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Captain's Focus

Last Saturday's northeaster put a big crimp in striped bass fishing, but that sport should pick up with Friday's northwest wind calming the ocean for what appears to be a fine Saturday.Surfcasters are hoping for a repeat of last Friday's blitz fishing that occurred along much of the northern Shore during the beginning of the northeaster.  I was out with Chuck Many of Annandale  on his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands that day, and got to see that excitement from the other side. We had started in Raritan Bay on schools of bunkers with some very fussy stripers blowing up on them at times. After only releasing a couple, we started running out to the ocean to a report of a hot jigging bite, but Many made a brief stop under some birds in the mouth of the bay so I could throw a Tactical Anglers 5-ounce Sea Pencil to release a 38-inch striper that blasted it on the surface. We were shocked upon arrival at the jigging bite to find that big bluefish had taken over, but then saw bent rods on the beaches from Sea Bright to Long Branch. Though there were few signs, I raised fish steadily with blind casts of that Sea Pencil toward the surf. Most were jumbo blues up to 17 pounds, though I also released a 32-inch striper. Surprisingly, Many and Art Berkman of Pompton Plains couldn't get a hit casting soft plastics into the surf though blues hit the same lures whenever we jigged further off.Vinny D'Anton of Shark River Hills was at Monmouth Beach during the blitz and caught bass of 16 and 26 pounds before the blues took over. He said they were chasing 4-inch butterfish and spike weakfish as well as bunkers. Sunday's howling northwester did calm the ocean this week, but striper fishing was slow to recover. Party boats had some excellent jigging up to the storm before struggling this week. The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported running 60 miles on Wednesday with a large crowd for only a few bass and some blues. Most boats didn't sail in Thursday's rain and sloppy seas, but are looking forward to Saturday.Surfcasting has been mostly spotty, but it doesn't have to get any better for Brian Lytle of Keyport as the Tackle Box in Hazlet reports he made the long walk Thursday morning to the rip at Sandy Hook and found bass driving peanut bunkers to the beach. Casting a white Tsunami popper produced bass of 30 and 37 pounds.   Anglers haven't been able to keep winter flounder during the fall for years, but the two-fish limit at a minimum of 12 inches is in effect. Bob Matthews, at Fisherman's Den in Belmar Marina, has been impressed with the volume of flounder being caught from the bulkheads there -- and they've ranged up to 18 inches. Joe Melillo, at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant, is also surprised by the flounder being taken from Point Pleasant Canal. The Jersey Coast Anglers Association holds their Sportsperson -of-the-Year Dinner at 4 p.m. Sunday in Crystal Point Yacht Club, Point Pleasant. Fred Bogue will be the honoree this year, and Don Marentz is also being honored for his work with children's programs. The cocktail hour is followed by a full-course dinner. Tickets are $75 and can be obtained at the door or by reservation from Dan Miller at 609 641-7821. Crazy Alberto Knie will kick-off his new TV show during an appearance in Dick's Sporting Goods , 70 Willow Brook Blvd. in Wayne at 1 p.m. Saturday. Some of the best striper action this week has been at Island Beach State Park for both shore and boat fisherman. John Bushell, at Betty & Nick's in Seaside Park, reports he got to the beach at the right time on Wednesday to snag-and-drop a bunker to release a 20-pound striper. Big blues have also been around the bunker schools. Both Capt. Russ Binns of Mar-Lin at Toms River and Capt. Bud McArthur of Splinter from Brick reported catching large squid while snagging bunkers for bait. Check my daily blog at nj.com/shore/blogs/fishing for updates.

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