Tuesday, June 02, 2009: Swell: Small south swell. Winds: Swung from light south to light westerly. Water clarity: fair. Water temps: Ranging greatly due to some nearshore upwelling; mid 50s (surf) to mid 60s (out from beach). Conditions to day are damn decent – finally. I’m fully immersed in work but I’d sure like to get out and work some bunker pods then grab a keeper or two on the fluke front.
RE-ALERT!: The IBSP bass bite is fully on again. I expected same – and hoped it would shift down our way. No such luck – just yet. Anyway, bass in the 30 to 40-pound range are shagging bunker so snag-and-droppers are feasting. Entire boats and crews are limiting out. Catch-and-releases in double figures (per angler) are also showing. Though 60 feet of water is a starting point, the bunker are also being driven toward the shoreline. That is huge since there is a tendency for bunkering bass to forego nearshore crab eating to zip out to gorge, frustrating surfcasters. Thanks to Barnegat Light Bait and Tackle for the updates.
The North End surfcasting crew is finding bass at a pick, though that pick can include some hefty offers, including a cow large enough to take the lead in Simply Bassin’ 2009 (see below).
Mid-Island is real iffy. I’ve gotten too many skunk reports to ignore but I’ve also heard of weigh-worthy tourney bass in the Brant Beach zone. I have to think the rest of this week and into the weekend is primed for surfcasting mid-Island.
The South End is pretty active, striper-wise. In fact, it’s showing sparks of hooking similar to a few weeks back. The trick is to find an active bite zone -- a lot tougher now that buggies can’t go a-beach.
Many buggyists are firing up their other means of angling transportation, and are outboard motoring down toward LE and BH inlets. And they’re hitting too many fluke and too few (i.e. no) keepers in the ICW. One fluke seeker took a 28-inch striper on his flattie rig. Always a rush.
Generally speaking, fluking is all the same old/same old: Decent hooking and poor to piss-poor keeping.
Somewhat strangely, the overall population of fluke seems down from recent springs. That does not mean they’re not out there, they’re just not on the radar – yet. I got word that a massive biomass of large to huge fluke has shown at the Ridge. A few years back we had a junky fluking spring, only a fair summer season but fall broke loose as if the only fish in the sea was summer flounder.
Note: Small blues are showing in the surf and also southern bay areas (Middle Grounds and such). These are the coveted 2-pounders. They’re taking bait at this point but will surely go for plugs, fished late day.
The Simply Bassin’ 2009 tourney is turning toward the final run but still has over two weeks to go – and plenty of time for that 40- to 50-pounder to show. John Grasso’s 38-pounder took over the lead for a short time only to be ousted by Brian Hopkins 38-6 cow. That’s now the top-fish to beat. Six of the tourney’s top eight fish are over 30 pounds, despite an overall downsized striped bass spring. For a look at the board (updated when new entries arrive), go to www.fishlbi.com.
TACO DAYS ARE HERE: My housemate shot a striper off Lavallette over the weekend and made fish tacos for the house. Incredible. Make sure to add that to your things-to-serve this summer. Just bake the filet with some choice flavoring -- Mexican herbs would seem appropriate -- then flake the fish onto a taco or tortilla shell, add some optional cheese or shredded lettuce (I used some pickled sliced radishes I make this time of year) and it’s not only delicious but has a summery feel to it.
A surprisingly kick-ass cold taco can be made with bluefish salad. Bluefish salad is chilled flaked small bluefish mixed with a good mayo, finely minced celery, celery seed, a pinch of Bay Seasoning, a few minced capers, (optional) finely minced Vidalia onions, and a goodly dose of freshly ground salt and pepper. (Those McCormick “Sea Salt,” “Peppercorn” and “Italian Herb Seasoning” jars – the company’s “Grinders” series -- are the greatest thing since ground pepper.) Mix the ingredients much the way you do tuna salad but with a gentler hand to keep from mushing up the cooked bluefish.
REDFISH BONANZA GONE BROKE: Among my few TV diversions (outside “Ghosthunters” and World’s Dumbest”) are weekend a.m. fishing shows. I watch them at sunrise -- in lieu of actual fishing, which is usually pretty uneventful when I do it. Anyway, the variety – and intensity – of these TV catch ‘em shows is amazing. The hooking is usually frantic – and downright scary in the case of the award-winning series “River Monsters,” hosted by extreme angler Jeremy Wade.
This past weekend I was mesmerized by an episode of “One More Cast,” hosted by cosmically excitable angler Shaw Grigsby. For me, it hit close to home, so to speak.
The entire show centered on Grigsby fishing for monster redfish in the skinny water (shallows) surrounding the Kennedy Space Center. The videos of sun-heated 40-pound red drum stalking Grigsby’s plug/spinner was awesome. It was akin to the look of our chain pickerel making wakes behind small spinner – time 50! Then, when these redfish kicked into the attack mode … wow.
I bring this episode up – and I’m sure it’ll be replayed, check
www.one-more-cast.com -- since I heavily fished that same Space Coast area many years back. It had been woefully overfished then. Now, maybe a decade-plus later, there was a fish – or two or three – at every Grigsby cast. It got to the point that Grigsby would hook a 40-pounder then grab a second rod to hook up another monster redfish tailing the first one.
The other reason I bring up this a particular show is the fact that we have yet to see any sign of redfish stocks returning to our area, NJ to North Carolina – known, to fishery management, as the northern region.
As you know, redfish were once a major fishery hereabouts. Overfishing annihilated the stocks in the northern region.
Note: The redfish is super similar to striped bass in its toughness, aggression and most of all its ability to rapidly recover from insane human pressures. Efforts in the Gulf region seem to be paying off, if not in total biomass numbers at least in the know-how when it comes to raising fishery drum for release into the wild.
Seeing Grigsby bailing huge reds at a nonstop clip, I was imagining what it would be like to soon add huge red drum to our gamefish targets. Then I did some research and was shocked to find the condition of red drum stocks is below dismal. Not only is fishing pressure in the northern region increasing steadily – hovering far above established sustainability levels – but recruitment -- a statistic second to none in determining the health of a species – is so far in the crapper it’s downright alarming.
Working data dating back to the 1992 to 1998 period, indicate age-1 recruitment has dropped from 550,000 recruits in 1991 to 75,000 in 1998. Think about that: a measly 75,000 new fish a year. That’s nearing fatally endangered levels by my thinking, especially after factoring in those number were taken 10 years back and the fishing pressure has likely doubled since then.
The updated ugly facts and figures on redfish stocks will come to light in 2010, when the latest findings will be published. It won’t be a pretty read.
This deplorable decline in red drum splats in the face of the truly impressive fishery gains made via the Magnuson-Stevens Act. How did redfish fall through the cracks?
With a species as able to recuperate red rum, it sure seems time to not only throw a full moratorium over the entire northern redfish region but to also find out what is causing the species to fade to nothingness, i.e. do just what we did when stripers almost bit the dust.