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Captain's Focus

Porgy fishing used to be a summer standard along the N.J. coast, but it's been generally spotty in recent years. That's why the present run is so encouraging. Indeed, it couldn't have been much better in terms of volume than what I experienced Sunday while fishing with Capt. Tommy Joseph on his Rightaway III out of Shark River. Joseph had taken a couple of days off to handle family business, but received reports from other boaters that they were marking porgies which weren't hitting. Yet, when Joseph checked his first spot north of Shark River Inlet there were plenty of marks that turned into doubleheaders of scup just as fast as sinkers hit bottom.  It wasn't necessary to wait for bites as an immediate lift off bottom of the two-hook rig baited with small pieces of clam would result in a bent rod. I was using one-handed spinning tackle which was great sport with a light sinker in just 26 feet. The minimum size for scup is a mere 9 inches, and there were very few that might have been under that. The bag limit is 50, a number which is no problem at this point if you want that many -- and there were quickly full coolers. I had caught 77 porgies, keeping only those large enough to fillet, by the time Joseph pulled the anchor to try for fluke at 8:45 even though the bite was still steady. I'd also released 13 small sea bass and caught the only gray triggerfish. The drift over rough bottoms was no good for fluke, without even a short being hooked, though we ended up just one sea bass short of a boat limit during the current two per man regulation before Joseph returned a bit early in order to deal with filleting hundreds of fish. Drifting did produce some variety that included northern sea robins, one striped sea robin, a short blackfish, a skate, and a couple of spiny dogfish pups. The hot porgy bite has been going on for a few weeks, and if last year is any indication Joseph expects it to produce bigger scup in August. Rightaway III is available for charter, but Joseph primarily sails with individual reservations to make up the six-man party. He can be contacted at 732 840-5993. The Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club 47th annual White Marlin Invitational gets the offshore tournament season underway this week.  Visit my daily blog at nj.com/shore/blogs/fishing for nightly updates. The JCAA 22nd annual Fluke Tournament will be contested statewide on Saturday, August 6, with a big money incentive of $50,000 for the largest fluke over 12 pounds. That opportunity costs an additional $25 per boat over the entry fee. This contest is actually nine in one as boaters at each of the nine ports from Cape May to Jersey City compete for an identical set of prizes. Calcuttas are also available for each port and the overall tournament. To top it off, it's not even necessary to catch a fish in order to be eligible for the drawings at the awards party in the Clarion Hotel on Rt. 37 in Toms River on Thursday, August 11.The grand prize is 14-foot G3 boat with a 20 hp Yamaha and a trailer. For information visit www.jcaa.org. Don Marantz of the JCAA reports there are 187 boats signed up so far. The Community Fire Co. of Middletown also runs their fluke tournament on Aug. 6. It costs $75 per boat, and is run out of Leonardo State Marina. Call Jeff Petach at 732 291-0073. The 5th annual Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County Fluke Tournament is coming up on Saturday, August 13, with weigh-ins at Twin Lights Marina in Highlands, Fisherman's Den in Belmar Marina, and Clarks Landing in Point Pleasant.  The combined weight of three fluke determines the winners. For information call  Mark Capalbo at 201 313-6576, or visit www.swabc.org. Last Saturday's Point Pleasant Elks Fluke Tournament was won by Charlie Parker of Oceanport with a 10.6-pound doormat on his Sienna Lee from Highlands. See my blog for complete results. The Jamaica II from Brielle had a doormat on Wednesday, as Becky Marple of Manchester boated an 11-pound, 6-ounce rug. Karla Weems of Bristol, Pa. had a limit to 6 pounds plus sea bass to the same weight. Effingham Smith of Princeton limited on fluke and sea bass to 5 pounds.  Bill, Brien and Valerie Klimas of Scotch Plains were joined by Folsom's Nick Cicero on Shimano rep Dough Rusch's Fin Fun out of Manasquan Inlet on Sunday for a good shot of 16-to-17-inch short fluke on sandy bottom which also produced 10 from 18.5 to 20 inches. The Shore bluefish fleet continues to concentrate on the abundant chub mackeral, while some cocktail blues may be mixed in -- and sharks often join in the light tackle fun. The Canyon Runner fleet from Point Pleasant got into a trolling bite of bigeye tuna in Toms Canyon this week, but night chunking on their overnight trips remains poor. Jose Lorenzo and I joined Capt. Hans Kaspersetz for a short morning trip on Sheri Berri out of Twin Lights that produced a couple of keeper fluke among mostly shorts. I maintained my trash fish specialty by catching my first stargazer of the year.

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