Small striped bass remained active in the surf last January almost to the end of the month, so it should be no surprise that Bob Matthews reported from Fisherman's Den in Belmar Marina that surfcasters did well the last two days in Monmouth County waters. Betty Nick's in Seaside Park actually weighed a keeper bass today, though at just 8 3 4 pounds the bass beached at Island Beach State Park by Brett Brounstein must have barely made it.
It was just a start, but a huge improvement over the first trip on Friday, as the Golden Eagle from Belmar picked some mackerel and herring while searching from Scotland to 17 Fathoms. Capt. Jimmy Elliott said anglers working hard at the gigging managed about a dozen mackerel and about as many herring.
There was virtually no run of big stripers pushing bunkers to the beach in the spring, and boaters on the ocean were generally very disappointed with striper fishing under bunker schools. There was nothing like the fishing I experienced during Christmas Week two years ago when Capt. Joe Massa ran his My Three Sons from Morgan Marina to Shrewsbury Rocks where jigs dropped under working birds by my son Mike and Bob Correll of Bay Head produced doubleheaders of cod before we added stripers and blues -- and saw a bluefin tuna jump by the inner buoy.
Not surprisingly, there's not much fishing information on Christmas Day, but Bob Matthews at Fisherman's Den in Belmar Marina was delighted with the largest tautog of the season he's weighed -- a 15 1 2-pounder caught Saturday off Long Branch by Jake Niedenstein of Wall. Capt. Scotty Hilliard reported that the Christmas morning trip of his Prowler V from Atlantic Highlands only had a pick of blackfish.
Capt. Scotty Hilliard said he was all alone in the ocean today with his Prowler V from Atlantic Highlands, but blackfishing was good in 70 feet with the northwest wind. Hilliard has a Christmas morning trip from 7 30 a. m. to 1 30 p. m.
While I'm missing surfcasting for school stripers in order to spend Christmas in Florida with the family, I had the opportunity this morning to fish with famed angler Crazy Alberto Knie from shore at one of the local passes into the Gulf of Mexico -- along with my daughter Cyndi's boy friend, Luis Gonzalez of Homestead, Fl. Crazy Alberto made his reputation on Long Island with surf catches of trophy stripers as well as other species, and has continued working his fishing magic after moving to Estero, Fl.
The unseasonably warm weather seemed to turn on both surf stripers and fishermen. Bob Matthews, at Fisherman's Den in Belmar Marina, said there was a big turnout of surfcasters in Ocean County waters this morning, and they found lots of small stripers hitting a variety of lures.
For throwing heavy pencil poppers to large stripers in the spring, I change the reel over to a 9-foot, one-piece Seeker rod. The one rod I use for almost everything while boat fishing is the Tsunami LSW706C, a 7-foot, extra-heavy model that I can cast with light sinkers and jigs -- or with adult bunkers and sinkers heavy enough to hold in Ambrose Channel.