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Captain's Focus

The first day of fall was an appropriate time to begin serious fishing for striped bass -- and it worked out fine for Chuck Many of Annandale on his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands.  I joined Many this morning after making a few casts into the Sea Girt surf on my way north. Conditions were perfect there, with only a modest swell left after the northwest wind, but still plenty of  white water on the bars. I only had one modest splash on my popper, and that was probably just a small blue because Mickey Sweeney of Howell said he'd caught one earlier. I later heard from Vinny D'Agostino who caught a 29-inch bass on a Chug Bug in a mullet school at Ocean Grove. Leif Pettersen only found two small blues with his fly rod at Deal. The boat fishing in Raritan Bay and around Ambrose was much better as Many and I combined for 23 striper releases up to a 41-incher. There were only two shorts among those bass which were all hooked on bunker chunks. We only had leftover bunker to start with, but that worked fine. A cool south wind slowed our bite when it came up, but when Many was changing spots he stopped to put on more clothing where a bunker school came up alongside. Many then quickly cast-netted fresh bait for the afternoon. The bass action was surprisingly good for 69 degree waters, and the fish looked to be local stock rather than migratory. The only variety was one blue of about 4 pounds, a small sea bass during a brief attempt at worming, and a dogfish just before we quit. The Tackle Box in Hazlet weighed in a 13 3/4-pound doormat fluke that was caught by Bill Kaeg of Milltown while fishing aboard the Angler from Atlantic Highlands with a Gulp Grub. Not much has been heard about weakfish, but John Andrea sent along a shot of a 26-incher he caught Monday in the Hudson River on a live snapper.

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