Large stripers turn on in Raritan Bay

It isn’t even April yet, but large stripers haveJoe Massa first bass turned on to lures in Raritan Bay.

Joe Massa made a short trip yesterday afternoon with his My Three Sons from Morgan Marina. After only catching small bass on worms, he decided to troll a Rapala X-15 diving plug and soon hooked into a 31-inch bass.

That fishing exploded today. The Tackle Box in Hazlet reported that Andrew and Kenny Dubman had lots of bass up to a 30-pounder while casting shads, and Capt. Johnny Bucktails had a similar report from Just Sayin’ out of Keyport.  E. Brem from Oceanport reported doubleheaders trolling mo-jos. Matt Calabria continues to catch stripers up to a 30-incher from shore using his wormballs.

Wormball bass

Jerry Lasko fished the bay side at Bay Head yesterday evening as Maren Toleno broke the ice for the spring with a 14-inch striper.

I was holding off writing up the annual IGFA Fund-raising Banquet in Spring Lake Heights next month while expecting to get a cancellation notice due to the pandemic — which did come from Jeff Merrill today.

The annual Spring Lake Trout Contest for kids also had to be cancelled.

The weather is turning on us with southeast gusts to  20 knots tonight plus rain. Thursday starts with east winds at 10-15 knots plus gusts to 20 before dropping to northeast at 5-10 along with rain in the afternoon.

A loss and a win from the surf

Surfcasting along the Jersey Shore is frustrating under the best of circumstances, and especially during the dog days of summer. We rarely see any large stripers except during the spring and fall migratory runs, and there’s usually so little bait present during the summer that the resident school stripers have little to feed on except crabs.

That’s not a good situation for casting lures, but persistence may provide the occasional bass. I was trying for that needle in a haystack yesterday evening despite the low tide at Sea Girt and didn’t raise anything to a popper before switching to a 4-inch white Tsunami Shad that had saved the evening during my previous two trips there with a small striper hitting it in the wash at dusk,

That lure is light enough to swim in very shallow waters, small enough to attract even small predators — and large enough not to be passed up by a big fish. It came through again yesterday evening, but I knew what smashed it immediately as line started pouring off my Canyon spinning reel. A cownose ray was heading for the horizon as I tightened down the drag, not being afraid to straighten the hook with my 30-pound braid. That slowed it down, and I had enough capacity to carry out what should have been a protracted but successful battle with what was probably a 30-to-50-pound fish — except that I couldn’t stop it from going across the tip of an adjacent jetty. I tried to get a clearing angle, but it had likely run my line around an underwater rock.  I sure wasn’t going out on those moss-covered jetty rocks in bare feet, and eventually had to break off — leaving only some mono backing for re-rigging last night.

This morning started off better as I released three small stripers on jigs in Shark River.  Vinny D’Anton released four small bass there, and then made a move to try sand fleas in the Spring Lake surf. I went down there to make a few casts with a Shug Bug in order to tighten up the braid I’d wound on last night. I made a half-hearted cast about 50 feet out into white water hitting the sand  and was sjocked to see the popper smashed by a fish that started taking line. That 28 1/2-inch first cast miracle fish was released — but proved that anything is possible if you have a lure in the water. Of course , we didn’t raise another fish during a brief attempt before having to leave the beach for bathers.

Those anglers entered in the Grandpa Savino Memorial Fluke Tournament at Great Kills will have to put off spending the $25,000 they were planning on winning for the heaviest  doormat over 13 pounds. The Staten Island Tuna Club has postponed the contest to next Saturday since gale warnings have been posted for tomorrow evening — though it may be fishable early in the day despite east winds.

The captains meeting for Saturday’s  Point Pleasant Elks Fluke Tournament is going on this evening,. and they are going ahead as Sunday will also be windy. Fluke can be caught in protected river and bay waters if it’s too rough in the ocean.

The Raritan Bay Anglers Charity Fluke Tournament is also set for Saturday.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc said Raritan Bay fluke fishing wasn’t even nearly as good as on Thursday for anglers on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands.

At Belmar, the Big Mohawk reported good ocean fluking with a 9-pound pool winner.

The Golden Eagle had another good day of sea bass fishing along with quite a few ling, a few blues, a couple of chub mackerel, and good fluking though mostly shorts. Since you’re only allowed two sea bass. it pays to wait for big ones!

Sea bass on GE

Some of those big ocean fluke are starting to show up. The Jamaica II from Brielle reported that Ed Nolen of Manasquan took the lead in the Monthly pool on Monday when he boated an 8.4-pounder in the morning  — only to watch  Rich Caputo deck a 10.1-pounder that afternoon — only the second party boat N.J. doormat reported so far. Fluking has been best during days with a fast drift, and sea bass up to 5 pounds are being added.  The Jamaica II sails half-day trips at 8 and 2 — except for Monday’s Fluke Marathon from 7:30 to 4:30.

Jim Hutchinson Sr, reports:

“The fishing action in the Beach Haven area is getting interesting for the captains of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association. The water is warming, and fish from the southern climes are joining the mix.

 

Captain Jimmy Zavacki had the Cramer family out on the “Reel Determined” and they caught good numbers of short fluke and black sea bass. One of the anglers made an unusual catch when he reeled in an Atlantic Angel Shark.

 

Captain Ray Lopez had the Duston Lehman Group from Arizona aboard the “Miss Liane.” They caught many fish while enjoying a beautiful day on the water. The Arnett Group made up another group and caught a boatload of sea bass and fluke out on a local reef.

.

Captain John Lewis reports a good week on the “Insatiable” with keeper sea robins, sea bass and fluke. Each day the fishing was different. One day the Di Salvo party took home a mixed bag of tasty robins, sea bass and fluke. Another day the Marquis family wanted to only “catch and release” their fish. The family caught a total of 37 fish including some of the largest sea bass of the year.  On Saturday the Hovan party caught mostly fluke up to 22-inches as well as an abundance of shorts.

 

Captain Brett Taylor of “Reel Fantasea” Sportfishing has been busy running seven days a week with quite a few double-charter days. He has been concentrating his efforts in the bay but will be heading out to the ocean very shortly. His bay fishing has been averaging anywhere between 20 to 35 fish per trip and keeper numbers ranging from 1 to 5 per trip.  His anglers have scored some 5, 6, and 8 pound fish.  The key has been finding biting fish, which at times has been a little challenging.

 

For the second year in a row the “Hot Tuna” with Captain Bob Gerkens won the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club’s First Offshore Tournament.  This year it was with a 42.5-pound yellowfin tuna. Captain Bob was joined by Bryan Medford, Justin Crisp, John Humphries and John Clementson. The Hot Tuna also released a white marlin and had several smaller yellowfin. The fish were all caught inshore. 

 

 

Canon Runner calls early canyon bite the best ever

Adam La Rosa of the Canyon Runner fleet at Point Pleasant has been calling this year’s early season canyon fishing the best they’ve ever had. That view was reinforced over the weekend as they hosted a total of 12 military and veterans for the fishing trips of their lives. All caught all the yellowfins they could handle during the July 3-4 and 4-5 overnighters. One of those catches is illustrated below:

Miltary on CR with yellowfins

The Canyon Runner may have a spot open on Saturday’s open trip. The cost is $899, but that includes food, drinks and tips. Call Adam at 732 272-4445.

Capt. Vinnie Vetere had friends aboard his Katfish from Great Kills on Monday when big stripers turned on to his Ho-Jo lures for just 15 minutes of trolling — but that was enough to produce one of the biggest bass of the year for the skipper — a 57.3-pounder. They added others of 29. 34 and 46 pounds.

Fluke fishing was slow today in Raritan Bay. Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter was once again surprised by the relatively few anglers at Atlantic Highlands this morning. Fishing was just a pick during the beautiful day. Capt. Ron Santee reported a very fast drift that made fishing difficult, though some fares managed two keepers. The Fishermen is chartered from Friday through Sunday.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar found no blues today, and ended up with two-fish sea bass limits plus a pick of ling and several keeper fluke among shorts. They did find a few blues Tuesday, and heard of a bluefish concentration 50 to 100 miles southeast that they’re hoping will eventually move a lot closer.

Shark River was unusually cold this morning, but I still managed six stripers from 18 to 20 inches on a small paddletail jig. Vinny D’Anton released four bass up to a 21-incher. A short attempt with sand fleas in the surf didn’t even result in a bite. The big swell from the offshore.  hurricane  seemed to turn off the surf fluke as I only caught three windowpanes while briefly casting a Storm Searchbait.

Tommy Cox used his fly rod in the Spring Lake surf to hook 15-inch stripers early, but switched to a Chug Bug to land a 23-incher further north.

Oliver Anderez (9) of Miami throws a great castnet for bait, and he used one of the pinfish he caught at Sanibel Island on the west coast of Florida to hook a trophy snook which he released.  Other readers are encouraged to send info about their catches and photos if they care to. E-mail to cristori@aol.com.

Oliver castnetting

 

Oliver with snook.jpg

Hot weather — mixed fishing

One thing everyone could agree on today was that it was HOT! Unfortunately, there wasn’t a repeat of the hot Saturday fluking in Raritan Bay.

Capt. Ron Santee of the Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands said there was little drift, and power drifting didn’t help much this time.  June Benson started the day off right with a 5 13/16-pound fluke, and then added an 18-incher. However, only a few managed multiple keepers in contrast to yesterday on the Fishermen when all the fluke were at lest 19 inches.  The Sea Hunter had a similar report of decent fluking over the weekend despite the conditions.

John Vanderstad of Pompton Lakes had this pair of 6-pound fluke Saturday on the Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands.

John Vanderstad 6-lb fluke

The Angler from Atlantic Highlands  settled their monthly pool yesterday as John Brock of Clifton held on all month with his 6 15/16-pounder to win $1,560.

The Canyon Runner fleet from Point Pleasant had a last minute cancellation, and the 60-foot Ritchie Howell  is open for the July 2-3 overnighter. Yellowfin trolling has been hot as 72 were caught Saturday though the boats only trolled for seven hours.

canyon tuna on canyon runner

Mark Roy ran his Release Me from Raritan Marina in Hazlet out to the Chicken Canyon area yesterday and got into 50-to-60-pound bluefin tuna on pencil poppers. He and his crew caught four casting, and trolled a yellowfin on a spreader bar. A trip to the Hudson Canyon was fruitless, and overnighting only produced a brown shark.

There were no reports from the bluefish boats as of the time this blog was written.

It was delightful being on the Spring Lake surf this morning, but the only small striper I saw was caught by a fluke fishermen on Gulp. I switched from a popper to a Storm Searchbait jig to break the ice with a small fluke. Vinny D’Anton said he caught a short bass at Belmar on a Chug Bug, and Frank Manzi managed a 15-inch fluke on sand fleas at Spring Lake.

Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina is still raving about that 13 1/4-pound fluke from Shark River as reported here this week. Henny Green and Marty Westerfield have been catching lots of keepers in the river up to 4 pounds. Matthews has seen the first very small snappers in the river.

The Mimi VI from Point Pleasant is running open for bottom fishing on July 2, 9, 10, and 11.  Call 732 770-8019 for details.

 

Best day of Raritan Bay fluking

It’s not often that a flat calm sunny and hot summer day turns out to provide the best Raritan Bay fluking of the year — except for shorts!

The early start that Capt. Stan Zagleski had with his Elaine B. II from Bahrs in Highlands enabled John Vanderstad of Pompton Lakes to limit by 6:55 a.m. — before other party boats had even left the dock.  He ended up taking his limit out of seven keepers that included two 6-pounders that won the pool. There were several other limits, and some of the fluke were spitting out sand eels — something Zagleski never saw last year.

Capt. Ron Santee said the drift was poor and he had to power drift with the Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands — but there wasn’t a fluke under 19 inches. There were several limits, and the pool fluke was 7 3/16 pounds. Young Marcus Coe was fishing with his dad and caught a fluke over 5 pounds that he wanted to release. He did just that, and the skipper rewarded him with a Fishermen tee-shirt for his conservation spirit.

Lady Christine took the lead in the first Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna Club Bluefin Open. Capt. Chris Di Stefano had originally heard that boat was bringing in a bigeye from Wilmington canyon (which was noted in last night’s blog), but it turned out that Neil Franzoni boated a 191.5-pound bluefin at the Bacardi to move ahead of Douglas Johnson on Double D at 180.5 pounds.  That left Frank Criscola still with all three places in yellowfin tuna on his Crisdel in the Jack Meyer Trolling Tournament

The Golden Eagle from Belmar jigged some 1-to-3-pound blues along with porgies. Some sea bass were released, but they’ll be able to keep them Sunday when the two sea bass by-catch season starts.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant reported nice action with the porgies.

Kevin Markow of the Surf Kings at Sea Girt reported catching a 28-inch striper just before daylight on a small swimmer despite the dead low tide.

Jim Louro of Spring Lake fished his local surf Fridy evening to release a 26 1/2-inch striper on sand flies — and added a 26-incher this morning.

At Seaside Park, Grumpy’s Tackle reports good fluking in the surf where cownose rays are also being reported. Betty & Nick’s reported a 31-inch striper was caught.

 

 

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Capy. Ron Santee

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.

Just ounces short of $100,000

Winning a tournament is a thrill for any angler, but the joy is modified somewhat when it turns out that the winning fish fell just ounces short of being worth $100,000.

John Frione from Ct. was fishing with Joe Bartnecki on KB3 from Shark River in the Staten Island Tuna Club’s Saturday contest that had a $100,000 prize for the largest striped bass over 50 pounds. Anthony Arcabascio Jr. was trolling near them off Sandy Hook when Frione trolled a bass of about the right size on one of Anthony’s father’s lures — a Tony Maja Magic Mojo. Frione was a runaway winner of the modest contest purse, but the scale recorded 48.9 pounds — just short of the magic $10,000 50-pound mark.

Capt. Vinnie Vetere was fishing the contest with his Katfish Charters from Great Kills, and managed to put together a striper catch — but without a bass to challenge the leader. He noted that Frione is a friend, and on the next day another friend caught the bass he needed the day before as Capt. Rudy on Lady L. II boated a 52-pounder.

h17 oz from $100,000

 

Yet another “50” was caught on Father’s Day — the eighth to be weighed so far this season at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marina. Jason Hadzimichalis was trolling a Tony Maja bunker spoon from High Life off Asbury Park with his father William when the 54-pounder hit.

Father's day 54  The Canyon Runner from Point Pleasant almost never has room on any of their canyon tournament trips, but the group scheduled for the Ocean City, Md. Tuna Tournament from July 13-15 fell apart. The Canyon Runner fleet has won lots of money in canyon tournaments, and this is an unusual opportunity for a group to pick up at the last moment.

It’s taken some time to track down last weekend’s shark weigh-ins at Brielle, but it appears that a 729.5-pound mako was weighed at Hoffman’s Marina for the Brett T. Bailey Mako Rodeo from Nor’ Easter. Capt. Tom Savastano had heard about that weigh-in over the weekend, but thought it wasn’t in a contest. I couldn’t find it on Hoffman’s web site, but came across it on their Facebook today. The Mako Rodeo organizers don’t send out press releases or maintain their web site. Last year it took weeks and many requests before I could find any results from that contest. In addition to the huge mako, there were other weigh-ins for Mako Rodeo listed in Hoffman’s facebook as follows: A 242-pound mako on Fin-ominal; a 206.5-pound thresher from Tra Sea Ann; and even a 196-pound bluefin tuna from Lucky Strike.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc was surprised to see very few fluke fishermen at Atlantic Highlands this morning. They must have read weather reports from earlier in the week that had predicted possible showers and thunderstorms in the morning. I didn’t see any of that in the forecast last night, and it was a picture perfect day. Semkewyc said fluking was also pretty good on his Sea Hunter with a couple of limits and a couple of 5-pounders.

The Jamaica from Brielle was in on yesterday’s big bluefish jigging bite that started out with 2-to-4-pounders. It was topped by the largest bluefish I’ve heard of this year — reported as a 20-pounder by Stephen Chesonis of Hopatcong. If he’s a Fisherman subscriber that blue would blow away the current leader in that division of the Dream Boat Challenge which is just 16.56 pounds from Long Island. As noted here last night, four of the 10 places in bluefish have been filled due to the 15-pound minimum. Golden Eagle from Belmar reported blues up to 18 pounds yesterday, but there was no report when this blog was published,

Speaking fof big blues, Vinny D’Anton of Wall was shocked to hook a 36-incher this morning in the Belmar surf on his Chug Bug. He said the fight lasted at least 15 minutes before he was able to release the chopper which may have been the largest in the Jersey surf during this disappointing season.  D’Anton also plugged two stripers up to 25 inches.

I had been casting at Spring Lake, but never raised anything to my popper there. A quick stop at Point Pleasant Canal on the way home around 7:30 revealed no one fishing at the public access, but I decided to make a few casts with the Z Man 6-inch jig — and I was surprised to catch two small stripers.

Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park had a big surf bass weighed in Monday as Terry Mcquad used bunker to attract a 42-inch, 31.10-pound striper.

Those attending tonight’s meeting of the Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County are in for a treat as famed fluke pro Dave Lilly of Hazlet is the guest speaker.  Lilly is a regular winner in almost every fluke tournament along the Jersey Shore. The 8 p.m. meeting is at the American Legion, 33 W. Passaic St., Rochelle Park.

Mimi VI from Point Pleasant has scheduled a Hudson Canyon open trip that will leave at 10 p.m. Monday night and return at that time Tuesday. It’s limited to 12 at a $400 fare.  Call 732 370-8019 for reservations.. That boat is also open for bottom fishing at 7 a.m. on Friday.