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Captain's Focus

There isn't any information available at this moment that would indicate there could be another beyond-late-season surf blitz of stripers and blues such as occurred on Monday-- but we can pray for another miracle.  The El Nino weather system in the Pacific brought us unusually warm air temperatures in December that resulted in ideal water temperatures in the low fifties hardly falling at all late in the season. The migrating stripers and blues responded to the continued presence of bunkers, and Monday's northeast wind created the classic conditions for a surf blitz even though it was after Christmas rather than in October or November. Hundreds of stripers and big blues were caught at several points along the Shore on Monday, with the biggest blast occurring in the Seaside Park area. John Green had given up his daily beach buggy trips, and had to get his rods back in the vehicle after a call from Ortley Beach. He saw bass of various sizes from shorts to 25 pounds plus 10-to-15-pound blues pushing adult bunkers up on the beaches even as the northeast wind made it difficult to cast even heavy lures. There was a mixture if sizes among the bass, though nothing larger than Bill Bertsch's 42.5-inch, 30.25-pounder was weighed at Grumpy's Tackle. Therefore, it was most unusual when the catch of the day was made after 4 p.m. when Nick Honachefsky of Normandy Beach fished a local beach he hadn't been to since Sandy -- the storm that wiped away just about all traces of his home while taking all of his tackle, and a lifetime of his outdoor writing photos and articles with it. Honachefsky had that beach all to himself in continuing 25 mph northeast winds creating five-to-six-foot whitewater surf. Though the bass and blues had been feeding on big bunkers, he cast his usual schoolie rig with a Ava diamond jig plus a Tsunami Eel teaser. Yet, the bass he hooked on the teaser was no schoolie. After a lengthy fight on surf spinning tackle he slid the largest linesider of his life on the beach.  He said he was "humbled by her presence, and only had her out of the water for less than a minute before she tail slapped me in the surf on the way back through the crashing waves. I am still shaking!"  Honachefsky said the bass "taped out at 49 to 50 inches to the fork, and 29 to 30 inches in girth". Using those measurements in the formula puts her over 50 pounds. The one cell phone photo along the rod on the beach isn't that impressive as it wasn't one of those sagging belly bass. I suppose the variation in measurements was the result of making the quick live release. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, it only takes seconds to get a length measurement with your rod. In order to use the formula (length times girth squared, divided by 800), you need the length to the fork of the tail rather than to the tip of the tail. If the fish doesn't measure to a convenient spot such as a guide or writing on the blank, make a light scratch in the finish with a hook.  Girth is critical to determining weight, and you can't get that accurately without something that bends. If you don't have a tape, just cut your line at the swivel and run the line under the widest point of the fish until the end meets the standing line. Clip it there, put it in your pocket, and you'll have an accurate girth measurement upon arriving home.  Honachefsky also got lucky that there wasn't a smaller bass or blue around to hit his jig while he was fighting the 50 on the teaser. Almost invariably when that happens the two fish tug against each other -- and the big one breaks off even on a light drag. Though I was on a family vacation in Florida when Monday's action occurred, Jay Amberg e-mailed me about the birds working in the Spring Lake to Sea Girt surf. A friend released a 15-pound blue, a legal striper and a short when bunkers were trapped between a jetty and the beach.  Strong east winds, big seas and rain combined to kill the surf action. Grumpy's weighed 25 bass and three blues on Monday that were caught on all sorts of lures, but there have been only a couple on bait since. Betty & Nick's Tackle in Seaside Park has only had a few reports of shorts. West winds should calm and clear the surf to set up conditions for a January bite. I have caught school stripers almost to the end of January some years when water temperatures didn't drop too low, but asking for another big bass blitz and even bluefish in January is truly praying for a miracle even though the water remains warm enough. Ironically, the Golden Eagle and Miss Belmar Princess were both out of Belmar on Dec. 27 searching for stripers and blues while finding nothing but bait. Those boats are holding off while waiting for mackerel fishing to develop- possibly by the weekend. Sea bass fishing ends with the New Year as that season closes despite an abundance on the far offshore wrecks. Sunday's pool winner on the Jamaica from Brielle was Kimmie Kobayshi from Havertown, Pa. with a 25-pound cod added to 13 sea bass and 26 porgies. Danny Ko from Brooklyn had 14 sea bass to 8 pounds plus 27 porgies. The Jamaica has added mid-range wreck trips at 4 a.m. on Jan. 2,9,16 and 23 for jumbo porgies and cod -- plus a 1 a.m. cod special on Jan. 30. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations. Bob Matthews is sorry to see the winter flounder season also come to an end as shore anglers had been getting their two-fish limits regularly at Belmar Marina. A public hearing on Amendment XXVII of the 2016 Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan will be held on Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Stafford Township Municipal Building at 260 East Bay Ave., Manahawkin. A proposal for a Delaware Bay Special region that will allow N.J. boats to keep fluke at the lower Delaware size will be discussed. My daily blog at nj.com/shore/blogs/fishing normally goes weekly for the winter this month but will continue as long as the fishing remains active. 

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