Sunday, July 12, 2009: Waves: Down to 2-3 feet out of the east; still enough swell to effect surfcasting and inlet boating.
Man, did that cold front blow through at NASCAR speed last night. I could hear a rumble way in the distance to the west and within minutes it was approaching the back bay, and considerable louder, then the obligatory bed-shaker that always seems to hit right in my backyard and then whole shooting match was out to sea in a flash. It must have been moving at warp speed through the area. It had some rain to boot but not nearly enough to over-impact the bay – a good thing considering how much road crud must be out there from all these busy traffic weekend. The wind shift to a light west is also a relief after though honking southerlies yesterday. The only problem with west winds is how inconsistent they can be, making ocean drifts for fluke a bit off-and-on-ish – during gusts you need, maybe, 8 ounces to hold bottom then during lulls that much lead is way too much.
I got an interesting email from a fellow up this way (for the first time) from North Carolina, large family in tow. Saying “We’re having a blast here on Long Beach Island” (Hey, give me a piece of that action), he asked if there are any fish beside fluke, bluefish or bass to catch? Being from the Delmarva, he wondered about red drum, cobia, Spanish mackerel, spadefish (huh?) – Amongst other south-of-us species.
My reply: Well, we have a bit of variety other than the big three: Bluefish, striped bass and fluke.
There is, of course, the weakfish, bigger brother to your spotted seatrout. Blackfish and black seabass jumped to mind since those are very northern specie, though the blackfish is pretty much off-limits. Both tog and seabass are easily targeted.
Thinking smaller, we have/had kingfish, though I think the recently-revitalized Carolina shrimping industry is killing off our short-lived spurt of those. Only easy to target during fall migration southward.
We had a fairish run of blowfish in recent years but they also seem to be biting the dust, quite possibly the result of poor recruitment from Barnegat Bay spawns, due to a poor spawning environment and also likely due to some incessant fishing pressure by anglers targeting ripe blowfish, right before the fish spawn. Blowfish are easiest to target in late spring, when moving in to spawn. Some years they hang around all summer and into fall, when they muster. West Barnegat Bay is prime local locale.
I noted last week that grey trigger fish are in the house this summer. Those are very tricky to target unless you know the ropes of anchoring near Barnegat Inlet jetties and laying out a grass shrimp chum line. Don’t even try unless you really know the appropriate incoming anchor-up tides and the proper back-down anchoring methods.
We also offer bergalls. Don’t laugh. These often over-abundant structure-based bait-stealers are delicious -- and even fighters if taken on very light tackle. They are so underutilized that it isn’t hard to find the largest ones for keeping. I’ve seen them pushing a pound. Still, how can they be happily dined upon when they’re so small? The old story: Cooked in the round, they offer way more meat than you might think. Bergall meat can be gathered for fishcakes or eaten right off the bones, dipped in a savory sauce or even butter.
Likely the oddest targetable species we have is the sheepshead; the state record sheepshead having been caught at the base of the pylons holding up the Causeway’s Big Bridge. With the upcoming tog-a-day summer session beginning, it’s worth a laugh to work those concrete support columns of the Causeway bridges. You’ll likely nab some blackfish and also be open to a sheepshead or two. No tying up to the supports and stay out of mid-channel. Grass shrimp as chum and bait work well, as do you’re more typical tog-attracting crabs, i.e. fiddler, green, blue and blue sheddars.
Out there possibilities for nearshore hooking in NJ: Spanish mackerel (fall, occasional, generally rare), spotted seatrout (fall, occasional), filefish (summer, common), queen triggers (summer, very common), small mahi (summer, rare - in close), false albacore (summer/fall occasionally common), American eels (bayside spring, summer – common if targeted), blue runners (fall, very rare), cobia (summer/fall, rare in close), ocean herring (summer, mainly fall/winter — very common to copious), spot (summer/fall -- very common; often fished in rivers), sailors choice (very rare; common at one known site, bayside B.L.), gar (bayside, somewhat common certain summers), gag grouper (one once taken near Barnegat Inlet jetties), winter flounder (common spring), stingrays (very common in recent summers, into fall).
And dare I mention skate, sea robins and dogfish? They’re there for the taking. Help yourself – and the ecosystem.
Pro report: Hello All,
Not too much new to report this week. We were out fluke fishing in the bay three days this week, and while we caught fish every day the number of keepers seems to be declining fast. That's not unusual for this time of year, particularly the last couple of years with the 18" size limit we're living with. As the bay waters get warmer, the cooler waters of the ocean get more appealing to the larger fish and out they go. What is surprising is that the fluke fishing outside the inlet hasn't really gotten going yet. If we can get a few days where the wind doesn't crank from the south, that should finally turn on.
While things seem pretty quiet right now, there's actually a lot going on and more about to get started. There are still plenty of fluke to catch in the bay, with keepers mixed in for those that are willing to sort through a bunch of shorts to find them. Bluefish in the 1-3# class are prone to pop up any time the boat traffic slows down, so first light is generally a pretty good bet. I haven't seen any signs of our summer influx of weakfish as yet, but that should get started over the next two weeks and we'll begin targeting them with grass shrimp and artificials. And for the past couple of years bonito have shown up out at Barnegat Ridge in late July to provide some excellent sport and some great eating.
We still have a few mid week dates available in late July, and are starting to book up our August weakfishing trips. If you're interested in getting out this summer, give me a call and we'll get things set up.
Capt. Jack Shea
Barnegat Bay Fishing Charters
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Boat Owners Association of The United States and the National Marine Manufacturers Association are urging boaters to speak out on a waiver petition that would allow ethanol gasoline blends of up to 15 percent (E15). The federal comment period for the waiver, which was extended for 60 days in May, ends July 20.
BoatU.S. and the NMMA sent a release this week reminding boaters about the deadline and encouraging comment on the issue.
“This is not about growing renewable energy,” Margaret Podlich, BoatU.S. vice president of government affairs, said in the release. “This is really about a group of investors attempting to profit at the expense of 13 million recreational boat owners. We had significant problems with the nationwide roll-out of E10 a few years ago, and without further independent testing of E15 with marine engines we are very likely to see similar issues.”
In March, pro-ethanol group Growth Energy and 54 ethanol producers petitioned the EPA to allow an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline from 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15).
BoatU.S. and the NMMA are concerned the use of E15 in marine engines could void engine warranties and damage motors and fuel systems.
For more information or to comment, go to BoatUS.com/gov or capwiz.com/nmma/home. For Growth Energy's perspective on the matter, click here.