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Captain's Focus

Unless there's a major change in direction, it appears that Hurricane Matthew won't be a major problem for the Shore other than in flood-prone areas. There's even a reduction in the northeast winds that had been a problem earlier in the week. Party boats are sailing again, and fishing conditions may actually be good over the weekend. The end of the fluke season resulted in a sharp drop in private boat fishing, which should change when the sea bass season reopens on Oct. 22. There are mixed feelings on the fluke fishery which ended with generally poor results except in very deep waters. Pat Donnelly, the Brielle dentist and fluke pro was generally happy with the season even though he expects limit catches for his crew on every trip. Donnelly said Gulp far outfished bait on the spots he fished, though even with the large Gulp Grubs it was still usually five shorts to a keeper. There's still lots of other action for boaters while we wait for those northeast winds to bring us stripers and blues from the east. With the wind blowing hard on Tuesday, I joined Chuck Many of Annandale at noon to fish in the protected waters of Shrewsbury River from his Ty Man out of Gateway Marina in Highlands. There was a non-stop striper bite on sandworms, though all 38 we released were only from 13 to 16 inches. When the wind backed off late in the day, Many took a ride out into the bay where the water temperature had dropped to 69 degrees. There was no sign of stripers, but we saw some bird action. I made a blind cast where there had been a few swirls, and was surprised when a 26-inch little tunny hit the Tactical Anglers Bomb Jr. popper and was released after several runs. It left a small rairainfish (bay anchovy) on the deck That hardly resembled the popper, which is a lure that species rarely hit. The water temperature will have to drop quite a bit before there'll be good surfcastng. I was still casting in my AFTCO shorts rather than waders this week, and the water didn't feel any different than it was before the northeaster. Porgy fishing has been excellent to the north, and not only for specialists like Capt. Tommy Josepth on his Rightaway III out of Shark River. Capt. Ron Santee has been producing full bucket porgy catches almost every day from his Fishermen out of Atlantic Highlands. One drop on Wednesday resulted in all 2-to-2 1/2-pound scup. Capt. Stan Zagleski was out that day with his Elaine B II from Bahrs in Highlands everyone limited out with 50 porgies, while those using green crabs caught their one legal blackfish ranging up to 5 pounds. The windy weather has been hard on boaters trying to get to the canyons, but the Golden Eagle from Belmar made almost a 130-mile run to find a few yellowfin tuna plus a swordfish early in the week. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting in Galloway discussed the Special Management Zone proposal put forth by the NJ DEP that would allow only hook and line or spear fishing on our reefs in federal waters -- which includes all but the Sandy Hook and Axel Carlsen reefs.Though opposed by the Garden State Seafood Association, that SMZ recommendation will be taken up at the next meeting after further study. The Council failed to take action on a proposal that would give them jurisdiction over the by-catch of river herring and shad taken as by-catch in sea herring and mackerel commercial operations.

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