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Captain's Focus

The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council adopted recreational fishing regulations for the upcoming seasons during their Thursday meeting in the Galloway Township Library. Though these regulations have to be approved by the DEP, that's normally just a formality. Summer flounder regulations were already imposed on most of N.J. by the ASMFC as we are incorporated into a region with Connecticut and New York that will have the same limits as last year – a five-fluke bag at a minimum of 18 inches. Only the actual dates of the season had to be determined by the Council – and they were set at May 21 to September 25. The exceptions to the regulations allowed by the ASMFC provide  Delaware Bay with four fluke at 17 inches, and Island Beach State Park with two fluke at 16 inches from shore. The Delaware Bay exception is intended to make southern N. J. party and charter boats more competitive with those from Delaware that have a 16-inch minimum on their side of the bay. Striped bass regulations remain the same as last year -- one at 28 to 43 inches, and another over 43 inches. It's anticipated that the fall school striper bonus program will also continue. We had to take a reduction in black sea bass due to overfishing last year. As a result, the season was split into three periods. From April 23 to June 19 there will be an allowance of 10 at a minimum of 12 ½ inches, before there's a by-catch of two at the same size from July 1 to Aug. 31 so fluke anglers can put something in their bags when the targeted species isn't cooperating. Finally, there's a jump to a 15-sea bass bag at a 13-inch minimum from Oct. 22 right to Dec. 31. The internal waters season for striped bass opened on March 1, and Matt Calabria of Hazlet quickly accounted for the first keeper of 28 ½ inches. The Tackle Box in Hazlet reported he also caught four shorts from shore on a clam/sandworm combo bait. Phil Sciortino noted that reports of shorts had also come in from Cliffwood and Union Beach that day. Bob Matthews said there were lots of anglers fishing from the pier and docks at Belmar Marina during the March 1 season opener, though he didn't get any reports from that area which produced lots of big flounder well over the 12-inch minimum and up to just over 4 pounds last fall when the two-flounder limit was easy to come by. Matthews has plenty of flounder bait in stock, plus rental skiffs ready to go. Matthews saw what he believes was the largest blackfish ever to be brought into the marina Sunday, just before that season closed, when the Big Mohawk weighed a 22-pound, 13-ounce tog that continued the parade of outsized tautog that have been breaking records the last couple of years. Capt. Steve Spinelli put Howard Dicicco into that trophy. The Ocean Explorer had weighed a 15 ¾-pounder the day before when others were broken off. As a youngster I never heard of tog so large, and wonder how such very old fish and big targets could survive so long with the volume of spear fisherman checking every hiding place each year. Capt. Joe Bogan reported sluggish fishing, despite good weather last weekend, on his Jamaica II from Brielle. Some cod, pollock and blackfish were caught, though ling fishing remains slow. Wes Shourt of Manahawkin boated a 14-pound cod, and Xin Chue from Hazlet bagged both a 16-pound pollock and a 12-pound black. The Jamaica II maintains its winter schedule of sailing at 5 a.m. Wednesdays and Sundays for 12-hour wreck trips – and at 3 a.m. Saturdays for 14-hour cod runs. After the Friday snow and east winds we may get some fishable weather this weekend before very warm temperatures are expected next week. The Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County hold their first fishing flea market on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the American Legion, 33 West Passaic Ave., Rochelle Park 07662. Admission is $3, but kids under 12 are admitted at no charge. For info call Bill Fish at 201 566-1510. The Berkeley Striper Club's 20th annual Fisherman's Flea Market runs Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Toms River Intermediate School, 150 Intermediate North Way in Toms River. Admission is $4, with no charge for kids 10 and younger. For details visit www,berkeleystriperclub.org. The World Fishing & Outdoor Expo is next up at Rockland Community College in Suffern, N.Y., with an opening Thursday from 2 to 9 p.m. It continues through next Sunday. For info visit www.sportshows.com. El Nino has provided some milder weather for us this winter after we suffered through two Ice Age-like winters of snow and extreme cold, but didn't seem to slow billfishing in Guatemala as very warm waters often do. Capt. Hans Kaspersetz of Sheri Berri Charters at Bakers Marina on the Bay in Highlands made a trip there last week, where he joined two other anglers at Sailfish Lodge and fished three days to release 92 sailfish, a striped marlin and a blue marlin.

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