Sea bass fishing has been about as good as it gets except for the end of the year deep water wreck fishing when almost all the sea bass are very large and colorful males. The sea bass population is so robust that it seems a piece of clam dropped to any ocean rough bottom will be attacked. It's just a matter of getting to the bass of at least 12 1/2 inches.
That was the case Thursday morning as Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst joined Mark Leily from Peapack and I aboard Sheri Berri with Capt. Hans Kaspersetz as we sailed from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands. We had to release lots of smaller bass to end up with a good catch from rough bottom in bout 60 feet off Sandy Hook. I was also surprised when a 14-inch winter flounder hit a squid strip -- something I've never seen before. I worked hard to catch sea bass on squid strips, but they much preferred clam which is much easier to pull off the hook.
The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reported another day of great sea bass fishing with lots of limits. They find that jigs catch larger sea bass that are feeding on sand eels, and also note that most on bait are hooked well above bottom.They also suggest that leaders should not be over 20-pound test for best results. Not only did the Ocean Explorer do very well with sea bass, but they also added some ling -- and have even been catching a few whiting.
The only problem with the sea bass fishery is that Sunday is the last day for the season with a 10-fish limit. It closes that night, before reopening with a two-fish by-catch from July 1 to Aug. 31 at the same 12 1/2-inch minimum.
The shark season got off to a great start with the two 537-pound makos weighed within days at Brielle and Cape May. The Brett T. Bailey Mako Rodeo runs this weekend out of Hoffman's Marina in Brielle (wwwbtbmakorodeo.com), and the Staten Island Tuna Club Shark Tournament is contested Saturday out of Great Kills. Contact Phil Tumminia at 646 235-0512.
Coming up next weekend are the two big mako tournaments at Point Pleasant. The 32nd annual Mako Mania is sponsored by the Greater Point Pleasant Charter Boat Association (732 892-3666), and has a captains meeting next Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Southside Marina. The Jersey Coast Shark Anglers run their Mako Fever contest that starts a day earlier. Contact www.jcsa.org.
There was good news Thursday from Shore party boats about bigger bluefish reappearing. The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported jigging 8-to-10-pounders, and the Queen Mary from Point Pleasant jigged them from 8 to 12 pounds.
The latter also had a fine Magic Hours striped bass trip on Tuesday. The migratory run of big stripers from the south had been stalled until Capt. Chris Di Stefano reported seeing the ocean break open off Sandy Hook at 10:30 a.m. that day, as live bunkers cast to them were hit immediately. Many up to 52 inches were caught or released from Frank Criscola's North Rip.
There was finely some good news on ocean fluking this week as Capt. Joe Bogan found lots of 4-pounders and had many limits on Monday's all-day sailing of the Jamaica II from Brielle.
Also at that port, Capt. Howard Bogan reported good results from his first Sunday, 10 p.m. tilefish trip with the Big Jamaica. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations.
Bluefin tuna trolling has been red hot in the canyons. See Wednesday's blog at nj.com/shore/blogs/fishing for a complete report from the Canyon Runner's great results with both bluefins (including a giant) and bigeyes.
I've had problems getting final results from last weekend's South Jersey Marina Shark Tournament in Cape May, and the Warriors Shark Tournament from Manasquan Inlet, but will post that information on my daily blog noted above.