Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

J-MANN : Bigger Bass and Fluke Bellies Allowed

Monday, May 14, 2007:

Bigger bass are showing. Here’s an interesting email: “Jay, I was fishing late afternoon Sunday with all the guys on my street. We had been getting shorts and as it usually goes one of the guys caught a 31"er. Great. Then he hooks and loses another big one in the wash after getting caught up in another’s line. Then he caught a 33"er then a 35'er and finally a 38"er. All the rest of us were lucky if we would hook up with a short but it did make it easier to fish a little harder. Even when he left, I jumped into his spot to see if was a hole or his stinky fingers. Well that’s what it must have been.”

I had reports of increased keeper hookups, both south and north.

Quietly kicking up a fishing fuss are black seabass, in the 60- to 70-foot zone and also showing on the Tires. Folks are coming near daily limits and some seabass are pushing 5 pounds. Seabass must be at least 12 inches. Somewhat ridiculously, there is a 25-fish bag limit on seabass. And management wonders why they’re so distrusted by anglers.

While togging isn’t as consistent, a 10-pound, 5-ounce horse was caught at the Tires. The ugliest face bottom fisherman love to see.

Weakfishing remains a rogue-ish thing.

Single sparklers to 15 pounds (yowza) are being marked at shops where the fish are being weighed in or simply reported after being caught, photo-ed and released.

The tale of the take is near identical: a single mongo weakie is caught during multiple drifts, then nary another weakie to complement it.

This one-and-done is so prevalent it’s fairly unprecedented. A number of hardcore trouters say they haven’t seen it before.

Here’s a weakie email:”Hey Jay, Haven't had much to report other than the obvious bluefish that have approached bigger and meaner status than I am. However, the other evening I happen to find a bunch of birds working the bay picking on spearing and had the action all to myself when I raised a 27 inch weakfish 7lbs on my hand scale the fish fell victim to a green BKD. I decided to keep the fish for dinner tired of eating the blues upon filleting the stomach contents which I know you like to keep track off was 2 what appeared to be lobsters just the bodies were left tail section up to the middle part both about 5 to 6 inches long. At least I believe it to be lobsters but you may of mentioned one time the name of something else it might have been. Also have to add they smelled like a lobster. Michael.”

Those lobster are the hugely popular (to gamefish of all sorts) mantis shrimp, which are just about all tail and can get 9 inches long. When semi-digested they really do look like lobster. The mantis shrimp heavily populate the fast-moving waters where Double Creek converges with Oyster Creek, creating the channel to the inlet. They are also thick in the inlet itself, mainly those shallows where the channel swings from the south side of the inlet (near the lighthouse) over to the north side. I’ve foul-hooked them when jigging. I’ve also eaten them and they are delicious, a pure mix of a shrimp and lobster taste. I guess they’re too rare to make them marketable.

The fluke are showing in goodly numbers – and good sizes. Those catch-and-release flatties are pure frustration for those anglers anxiously awaiting the way-too-short fluke season, beginning next week (May 26).

In recent years, the flatties seemed to show like crazy in a must-throw-back capacity then they all but dropped from sight when the season officially opened. We’re still trying to figure who tips them off every year.

BELLIES ALLOWED WHILE FISHING: It appears that this year you can use fluke belly strips to fish for fluke.

That was previously verboten under a regulation that stated you could have no cleaned or mutilated summer flounder on board a boat at any time.

That reg was meant to thwart the keeping of undersized flatties by filleting them at sea, making it impossible for the Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Bureau to determine the size of the living fish.

According to the folks in Enforcement, the division is awaiting the finalization of a change to the fluke belly strips rule, as modified by the NJ Marine Fisheries Council at its most recent meeting. When officially implemented, you will be able to use the belly portion of one (and one only) legal-sized fluke that has been caught that day, n.b. that day.

The carcass of the bottom-filleted fish must remain on-board. That filleted fish counts toward your daily take.

Important: It is illegal to depart port with belly strips on board, be they fresh or frozen. There are no exceptions here.

The guys in Enforcement are a bit apprehensive about the enforceability of this new belly strip rule. It would be nice to allay their fears by keeping everything on the up-and-up, by carefully storing the allowable bottom-filleted fluke at the ready for inspection.

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