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Captain's Focus

Striped bass are already abundant in many areas, but catching them can be a problem. The Golden Eagle from Belmar had a second day of frustration after a good start on Sunday. They found schools of bunkers just five minutes into the trip, and were able to snag some for bait. Yet, when big bass started rolling there was no response to the live baits or anything else thrown at them. Those bass will settle down and feed any day now -- hopefully tomorrow.  The Raritan Bay striper bite has been best at night, but Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst said bass were super fussy Monday night when he joined Johnny Bucktails' crew out of Keyport to chunk in the dark. Emil Pavalac boated a 25-pounder, but other than that only the skipper was able to hook bass that were just sucking the guts out of bunker chunks. Matraxia reeled in four of those bass and placed ALS tags in two of them. Capt. Rob Semkewyc made a trip with his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands on Sunday and found only lots of bunkers with no bass in them. However, he got a report today from Capt. Pete Wagner on Hyper Striper out of Highlands that he found bass working on a school of bunkers and had a good catch. The Ocean Explorer and Big Mohawk from Belmar both reported a slow pick with some keeper tog despite poor anchoring conditions with a big south swell and a northeast current. The swell was going down, and there should be better conditions on Wednesday. At Seaside Park, Grumpy's Tackle reported school striper action is best on bait after a south wind lowered the water temperature. There were also scattered bluefish reports. The only weigh-in was from Paul Haertel with a trophy 26.5-inch blackfish that weighed 11.45 pounds. Betty & Nick's reports there haven't been any blitzes yet, but big blues are hitting around dusk at the 14th Ave. pier. Bunker chunks are producing in Toms River. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Board Conference Call, which had been tentatively scheduled for April 20th at 2 PM, has been cancelled. The primary purpose of the call was to consider final 2016 black sea bass recreational harvest estimates and determine whether changes to 2017 recreational management measures are warranted.  However, since the release of the final harvest estimates by the Marine Recreational Information Program is still pending, the conference call has been cancelled. Discussion of the issue will occur at the next Board meeting (contingent upon the release of the final harvest estimates), scheduled for May 10, 2017 at 1 p.m., as part of the Commission's Spring Meeting (http://www.asmfc.org/home/2017-spring-meeting). This meeting will be a joint meeting with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

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