Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Sunday, April 29, 2012:
It’s gorgeous out there but the angler response is kinda slow.
Asking around at church today – loads of anglers – hardly anyone has even given it a try. The up side is the way any fishing folks finally have work. With the economy on the crapper, I fully see that foregoing fishing for the sake of income is a no-brainer. In many cases, weekend anglers have that invaluable “extra income” that comes from side jobs come Saturday and Sunday.
There are bass going for plugs in the surf. Slow though. Water too clear in some places – though definitely not in Brant Beach where the stir from the dredging has the water an odd off-color.
By the by, a good artificial this time of year is the famed Felmlee fake eels or, tough to find, rigged eels. I like throwing Felmlees (the ones that actually look just like an eel) on smaller lead jigheads (3/4-ouncers) and swim them straight, no bounce or jigging action, as a moderate to fairly fast retrieve.
I got a note from a die-hard black drumfish fan who started off the season like a ball of fire and has seen the action go stone cold. He’s somehow blaming “over fishing,” which makes utterly no sense since this is not a heavily sought-after species. He claims the keeping of big black drum “just for show” is the root of the problem. And he is, in fact, a staunch catch-and-releaser. He has a super scrapbook of big drum I’d like to tap into once we get crankin’ at The SandPaper’s online edition – which can display entire portfolios. Just type in thesandpaper.net – or Google The SandPaper or just Sandpaper.
I still have calls into the DOT asking why the strong overhead lights on the north side of the last bridge onto LBI (the Hochstrasser bridge) have been out for months. It utterly ruined the springtime night fishing there. Possibly related, for the past five or so years, I had been regularly seeing daytime pods of big bunker, often nervous, in the middle of Manahawkin Bay on the south side of the Big Bridge. I haven’t seen one pod so far this year. I did get an email that some bunker were under the Margo Bridge (first bridge onto Causeway).
A good-sized sheepshead was caught by a tog fisherman working the Big Bridge. It was released. The catcher was under the highly deluded belief they weren’t edible. I thought that maybe it was a small drumfish but he has caught many drum before and he remarked how ugly the teeth were. Absolutely a sheepshead. While I’ve never caught one locally, I have frequently seen them while snorkeling or scuba diving rocks, wrecks and bridge supports.
Fished pickerel at Chatsworth and while plentiful the size is dismally small. Got a crappie among the dead trees in the backwaters. That large fishing and hiking area (once owned by the DeMarco family of cranberry growers) is now known as the Franklin Parker Preserve. And the new owners, the NJ Conservation Foundation, isn’t shy about marking its new territory. I’ve never ever seen such plentiful signage. I’m not being over critical since the area seems geared to seniors, light-track hikers and entry-level woodsing. A feeder creek, south east of the big bend at the lake, has been modified. I was here when it was first dredged and it had a series of slews and spillways, used to flood the cranberry bog. It is now nearly one straight flow to the bogs, with one decaying spillway still in place. That wooden spillway still (slightly) shows the “J Mann” I carved into the wood, circa 1963. It’s fun fishing all along that creek.
OK, so maybe we got a little spoiled with the off-the-charts striper fishing we had in early April this year. I was tempted to say that fishing in this area was slow again this week, but the reality of the situation is that fishing is actually quite a bit better than it should be for late April and will only improve from here.
The winds early in the week kept everyone pretty close to the dock, and striper fishing out front late in the week seemed to be a continuation of the "slowdown" we saw last week. But there were some positive signs. Massive schools of adult bunker seem to be all over the beachfront right now, and it's only a matter of time until the schools of ravenous post-spawn stripers find them. The bite has already started north of here and a few larger bass were landed by boats trolling bunker spoons yesterday, so it may be getting close. Back bay action is also starting to pick up, with early morning top water action for bass and blues as well as fishing with fresh clams starting to produce along the channels when the tides are right. And while tomorrow is the final day until July, the blackfish bite has been as good as it gets all month long. So considering that it's still April, fishing right now is pretty good and that's a good sign for the coming weeks.
Will this be the week that fishing explodes around here again? Hard to say but I hope so, and if it does this will be a May to remember.
Until next week.
Capt. Jack Shea
Barnegat Bay Fishing Charters