Sandy Hook NJ Fishing
Reports for 2017
"Capt. John's Fishing Reports" gives you the latest information about our fishing charters as they occurred.
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Good Morning,... With the help of mate Rich, I had the boat removed from her berth at the marina and she is now out of the water and in the process of winterization. So that's a "wrap" on the 2017 fishing season here at Reel Fun Sportfishing.
As Rich and I were removing all the fishing gear from the boat, we were talking about the 2017 season and our disappointments with it.
There were two main reasons that prevented 2017 from being a really good year.....weather conditions and government regulations. If you can recall, the entire month of May, a prime Striper month, was rainy and windy. Added to that the spring Striper run lasted all of 2-3 weeks of good fishing. Far from the norm for Raritan Bay. The bunker population in April and May was poor at best after I heard of many sightings of massive schools of bunker entering the bay in February...go figure.
Next came the slow Fluke fishing at 3 fish per angler...what a joke. While big boats are whacking fish offshore, we're given 5/0 and 7/0 hooks for free to reduce mortality...you've got to be kidding me. Who's B/S'ing who here. Like the recreational "hook and line" fishermen are to blame for a downturn in the Fluke population? I don't think so. The entire "fisheries management" system has some real soul searching to do.
Now that I got that off my chest..on to this past fall Striper fishing. Once again, it's all about conditions. Wind, wind and more wind. Tough to get out on a 25' boat with N N/W or East winds howling at 20-25 gusting to 30 and many days with small craft or gale warnings posted.
All hell broke loose in the bay on November 1 and here we are November 24th and Striper fishing has quieted down considerably in our area.....3 weeks that's it? And mostly small fish I may add. Not much of a fall run so far.
Listen, I'm not here to feed you excuses or whine, but I keep very accurate records and the weather conditions coupled with fishing regulations made 2017 a really tough year for me.
Sad...instead of trying to help the struggling sector of the New Jersey shore business, seems they (all those involved in fisheries management in NJ...and you know who you are) are trying like hell to close us down.
But, WE WILL BE BACK for 2018...I'm either stubborn or stupid.
If you like me, the crew, the boat or everything in general, we hope to see you again next year and fish with us. We work hard on every trip to provide you with the most professional and safe day on the water and your repeated accolades is a testament that we are on the right track. Hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving and some peaceful time with your family and friends.
Had the Tom Taughran party out for Stripers today in what was a pretty successful trip as we left the dock at around 7:10 am and we basically limited out by 8:30 with bass in the 28" and above range for New Jersey regulations.
There were a lot of cookie-cutter size fish in this one area of fish 28-32 inches which was quite easy to get our 4 man limit of fish, but finding that 43" and above second fish was a real chore. Moved around to a few other areas searching for some bigger game, but today was filled ith smaller migrating Stripers.....good still the same as the guys went home with zip-lock bags of fillets.
Water temps at the mouth of Raritan Bay hovered around the 54 degree mark....right in that sweet zone for Stripers to feed which they did today. If you're interested in fall Striper fishing NOW is the time.
Finally......Stripers exploded in Raritan Bay yesterday as we've been reading these fish on our fishfinder for the past two weeks without hardly a knockdown.
Amazing all the Bass that have been just swimming around near the bottom for weeks and refusing to "chow down" have decided that it's time to eat before the beginning of their migratory run. Now all we need is the weather to cooperate for a couple of weeks and we could be putting some Stripers in the cooler for everyone who's been patiently waiting as we have since the beginning of October.
So let's go anglers.....THEY'RE HERE!!!!
We are chartered for Saturday and Sunday, but do have some dates available for "Open Boat" fishing for next Wednesday, Nov. 8th as well as a few dates during next couple of weeks.....so give me a call.
We had the Basso charter out this morning in what Mate Rich and I knew was going to be somewhat of a tough day based upon all the previous reports that we've been getting the past 4 days. But the customer had to go on this date and couldn't reschedule.
Headed out to what was supposed to be a Striper fishing trip, but turned into catching other species other than Striped Bass. Left the dock at our usual time of 7:00 and about the time we made the tip of "The Hook", Flynns Knoll was already a parking lot of boats casting and trying to catch Albie's....those speedy demons that only look at some real small offerings. We got out our casting gear and joined in the fun to run and gun fishing for these speedsters. After a few minutes, the pod of Albies broke apart, as usual, and all the bird life vanished so the party was over. Then it was on to try to find some Stripers throughout Raritan Bay.
Tough day....that about sums it up for the Bass fishing for us. Pods of Bluefish all over the place along with a Seal that said hello, but the Bluefish was the only action that was available in our area so the charter decided to whack the crap out of them and had a ball doing it. It's been a long time since I've seen water "boil" with all the surfacing and crashing fish we found in thebay. Didn't matter what you threw at them....they whacked it. We had 2 and 3 fish on at a time as we chased these pods around. Hey, what the hell, catching Bluefish is a lot of fun.
We tried trolling the MOJO rigs and Tube and Worm rigs in most of my prime spots, but came up empty on Stripers. But the Basso party assured me they had a blast just the same.
Look...contrary to what you may have been reading with some of these online or print fishing reports, the fall run of ocean Stripers, just hasn't begun yet. I've read and been told by my contacts that Stripers are being caught on eels in New York Harbor and that's all well and good, but that too has been a on one day, off the next event. What I'm customarily used to seeing during the fall months are big Stripers chasing bunker in the ocean along the beach, but that is not happening at Sandy Hook yet....so we wait.
Let me add this observation....my fishfinder was reading many, many bottom marks which were Striped Bass throughout Raritan Bay. Problem was, they just weren't in the feeding mood. We also saw many pods of baitfish (bunker) on the fishfinder. The bay water temperature was holding steady at 63.4 degrees which leads me to believe that with those warm temps the Bass simply have not decided to chow down at the beginning of their southerly migration. Just my thoughts as I could be all wrong. But with all the bottom Bass readings, coupled with the warm waters and all the bait, these fish just aren't in the feeding right now. Things could break open any day now with the passage of the Thursday full moon. So we will see.
Capt. John and Crew
Funny how things fall into my lap at times just when I'm searching for some answers to life's great mysteries.....like where the hell did all the Fluke go during the just concluded 2017 fluke season.
While getting my hair cut the other day and waiting my turn, I happen to pick up the August 2017 issue of NJ Monthly Magazine. As I was browsing through the pages, low and behold, on page 22, I read about warming waters and I thought this article might shed some light on what the heck happened here.
Over the past few months, I've heard many opinions (everyone has one these days you know) as to what caused the drastic downturn in the Fluke population here on the New Jersey coast. There's no denying that the numbers of Fluke caught by recreational fisherman (party, charter and private boaters) took a surprising downturn this year. Some good days, some fair days and numerous stinkers....too many to count for many anglers as compared to previous years.
Overfishing, cold wet rain filled spring, commercial netters....everyone had a opinion as to why the Fluke population here in NJ was way off from previous years. Well, here's another one that seems to make more sense to me than all the other reasons......warming waters!
Coincidentally, when the NY commercial netters reached their quotas and were shut down, NJ anglers had some fish to catch.Hmmmmmm!
With the incredible hurricanes this season, there's no denying the fact that these storms have been supercharged and warm water seems to be the culprit. Another thing....why was our spring Striper season so short? Bass are very sensitive to water temperature....well I think you get where I'm going here. I say that because as NJ anglers were struggling to put an inshore catch together, while anglers to our north (Rhode Island, Cape Cod area) were whacking the hell out of some monster flatties.
Flukers I know were forced to travel far and wide and in deep waters to find what would ordinarily be found in our bays throughout the summer months. You wanted fluke this year....fill up the gas tank up and look for deep holes and structure and you'll put fish in the cooler. I've never done so much travelling searching for Fluke as I did this year. Add to that NOAA's ludicrous regulations and the Fluke season for many, not all, but many charters was tough!
The article in August 2017 NJ Monthly Magazine is well worth tracking down and reading if you can find it in a local library or bookstore.
So now we wait for the fall Stripers to show up in substantial numbers. It's all based upon water temperatures right now so it's any body's guess as to when or IF they show up this fall....let's hope so.
Just a quick note about what the conditions are as they pertain to the possible arrival of fall Stripers in our area.
First off, the Raritan Bay water temperatures having been steadily dropping like the Titanic over the past 10 days. Water temps recorded at the Keansburg station currently are at 64 degrees, down from 76 degrees just 10 days ago.
Although still warm for Stripers, this significant temperature drop along with very cool mornings already (we're still in summer) is a good indication that the fall is fast approaching....way too fast. I think we could be in store for a tough winter if this is any indication of things to come.
With all the baitfish loaded in our area now, coupled with the cooling water temps, and the arrival of Stripers could be sooner rather than later which is a good thing for all of us. Another 8-10 degree drop in water and we could be seeing our first Striped Bass in our waters soon....hopefully following the baitfish along our northern coast of Sandy Hook.
We'll see, but it's trending in the right direction right now. It sure would be nice to start boxing some fall Stripers by the end of this month....let's hope. I'll keep you posted as soon as we get some bass in our waters.
Well, here we are. The end of another fluke fishing season. Just when things were starting to heat up, NOAA shuts us down..thanks.
As always, I'm offering my impressions of the recently concluded season of 2017 fluke fishing....and it was not good.
First off, the regulations....3 fish at 18" per angler was a joke, especially for the charter boat fleet. Naturally, charter boats have to charge more, per person, for their trips than do party (head) boats mainly because you have far fewer persons on board.
But, there are numerous advantages to charter boat fishing. Wide open cockpit to move around and fish, much less tangled lines, custom rods and reels to use chosen by the captain at no additional charge, filleting and icing down your catch, fresh caught baits and top notch service by a highly trained crew. But most of all, a professional, courteous and teaching staff to make your day on the water as memoriable and pleasant as possible....it's all about the service.
Whenever fishing regulations get tighter and tighter, it's usually the charter boat fleet that takes a major hit. Don't get me wrong, there were many days I saw few anglers on the party boats during the weekdays, but many of them rebounded with a packed weekend crowd....but they too took a major hit on the number of anglers they had during the season. So...everyone suffered with 3 fish at 18" per angler....everyone!
Bait and tackle stores, marinas, restaurants and diners, hotels and the list goes on....well you get the idea. The 2017 fluke regulations turned out to be an economic disaster for many shore businesses....make no mistake. Who's to blame? There's a lot of that to go around. You know who you are and I'm not going to mention names, but this was a major collapse by many in this business for not supporting the for-hire captains in maintaining "status-quo" from last years 5 fish at 18" reg's. You reap what you sow as they say.
My sincere "Thank You" to all those who did show up for the demonstations and numerous meetings and the many phone calls during the spring trying to salvage the "staus-quo"...you know who you are too. I know now who truly cares about our passion for fishing and keeping the shore businesses alive and well. Thank you!
And for those of you who didn't get involved...thanks again!
Now onto Fluke fishing..... Horrible beginning to the season if you were fishing either Raritan or Sandy Hook Bays or oceanside. Fisherman I know personally, were secretly doing a number on the fluke in our local rivers in some very shallow waters. Great for the small skiffs and kyacker's....but off limits for any boat that has any substantial draft.
As I've preached many times in my seminars, opening day to 2-3 weeks into the season is warm, skinny water time for fluke. And this year was no exception. Strips of squid and killie combo or really small bucktails were whacking fluke big time (and big fish too) in the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers for a few weeks after opening day until it got fished out. One ounce Spro bucktails with Gulp Alive on light spinning setups put a real hurtin' on some 4 and 5 lb fish. Kudos to the fishermen who kept this one quiet..but not next year!
The fluke in Raritan and Sandy Hook Bays were almost non-existant for most of the season. Not until the last month or so have sizeable numbers of fish showed up once the commercial netters reached their quotas.
Where next years fluke regulations is going is anyone's guess. 3 fish at 18"...maybe. 2 fish at 20"? With the bozo's at NOAA running the show, they could strong arm us again into a complete shutdown and the NJDEP would be unable to stop it.....just my opinion of course. What a joke....best available science? Yea right!
The 2017 fluke season, based upon my standards, was a STINKER for me and many businesses and private recreational anglers. Sorry guys, but if you've known me through the years, I call it the way it is and pull no punches. No B/S here!
The fall Striper season, hopefully, is just around the corner. I hope you saw my previous message about the "bonus tag" program and you registered for that additional 24-28" bass. I will be emailing you when some substantial numbers of Stripers arrive, so get your gear ready and await my "fish are here" message. Within days of my message we have to be out on the water.
Don't forget too, that I will be running my Open Boat fishing trips every Wednesday checking my website for spot availability. The water has been cool for most of the summer, so I suspect that the bass may appear sooner rather than later...early October? Lets' hope so to save all the shore businesses.
Aug. 19, 20 & 21
A busy few days here at Reel Fun Sportfishing.....especially for Fluke fishing.
First off we had the LaPosta crew.... Jaimie, Mike and Joe out on Saturday morning the 19th for a try at some flatties. Wind was cranking from the southwest with a southeast ocean swell but we decided to slug it out in our hunt for some bigger fish.
Good that we did as bay fishing has seen mostly shorts and we wanted some quality fish for our efforts as displayed on your left. Had many throwbacks as well as some of the keepers you see here.
Great effort guys, and to Jaimie, who by the way, outfished the men.....as usual. Sorry guys have to call it the way it is. Great bucktailer with quick reflexes. Tournament fisherwomen for sure.
Next we had the DeGroot family on Sunday the 20th.
This time we had a snotty 15-18kt NNW wind that made Sandy Hook and Raritan Bay totally unfishable so, once again, we fought our way through the turbulance of the bay and took up residance on the lee of Sandy Hook.
Once we caught around 30 or so shorts in one area, it was time to move on and look for some quality bigger fish for the cooler if we could.
Photo on the right were 4 of the keepers to come out of the cooler. Steve (far left) handled the snotty water and the boys whacked the fish with that 5 lb'er on the far right as a reward for their efforts.
Great job guys...proud of you. See you in the spring for Stripers.
And finally.....today, Monday the 21st.
Had a 3 man charter for the Melito party. We headed to the oceanside Fluke grounds for a try at some bigger fish.
For quite awhile our drift was non-existant and the light west winds made the ocean as flat and waveless as I've seen in many years....incredible. Almost too good as the fish were very slow to respond to our initial offerings.
But we stuck it out and waited for the tide to change and we got a little breeze to help out and finally got a .5 to .7 kt drift and....bang....fish on.
Amazing what can happen when "conditions" are right with these fish and you have the right bait.
Tom Melito, JR on the left holding some nice 4.3 and 5.4 lb. quality fish. Not real big but a far cry from all the small fish in our waters at times.
Hope you enjoy your dinner Tom. Don't forget that recipe I told you about.
Aug. 12, 2017
Pictured on the left was our entry into the SWABC Fluke Tournament that was held this past Saturday and the representatives for Reel Fun Sportfishing.
Our 3 fish total weight was recorded was 17.2 lbs with mate Braden Niper (far right) holding his 8.6 lb Fluke...allreal beautiful fish I would say.
Although the biggest fish of the 27 boat tournament was 10.2 lbs, we felt pretty good we held our own against some really tough competition.
Pictured from left to right is mate/son Chris, Barry Paull and mate Braden. Congratulations guys, you fished hard under some tough conditions and against some really good fisherman. I'm very proud of all of you.
Aug. 3, 2017
Had James McConnell party out today for a try a Fluke fishing. Since the inshore fluke fishing has been spotty at best, mate Rich and I decided to try a "sticky" bottom location off the beach around the 6 mile line in 60-70 feet of water. Gotta keep those baits and jigs moving in these areas or you'll get hung (like we did numerous times) up on the bottom and lose valuable hardware.
But on the bright side, quality fish as shown by Jim (left) at 7.8 lbs. is your reward for fishing hard and being attentive and not getting snagged on the bottom.
since they shut down the commercial draggers a few weeks ago, the fluke fishing
has improved substantially here in New Jersey....not lights out yet, but a vast
improvement over the past 2 months. Maybe NOAA's on to something...ha ha ha!
Anyway, the Fluke fishing season closes down in one month...September 5th to be exact and time is fast running out if you hanker for a good Fluke dinner. I do have some openings on next Wednesday's August 9th "open boat" trip if you're interested. Hoping to hear from you soon.
July 2 & 3, 2017
Fellow Anglers, Good morning and a very Happy Birthday America on this 4th of July.
A few fishing charters to report to you and some strange sightings and some very strange fishing activities.
First off, had to postpone last Saturdays charter with the McConnell party due to the unreal fog that was persistently hugging the shore for most of the day. Let me add too, that with a persistent south wind for about 5 previous days, the process called "upwelling" occurred and the water temps in the ocean at the Shrewsbury Rocks was reported to me by a fellow captain at 53 degrees.....brrrrrr that's cold.
Look, most fish do not tolerate cold waters well, especially fluke, so when I heard that, I knew my plans for my fluke charters were going to be where the warmest waters AND bait appeared...the back bays and rivers.
Although Raritan Bay has been somewhat deserted of fluke the past few weeks, I was determined to find those fish that wanted warm water along with breakfast in the morning....my baited hooks.
Which brings me to my Sunday charter with the Slawinski group. Very slow day that started off deep into Raritan Bay with waters temps recorded at 77 degrees...holy cow! 5 minutes into our first drift and we had our first keeper in the cooler. But as time went on, we lost the current and the drift, and with it the prospect of catching fish. Moved around to many places within the bay looking for some movement, but as we finally got into incoming (flood) tide, it was wind/against and things got a whole lot tougher. Bottom line in fluke fishing is all about "conditions" and don't forget that for the future.
Our next charter was yesterday, Monday, with the postponed and rescheduled McConnell group. Decided to try another area that I haven't fished yet this year with a very strong outgoing current. First drop....bang a nice 18" keeper for the cooler. Subsequent drifts produced nothing for the cooler and watched a sea turtle, whale and dolphin giving us a show.
Once again, moved around to various spots in warm water looking for a bite as I watched a lot of party boats returning from the ocean with what I expected was realization of fridged water out there. I read online reports that some head boats were catching ling....ling in July? Wow, that's come cold ocean water.
After some analyzing of our conditions, and few fish in the box, made a charter saving decision, so I found a really nice pod of feeding fluke and bagged some beautiful thick meated fish for the cooler with only 45 minutes left in our schedule.....whewwwwww, that was close. ha ha ha ha ha.
Trust me, the Monday report can't be made up. These fish finally decided to put on the feed bag and we were at the right place. Go figure, but I'll take it.
Many thanks to mates Braden (helping out on Sunday) and Richie (Monday) for all your hard work on two really tough days. You guys, ALL my guys, are gems!
June 10, 2017
As pictured on the left are members of SWABC Fishing Club (left to right...Harry, Chuck, Barry and John) with their catch of Fluke for the morning of keepers.
Fluke fishing for 2017 has started out slow, but as of late, is picking up steam with more and more keeper fish as compared to throwbacks.
Fishing in and around Raritan Bay in shallow waters has proven to be the winning ticket with both bucktailing and drifting baits working the best.
Not a bad morning as you can see, but still not up to my lofty standards as this same time last year was better for keepers as well as throwbacks as the action was a tad better in 2016, but it still is early in the Fluke season. The ocean and bay water temps are climbing steadily each day and the Fluke fishing can only get better.
Thanks SWABC for a really fun (a lot of ****bustin on this trip) morning in great and hot weather.
May 27, 2017
Went on the hunt this morning for Striped Bass with the Bob Ronyak group from PA being told by fellow anglers that big bass were showing at "The Rocks" the past few mornings. So mate Rich and I decided to spend about an hour of travel time from the marina to search out The Shrewsbury Rocks and adjacent areas for any signs of life as we had heard.
Upon arriving, there was a small fleet of boats set up both trolling and chunking, so we decided to troll our MOJO rigs first and try to cover a lot of water. Good thing about trolling, you get to keep an eye on the fishfinder to see what's below you. After about 45 minutes of watching and trolling it was clear to me that there was very little life out there this morning. We tried various water depths from 40 to 60 feet, usual Striper hangouts, covering a 2 square mile area around the rocks, without even a single mark on the fishfinder of a Striper....crap!
Once again, the near nor'easter that we had this past Thursday put a big crimp in the good fishing that was occurring there for a few days prior. We didn't see a pod of bunker in our entire time at The Rocks.
So it was plan "B" and head back up north to the tip of the hook area in search of Bass/Blues and try trolling or chunking for fish to put in the cooler. So we anchored up on some really good readings on the fishfinder on our journey back north and was surprised with absolute monster "mongoloid" size Bluefish that gave my 4 fisherman everything they could handle.
Bluefish....they are one angry and nasty creature. We had way too many to count after a while and put some of the smaller, better eating fish in the cooler while releasing some absolute "slob" bruisers. We had one fish that broke off boatside that was easily 20+ lbs.....a fish that I never saw that big in all my days of bluefishing.
My thoughts???? I don't' believe in driving all over the vast ocean and bay searching blindly for fish. You're there and have hired me so you can fish...have your lines in the water and attempt to catch some fish. My goal is to minimize travel time by knowing where to fish and maximize fishing time, plain and simple. But when fishing gets tough, as has been now for several weeks for Stripers, information becomes scarce.. very tight lipped. "I've found my honey hole, now you go find yours" type of mentality. Sad!
Realize too that Striped Bass are always moving, searching for food, to spawn, to migrate to cooler northern waters...whatever. So where they were on Monday, may not be there on Wednesday. Striped Bass are a moving target. Finding and having a steady diet of stationary Stripers is a crap shoot at best, that's just the nature of this species of fish.
With Fluke, that's a different story. Those fish return year after year to basically the same areas. And if you keep accurate records (captains log) like I do, locating Fluke at specific times during the season is much easier. Shorter sailing time, more time with lines in the water and more fish in the cooler....everybody wins.
Truth be told, if New Jersey had year round Fluke fishing, like some other neighboring states do, I would fish for them exclusively and I would be very successful doing it. More charters coming this week, so stay tuned.
May 25, 2017
Finally, some very good news on the fishing front.
As was reported to me from mate Rich last night, who was out yesterday on his own boat doing a little recon mission, pods of bunker have finally come into Raritan Bay and along the northern New Jersey shore areas in good numbers. Amazing how things can change from one day to the next. Tuesday's charter saw a lifeless Raritan Bay in the morning without any signs of bunker and no life on the fishfinder, then yesterday, Wednesday morning, the bay comes alive again with baitfish....mother nature is very unpredictable.
Many times I get down on myself for a poor trip, only to rebound with a banner day on the next. I guess it's unrealistic to expect banner days on every charter I do. I admit, I'm my own worst enemy at the end of the day. A frequent angler and my friend said just the other day while fishing on a charter "you better lighten up on yourself or you'll be in the hospital" wise words from someone who cares...thank you DT I heard you.
Now back to those bunker....following and harassing those pods should be the northerly migration of Chesapeake Striped Bass along with some of our resident Stripers from the Hudson River. We'll know if they're ocean going fish as they usually have sea lice attached to their bodies. Hopefully, this will kick-start the current slow pick Striper fishing here in our area of Sandy Hook and get back on track like previous years. Again, as they say, "find the bait...find the fish" always applies especially to Striped Bass.
The weather has knocked us out for fishing today and tomorrow, but we will resume fishing on Saturday with a private charter and I should have a better handle on weather or not there are indeed Stripers following those bunker up the coast...let's hope!
And don't forget...Today is the official opening of the 2017 Fluke season.
Finally, this happens to be the official start of the summer and the Memorial Day weekend. Fly your flag and honor all those brave soldiers who stormed the beaches in Normandy or walked the rice paddies in Viet Nam.
May 23, 2017
Had the Cooper charter out this morning for a Striper/Bluefish trip within Raritan Bay. Too bad someone didn't tell either fish we were coming.
After yesterday's wet, stormy day, the bay water temperatures took a tumble down to 57 degrees down from 62 degrees just 2 days ago. We had an all morning outgoing tide with steady 57 degree water until the change of tide at around 11:30 when the incoming and wind were in harmony and the water temps rose to 61 degrees within an hour of the tide change....amazing. Once the water warmed just a few degrees, the Bluefish decided to chow down and we had some action, but for the most part this was a slow day. I call it the way it is....no B/S!
The spring weather has really taken its toll on the Striper fishing so far in 2017...I'm not going to sugar coat this and tell you were slammin' them.....quite frankly, few charters are right now. It is what it is and mother nature dictates the success or failure of any and all fishing trips.
May 21, 2017
Had the Lyons party out for a morning of Striper (what's that) fishing yesterday as we gave it our best try for what amounted basically to a Bluefish bonanza.
Don't get me wrong....Bluefish are a lot of fun to catch but their culinary excellence has much to be desired. I really don't want to come off as complaining or whining, but this spring, so far, has been really, really tough for the crew and I. Brutal is a better word.
Weather postponements and rescheduling have been numerous, that's why the lack of reports. Currently, I am around 15 and counting with the spring Striper run about the midpoint. My appointment book is a mess!
Speaking of Stripers....where the hell did they go? 2 solid weeks of lights out fishing and then quiet. Are there bass out there? Sure but it's a slow pick and a lot of driving around searching. Bunker, the mainstay food for the Striped Bass, have just about totally vanished throughout Raritan Bay and it's tributaries.....amazing! As they say "find the bait, find the fish" really applies to just about any fish.
The crew and I are counting on a resurgence of Stripers when and if the northerly migration of Chesapeake bass show up....keeping my fingers crossed here. So, if you were to ask me, in a word, my impressions of the spring run of Stripers so far.....disappointing! But that could change in a day...let's hope.
Reminder....the official opening of the 2017 Fluke season is this coming Thursday, May 25 so make note as well as the legal keepers size per angler/per day is 3 fish @ 18". So for a party of 4, that's 12 fish and that could be plenty of fillets with fish in the 3-5 lb range which I will most definitely target considering the current circumstances.
May 18, 2017
2017 Fluke regulations for New Jersey....and you're not going to like it.
Here goes....3 keepers per angler at 18" minimum length per day. The start of the season will be a week from today, Thursday May 25 and run till Tuesday September 5....a total, of I believe, 109 days.
At that point I might as well and I'm seriously considering ending my season and putting the shrink wrap on the boat and calling it a season. It's anyones guess when the hell the fall run of the Stripers will appear, if at all in norther Monmouth County. The deeper into the fall, the colder it gets and Striper fishing participation drops off dramatically.
Sad, very sad....ALL the recreational fishing industry and it's affiliated businesses here in New Jersey will suffer. As if Hurricane Sandy wasn't enough, now this.
What a JOKE....all our elected officials here in NJ and in Washington....ALL failed to rescue an already wounded industry from these ridiculous and antiquated fishing regulations based upon totally, and admitted, flawed science used by NOAA.
I feel I did my fair share in protest by attending a meeting in Galloway Township months ago and the infamous "enough is enough" rally in Point Pleasant, which regretfully amounted to nothing. This whole fight was our time to draw a line in the sand as all we asked NOAA was to reevaluate their method of counting fish so to speak and while you do that allow our anglers to fish under last years reg's at 5 fish @ 18" until such time and we would adhere to the new "corrected" regulations.
But no.....NOAA played hardball threatening a total shutdown of fluke fishing (B/S) and our NJDEP knees buckled (wimps) and asked for a compromise. So much for all the tough talk at Point Pleasant.
There's plenty of blame for this massive failure to go around in my opinion so I'm not going to mention them by name as I will pi** off a some people I know.
You know, this is my 14th year in the charter business and I can truly say that I have some wonderful memories and met some great, great people....my anglers, BUT every year gets harder and harder. As to paraphrase..."this may be the final straw".
For you who really know me, I wear my heart on my sleeve and am truthful to a fault, but this latest series of events could be a backbreaker for many in this business. Very sad.
Mates: Rich, Chris and Donnie
May 17, 2017
Our Wednesday charter, an open boat fishing trip with Don, Don, Dick and Hani saw a proliferation of Bluefish while searching the recently elusive Striped Bass.
Live bunker in Raritan Bay has been scarce to say the least, a far cry from all the bunker that was in the bay in mid February. Trolling was the key to success today as the Bluefish jumped at just about everything we trolled in many different locations we tried in the bay searching for Stripers.
Some of the Bluefish were real tackle busters in the 10 to 14 lb. range as we did have a few Striper hookups that pulled the hook a few minutes into the fight on MOJO rigs.
It seems clear now that the initial run of Stripers three (3) weeks ago, which I presume were Hudson River bass have since departed for either spawning or for their journey into Long Island Sound and their trip north for the summer.
Water temperatures throughout the bay were in the mid 60's...warming up nicely for productive Striper fishing. Are there Stripers around....yes, but you really have to work for them.
Hopefully, we will see the return of the Chesapeake Stripers from the south any day now which are usually covered with sea lice.....a true indication of ocean-side migrating fish.
Mates: Rich, Chris and Donnie
May 9 & 10, 2017
Had the John LaPenta charter out Tuesday morning for a try a Striped Bass. Had many good bottom marks on the fishfinder that were Bass, but the Bluefish beat them to the bait repeatedly. Raritan Bay, right now, is loaded with Bluefish making it quite hard to catch Stripers either on the troll or with fresh bunker which we used.
Don't get me wrong, Bluefish put up one hell of a fight, but if your intent is Striped Bass ONLY, then Tuesday and Wednesday could be rough if you're not flexible.
Our Wednesday charter, an open boat fishing trip with Tom, Dick, Mort and Jim went well as all the guys worked together and best of all they enjoyed the day on the water as a group meeting for the first time. What I find interesting is how well everyone cooperates on these open boat trips. Amazing interaction among people who have never met before.
We came up with some short bass and a ton of monster bluefish.....we stopped counting after awhile. We went through a ton of tackle in the process and traveled many miles throughout the bay in search of Bass. So we can't be faulted for not trying. But the Bluefish have just about taken over the bay right now. Where the hell the bass went in the bay, where we had two (2) solid weeks of outstanding Striper fishing with bass in the 25-30 lb range, is anyone's guess.....on the spawn up in the Hudson River? Heading up to Cape Cod? Who knows.
Could that change?....sure any day now when and if the Chesapeake Bay Stripers, that make their yearly northerly migration, show up at which time fishing in the ocean near the tip of "The Hook" will become the M/O for the next few weeks. But these fish would have to be within our 3 mile limit in the ocean or it's hands off as they are in federal protected waters, which I may say, has happened at times over the last couple of years.
Bottom line, I'll be searching "outside" for the bass for the next couple of charters as Raritan Bay may have run its course for spring Stripers unless, of course, if your fishing for "ole Yellow Eyes" then it's game on and get out the tackle.
Mates: Rich, Chris, Donnie and Tom
May 2, 2017
Regretfully, there's not much to report on the Raritan Bay Striper situation from Reel Fun Sportfishing for the past week. Fishing for Stripers has slow down, hopefully temporarily, for the past 5 days now. I wish I had something more positive to report, but being true to myself and to you, I report it as it is...no B/S.
Not sure what the hell happened here....numerous discussions and opinions but no one really knows....mother nature at work. But as you know, this whole thing could change tomorrow....that's fishing and what gives me gray hair.
In case you haven't been reading the online reports, almost all of the charters and rec. boats are struggling now. Cold water...no! But with all the high winds and lightning and thunderstorms it's no wonder that whatever fish are around may be laying low waiting for things to calm down...my opinion here. If we were fishing for Fluke, and these thunderstorms came through, the Fluke bite would shut down for at least 2 days. The spring of 2017, so far, has been tough for my business.
Boats trying to fish with fresh bunker have been having a hard time finding bait, but we've been scoring very well "trolling" and that's what we are going to remain doing until the troll bite bombs out. You may not be a big fan of trolling, but that's outproducing bait fishing by a wide margin, so we are going to stick with it to put fish in the cooler for you. Has the fish that, for two weeks and given us lights out fishing, moved up the Hudson to spawn?...it's anyone's guess. The Chesapeake fish haven't arrived yet, so hopefully the Hudson fish will reappear after this crappy spring weather settles down. As they say "that's why they call it fishing and not catching".
The euphoria that I had just a week ago with all these big fish in Raritan Bay has me scratching my head wondering what happened. Had a talk with mate Donnie yesterday and his take is that once this week's weather passes us by and settles down, the month of May will be great fishing again.
Mates: Rich, Chris, Donnie and Tom
April 22, 2017
Pictured on the left is the Dawyn Sandi group after a great day fishing for Stripers in Raritan Bay this morning.
The fish on the far left weighed in at exactly 35 lbs. as the fish in the middle weighed in at 30 lbs...both on a digital scale.
We also released 9 other "legal" bass. Fish on the far right looked around 12-14 lbs by my estimate which we did not weigh but measured 31" on the ruler.
Great day on the water as you can see despite cool and overcast skies with occasional showers occurring during the morning and a rather stiff SE wind off the ocean. Great job guys....see you again soon.
Mates: Rich, Chris, Donnie and Tom
April 15, 2017
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.....so I'll let the photo on the left speak for itself.
Today was a "shakedown" crew trip to accomplish how well the boat was running, how well the crew remembered what we did last year, but above all, to hunt down some Raritan Bay Stripers.
As you can see all went well. Judging by the expressions on the guys faces, they were pretty satisfied too.
Mate Rich is on the left and son/mate Chris is on the right supporting that beautiful 30 lb Striper...not bad for a look-see to start the year I would say. Water temps were still a little on the cool side but we trolled these fish nontheless. If you're interested in trying for some Striped Bass, now's the time to call at the number below. We still have a few choice dates available.
Mates: Rich, Chris, Donnie and Tom
April 11, 2017
Just a brief heads-up that the water conditions in Raritan Bay have been improving steadily over the past few days. Water temps Sunday and Monday have both hit a low of 46 degrees with a high of 52 degrees....yeaaaa we're over that illusive 50 degree mark. Water clarity has also been improving daily with tide changes and that's a good thing.
Charters and private boaters that have been fishing the past few days have had success with both shorts and keeper bass with most of the keepers being fished "on the troll". Clamming has had very spotty response so far. Tons of bunker in the bay so why should the bass feed on clams?
I've heard the kayak guys are out there in droves...something more to contend with. A word of caution to all the kayaker's out there....put up your flags or someone may get injured. Thanks!
Mate Rich and I were at the boat yesterday giving her a total polish job (boy, what am arm breaker) and we also loaded up the boat with all our equipment.
Weather permitting, mates Rich, Chris and I will be doing some "hunting" around the bay this Saturday as our first official charter is next Wednesday. We're getting close and good to go. Give me a call (908-421-4761) and let's get the season going. Have a great day.
Mates: Rich, Chris, Donnie and Tom
April 5, 2017
Cold and Muddy Waters...my Striper Prediction (ETA)
This horrible pattern of crappy March weather looks to be done with by the end of this week. Rainy one day, and sunny the next. No consistent sunny days is making it very hard for fishing charters to get their boats ready for the season. But the pattern seems to be breaking as the jet-stream may be lifting to the north giving us some "normal" spring weather. I should have the boat in the water by the end of this week or early next.
Read a report from a charter that's in the water now and had his first trip from well back in the bay on Sunday. He said the water was cold and muddy (all the drainage and snow melt into the bay). He tried clamming unsuccessfully and switched to trolling to catch one (1) keeper for his efforts. Obviously not good, but he gave it a try and broke the ice so to speak. The water temps are still fluctuating between 42 and 48 degrees for the past week. So now that we will finally break into a nice fair and sunny weather pattern, the Stripers should arrive soon.
We have a full moon Monday, April 10th, so I would suspect a few days after that, coupled with water temps 50 degrees and above the bass should respond big time with all the "bunker" that's in the bay right now. I'll subject myself here to a massive amount of comments, and go out on a limb and say that by Saturday, April 15, Striped Bass will be in the bay in good numbers. (Watch it snow on that day....ha ha ha ha) Along with the Easter Bunny dropping eggs all over the place, the Easter Bass will be filling up the cooler!
I'm saying this because my captains log book from last year, 2016, showed my first bass charter was April 15th and we had a banner day. So I'm very optimistic for a repeat for this year.
If you haven't already made your Striper plans and reserved a trip with me, now is the time to call as I do have a some days still open in April and a few in May and June. Call me at 908-421-4761....
March 24, 2017
Good morning.... Just a quick note keeping you informed as to the Raritan Bay water temps I just read this morning at 8:30 am. The temperature recorded at the Keansburg monitoring station is at 38 degrees and dropping as we still have 3 more hours of outgoing tide. It's painfully clear to me that the snow melt is having quite an effect on the bay water temps as the melting snow is feeding cold water into the streams that feed the Raritan Bay. Yesterday, at this same time, the water dipped to a low of 34 degrees....brrrrr that's cold. Water temps that I like to activate these fish to feed is around the 52-55 degree mark for Stripers so we have a little ways to go yet. I'll keep you updated as the days go along.
Also want to give a shout out to the organizers of the SWABC Past President Dinner that I attended this past Tuesday evening in the Mountainside Inn, Clifton. Great job.... as the food was family style and delicious, and with good conversations and the "Dark Horse" prizes were many. I even won a basket of fishing "goodies" which doesn't happen often. I donated a couple of Reel Fun Hoodies to the items to be won as there was a ton of great fishing stuff to be had for the lucky ticket holders.
SWABC (Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County) is one of the best fishing clubs that I've seen as they are very involved in fishing issues, are community minded, friendly and most of all....THEY GO FISHING OFTEN! Local fishing trips, Rhode Island fluke trips...you name it. So if you want to join a really good fishing club, I highly recommend this group which you can Google their web site and join this great dedicated group of people. They currently have over 160 members and counting and for the beginner in saltwater fishing, this is a great venue to learn the sport from fellow anglers as well as hearing the many "pro's" who come to their monthly meetings to give seminars.
The mates and I will be heading to the marina in a week or so to get the boat ready and right now, with the way the water temps are going, our first official Striper trip is slated for Wednesday April 19 which is also our first "Open Boat" trip of the season. I do have 2 spots available for that date if you are interested in getting the season off with a bang....great tide and the waters should be within range for hungry Bass. You can call me at 908-421-4761 to reserve you spot on the 19th. The mates and I will be doing a few "scouting" trips before then so we have a handle on what's going on out there.
Mates: Rich, Chris, Donnie and Tom
March 10, 2017
The first statewide keeper Striper has been reported being caught in the Mullica River (south) the other day as reported by The Fisherman magazine. So it's just a matter to time that some resident Stripers wake up and get hungry somewhere back in the Raritan Bay up around the mud flats.
Surf fisherman will usually bag the first keeper bass slinging sandworms, bloodworms or clams in shallow water around Pebble Beach or Hazlet, Union Beach area. As the water warms to around 52-55 degrees, these fish will get active and start looking for something to eat.
Checking the Raritan Bay water temps this morning, it was around the 43 degree mark which hit a high of 50 on Thursday and a low on Sunday of around 34 degrees. This swing of temperatures is usual for this time of year as the tides flood and ebb.
Nothing new on the Fluke situation.....we're still at 5 fish @ 18" and holding until something changes.
Also, this would be a great time to get a Reel Fun Triple Weight Hoodie for those cool spring morning fishing with us. I have a few large and extra-large available for sale at $40.00...shipping "included"....a great price for this really warm garment. Ask anyone who has one! Call me, put it on your credit card and I'll ship it out the next day.....easy as that.
Finally, my appointment book is filling fast for Striper charters, so if you're going to fish with us this year, PLEASE don't put off making a reservation. I would really like to afford you "prime" tidal dates. Call me at 908-421-4761
Mates: Rich, Chris, Donnie and Tom
February 26, 2017
Just concluded a very successful show yesterday at the Ramsey Outdoor, Succusunna, NJ location with their annual "Cast and Blast" show featuring many exhibitors too numerous to mention here.
Great show for the outdoor family as not only fishing was represented but hunting as well with some very exciting seminars including live birds from the Raptor Trust....very cool owl's as well as a demo from a reptile exhibitor. As mentioned, many exhibitors were present from all over the tri state area with things of interest for the whole family, so definitely mark your calendar for next year or log onto Ramsey Outdoors web site and keep track of when the 2018 show will be. Store Manager Marty Brennan gets a big "kudos" from me for a very well planned and organized show. This show is getting bigger and bigger every year and is a wonderful day to get out with the family and see the wonders of nature.
Now onto some very exciting news....BUNKER ARE ALREADY IN THE BAY!
Boy, this is going to be an early striper season. Water temps have been hovering around the 46-48 degree mark and the rivers and bays never froze over with ice during the winter (global warming is real guys). That's not to say that Stripers are swimming and feeding on those pods of bunker, but it's only a matter of time when the bass find them and start to feed after their winter hybernation. I get the feeling that this is going to be a banner spring Striper run.....so don't get left out.
Mates Chris, Rich and I booked quite a few charters from new anglers yesterday at the show and they had their choice of "prime" tidal days (you snooze, you loose as they say) so word to the wise.
Time to get out the calendar and get your guys and gals together and give me a call to reserve your date for spring Stripers. If you're a single angler, then utilize our Wednesday's "Open Boat" fishing to get in on the action. The guys and I will be making every attempt to have the boat ready by April 1 if the weather cooperates or sometime around then and I'll let you know when she's in the water.
You can call me at 908-421-4761 to arrange your spring Striper trip or your Open Boat reservation....don't procrastinate as this Striper thing will bust wide open in the very near future.
Mates: Rich, Chris, Donnie and Tom
February 22, 2017
I've been called and emailed numerous times from my anglers asking about what's happening with the 2017 fluke regulations.
Until I, or any other party and charter boat business hears otherwise, we are following last years (2016) fluke fishing reg's with 5 fish @ 18" which is "status quo" from 2016. New Jersey will be out of compliance with NOAA (NMFS), but our fearless DEP Commissioner, Bob Martin, basically told NOAA and ASMFC to go stuff it and a line in the sand has been drawn.
It's anyone's guess as to what or when the final outcome will be, but ALL fishing concerns are standing totally united as we've had enough with their bulls**t regulations. So, it's 5 fish @ 18" until I'm told otherwise with a starting date of Sunday May 21, 2017 until Monday September 25, 2017.......so a word to the wise!
Book your fluke charters EARLY! As everyday into the season could possibly be a total shutdown or 2 fish at 20" as a penalty for being out of compliance. Once again, if you're fishing for fluke this year, DO IT EARLY or you may get left out.
Finally, if you have the time or are infected with cabin fever, stop by the Ramsey Outdoor "Cast and Blast" show this Saturday, February 25 from 10 am to 4 pm and say hello. Mates Rich, Chris and I will be there to talk fishing and maybe to book a few charters in the process.....see you then. Ramsey Outdoors, 281 Rt 10, Succusuna, NJ.
Mates: Rich, Chris, Donnie and Tom
January 27, 2017
Mate Rich and I just returned from a very successful fluke press conference this morning in Pt. Pleasant, NJ at 10:00 discussing the NOAA's (ASMFC) 2017 ludicrous fluke regulations of 2 fish @ 19" per person which they are trying to impose upon us.
By my estimate, there were about 200 people there....party and charter boat captains, commercial captains as well as business concerns from Sandy Hook to Cape May in attendance. A good show of support also from the elected officials that were there to speak to us about the proposed regulations that could impact upwards of 20,000 workers. DEP Commissioner Bob Martin (which you will hear in the YouTube video below) will give you his thoughts moving forward.
Quite frankly, this is the first time I've met the man and his sincerity addressing the plight of the recreational fisherman and women was truly felt by me.
Kudos Mr Martin....many thanks for setting this conference up and listening to our concerns.
Pictured on left is NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin with my back to you (obvious) getting ready to ask him a few questions.
Ever since Hurricane Sandy, the Jersey shore businesses have been taking a beating and it was refreshing to hear someone....anyone, hear our voices and say "I hear you". This is could be the beginning of a long road to establishing clear, concise and reliable survey information that we as recreational fisherman can "trust". We have to start somewhere, so a "status quo" direction should be allowed to exist for 2017 until such time as reliable assessment information is obtained by NOAA.
I am all for conservation of a valuable resource....especially my fish. So we should all be responsible when we out on the water together. If we fish the joint out and nothing is left then I have failed. I want reliable, scientific data that I can trust and I'm sure that you will honor my requests to follow the regulations to preserve this valuable resource...fluke are my babies!
Let's keep it thriving and plentiful for future generations. But pulling too far to the conservation side and not considering negative economic impact for thousands of NJ workers isn't good either. It's called "balance" which I'm sure can be obtained if we all work together.
Thank you for listening to my rant. After being in this business now for 14 years, I've come to understand the balancing act that's required for a happy and healthy fishing environment. Like I stated earlier, status quo is just a temporary fix to a long (30 year) problem with NOAA. But it's a beginning and a very positive one seeing the response and attendance of today's crowd....KUDO'S TO ALL WHO WHERE THERE.
The rallying cry for today's assemblance.....ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
To see Paul Haertel's video of Commissioner Martins' speech....click here.
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