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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.

NJ Striped Bass Bonus Program opens May 15

As originally planned, the New Jersey Striped Bass Bonus Program will start on May 15 and run through the end of the year if the allocation isn’t taken.

That program is derived from the state’s commercial share of the stock that isn’t used by the commercial sector since N.J. became a game fish state. Anglers can now apply to the N.J. Division of Fish and Game website for a SBBP permit that allows for one striper from 24 to less than 28 inches. That is in addition to the standard one from 28 to less than 38 inches daily limit.

The N.J. for-hire fleet has been suffering from a shutdown while their bills just keep coming. They’ve proposed social distancing procedures which would allow them to operate, but Gov. Murphy hasn’t publicly acknowledged those requests. However, the federal government is coming to the rescue as the CARES Act has $300 million for the fishing industry that includes for-hire boats.  If skippers can get paid like some farmers do for not planting crops, they may never sail again.

Fred Golofaro of The Fisherman magazine N.Y. edition reports Monday’s fluke season opener in New York was generally slow in cold ocean waters.  The best reports were from shallow inshore waters during warmer ebb tides. Golofaro noted that weakfish and porgies are just getting started in Peconic Bay, and bluefish are late arriving in N.Y. waters– which he hopes is due to the water temperatures rather than a continuing scarcity.

Jim Tynan e-mailed a report about a friend who fished Shrewsbury River from shore below  the bridge over the weekend and caught a 10-pound blue as well as short stripers.

There’s another good day coming up as Friday starts at northwest 10-15 knots before switching to south in the afternoon with likely rain and a gale watch at night into Saturday evening.

Lilly calls Raritan Bay a sure thing if you move around

Dave Lilly says he hasn’t had a bad day out of Keyport with stripers in Raritan Bay since the big fish arrived early on March 10.

The only problem is that the bass move around the bay. His advice is not to get locked into where you caught them the last trip.  He’s caught them everywhere except in the channels — and on both sides while trolling both Tony Maja mo-jos and bunker spoons.  Most of the bass he’s been releasing are in the 15-18-pound class.

Phil Fischer took advantage of Monday’s nice weather to find lots of action with 15 stripers in Shrewsbury River from his boat out of Highlands. There were more shorts than keepers, and they only kept one. Bunkers were plentiful, but there was no mention of blues which are usually plentiful there in May.

Betty & Nick’s Tackle in Seaside Park reports the local beach was opened today, and Lavallette was already open along with IBSP from dawn to dusk. Island Heights docks and bulkheads are open, and small stripers are plentiful in the bay — though there hasn’t been much word of blues.

News12 TV reported the opening of Belmar beaches coming up on Friday.

Thursday looks good with northwest winds at 10-15 knots that shift to southwest in the afternoon.

No sign of stripers in the ocean

Chuck Many has been catching lots of stripers every time he runs his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands out into Raritan Bay. That indicates the Hudson River stock is in good shape just before heading up the river to spawn. However, today he decided to check for even bigger bass coming up the coast from Chesapeake Bay.

Chuck ended up below Manasquan without seeing any signs of bird action or bass readings during what turned out to be a very chilly day in the northwest wind.

The Canyon Runner from Point Pleasant every year sets aside a few canyon trips for active and retired military. Now they will do the same with a free trip for the doctors, nurses, EMTs and others who have been on the front lines fighting the pandemic. Call Adam La Rosa at 732 272-4445 about this opportunity.

Party and charter boat organizations in N.J. have been proposing social distancing restrictions on their boats that will allow them to get back into business, and the Big Jamaica from Brielle is hoping to take reservations for the May 15 sea bass opener. Though many organizations support the resumption of party and charter boat fishing, I haven’t noticed any indication from Gov. Murphy that he would consider such a thing.

The surf is flat with the northwest winds, but it’s predicted to go east at 10-15 knots by morning before gusting to 30 in the afternoon along with showers.

 

 

 

Sandy Hook reopens

The national park at Sandy Hook will be reopening Saturday with operating hours of 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be no rest rooms open or lifeguards on duty, and swimming isn’t allowed — but fishing is. Fishing permits from 2019 will be honored. Lots B, C, D, E and G are available up to 50% capacity. Lots A and K are closed.

Jim Hutchinson Sr. reports that bluefish are just starting to show in South Jersey with water temperatures at 50 degrees. There are mostly short stripers in the bays — though Surf City Bait & Tackle noted one keeper bass from the local surf. Some black drum are showing in Great Bay and at Tuckerton, but it’s hard to find surf clams for bait. Hutch suggests trying several chowder clams on a hook.

Small craft warnings are up for northwest gusts to 30 knots. They drop to 15 knots by morning with an occasional gust to 25.

My nephew, Todd Correll, sent along this shot of his daughter Daneille with a couple of large dolphin they trolled out of Islamorada in international waters near the Bahamas.

Danielle dolphin

Blues in Barnegat Inlet

It’s that time of year when bluefish normally flood into rivers and bays along the New Jersey coast and Long Island’s south shore, but there are lots of questions this spring after bluefish stocks have been declining for a few years.

Some years those blues are small, but in other springs the first showings provide some of the largest blues of the year. That was the case last May, after the previous year was a bust with just scattered small blues and very few jumbos.

John Bushell reported getting word at Betty & Nick’s Tackle in Seaside Park on Saturday morning that blues were hitting bucktails in the inlet — though there was no mention of size. He also noted this morning that some juvenile stripers were hitting clams in Island Beach State Park.

The park reopened at daylight Saturday, but I heard of problems with cars getting stuck as some without permits were  trying to run the beach without lowering their tires enough.

Phil Fischer fished shallow spots in Raritan Bay just before the blackfish season ended Friday, and had great action with tog up to 8 pounds before running out of bait.

Vinny D’Anton is still fishing in Florida where there have been few restrictions on wading in the Sarasota area. He’s been plugging some spotted seatrout and snook — and also hooked his first bluefish there last week.

Pete Connell extended his stay in Florida, which provided him with lots of action with small snook in the back country at Islamorada plus a big day catching large tarpon..

The marine forecast looks good, with northwest winds at 10-15 knots before increasing to 15-20 with gusts to 25 in the afternoon.

 

Better weather for weekend

As this is being written, its pouring outside my window as the cold, windy spring continues, but at least that’s better than the hail we had earlier today in Wall. Fortunately, it looks a lot better for the weekend.

Actually, this morning turned out to be perfect for trolling in Raritan Bay. Dave Lilly said he got out with friends after the early rain at Keyport, and returned before the afternoon rain. It was flat calm all morning, but they didn’t see 10 boats all day. Yet, it was necessary to run all over the bay to find stripers as the concentration in the shallow waters at the back was gone — along with the bunkers.

It was the deeper waters on the New York side which eventually produced as Lilly marked bunkers on the bottom in 28 feet and switched from the light Tony Maja mo-jos he had been using in shallow waters to large Maja green spoons. They only released eight or nine stripers, but all were large bass up to about 40 inches.  The water temperature on the incoming tide was steady at 51 degrees.

The marine forecast is for northwest winds at 10 to 15 knots in the morning, with seas down to 4 to 6 feet. Sunday is even better with southwest winds about 10 knots and 2-4-foot seas.

Pictured below is a big bass caught on Capt. Jim Freda’s Shore Catch in the bay this week.

Striper - Freda

 

 

For-hire boats remain on hold

Though there have been discussions about opening up the economy as the pandemic curve flattens, the owners of party and charter boats in N. Y. and N. J. remain confused about when or if they will be allowed to take customers this year.

The bills keep coming for dockage, but income remains at zero. It isn’t like that everywhere. Charter boats have been operating in Florida, and Capt. Monty Hawkins is planning to start running limited trips in May with his Morning Star from Ocean City, Maryland. Hawkins will carry only nine customers, which is just 22,5% of his capacity in order to ensure the proper distancing. The cost for those sea bass trips will be $155  on Saturdays and $135 from Sunday to Friday.  Reservations are required by calling 410 520-2076. The sea bass season there opens with a 12-inch minimum and 15 fish bag limit.

Charter boats are operating in R.I., but don’t rush up there. Mike Laptew, the famed underwater photographer, checked with the governor’s office and found that they may only carry R.I., customers.

Even non-residents who own boats in R.I. have to check with their marina and quarantine before working on their craft. The state’s waters are open, but out-of-state boaters can’t overnight at the marinas.

Jack Kauffman confirmed last night’s blog about Saturday’s crowd of boats in Raritan Bay turning off the bite. He noted that there were no markers in the bay, and though he marked lots of fish for three hours they all had lockjaw.

Mark Roy got out into the bay today with his Release Me from Raritan Marina in Hazlet. His crew trolled stripers of 28 1/2 and 35 inches on mo-jos and released two smaller ones. They couldn’t find any bunkers for bait in Great Kills Harbor  before going to the back of the bay where there were bunkers flipping but no hits up to the time this blog was written.

The weather is turning on us again. The wind turns southeast in the morning at 10-15 knots plus gusts to 20 before increasing to 20-25 knots in the afternoon with gusts to 30 knots.