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Captain's Focus

NOAA Fisheries issued a warning to New Jersey fishermen a few years ago warning them that they'd better learn how to fish for red drum as climate change would be sending southern species further to the north. That seemed to make sense, but it hasn't happened. There was no indication in the NOAA Fisheries prediction that the fisheries scientists there are aware that the Central Jersey Shore was the place to be for red drum anglers a century ago -- and that their reappearance would only be a return to the norm of a hundred years ago. Readers of this column understand that as I've written several times about the accounts of great fishing for that species published by Van Campen Heilner and other outdoor writers of the era. The first two world records for red drum came from Barnegat Inlet and "New Inlet"-- and almost all of those fish were over 20 pounds -- causing major problems for anglers fishing for smaller species such as kingfish and weakfish as they ran off with expensive linen lines.  Perhaps the reason there's no mention of that fishery by scientists is that red drum in the north were called channel bass. Rather than striped bass or bluefish, it was the channel bass that was the primary surf sportfishing target along the Central Jersey Shore, while smaller numbers were caught further north along the Shore and east to Long Island.That name has disappeared over the years, and the center of northern red drum abundance shifted south to Hatteras.  Some small red drum are caught at the end of summer in the Cape May area every year, but I've heard of very few taken north of there in recent years. The only angler I know who has gotten lucky with them more than once is Vinny D'Anton of Wall. He caught a couple of small redfish in cold fall weather a few years ago while casting for school stripers at Sea Girt, and hooked an even smaller one early last fall while using peanut bunkers for schoolies at Avon. Yet, since I started writing this column, I still haven't heard of a single one of those over 20-pound channel bass which were the standard of the "very old days". Mother Nature continues to upset climate change predictions as she's brought cold water species such as cod, spiny dogfish, seals and whales to the Shore rather than the southern species we've been expecting. Scientists and politicians may make their pronouncements, but oceanic creatures don't read scientific journals and follow their own agenda.  The recent snowstorm has sent lots of cold Hudson River waters out to sea to lower bottom temperatures and shut down bottom fishing in waters not too far offshore. Blackfish are more likely to feed now further offshore and toward the south. The Ocean Explorer from Belmar continues to pursue them on fishable days as their anglers hope to win the ever-larger seasonal big pool. The Jamaica from Brielle continues to run its Saturday 2 a.m. trips to far offshore wrecks which produce lots of jumbo porgies. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations. Surf Day runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Brookdale Community College at Lincroft. Admission is just $10. Surf pros such as D.J. Muller discuss their specialties, and Nick Honachefsky has a special presentation on fishing for big sharks from the beach. Mike Laptew provides underwater video of the surf zone we fish. The Marine Trades Association of N.J. presents the N.J. Boat Sale & Expo from Thursday through Sunday at the N.J. Convention Center at Raritan Center, Edison. Admission is $8, and includes seminars presented by the RFA and The Fisherman magazine. Show hours are from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.  The Canyon Runner N.Y. Seminar at the Huntington Hilton on Saturday, Feb. 25 is almost sold out of the $99 tickets. Check with Adam La Rosa at 732 842-6825 about availability. La Rosa notes that both of his boats are already almost completely booked for the upcoming canyon season.

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