Fishermen seeking striped bass will be doing everything possible to get away from the choppers, but the availability of outsized blues is a unique opportunity which was emphasized Wednesday when I watched Nathan Mc Intosh (9) from Painted Post, N. Y. graduating from sunfish right up to 10-pound blues in Raritan Bay while chunking from Sheri Berri out of Baker's Marina on the Bay at Highlands. Capt. Dave De Gennaro has continued to put his customers on Hi Flier from Barnegat into big blues on poppers in Barnegat Bay, but also finally managed to get out of the inlet last Friday afternoon to troll a 38-pound striper on a white 4 Tony Maja bunker spoon for Gary Paulino of Absecon - and also a 30-pounder.
We ended leaving the river early to fish in the bay, where McIntosh of Toms River (a former colleague of mine at Garcia Fishing Tackle) and Ray Colon along with son and grandson Joe and Nathan McIntosh from Painted Post, N. Y. had fun wrestling with the big blues after they hit live bunker, chunks and trolled Tony Maja bunker spoons -- but no stripers broke through as we watched the naval fleet moving toward the harbor. Capt. Bud McArthur ran his Splinter from Brick to the south, and managed to troll a 42-inch striper on a green Reliable bunker spoon offshore of the bait and near the three-mile state limit.
Capt. Vinnie Vetere didn't have a charter on his Katfish from Great Kills this morning, but took a shot to the east with his crew and had a catch of big stripers on live bait. Bob Danyluk boated a 20-pound striper on clam at Oyster Creek on Monday before blitz popping for blues on the east side.
Capt. Deane Lambros ran the Canyon Runner from Point Pleasant out to Lindenkohl Canyon on Friday for a day troll charter only to find 61-to-63-degree waters that were too cool for yellowfin tuna -- but good enough for 35-to-50- pound bluefins. Saturday's bucktailing for fluke that provided good action during last year's opening was poor this time.
Capt. Ron Santee said it seemed to take forever for a current to develop, and it wasn't until 11 a. m. that they were able to drift baits correctly and start catching the big blues that had been easy to come by. That boat has a special Sea Bass Marathon on Tuesday from 7 a. m. to 5 p. m. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations.
Capt. Bob Egger trolled bass of 35 and 32 pounds south of Manasquan Inlet on his Spunky II for Mark Faller of Toms River and Capt. Al Kape of Westfield this morning. Joe Melillo reports from Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant that small blues were picked at in the river and canal early in the morning.
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.
Bluefish have been more abundant than ever at this time of year when Shore party boats often struggle while Raritan Bay anglers have to fight them off in order to get through to a striper. Even Pete La Boy, who had caught all three stripers during the previous week's trip couldn't get through the blues -- but when Woerner moved up the Hudson River, La Boy boated the only two bass up to about 18 pounds.
Capt. Rob Semkewyc has had the same problem finding stripers among the blues on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, but he's happy with the steady action on both bait and jigs with blues averaging 12 pounds. At Seaside Park, Betty Nick's reported 30-pound stripers pushed a school of bunkers onto the beach in town during the morning.
I thought the river fishing for big blues might be over, but after doing nothing the last two mornings in the Bradley Beach surf, I tried upriver in Manasquan River late in the afternoon and saw a few choppers taken in brief flurries despite a howling west wind. At Seaside Park, the bite of big blues in the surf that made Sunday's Governor's Surf Fishing Tournament such a success continues.