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Captain's Focus

Just as the fall migratory run of striped bass was well underway, anglers suffered a setback this week when strong south winds and heavy rain virtually shut down fishing for a couple of days and left us with a big swell and discolored waters. Fortunately, west winds have kicked in to overcome those problems and set up what looks like good conditions into next week. There wasn't much to complain about Monday for boaters seeking stripers and blues off Ocean County. That day started out cold, but the jigging action warmed things up quickly after Chuck Many of Annandale and I arrived on his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands in a fleet off Ortley Beach -- after having seen nothing to stop on all the way from Sandy Hook south. It was all slots and 28-to-30-inch keeper stripers that responded to 6-inch Tsunami weighted swim shads, though Many managed to find a 37-incher among them. The bite died with a lack of drift, and we later found some larger stripers surfacing further offshore that wouldn't look at anything we cast to them. Chasing them resulted in our getting late to a good showing of stripers and blues off Normandy Beach. Even with all the boats there, I was able to release two stripers up to 32 inches and a big blue on a large white Gibbs pencil popper. Jigging was a sure thing until the fish turned off in all the boat traffic. The Queen Mary and Cock Robin from Point Pleasant were loading up there along with the Golden Eagle from Belmar and Miss Belmar Princess. We headed back after having released 20 bass and two blues. That didn't begin to compare with Ty Man's three-man release total of 109 stripers and seven blues the previous Wednesday from Sandy Hook to Long Branch, but we had nothing to complain about after making the long run south as there was once again a complete lack of birds, bait and stripers all the way back. Skippers who fished to the north that day caught little or nothing. There was a little showing in the Lavallette surf that day, but the last blitzes occurred on Thanksgiving afternoon while most of us were eating turkey. Jerry Lasko of Point Pleasant got into stripers in the wash at Normandy Beach on every cast up to dusk, and weighed in a 27-pounder the next morning at Castway's Tackle in Point Pleasant to take the lead in the yearly Spring Lake Live Liners surf contest. Joe Blaze of Brielle took a friend to Sea Girt that afternoon and found the same thing happening there as stripers had peanuts trapped between jetties. While Blaze caught them on flies, his friend caught his first striper and many more on spinning with a plug. There's been little reported from the surf since the south wind, and Grumpy's Tackle in Seaside Park didn't have any weigh-ins Wednesday and Thursday. Hopefully, the west wind will change that for the weekend. With the peanut bunkers holding bass and blues to the south, Capt. Ron Santee decided to wrap up the season with his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands unless that bait and stripers move within his range. The Sea Hunter from that port will be sailing again on Friday. The only Thursday report I could obtain was from the Miss Belmar Princess, which covered a lot of ground in the big heave to catch only a few stripers and blues. It may take a day or two for the west wind to knock down the sea. Then the big question is whether the peanut bunkers that have been fueling the fine fall action have moved on, The ocean was a mild 53 degrees on Monday, and even Sandy Hook Bay had warmed up from 43 degrees last week to 47 degrees. There has been no other significant bait around, and we badly need sand eels or herring in order to hold migrating stripers and blues in our waters. Check my blog at nj.com/shore/blogs/fishing for daily updates on this ever-changing fishery. My phone line is still out of order, but I can be contacted online at cristori@aol.com. The heave has also been bad news for blackfishing. No one has been fishing the last few days, but Capt. Stan Zagleski is sailing Friday with his Elaine B II from Bahrs in Highlands. His last trip on Monday produced a good mixture of keepers and shorts, but an attempt offshore resulted in mostly shorts. With the bottom temperature at 53 degrees inshore, that's where most of the tog still are. The Prowler 5 from Atlantic Highlands reported that a 12-pound tautog  was caught by their mate, Marko, who released that trophy tog to spawn again. The far offshore wrecks are full of jumbo sea bass and porgies. Limits of sea bass have been common on the Jamaica's trips out of Brielle, along with the porgies and some cod and bluefish. An 8-pound cod won Saturday's pool. The Jamaica sails to those wrecks by reservation on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11 p.m. the night before. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations. Capt. Dave De Gennaro had good striped bass fishing on his Hi Flier out of Barnegat last weekend, but went out alone after that to look for the bluefin tuna that are normally inshore at this time of year. I had heard of some rumors about them at Little Italy the previous weekend, and he also only had rumors to work on. At least he was able to have some fun with stripers and blues on the way in around the three-mile line after never making a cast offshore. De Gennaro (732 330-5674) is running open or for charters this month. Blackfish pro Capt. Kenny Namowitz is running Mimi Vi from Point Pleasant open on Dec. 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13,20 and 24. For reservations call 732 370-8019.

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