Though we should be in the middle of the fall striped bass run, there's been no consistency to the fishing so far. Hot bites haven't lasted long, but there's no need to worry about the run since the water temperature is still relatively high and the fishery is likely to carry well into December.
The on-off nature of the fishery was well-illustrated last weekend when there was some hot fishing for stripers from both shore and boats on Saturday, only to see practically nothing hitting Sunday morning in the same areas. Yet, even after some party boats couldn't find a single striper in the morning, I joined Mike Heaney of Allendale and on his Sea Vee from Point Pleasant in the afternoon and we got into stripers off Mantoloking even with the sun still high in the sky. I should say my nephew, Bob Correll of Bay Head, got into them because he caught five stripers up to 39 1/2 inches on snagged bunkers while Heaney, Joe Farrell and I accounted for one each before the approaching storm drove us in. I did have the largest on, as that bass made a long run under the bow of a nearby boat but was cleared. The spinning reel I was using was defective, and I was barely able to reel in a 36-pounder earlier. Yet, the drag worked, and I figured I could work the bass in inch by inch. She eventually came up, slapped her tail and gave us a look at what might have been a 50-pounder or close to it. Then, after what I figured was a last run down before the release, the treble snag hook just pulled out.
The Miss Belmar Princess confirmed the presence of very big bass on Monday by coming up with 15 that were mostly over 30 pounds and up to the 42-pound pool winner by John Carrinelli of Audubon -- plus a 46.5-pounder weighed at Fisherman's Den in Belmar by Harold McMaster that wasn't in the pool. Yet, the next day it was back to a boatload of anglers fishing bunkers that were ignored.
Though only a few stripers have been caught by party boats since then, they have been into jumbo bluefish that seem to have moved in from Shark River Reef and are blasting the bunker schools.
Tank Matraxia and his crew from Lyndhurst fished with Johnny Bucktails out of Keyport on Thursday to catch some school stripers on shads off Sea Bright along with some of those big blues that included Matraxia's largest ever -- a 19-pounder on light spinning.
School striper action also continued in Raritan Bay. Capt. Rob Semkewyc, of the Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands, reported "We had a nice day today --- so much for the rain. We had a half hour of it at the end of the day . The bite was on pretty much all day.A little hard to catch at times, but everyone had some."
School stripers cooperated Wednesday afternoon at Shrewsbury Rocks as Tom Fote of the JCAA and Joe Blaze were among the party aboard Capt. Fletcher Chayes' Two River Charters from Highlands. Blaze cast his fly rod from the bow to release several stripers up to a 29-incher. The others scored with shad lures, but couldn't bring the bass up to poppers. A blue in the 10-pound class was also caught.
Speaking of the JCAA, their Sportsperson of the Year Dinner will be held on Sunday, Nov. 13 at Crystal Point Yacht Club in Point Pleasant. Tickets are $75 a person, and can be obtained by calling Dan Miller at 609 641-7821 or e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Capt. Pete Grimbilas, chairman of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance and the driving force in obtaining protection for our artificial reefs, will be honored as Sportsperson of the Year. Carl Bruger, of the Hudson River Fisherman's Association will receive this year's Youth Education Award. Two deceased JCAA leaders, Ed Cherry and Capt. John Koegler, will be honored with JCAA Lifetime Achievement Awards.
The Jamaica from Brielle found lots of bait when they started Tuesday's canyon trip, and boated a couple of yellowfin tuna and tilefish. A swordfish and two more yellowfins were caught at night. Just before sunrise, Russ Masscotti boated a trophy 175-pound swordfish. Big schools of tuna were under the boat, but only a few yellowfins up to 75 pounds, plus two albacore to 50 pounds were boated. Masscotti had the hot hand with two yellowfins and both longfins in addition to his sword. The Jamaica may have room on the Friday 5 p.m. canyon sailing, and on next week's trips that will conclude their tuna season before switching to far offshore sea bass wreck trips. Call 732 528-5014.
Capt. John Olinsky had a successful overnighter at Toms Canyon with his Inspiration from Toms River. He returned Wednesday evening with swordfish of 150 and 250 pounds plus a yellowfin of 90 pounds that was trolled plus five others from 30 to 40 pounds that were chunked at night. He noted that a smaller sword was released, and that it was necessary to find the warmer 68 degree waters to get away from most of the blue sharks at night.
The Hi-Mar Striper Club's Fall 40-hour Bob Kamienski Striped Bass Tournament ended up with good weather last weekend after being postponed the previous weekend due to gale warnings. Capricorn Too was the winner with a two-bass total of 63.3 pounds, to finish ahead of Nauti Boy with 57.9 pounds; Honey Badger with 55 pounds; Johnny Bucktails with 51.6 pounds; and Feeling Crabby at 50.6 pounds. Caprocorn Too had the largest bass with a 35.2-pounder.
The striper tournament season concludes this weekend with the Staten Island Tuna Club's Big Bass Shootout from Saturday night through Sunday. The captains meeting is Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Tackle US, 187 Mansion Ave. , with fishing starting immediately after the meeting. for details visit www.situnaclub.com, or call Walter Fisher at 917 375-7607. I caught the big bass last year while fishing with the winning crew on Chuck Many's Ty Man from Highlands. Many, who also won the Hi-Mar last year, wasn't available to fish either contest this time.
The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant found jumbo blues Thursday along with a few stripers, but also added a boat limit (one per man) of weakfish up to 20 inches.
Surfcasters get into stripers on peanut bunkers last Saturday at Bay Head, and Joe Melillo had lots of weigh-ins at Castaways Tackle in Point Pleasant -- including his son Joe Jr. of Brick with a 19-pounder. Bob Longo of Brick weighed a 22 3/4-pounder, and Lou Novello from Brick had a 22 1/2-pound bass. Mike Pace of Point Pleasant caught a 21 1/4-pounder; Dennis Howe from Howell hooked a 19-pound bass, and John Samuel of Toms River had a 17-pounder. Unfortunately, the surf was dead there Sunday morning.
There was a surge of big bass in the surf from Island Beach State Park to Lavellette early in the week, with many fish in the twenties and some in the 30-pound class being beached. There were many weigh-ins at Grumpy's and Betty & Nick's in Seaside Park, but it was very quiet by Tuesday and Wednesday when I rode the beaches with John Green and the bass never came in after he had enjoyed great sport on Monday with big bass on CJ cedar poppers.
Bob Matthews, at Fisherman's Den in Belmar Marina, says the winter flounder bite for shore fishermen remains excellent, with two-fish limits up to 22 inches being routine.