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Captain's Focus

For the second time this week, there's sad news from a Shore tackle shop. Jimmy Morenz passed away Wednesday after being in failing health for some time. He has been working for years at Julian's Tackle in Atlantic Highlands, and they noted that Morenz was only 55. His father, Capt. Whitey Morenz, ran an old wooden vessel that produced more school stripers and weakfish on worms than any other boat. Despite the lack of speed, Miss Take II also more than held its own with bluefish. After his father died, Jimmy continued the very successful business and was widely regarded as one of the very best skippers in the state. Unfortunately, Jimmy ran into problems with drugs -- and the boat had to be sold. Morenz eventually kicked the drug habit. Though he had lost his license,  he was able to mate for Capt. Pete Wagner on Hyper Striper from Highlands, and work at Julians. In recent years  Morenz also concentrated on using his small boat to net bait in the Shrewsberry and Navesink rivers as well as working in the store -- and no one knew more about those rivers. Though I often talked to Jimmy over the phone while getting reports from Julian's, the last time I saw him was a year ago at the Bahrs Restaurant outdoor bar in Highlands, where he was accompanied by his beloved dog and seemed to be at peace with the negative turns he'd experienced and overcame. There will be a viewing from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at nearby Shore Funeral Home on Rt. 36. I'll have more information as it becomes available. Julian's is all set with killies for Saturday's fluke season opener. Alex Senczakiewicz of Union purchased a bunker today to take to Sandy Hook, where be beached a 29.32-pound striped bass. Bluefishing remains red hot on both jigs and bait -- and in the ocean and Raritan Bay. The Sea Hunter from Atlantic  Highlands is staying with that sport after loading up today, though there were no stripers mixed in. However, that boat is chartered on Sunday. Joe Melillo will be open at 4 a.m. at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant, and has killies in stock. He noted that schools of bunkers were just off the beach at Bay Head in the morning, though there didn't seem to be anything in them. Hot bluefishing continues at Seaside Park and Island Beach State Park, and more stripers are joining in that action.

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