutta leader. The largest from shore was a 34-incher, and a 29-inch bass from shore was the largest released with a tag.

 

 

Blowout tides limit surfcasting

Gusty northwest winds have resulted in both near-record low morning temperatures and blowout tides making for poor dawn and dusk surf fishing’ However, John Bushell Jr. at Betty & Nick’s in Seaside Park reported the release of a 25-pound striper by one of his customers a couple of days ago.

Though  some all-time low temperatures for the date may be set in the morning, there should be a big change after that. Small craft warnings are coming down tonight, and the morning forecast is for northwest winds at 5-10 knots before going southwest at 10-15 with gusts to 20 in the afternoon.

Raritan Bay remains the hot spot for stripers. Eugene Jones  reported he was also one of the few on the bay Monday for the hot bite despite crazy squalls. He said he caught 10 bass up to 50 pounds.

 

R.I.P. Dave Arbeitman

Tom Fote had bad news for me this morning, as he’d received word that Dave Arbeitman of the Reel Seat in Brielle has passed away.

Chris Di Stefano said Dave suffered a stroke last week, but died in the hospital yesterday at just 64. Dave built a reputation as a rod builder decades ago in smaller shops than the present elegant Reel Seat. He was also a very skilled angler in everything from surfcasting to big game. He particularly enjoyed tilefishing with his own customized tackle in the great canyon depths, and the variety fishing at Key West during his winter vacations. I’m sure he’s scouting out some new hot spots in Heavenly waters now.

Bluefish were being caught in Manasquan River yesterday. Joe Blaze heard there was a fleet off the mouth of the canal where they were not responding to poppers, but jumped on shad lures. Bob Correll got word from the canal this morning that anglers were being broken off by big blues.

At Seaside Park, Betty & Nick’s reported there was a surf mini-blitz Friday morning of cocktail blues plus some small bass.  Shorts are also hitting clams in the surf, and a couple of keepers were reported.

The note in yesterday’s blog about the summer season for sea bass was wrong. I have some sticky keys, and missed correcting the July start which should have been July 1 — not 11.

Small craft warnings are up through late tonight for southwest gusts to 30 knots. They drop to 10-15 with gusts to 20 knots by morning.

 

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.