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Captain's Focus

The recent White Marlin Open at Ocean City, Md. was blessed with perfect canyon fishing weather and record white marlin fishing – and the MidAtlantic ended last Friday night at that satellite port plus the main port in Cape May after being equally blessed. Though blasted the first day with a northwest wind, it was calm seas and hot white marlin fishing for the rest of the week. The net result for the 157 boats competing for a $3.3 million purse included 840 billfish with a tournament record 810 white marlin – of which 780 were released. Add to that 30 blue marlin (25 released) and the billfish average per boat was 1.78 per day, or 5.35 for the three days fished by each boat. There were no exceptionally large whites as the 77-pounder on MJOLNIR was the big winner at $749,650. There was plenty of money left for the few others that managed a white over the 65-pound minimum. Haulin N Ballin took second at 72 pounds for $81,216, but since Calcutta entries produce most of the returns, the 68-pounder that Capt. Rich Barrett found for Peter Cherasia on Shark Byte from Rumson was more valuable than that at $110,168 as part of a three-way tie for third. Pat Healy boated a 65-pound white on his Viking 72 from New Gretna that won a leaderboard prize of $68,432, and Stan Crudeli from Lumberton ended up with $31,772 for his 65-pounder on Reel Addiction that had been in second place earlier in the week. Only two blue marlin broke over the formidable 400-pound minimum. Tony De Marco of South Brunswick took a big lead with a 432-pounder on his Fantasia, only to be topped by a tournament record 754-pounder by Easy Rider that payed off $531,513. Fantasia still ended up with $181,382 as there was no third place entry. As good as the marlin fishing was, the tuna bite was way off. I was looking forward to the usual battle between Canyon Runner and MJ'S for bigeye honors, but those specialists never got to the scales as only two bigeyes were weighed. Stu Hitchner's Pez Machine from Barnegat Light boated a 230-pound bigeye on the second day to run away with $374,096 in the tuna division over a 156-pounder by Miss Budweiser the same day that stood up for $263,035. Even yellowfins were scarce and of modest size. A 76-pounder trolled the second day held on for third in tuna and $176,015 for Adam Youschak on Reelin' Feelin' from Wildwood – who won the Tuna Points trophy over Hitchner with 137.5 points to 115. Super Crew from Centilini Motors in Woodbine was second to Billfisher for the White Marlin Points trophy. A mere 11-pound dolphin was leading that category the first day, and there weren't many bigger ones until DA Sea entered a 35-pounder that was knocked down by a very impressive 53-pounder on Fishing for MD that earned $26,226. Jamie Diller's 24-pound dolphin on Canyon Lady from Stone Harbor was good for third and $26,508 as payouts are determined by the various Calcuttas entered. Moore Bills topped the wahoo division with a 75-pounder that was worth $69,442, but Shark Byte had a 68-pounder that added $21,620 to their winnings. George Conway took third in wahoo at 56 pounds for $15,698 on Placid C's from Atlantic Highlands. Though there were no disputes at the MidAtlantic, there's a law suit involved over the millions won at the White Marlin Open, as there were problems with the polygraph tests given to the big winner. Some of the other winners stand to add a lot of money to their earnings if the $2,818,660 first place white is disqualified. Adam La Rosa, of the Canyon Runner fleet in Point Pleasant, reports that yellowfin fishing broke wide open this week in Hudson Canyon. Captains Phil Dulanie and Kevin Muller ran an open trip on Wednesday for Tony Palumbo and his son Tony (12), Mike Reily, and Mike Pipoli They arrived in the Hudson at 8 am and had their first fish in the boat by 8:15. The bite started to develop into a consistent pick by noon, and it got better and better as the day went on.  Their last bite was at 9:30 pm, but by that time arms were tired and boxes were full.  They tried some swordfishing to no avail, ending with 18 yellowfins in the box plus dozens more bites.     La Rosa notes "The yellowfin chunking is as good as it gets folks.  Almost every boat out in the Hudson the last few days has caught as many yellowfin as they wanted.  Our charters have had limits each day with many fish being released and trips actually ending early.  The best thing about this bite is it's almost all big yellowfin - 45-65 pounds with some over 70 and only a few under 45.  And you know what - it seems like it's going to last a while as the Gulf Stream Eddy that brought these fish in isn't moving and everyday more and more bait moves in.  Going to be a fall to remember - it was for sure a July/August to forget."     Canyon Runner is holding on to a tuna lead in the Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna Club Offshore Open with bigeyes of 264.5 and 201.5 pounds. Big Boy is third at 160.5 pounds.  Other leaders include Irish Twin with a 122-pound swordfish; Can Do Too with a 52.15-pound wahoo; My Lynn  with a 74-pound yellowfin; and Blue Runner in dolphin at 26 pounds -- edging out Andrea Toy's 18-pounder. Pepper had nine white marlin releases in two days, and Tashtego released a blue marlin. Offshore fishing conditions don't look good with northeast winds up to 25 mph in the forecast at present. The big swell on the ocean has been tough on fluking as well as for surfcasters. The early rain scared off most party boat anglers Thursday morning, but Tank Matraxia from Lyndhurst couldn't be talked out of taking a shot on the weather with Capt. Hans Kaspersetz on Sheri Berri from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands. There was too little wind for a good drift, and only a few drops fell during the morning trip, as fluking remained slow on rough bottoms east of Sandy Hook. Emil (Typhoon) Pavelec boated the only impressive fluke at 24 inches, and I hooked a 17 1/2-inch sea bass that hit the day after the season closed -- swimming off with an American Littoral Society tag placed by Matraxia instead of toward the frying pan. There was good news Wednesday for the Shore bluefish fleet as the Golden Eagle from Belmar and Queen Mary out of Point Pleasnt reported 3-to-5-pound blues were jigged after a summer of only pound-size choppers plus chub mackerel. Larger blues remain absent from the ocean, but I did catch a lone 30-incher from shore in Shark River Wednesday morning on a Tactical Anglers Bomb Jr. popper. Capt. Dave De Gennaro has good news about Barnegat Bay weakfish. He's been putting together catches of mostly 12-to-15-inch weaks while chumming with grass shrimp and using ultralight spinning tackle on both sides of the bay with his Hi-Flier from Barnegat. . A couple of 18 and 21 inches were boated Wednesday by Brian Rakowsky of Harvey Cedars plus Chris Lang and Bill Rigney from Barnegat Light. A Thursday afternoon trip with only shedder crab for bait was even more encouraging as six weaks from 18 to 20 inches were caught on the west side. The Jamaica from Brielle reported catching some sea bass Wednesday morning before the chub mackerel turned on and provided volume. Kevin Hagen of Lake Hopatcong won the pool with a 3-pound sea bass.  The N.J. striped bass bonus program started on Sept. 1. Applications must be submitted before Oct. 31, and reporting of harvest is required within 24 hours.  For information visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/bonusbas.htm

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