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The blackfish season opens Saturday, and should energize the party boat fishery that's been struggling for years due to the lack of a spring mackerel run to attract crowds to Shore ports in April. There were some hopeful signs of mackerel to the south a few weeks ago. Capt. Monty Hawkins ran his Morning Star from Ocean City, Md. offshore on an experimental trip that produced a few multiples of a species they hadn't seen for years. Unfortunately, there was no improvement of what used to be a massive run to the north that would last off the Shore until the first bluefish showed up and the mackerel blasted off to the east. Hawkins reports his last trip was no good, and a Delaware party boat  found only a few last Saturday. The National Marine Fisheries Service watched that fishery literally disappear while continuing to list it as restored and handing out big commercial quotas. When I called a few years ago to question that listing, they conceded that they were using an outdated assessment though the coastal run had disappeared and even the big commercial boats were hardly catching any mackerel far offshore. Though Saturday's weather forecast isn't perfect, the Ocean Explorer and Big Mohawk will be ready to sail at Belmar -- and Sunday looks good. The Dauntless from Point Pleasant got out a couple of days this week despite bad weather, but fishing was slow with only a pick of cod, pollock and ling. They're looking forward to the tog opener.  Capt. Kenny Namowitz is running open for tog from Point Pleasant daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., starting Saturday,  with his Mimi VI. At Seaside Park, Grumpy's Tackle got a report of the first keeper-size striper being released in the surf, while other anglers are getting lots of hits in the bay on X-Raps and small Yo-Zuri darters. Betty & Nick's reports a surf water temperature of 46 degrees. They expect to have fresh-schucked clams on the weekend. Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst flew down to Tampa to fish with Capt. Dave Beede on his 26-foot center console with a 14-foot tower. His daughter, Natalie, was aboard Monday as they had hits every cast with live pilchards to Spanish mackerel and ladyfish, but could only manage a couple of small redfish (red drum) from among lots of non-biters. I joined Matraxia for a Thursday afternoon trip with Beede when the Spanish mackerel bite wasn't as hot. Yet, every one of the 4-to-5-pounders blasted the baits with incredible force before zipping line off the light Cabo/St. Croix spinning combos. Moving over to the mangrove flats, we were thrilled to see blow-ups of mullet being chased by redfish that once again proved to be very fussy. Matraxia hooked up with a trophy snook, on a ladyfish chunk, that the skipper estimated at 42 inches before it broke the leader. He ended up catching three small snook and one of about 25 inches on live pilchards, while I released a large jack crevalle. There wasn't all the variety that Breede usually gets into while working the 450 square miles of Tampa Bay, but we saw lots of fish life in a few hours not far from the Gandy Park boat ramp. He can be contacted at shallowpointcharters.com -- or by calling 813 758-3406. Many anglers can talk about the "big one that got away", but Mark Roy of Warren may find little company in the annals of those who have lost two such fish in a day -- and without ever getting a glimpse of what they were. I joined him Monday for a trip out of Miami with Capt. Jon Cooper on his 35-foot Contender, Dive-Version. We had no problem loading up with live herring by jigging Sabicki rigs, but had only missed one sailfish bite while fishing those baits along the edge of the Gulf Stream to the south when Roy saw a blast that he assumed was from a sail. Yet that fish ran off at great speed without jumping and had hundreds of yards of 20-pound mono out before Cooper started running after it. Just as it finally stopped, the line parted for no reason we could understand. Though sailfish often make long runs, the speed and power of the fish Roy had hooked was more likely a large tuna. After releasing a double of large little tunny on the surface lines, there was a hit on alive herring being lowered to bottom in 200 feet for mutton snappers. That fish came back toward the surface, and I felt the typical tuna thumping that led me to to think it might be a very large little tunny. We were then happy when it turned out to be a yellowfin tuna of at least 25 pounds. Not large by northern standards, but an uncommon catch off Miami. No sooner had that line been dropped to bottom again than the rod bent over and roy was into another mystery fish that he fought all around the boat for over 20 minutes without making too much progress before the 40-pound fluorocarbon leader broke. We were hoping to see a giant grouper, but it could have been a big shark hooked away from its teeth even though there was no wire leader. Roy also had a sailfish on that jumped off after three leaps, while I added a king mackerel of about 15 pounds on the bottom rod before we ran back to th ramp at 40 mph. You never know what's going to hit live baits fished in those waters. Cooper, a former national spearfishing champion, can be contacted at 305 724-6870. 

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Latest NJ Bonito Reports

  • 2017-09-15 Ristori Bay Head

    Some pretty good weather is ahead of us, and anglers should take advantage of it since there's a tropical storm warning posted for Tuesday. There's already a large swell on the beach, and that will get even larger if Jose continues to swirl around offshore. Ocean chumming for bonito, little tunny and chub mackerel has generally been very good.

  • 2017-09-07 Miss Belmar Belmar

    This morning, we fished on the beach on bird life. We had some albies, bonito and blues in the morning. Once the tide changed, we lost the albies but boy oh boy did the blues bite! We SLAUGHTERED THE BLUES with most anglers onboard catching their limits and some! (but only keeping their limits) They ranged anywhere from 2-5 lbs. Ava 27s, both plain and tailed, worked the best.

  • 2017-09-04 Miss Belmar Belmar

    Today, we sailed out into the horizon east of our port. We anchored up along the edge of the mud hole and started the mackerel immediately. We were able to catch them and keep them all around the boat all day long. We had numerous bonito and some nice sized albies also in the catch. Everything was caught on 007 jigs.

  • 2017-09-02 Ristori Bay Head

    The best report today came from the Golden Eagle out of Belmar which reported a super day of fishing for bonito, little tunny and chub mackerel -- along with a 20-to-25-pound yellowfin tuna boated and another lost. Hopefully, those mullet will move out into the ocean after Sunday's east winds to get the fall surf striper run started early.

  • 2017-09-02 Miss Belmar Belmar

    This morning, we had another excellent day of fishing east of shark river inlet. We anchored up along the edge of the mud hole again and started the mackerel right away. We continued to catch the macs along with some nice sized bonito and jumbo sea bass (which had to go back)

  • 2017-09-01 Miss Belmar Belmar

    This morning, we had another good day of angling. We anchored up along the edge of the mud hole well east of shark river inlet. It didn't take long to start the mackerel and it got better as the day went on with some bonito and a couple of albies mixed in. It was an excellent day of fishing!

  • 2017-08-31 BHCFA Beach Haven

    The captains of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association used the forced time off to tend to various items on their boats that might have needed attention.

    Last weekend Captain Ray Lopez had the Jayhee Cho party out for a trolling trip at the Barnegat Ridge. The group managed to boat multiple false albacore and one nice Bonita 

  • 2017-08-31 Miss Belmar Belmar

    We ran offshore today and anchored up along the edge of the mud hole. Mackerel fishing was good all day long and we also had bonito and albies in the mix. For the anglers who bottom fished, they were able to stay busy with jumbo sea bass!

  • 2017-03-30 Ristori Bay Head

    When I called a few years ago to question that listing, they conceded that they were using an outdated assessment though the coastal run had disappeared and even the big commercial boats were hardly catching any mackerel far offshore. His daughter, Natalie, was aboard Monday as they had hits every cast with live pilchards to Spanish mackerel and ladyfish, but could only manage a couple of small redfish (red drum) from among lots of non-biters.
  • 2017-01-17 Ristori Bay Head

    Yet, sailfishing had been good Monday, and it was quite fishable for Capt. Scott Stanczyk on Catch 22 from Bud N' Mary's Marina. Unfortunately, there wasn't much action and the sails were very small -- making them difficult to hook on the balao they preferred.

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