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Captain's Focus

Capt. Erwin Heinrich of Scales N Tales from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands was disappointed in the fluke action he found Wednesday after the run east to Atlantic Beach Reef as even short fluke were scarce while lots of jigs were sacrificed to the sticky bottom that usually harbors larger fluke. The crew consisting of Tsunami's Jerry Gomber, Jim Hutchinson Jr.  and John De Bona from The Fisherman magazine, and I had done very well there at this time last year. De Bona hooked into a large fluke right away, but it got off just under the surface. The skipper put two husky fluke aboard plus a sea bass, but hits were hard to come by.  I cast a small metal into breaking fish,and somehow ended up nagging a bunker on the single hook. The strips from that bunker produced my only action as I switched to a sinker on a Tsunami fluke rig with a squid teaser to which I attached a strip.  That got me into a couple of short fluke and a legal sea bass before the last piece left was only skin. I used it anyway, but felt as if I was stuck in bottom before the bottom came alive when I started tugging to break it out. Then I was pulled to the stern as what felt like a record fluke was pounding and running. The fight quickly settled into a slugfest as I realized my opponent had to be a shark or ray. Gomber had brought new top-of-the-line Tsunami tackle, such as the rig I was using -- a Maxel Ocean Max 06 lever drag jigging reel filled with 40-pound mono, and matched to a Ocean Max Gold 6 1/2-foot heavy action rod. I figured I had at least a chance of seeing what I was fighting for 20 minutes as the only weak spot was the 20-pound fluke leader. Air bubbles came to the surface when the fish was straight under the bow. I'd never seen that before, but Heinrich said he's seen sharks do that. He recently had a party pull up an estimated 300-pound tiger shark while fluking at the Mud Buoy, and a big thresher was also hooked but never would some up. I was just starting to move the massive weight inch by inch closer to the surface when the light leader finally broke with the fish marking at just 18 feet below us. Over the years, I've fought other such battles when overgunned for up to 12 1/2 hours (a possible world record swordfish on 30-pound in Ecuador), winning some and losing others but never giving up. Each such battle becomes a memory for a lifetime. The Mid Atlantic is the next big money offshore fishing tournament coming up from Aug. 20 to 25 at Cape May plus the satellite port in Ocean City, Maryland. A purse of over $3 million is expected. Boats will be fishing three out of five days next week, and I'll be reporting on the action with late blogs after the scales close in addition to my daily blog at nj.com/shore/blogs/fishing. The recently concluded White Marlin Open in Ocean City had 353 boats fishing for a purse of $4.9 million. The white marlin bite was decent as the final total was 374 released plus 17 brought to the scales There were 34 blue marlin released, but not a single one long enough to be brought in, Though 41 tuna were brought in, they were all yellowfins. Just as at the Beach Haven White Marlin Invitational,  there wasn't a single bigeye to be found. There were releases of 4 spearfish and two sailfish, but only five wahoo, two dolphin and one mako shark were brought in. Most surprising was the lack of dolphin as the only one making the minimum wasn't weighed until the last day -- and that 23-pounder was worth $74.841. The big money white marlin looked to be sewed up by The Griffin from Palm Beach with an 86-pounder, but on the last day there was a 95.5-pound white on Wire Nut which earned Glen Frost $1,654,210  for his first billfish catch. The Griffen still picked up $1,525,964 for second. Without a bigeye to settle the issue, the White Marlin Oprn record tuna payout went to Intents from Jupiter, Fl. for a 68.5-pounder worth $866,353 as they edged Blue Runner from Manasquan with a 67-pounder for $90,380. Warden Pass from Cape May also had a 67-pound tuna caught by Kris Rainear from Buena that was worth $52,950. Frank Snover of White Township was the angler on Restless Lady who caught a 126-pound mako for the $7,091 shark money. The wahoo money went to a 55-pounder on Hog Wild. It took a doormat to win last Saturday's Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County Fluke Tournament. Mike Menzel boated a 10.6-pounder, and teamed with Steve and Don Liberty plus Ed Codding to win the total weight title with 25 pounds -- and added all three Calcuttas. The Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands has had quite a few large fluke lately, including two doormats last weekend. Mike Nolan of Holmdel boated a 10.4-pounder, and June Benson of Hazlet hooked an 11.9-pound doormat. The Jamaica from Brielle has been into plenty of chumming action this week for a mixture of chub mackerel, blues, bonito, and even a few Spanish mackerel. The other Shore bluefish boats that had been bottom fishing also switched back to bluefishing. All of the skippers recommend bringing light spinning rods for best results and the most fun with small, but abundant fish hitting best on tiny metals.

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