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Captain's Focus

It's hard to believe it's January as striped bass of various sizes continue to inhabit the surf and other waters close to shore. At Seaside Park, Grumpy's Tackle weighed in their first striper of the year on New Year's Day -- a 35-inch, 14.1-pounder caught on an SP Minnow by Melissa Simmons. That same lure produced a 35.5-inch, 19.55-pound bass Saturday morning for Don Weiss. Betty & Nick's Tackle got started in the new year with an 8 1/4-pounder Friday on a shad in the park.  Then this morning there was a 12-pound bass that Wayne Kopsky of Howell caught on a white shad at Bay Head, and a 16 1/4-pounder by Matt Smith of Greenwich, N.Y on an SP Minnow in the park. The Bay Head surf was loaded with herring all morning, but Bob Correll of that town only saw one bass taken on a snagged herring while all lures were ignored. Of course, some responded to snagged herring for friends not long after he gave up. Joe Melillo, at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant, said his regulars have been doing well in the surf the last few days on white lures. Jerry Lasko told me he plugged a couple of large bass this morning. I finally got out in the cold this afternoon after returning from Florida, and didn't see anything at Bay Head -- but looked further south and spotted the dimpling of herring near shore. In this case they were the predators chasing tiny bait, and there were no signs of larger fish under the herring that were feeding so heavily that a few were thrown up on the beach by the small waves.. I even caught a couple that hit the rear treble of my Mambo Minnow. However, I did hook a 22-inch striper and had one other striper hit before catching a 26-incher that hit the lure at the drop-off when it just got dark. Jay Amberg reported from Sea Girt that the surf was loaded with small bait when he checked it at 12:30, but there wasn't any sign of predators in the bait. Capt. Dave De Gennaro reported another great day of striper action on his Hi Flier out of Barnegat as follows: "The striper migration is in full swing. For the second day in a row we clobbered the stripers right outside Barnegat Inlet. Casting Tsunami Shads was the best bet today. The fish are chasing 6 to 8 inch herring on the surface. You can watch them isolate one from the safety of the school and gun him down on the surface, sometimes right at the hull. What's interesting about this run is the size of the fish, 26 to 36 inch fish today with quite a few 30 inch fish. Usually the end of the season wraps up with the smallest fish, 20 to 24 inch common. So, I guess this isn't even the end yet. We had 50 degree water and a bunch of 8 to 12 pound bluefish in the mix, though the ratio was heavily slanted in favor of the stripers.  We did find ourselves with a break in the action around mid-day, so we broke out our short trolling rods with only 150 feet of wire and we bucktailed bass and blues with the 'old school" technique of jigging the rods while we trolled a bucktail." Capt. Bobby Bogan gave the stripers a try with his Gambler from Point Pleasant, and was so happy with the results that he'll be sailing daily for them until they finally leave. He sailed to the south to find birds and action from a mile off to almost the three-mile limit. His fares jigged keepers, shorts and blues -- primarily on Crocs and shads. Bill Ruha had a bass over 20 pounds and released five other keepers plus shorts and a blue. The Golden Eagle from Belmar spent the day searching for mackerel, but didn't find any and will not sail until further notice.

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