The winter mackerel run was all we've had left, as the much bigger spring run up the coast has been such a failure for many years that skippers don't even look for them any more. When I questioned NOAA Fisheries about this last year they admitted their management plans indicating a healthy fishery were based on old data -- and noted that even the big commercial vessels with huge ranges hadn't been able to find mackerel.
Despite a poor weekend due to strong currents, the Jamaica II from Brielle had a better Monday of offshore bottom fishing for ling and some cod. Grumpy's Tackle in Seaside Park reports a few short stripers are being hoked in the surf on clams and small plugs -- such as the new Daiwa DS Minnows.
I tried casting at Point Pleasant in the morning today, and at Sea Girt in the afternoon but never saw a sign of a fish. The Mimi VI from Point Pleasant will be running limited 7 a. m. to 4 p. m. open bottom fishing trips through January.
The Golden Eagle from Belmar only found a few mackerel Saturday though, lots of herring were jigged -- and there was no Sunday report. The Elaine B II from Highlands had a tough pick of blackfish Saturday, but will be sailing Monday as the wind forecast is good and that may be the end of our warm weather.
I took Luis Gonzalez of Homestead, Florida down to the Sea Girt surf after the early afternoon high tide and released a 19-incher on a 6-inch Tsunami Sand Eel while Gonzalez had another small bass miss the same lure. Bob Matthews, at Fisherman's Den in Belmar Marina, also reported there were some small bass hitting in the Monmouth County surf.
That, at least, provides hope that what used to be one of our most dependable species will make a comeback this winter. NOAA Weather gave a 44 degree reading today at Sandy Hook (where its taken on the bay side), after it had dropped to 39 degrees last week.
Many years ago I was fishing wrecks off Seaside with the late Capt. Greg Venturo for the early sea bass run in April when he started off keeping a small blackfish barely big enough to eat when there there were no regulations on the species. Capt. Bobby Bogan will also get in this last trips for sea bass this week on the Gambler from Point Pleasant.
Indeed, the Jamaica from Brielle has room on the trip sailing to far offshore wrecks for jumbo sea bass at 10 p. m. Monday. Those trips will continue after Christmas up to the Dec. 31 end of the sea bass season.
Joe Melillo noted from Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant that no one had any reports of school stripers in the surf either Saturday evening or Sunday morning. They have 12-hour trips at 5 a. m. for cod, pollock and ling on Dec. 29, 30 and 31.