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Captain's Focus

Shore fishermen have rarely had it better as local bays and rivers are still full of big bluefish that hit in flurries to provide great sport at virtually no cost -- except for lost lures. Manasquan Inlet and the river well to the west have been producing every day, and Bob Matthews at Fisherman's Den reports the L Street pier has been a good bet in Shark River as well as the inlet. A wide variety of lures have been working, though blues can be fussy at times. Poppers provide the most sport, and are deadly at times. Yet, I could only raise one blue Tuesday on a pencil popper upriver in the Manasquan before a switch to a new Castaways yellow swimmer produced one about 8 pounds before a 36 3/4-incher (about 15 pounds) hit a similar Jerry Lasko creation in chartreuse.   Joe Melillo, at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant, hit big blues in Point Pleasant Canal on jigs Wednesday morning, and was back at it again Thursday. Lots of anglers got into that action both morning and afternoon when the current was strong. Swimming plugs also worked well, but I couldn't get a hit on metal after switching from jigs tipped with a Mr. Wiffle plastic. Manasquan Inlet is a wild scene at times even though there's a problem getting big blues over the rail unless you have a long-handled net. Long gaffs will also do the job, but shouldn't be used on blues to be released. Fortunately, the majority of blues I've seen caught this week have been released.  This run of blues weighing up to the mid-teens has already lasted longer than expected, so don't hesitate to get into it now. Two years ago I started surfcasting at Point Pleasant on Mother's Day, and was delighted to catch a few 5-pound blues and small stripers. When I returned the next morning the blues were two to three times that size as the best blitz I ever saw in that area continued all day and right up to dusk when the largest jumbos hit poppers. I'm hoping for a repeat as winds finally go to the west by Saturday. There's been hardly any boat fishing in the ocean this week due to the constant northeast winds plus rain. The spring ocean striper jigging that we had come to expect after mild winters has been a total flop so far, and there's been no sign of the spawned-out stripers from the Chesapeake making their northern migration. There are plenty of bunkers waiting for them, and that fishing could break open at any time. Surprisingly, considering all the blues in the rivers, party boats have only found good ocean jigging for choppers a couple of times. The Golden Eagle from Belmar has been cancelling trips due to the weather, but anticipates sailing Saturday with the predicted change in the weather pattern. Bluefish should also be available to shore anglers in Raritan Bay and Navesink River, but haven't been as much of a problem for striper fishermen as is usually the case in Raritan Bay at this time. This is striper spawning time in the Hudson River, but some boaters have got into them in Raritan Bay. Capt. Vinny Vetere hid from the northeast wind with his Katfish Charters to get into big bass without bluefish in the lee of Staten Island. Capt. Jim Freda is taking advantage of the Manasquan River bluefish run by running afternoon charters from 3:30 to dark. The Wednesday afternoon trip produced great sport on light St. Croix spinning tackle with choppers up to a 15-pounder. The Aberdeen Township Family Fishing Contest was a day late, as over 50 anglers came up with only a single 32-inch blue landed by Freddy Baez of Hawthorne while fishing from 1-to-4 p.m. Saturday at Cliffwood Beach.  Frank Huza reported there had been a bluefish blitz the previous afternoon. At Seaside Park, Grumpy's Tackle reported lots of bluefish in both the bay and surf, though most surf action is still on bunker rather than lures. A 37-inch striper hit a bunker chunk near the Rt. 37 Bridge, and was released.  Betty & Nick's Tackle reported big blues on bucktails Wednesday morning at the south end of Island Beach State Park. Capt. Dave De Gennaro hasn't worried about the rough ocean as he's stayed in Barnegat Bay with his Hi Flier from Barnegat to chum with clams at the mouth of Oyster Creek Channel before chasing big blues on the west side of the bay for light tackle casting. His first charter ended up with stripers of 23, 15 and 17 pounds instead of the schoolies expected. Two 17-pound bass were boated on Monday before the switch to 10-to-16-pound blues. Jim Soch of West Windsor boated an 18-pound striper on Tuesday. Former dive boat skipper Steve Nagiewicz has come out with a book every offshore angler will want. Hidden History of Maritime New Jersey (The History Press, Charleston, C.C.) covers many of the wrecks we fish in greater detail than ever before. I'll have more about this book in a future column. You can obtain one right from the author on Saturday from 1-5 p.m. at N.J. Maritime Museum in Beach Haven. Benjamin Kwong of South Plainfield fished the Sandy Hook surf with a 1-ounce bucktail plus teaser to release five stripers up to 24 inches plus two blues on Tuesday afternoon. Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst has tagged great numbers of stripers and fluke, but never a red drum until last month. Yet, a 33 1/4-incher he put an Americam Littoral Society tag into in Tampa Bay was recaptured in just two weeks by a guide in that area. For daily updates, visit my blog at nj.com/shore/blogs/fishing. 

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