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Captain's Focus

The Greater Point Pleasant Charter Boat Association ran last weekend's Mako Mania Tournament in fishable weather. Tournament chairman Capt. Pete Grimbilas reported a total of 20 makos making the 66-inch minimum length were weighed at Capt. Bill's Landing in Point Pleasant over the two day contest, and there were probably others that weren't brought to the scales because they were clearly short of making the board while boats were lined up to weigh makos late Sunday afternoon. Saturday was stormy in the morning, but turned out to be a good one for Ryan Vanderkooy of Waretown on Water Proof as Paul Tsouhalas of Philadelphia fought a 218-pound mako that turned out to be the biggest money-maker of the weekend as he was in the Calcuttas.  Sunday was almost too nice as one angler told me that there was so little drift that they didn't get their only hit until it was almost time to take the lines out for the run home. That wasn't a problem for Doug Thorsen of Glen Gardner as Chris Thorsen from Belvidere fought a 276-pound mako to win the contest on Thor. The Right Place took third for Evan Millas of Point Pleasant after Mike Di Pascali of Bridgewater reeled in a 208-pounder Saturday. Joe Marotta of Wayne moved into fourth on Sunday with a 181-pounder on Sea Quester Trophy Hunter II, skippered by Stan Sziewczyk of Brick, took fifth with a 175-pound mako by Mike McGuire of Madison. Mark Cofka of Manasquan rook the last pay-off spot with a 160--pound mako Sunday on  Impressions. The Jersey Coast Shark Anglers ran their Mako Fever Tournament at the same time and at the same weigh station. They had a smaller field which was led by Thor with their 276-pound mako. Sea Quester was second at 181 pounds, and Trophy Hunter II took third with their 175-pounder.  Fin-om-inal was fourth at 146.4 pounds; Debra Ann fifth at 144  pounds; and Knot New II sixth with a 137-pounder. Check my daily blog at nj.com/shore/blogs/fishing for info about the substantial cash rewards from those contests. The previous weekend's Brett T. Bailey Mako Rodeo still hasn't posted any results on its site. We had been hoping to see a very large mako this weekend after two 537-pounders had been caught in N.J. at the start of the season -- and after the Star Island Tournament in Montauk produced a 453-pound mako winner that was small in comparison to the 780-pounder that was late getting to the scales. The most outstanding catch by a shark fishermen recently wasn't a shark at all. A Long Island angler was sharking off Block Island when his whole bluefish was engulfed by something that felt like a giant ray, but turned out, after a 2 1/2-hour battle, to be a giant Atlantic halibut weighing 276 pounds, 6 ounces. That cold water species has been almost fished out of U.S. waters for decades, and is rarely caught by New England anglers even in much smaller sizes.  Not quite as unusual was a cell phone photo of a 24-inch red drum shown to me by Ken, a Spring Lake surfcaster who released it this week after catching it on sand fleas in the evening. That's the first report I've had this year of a species which was abundant in N.J. a hundred years ago. Blackfishermen didn't seem to be worried about possible reductions in catch as the result of ASMFC Draft Amendment 1 to the Tautog Fishery Management Plan since only a few showed up at Tuesday's public hearing in Toms River. Fortunately, the tempest in N.Y. about a 47 percent cut only applies to the new Long Island Sound region. New Jersey would be part of the N.Y. Bight region along with the south shore of Long Island -- and the cuts there only amount to 2 percent or 11 percent. Management by regions makes sense for that species as it moves inshore to offshore, rather than along the coast. No matter how high or low our population is, it means nothing to Virginia or Rhode Island. The ASMFC never should have gotten involved with a tautog plan, and there was so little expertise available at the time that there would have been hardly any season at all if I hadn't walked into that first meeting when the Striped Bass Advisory Panel broke up early. Those setting up the plan were going to incorporate a very high mortality rate based on a grouper study. I pointed out that tautog have absolutely nothing in common with grouper except for being fish. Furthermore, their method of feeding makes swallowed hooks unusual -- and that species can live longer out of water than almost any fish other than eels. Tony Arcabascio of Bayville usually sends e-mails with photos of 50-pound stripers that were caught on his Tony Maja bunker spoons. Yet, this week there was Tony with a very impressive 28-inch, 9-pound fluke he caught in Barnegat Bay on an S&S bucktail jig tipped with Gulp. The spring run of tuna in the canyons has been exceptional. Adam La Rosa of the Canyon Runner fleet in Point Pleasant noted that his boats were fishing in the deep of Spencer Canyon, but have since moved up to Hudson Canyon. Last week the two boats brought two giant tuna to boatside while adding five bigeyes, seven makos and over 50 each of smaller bluefins and yellowfins on their overnighters. One of the giants was a 650-pounder fought for five hours by the party fishing with Capt. Deane Lambros, but it broke off after they finally got the leader. Capt. Phil Dulanie released a 78-inch giant as his boat's trophy giant had already been taken this year. Capt.  Mark De Cabia then had an exceptional bigeye catch with 10.  Bluefish have been off and on for jigging by Shore party boats. The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant settled for fluke on Thursday while also releasing sea bass that will become legal again on July 1 -- though for only two at 12 1/2 inches At Brielle, the Jamaica had a good 1 1/2-day tilefish trip with some limits and a 30-pound pool winner by Jeff Simpson of Livingston. The next tilefish special sails at 10 p.m. July 9. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations. The Jamaica II has been catching some fluke in the ocean, especially during Monday's all-day trip. Bob Matthews reports from Fisherman's Den in Belmar Marina that a few large fluke are being taken in Shark River, but the volume of shorts is less than normal. Party boats are doing better in the ocean. Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant weighed an 8 1.2-pound fluke caught by a youngster last weekend in Manasquan Inlet after the boat came in from a tough trip on the ocean. A 7 1/4-pound fluke was caught in Point Pleasant Canal, Though Raritan Bay fluking has been tough, party boat skippers have been pleased by better life in the ocean when conditions are right for drifting. Capt. Ron Santee of the Fishermen at Atlantic Highlands had more keepers Wednesday when Steve Kerry won the pool with a 7 3/16-pound fluke.  

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