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Captain's Focus

There have been concerns about stocks of large striped bass declining, but the recent abundance of shorts between the channels has been a good sign for the future. There was certainly no scarcity there Wednesday when Joe Blaze of Brielle and Dave Cheli from Spring Lake joined Capt. Hans Kaspersetz and I on Sheri Berri from Baker€™s Marina on the Bay in Highlands. Though we didn€™t start until a "gentlemanly" 8 a.m. and were back by early afternoon, the striper count was up to 110 when we left them biting after a mild and fairly calm day. The only problem has been the lack of legal bass recently. A month ago we were catching mostly keepers in the same area, but now it€™s a completely different fishery. Blaze used his fly rod all day and released 26 stripers while casting to dipping birds even though there weren€™t the usual swirls under them. The longest bass we caught between the channels was 26 inches. When that fishing died out before noon, we moved down the beach and cast under circling birds. I continued to catch bass of the same size while casting the 6-inch Tsunami Swim Eel weighted down with a split shot to get to the bottom quickly, and was shocked when my 50th bass of the day tore the line off a tight drag €” turning out to be a 37-incher. That was our only "keeper" except for the 4-pound bluefish Cheli jigged between the channels. Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst carried 30 ALS tags with him when he fished aboard Two Rivers Charters that day with Emil Pavelec from Rutherford and Greg Lospinoso. Capt. Fletcher Chayes quickly placed all of those tags on stripers up 24 inches. They later moved to New Grounds to finish up with a blackfish and a ling. Capt. Joe Massa and David Witt were also jigging small bass from My Three Sons out of Morgan Marina before switching to blackfish at the Apple Pie for four tog plus many just short of 15 inches. Surfcasting for stripers has been tough lately. A few small bass have been picked, but it€™s usually a matter of just one or two. I released two Monday morning in Bay Head on the 6-inch Tsunami Eel, but got shut out Tuesday and yesterday. Bob Matthews, at Fisherman€™s Den in Belmar Marina, said the best of that action has been in the Ocean County surf as Monmouth County waters have been dead. Grumpy€™s Tackle in Seaside Park reports a pick of small bass in that area, but they haven€™t had a bass weighed-in in some time. The Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands was railed when there were bigger bass a few weeks ago, but only one keeper a day (if that) has been coming aboard recently. Though releases Tuesday ranged from 30 to 59 bass a man, Capt. Rob Semkowyc has been getting barely enough customers to sail €” and will be wrapping it up for the year after Sunday. Despite the fog, yesterday€™s trip not only produced lots of shorts but also a large keeper. Kaspersetz of Weehawken fished the recent Presidential Challenge Tournament in Guatemala, where they had excellent sailfishing. His Team Priority totaled 53 sailfish in three days to take second place, falling just one sail short of the winning team. I€™m sure there are many readers who have made the run out to Montauk in order to fish with the Viking Fleet, and they will particularly enjoy Manny Luftglass€™ latest book €” Gone Fishin€™ with the Viking Fleet : The Forsberg Empire, as told to him by Capt. Paul G. Forsberg. I grew up in Merrick, one town away from the Viking Fleet€™s original port at Freeport. It was a shock when they moved to Montauk in 1951 to take advantage of the great summer codfishing at Cox€™s Ledge. It was on their boat out there that I caught my first big fish (cod and pollock) as a teenager after an adventurous ride out to the east end of Long Island. Though I€™ve known the Forsberg family for decades, it was a surprise to read that they had roots in N.J. €” first settling in Mountain View after arriving from Sweden and France. The well-illustrated 320-page soft cover is available from Amazon. Autographed copies by Capt. Paul G. Forsberg can be purchased for $21.95 from Capt. Paul G. Forsberg, 462 West Lake Drive, Montauk, N.Y. 11954.

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