Saturday/Sunday Sept. 20/21 2008:
The wind refused to bow out gracefully on Saturday. Despite gusts to over 20 mph – and cold cloudy skies -- there were a goodly number of folks trying to angle. Success came in the form of some fine stripers taken in the suds by surfcasters, mainly mid-Island. Going for needlefish and poppers (finally), the bass were mainly early a.m. – when the wind had settled, momentarily. These were obviously bass on the sly for stirred mullet pods. The surf-stir is allowing ambushes at every turn, as the mullet are very disoriented due to turbid water and unclear migratory signals. For young-of-year baitfish, loads of foam makes following the shoreline a tedious process – as is having huge crushing jaws o death suddenly appearing from the murkiness.
Sunday was a lesson in instant reversal of conditions. Light winds out of the west – and light onshore by later in the day – led to what might have been one of the finest days of the entire summer – and the last of summer’s days. Crystal clear skies and ultra-clean air drew folks out by the thousands, as LBI also hosted a major bicycle race. Boat anglers poured into the bay. Some went seaward, though small craft had to keep a wary eye on some residual large wind swells near inlets.
The fishing was nothing sensational. Small blues, some small bass, decent wreck fishing and far too many junkfish went hook.
My day was as small as it can get. I’m not talking about my hideously small mullet netting take but some pure fun time I had with my little buddy JR, 5. We visited a bayside street end in Surf City. Using a kingfish rig, I threw out tiny pieces of mullet. The action began immediately. I let JR reel in a tiny fluke, no more than three inches long. Another (likely) young-of-year fluke followed. Then, up came a couple blowfish, 4 inches. Baby blues (smaller than snappers) attacked the rig. Even some needlefish grabbed the bait as I brought it in. It was microscopic angling but indicated just how much marine life is jammed into every inch of the bay.
The tale of the day – and a tale of a lifetime for some Little Egg Inlet boat fishermen and family members -- took place this morning. A lone very-active dolphin was seen cruising just off Holgate’s west point. As it seemingly frolicked, anglers viewing the dolphin from the beach fully freaked when some fast-moving boats approached where the creature was cruising. It seemed like a collision course between boats and marine mammal. Then, enter the wonderful entertainment. One boat after another slowed as they saw the dolphin, offering it right-of-way. But, the dolphin was on a course nobody expected. It swam up to each slow-moving boat and went into a begging posture last seen in that 60s show “Flipper.” Grabbing any fishy material onboard, the folks on the boats fed the irresistible beggar. And the dolphin didn’t miss a vessel. I’m guessing Bob Schoelkopf will warn that even feeding a dolphin is contrary to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The way the kids on-board went wild over the close contact, it sure seems to have assured a lifelong appreciation of marine life by all involved. Marine mammal protection was guaranteed in a whole different manner.
I have to think this was one of the famed dolphin that had hung out for much of the summer in rivers just to our north.
It now seem pretty certain that the coming week will be nasty repeat of this past week. A very strong NE flow will muscle in by late Monday and, at this point, could extend all the way to next Sunday. This is not what the doctor ordered. It wrecks the mullet run. It wrecks the beaches. It wrecks boat fishing. It leaves the Holgate tip but even there the fish are already seemingly taking off because of the current NE winds so it sure seems unlikely another week of them will be a turn-on to the gamefish sector.
“Summer's over and we're back from a couple weeks of vacation, so it's time to start thinking about fishing again. I took the boat out for a couple hours this morning to recharge the batteries (both the boat's and mine), and found the weakfish were still around and cooperating. They seem to be keying on peanut bunker right now, so live bait and larger plastics are working pretty well. Unfortunately, they are moving towards the inlet so it looks like we've only got another week or so of catching them in the bay before the action moves outside.
“These last few cooler nights have sent the bay water temps down into the low to mid 60s, which is probably what started the weakies heading for the ocean. I'm hopeful that this will mean an earlier than usual start to our fall striper run in the bay. A pretty decent body of fish hung around the area all summer long, and I'm thinking the combination of cooler water and an immense amount of bait inside might get them started a couple of weeks earlier than normal this year. I'll probably start looking for them out back in another week or so if the evening temperatures stay on the cool side.
“I've still got a few prime weekdays open this fall, so if you're thinking of getting some bass this fall now's the time to get the trip booked.
Capt. Jack Shea
Barnegat Bay Fishing Charters