Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday, June 06, 2008: We’re now on the hot side of things -- Bass go bonkers, south

Friday, June 06, 2008: We’re now on the hot side of things, as east winds will shift south and even southwest. Heat will be focused on mainland but there will be plenty of sultry overflows onto LBI, mainly morning hours of or when the winds shift west. The east winds overnight have pushed in warmer water, which will last a short time but could get driven out of upwelling from south winds draws up that very cold water just below the surface. Still, the touch of warmth should spark a more varied bite as just about everything will be here a few (kingfish, blowfish, and even croakers showing) will join the arriving black drum, exiting weakfish, the embedded blues and bass, plus the arrival of close-in seabass.

HOWEVER, all these usable fish will often be upstaged (sometimes fully) by trashers, which are out there in epic numbers, especially the skate. Adding to the reality bite will be a very nasty showing of snot grass, egged on by the late cool water that this grass favors. The snot is heaviest in and around Barnegat Inlet but is also showing in other areas. Dragging bait in any way grabs that stuff to the point of angler infuriation. Sometimes metals bypass the worst of it. There is also some relief by adding a teaser to grab some snot further up the line. Barely works.

HOT NOTE: Snag-and-drop action off the South End was borderline epic. In fact, for a couple emailers it was just plain incredible seeing surface bashing bass hitting bunker so hard the bait fish began lying stunned on the surface, not from being bitten but from sheer terror. I’ve seen this many times. The hooking was just as harried. All huge fish. I heard of fish in the 50-pound league. DOUBLE NOTE: That hooking action comes and goes at a dime’s drop.

BUNKIE BLOG: Bunker this year is an amazing story. After looking like they weren’t going to show very thickly, they are not only packed into nearshore waters but are also still in the bay and backbay – we’re talking the big bunker, the peanuts will show midsummer, and could be beyond historic numbers if the spawn matches the adult bunker showing.

As for the concept that there may, on occasion, simply be “too many” bunker baitballs out there, reducing the interest big fish have in snag-and-drop offering, it’s real – kinda. All that means is more work to find the balls with receptive bottoming bass.

The overall benefits of massive amounts of baitfish are obvious to all academically-inclined anglers. Gamefish thrive when well fed. What’s more, the bass and blues will surely partially summer here, while food is fabulously available.

What will happen is the sure-to-warm seas will eventually drive off the big blues (and many big bass) but will surely bring in big sharks and such. Hey, that’s part of a healthy ecosystem. Of course, we’ll also see the bunker boats in the EEZ.

I have quite a few emails about freezing bunker. There’s no mystery there. Freeze them one at a time – to allow for thrifty and rapid thawing – and waste absolutely no time getting them from ocean to freezer. Yes, it helps to suck air out of the plastic bags when freezing, mainly to prevent freezer burn. By the by, you can get more bunker in a freezer by lining them up neatly, stomach down, not on their sides. No, tackle shops don’t have time to do that but when you’re stacking for personal consumption (so to speak) this extra step keeps the bunkies well shaped (their insides sitting naturally when freezing up) and if there is any burn it will be minimal and mainly on the top and bottom of the bunker, leaving the look of the sides smooth and natural looking. I’m always amazed at talented fishing folks who go to the trouble of fine-freezing their bunker but them thaw them by pouring water on them, letting them sit in warm water, or even cutting them while still brick hard. Actually, I do the same thing but that doesn’t make it good. Allowing bunker to slowly thaw maximizes the bait’s potential to be nearly as fresh as when caught. The best thaw method is to greatly anticipate when you’ll be going fishing and allow the needed bagged bait to thaw in the fridge overnight. Allowing it to thaw while left out on the counter (at room temp) leads to the thinner part of the fish thawing, warming and going mushy before the other thicker parts thaw. In the fridge, the early thawed parts stay very cold. Transport thawed bait on ice the way you would fresh. By the by, that concept works on all frozen baits, including costly rigged baits used offshore.

Welcome back to all the regular emailers – and a primary welcome to the first-timers:

Really quick report---I'm exhausted! Fished South BH tonight 6-11:30pm with Nick and my buddy Ryan. We accounted for 2 stripers and 1 bluefish. Also had hordes of dogfish and skates. The big news is we hooked up Ryan with his biggest bass ever at 25lbs. 2 oz, a tourney grade fish. It was just under 40". Fish was loaded with bunker.
Unfortunately, Ryan had not signed up for the tournament yet. Don't think he would of made the cut, though.
Back at it tomorrow,
Joe H

Is it true that I'm the first lady angler to hit the (Simply Bassin’) leaderboard in this tournament?

Cindy T

(I meant for this year but the more I think about it, I’m not sure how many female leadeboarders we’ve had. I’ll check on it. J-mann)

Jay, I emailed you a couple of times in the last two years about fishing out of LE inlet along Long beach Island,asking you about wind direction and what affects water temps. and better fishing conditions. Which wind direction raises and lowers water temps etc., never got an answer. thanks Alex Lynn

(Actually, I used your question in my weekly column in The SandPaper. I'll do a new one this week. I will say now that conditions this coming weekend in the a.m. -- with lighter winds and warm temps -- will have the fluke moving out of the bay and into the inlet while there will also be large black drum moving through the inlet -- along with a few stripers and a load of bluefish. The prime zones will be toward Little Beach and along the banks of east sides of the Sheepsheads sedges, directly across from the end of Holgate. Higher winds in the afternoon screw things up quickly, so it's best to tuck into Grassy Channel -- near Old Fish factory to south side of Old Coast Guard Station. Also, work channel ICW waters north toward Beach Haven. J-mann)

Thursday, June 05, 2008: There’s change in the air – which is a lot better than the smell of smoke. The winds are around to the north and east. This will likely downwell warmer ocean water, likely pushing in the warmest water of the season by tomorrow. Then the big change begins. The first signs of that scalding summer I’ve been talking about will show – though technically a spring heat wave. Days of 90s – with some mid-90s mainland – will solar heat the ocean if the south winds to kick up too hard, which they’re not forecast to do. Of course, this spring has thrown some vicious curves, weather-wise – much to the chagrin of many anglers and boaters who have a picture of the NOAA logo on the wall to throw darts at. That hot air will surely bump the ocean temps up and might be enough to drive blues and fluke out of the backbay -- not what backbay folks want but that’s something to consider in coming days.

The main reports I’m getting have to do with this massive showing of bunker, which is now occasionally making its way inside the sandbars, though not close enough to the beach to throw net at them. It’ still one of those snag-and-drop-and-nada things for many folks. Still, I have a goodly number of weigh-in reports from boats so someone must be finding nearshore stripers associated with the bunker. By the by, all that bunker is also a massively good thing. As long as the bait stays there will be fish – not always hungry fish, but fish in waiting, so to speak.

There is at least one new entrant onto the 2008 Simply Bassin’ leaderboard and I’ll get that in here a bit later this a.m. (when I get to work and check for any other faxes).

Here’s an email from our first Simply Bassin’ leaderboard gal.

Hey Jay,
Long-time reader, first-time emailer. Wanted to tell you about my fish that Nick emailed you about last night.

Nick and I set up camp slightly south of Joe and cast our lines. We caught a few skates and smooth dogfish. Then, while Nick was dehooking a doggie, the other rod started screaming off line. I never ran so fast in my life to grab the rod and start reeling. The fight lasted about 10 minutes. I thought for sure it was a shark, but Joe and Nick kept saying it was a bass. I refused to believe it until I saw it in the wash and ran down to pull it up on the beach. This is the biggest fish I've ever caught in my life and I'm really excited!
Keep up the good work. I really enjoy reading your posts.
Cindy T.

Jay, I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. Joe caught the nice bass pictured below off NC over the winter holiday. The fish had a deformed jaw. A friend of ours caught the other fish you see pictured below last night. It also had the same deformed jaw. Notice that the jaw on one side on the second fish seems to be normal, but on the opposite side, a difference. I was thinking that these were either some sort of birth defect or perhaps the result of a run-in with a fish hook (where the fish tore part of their jaw away) or perhaps a net. Any ideas? Thanks.

(That lower jaw phenomenon has been discussed for decades on end, meaning it may be more than a simple defect – or, at least a defect that has persisted going back a hundred years, since early striper books writers talked about the odd, fairly horrible look of weird-jawed stripers. I’ve caught maybe three or four of them over many years. I always feel bad for them and let them go even though they seem very healthy, Hell, maybe that DNA trait is increasing because so many of us feel badly for them and release them to go back into the gene pool. Still, I have to saw it is a survivable birth defect. The fish with un-survivable birth defects aren’t out there to show what such defects look like, though some very small bass down south show very ugly defects, as noted in some seine studies I’ve read. Could it be the impact of heavy metals, which date back to before 1900? Absolutely. J-mann)

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