Sunday, August 17, 2008: Waves: 1-2 feet. Water clarity: fair. Winds: Light.
Well, that was one near-perfect weekend. The angling pressure was high, mainly boat. The flukers of the area were working heavily, if radio chatter was any indicator.
For the umpteenth week in a row, folks were freely broadcasting info on their fluke action, since most everyone was on fish, many folks briskly so. Obviously everyone was trying to coax info on keeper-prone locales. No secret there: There weren’t none. You simply keep on keepin’ on and maybe good fish will arrive – or not.
I do have half a dozen reports of major fluke, approaching doormat size. These are often what I cal rogue hookups – often out of the blue, sometimes the only keeper of the day.
By the by, I’m actually not sure where the ”doormat” size zone begins but I’d like to think it’s 7 pounds and up. However, many folks swear 10 pounds is the starting point, based on historic precedent, established well back in the day.
As I oft note in here, I’m a huge fan of ye olden lazy hazy days of summer fluking, harkening back to those transistor radio days of the Sixties and Seventies, when drifts were long and there was a load of laid-backness -- baseball games or bubblegum music idly crackling in the background -- and a total certainty of meat being brought home. Just to show how far back that was, we would actually purposely lie around on deck—skin to the sky -- to take in as much tanning sun as possible.
Anyway, as much as I favored fluking above all other summer angle-izing, I generally sucked at it, even though I would always get a few to call my own. The biggest flattie I’ve ever taken is sub-5 pounds.
Obligatory one-that-got-away tale: I had a monster fluke in the surf at the Rip in Holgate maybe 10 years ago. I got a full shallow-water view of it and only as it got off (and swam off) did I realize it was a bona fide summer flounder and not a monster skate, as I had first thought. I’m guessing it was pushing 10 pounds – a weight easy to estimate when a fish has drained back into the deep.
Back to today, the top fishing action I personally saw centered on schools of kingfish in the shallows of Harvey Cedars, low tide. I took time from beach volleyball to stroll over to surfcasters on nearby beaches. Along with skates, there was a fairly steady showing of medium-sized kingfish going for GULP! in red or pink. The fellow doing the best was using a dime-store high-low rig with battered Styrofoam floats. He wielded a rod/reel combo that had to run every penny of $19.99. Still, he was offloading kingfish two at a time – and releasing all of them. He could have filled a bucket in no time. I was sorely tempted to grab that spot for my own later in the day (the fellow told me he had to head “back home “ soon) but that was at max low tide and a rising tide often kills kingfish action.
Bassing is slow to bad. I know you had one and that guy over there had one but I know quite a few guys who have their pulse on the overall striper action and they’re down to saying “we’re waiting for the mullet run.” Frighteningly, that end-of-summer event is approaching with the speed of shortening days.
As most folks know, there is a huge showing of baby bunker in many areas of the backbay and near bayside docks on LBI. That bunkie showing should surely make for enhanced fall fishing – providing we don’t get brutalized by any sort of tropical systems in the interim. I’m not sure what natural mechanism come into play but hurricanes and such can literally empty the entire nearshore area of bunker, mullet, spearing – the entire forage fish menu. My guess is the baitfishes know something potentially catastrophic is hitting, as the storm looses its energy. They flee seaward, en mass. Afterwards, there is no reason for them to return to their points of origin. Making matters worse, forage fish from prime bait areas to our north often get rousted by the same system and head out to sea, meaning they will not do their traditional nearshore migration – the one that draws all the gamefish into our surfcasting range. But let’s think positive – and cheer on any and all hurricanes willing to stay within the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico zone.
As for weakies, well, check out this pro report:
Did you hear that loud boom last week? That was the sound of weakfishing exploding in the bay. We had five trips this week, and landed almost 500 weakfish along with assorted other fish including fluke, small blues and stripers, and kingfish. The weakfish aren't large, but once the action starts it's non-stop and a lot of fun on the scaled down tackle we use. As usual, we've been chumming them up with grass shrimp and fishing almost exclusively artificials in the slick.
Monday started the week off with the "Jim's Charters" (Jim Stockdale, son Jimmy and brother-in-law Jim) landing 75-80 weakies plus a bunch of small blues. Wednesday we hosted the management team from Infragistics in East Windsor in a team building "fishing tournament" on the bay. Special thanks go to Captains Alex (Debbie M), Steve (Reel Fantasea) and Bill (Mole) for helping our clients, many of whom had never before fished, to land almost 400 fish in a short four hours on the bay. The overall tournament winner was Dave Keuning, in from Japan for meetings, landing a pretty 22" weakfish (picture attached) aboard Rambunctious.
Thursday saw vacationing Bill Burd down from upstate New York with daughter Margot and buddy Jim Brown from Philadelphia catching well over a hundred weakfish before we switched over to fluke and added a 22" back bay flattie to the box. Friday brought Jack Hough back again this week, this time with son Rich and granddaughters Chelsea and Nicole. After a bit of a slow start, the fish really turned on and started coming over the side two and three at a time with an uncountable number of fish being landed in the last couple hours of the trip. To wrap up the week, Brooklyn's Paul Gleser brought out three coworkers, none of whom had ever touched a fishing rod, out to give it a try and the group proceeded to land 80-85 weakies before calling it a day.
What a week, and what a blast! This kind of action should stick with us well into September, and I've still got some dates open the last week in August and first week of September. If you've ever been thinking of trying out this unique fishery, it doesn't get any better than now.
Capt. Jack Shea
Barnegat Bay Fishing Charters