Just glad I told him he couldn't store it in my side yard.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020: Ocean is more Like Lake Atlantic, hanging in at between 52 and 54 degrees.
There is still time to get into the 2020 66th Annual Long Beach island Surf Fishing Classic, especially if you’ll be hanging here through the holidays. Check the event’s website for a look at what has been weighed in.
Below you’ll see that Steve (James) Roderick pulled off a coup by getting oh so close to 38 inches with his 22.92 poundClassic weigh-in. It’s not a slam dunk winner since a way-chubby shorter fish might outweigh it – once you’ve caught it. It went for bunker down Holgate way.
RUNDOWN: Any other year we’d be tuning up for the striper swan song. This year, though, heavy metal headbanging might carry the day as big-ass bass are still in the mix for boat and surf anglers alike. In fact, a handful of recent surfside trophy bass were in the 35- to even 45-pound range, returned to the sea per regulations. Most are being caught on bait like bunker, clams and even squid.
I’ll herein openly bemoan the fact this year’s annual LBI Surf Fishing Classic would have been loving life had we been allowed to use the old beast-of-the-beach bass format, allowing the biggest stripers to reign supreme. The prestigious event had seen a couple lean years, even when big fish were allowed. Our off luck, this fall has proven a recovery year for bass in the surf, with a slew of trophy fish of little Classic significance. OK, this is not to say catching them isn’t a blast, despite lacking Classic rewards.
I imagine there are those who’ll prematurely attribute this fall’s solid striper showing to the new draconian 2020 regs, even though these big bass could be 25 years old, meaning they couldn’t possibly be the product of the first year of stricter regs. That said, I’ll grudgingly admit that those limited number of caught-and-released jumbo surfside linesiders will live on, to remain in the future spawn mix.
Along those same spawn lines, the ton atop ton of trophy bass still being caught and released by boat fishermen will add far more immensely to future spawns. Am I covertly implying surfside anglers should be able to keep larger bass, maybe to 40 inches? It’s quite the stretch, though such personalized tweaks have been made with fluke in Island Beach State Park.
This is where I unleash my annual spiel about the wonderfulness of inviting stiped bass to attend holiday dinners.
Envision a gypsy looking into crystal ball, telling a striped bass seated nearby, “I see you at a big dinner with tons of relatives all around … the problem is they’re not your relatives.”
FIGHT THE GRINCHETTTE: Here's my shot at making the holidays great again … even with Rona the Grinchette trying to cast an infectious shadow over the finest time of the year for many folks.
I say fight back with the likes of Skype, Marco Polo, Google Duo, Snapchat or Houseparty.
These videotelephony softwares allow vivid face-to-face communications. With them in the holiday mix, family and friends confined to hospitals, senior communities, convalescent centers and nursing homes can now be in on a meal, virtually. They can eat along with the gang. It feels real – and is. Hanging up leaves one with a feel of having been there, far more than the vacuous end to sound-only calls.
Having become a primetime user of Google Duo, I marvel at how it has filled in the future. Who doesn’t recall Star Trek episodes when Captain Kirk and the crew would have intergalactic face-to-face communications with folks light years away.
Leaving the lightyear communications to NASA, folks with even learner-level computer savvy can run videotelephony hookups through large screen computers and – this is so cool -- huge smart TVs. The latter allows grandma and grandpap to join a holiday gathering like stars of the big screen … and in Dolby sound!
So, if get-together holiday plans are falling through left and right, no thanks to the viral Grinchette, sidestep her with technology.
By the by, this appeal, albeit sincere on my part, came to me via very fine folks working to lessen the mental strain – and depression – caused by pandemic fatigue. The fatigue syndrome hits most dangerously close to home among older or estranged folks. It is surely going to hit a peak toward Christmas, so make sure to clear the way toward intensive videotelephony. Hey, by simply leaning a smartphone at a proper angle, entire family units can be around for the entire decorating of the tree.
A quick mention that videoconferencing, Zoom is great, can also be done at a family level, though somewhat limited timewise.
COYOTE CHATTER: I was at first reluctant to accept some of the recordings of suspected coyotes banefully baying on LBI (north end and mid-Island). One was so utterly coyote-ish that it seemed like something stolen from an old western and speaker-assisted outward in good fun way. Then I got personally got a solid sound off from what was surely a yote, prowling just after dark near where I was plugging for one of those post-sunset stripers.
Part of my initial reluctance to accept the song of the wild was due to the fact NJ coyotes are known to be quite quiet. That alone is odd considering they have “At least 11 different kinds of vocalization … including woofs, barks, yips, growls, yelps, lone howls, group howls, greeting songs, and group yip-howls,” Per natlands.org.
As to which of those 11 sounds my suspected coyote issued toward me, a high-pitched yelp comes closest, the epitome of the lonely coyote cry seeking a mate. It only sang out once, frustratingly, since I put down my rod and grabbed my Smartphone, which has an extremely sensitive recorder. Nada. Per my ADD, I only lasted about 30 minutes sitting in the sandy darkness, hearing some unrelated scurrying of likely rodents of the night. Their pitter-patter came across on the recorder, despite the sounds being barely discernable to my ears. That phone is coming with me on my next ghost hunt. Oh, that’s right, I haven’t gone of any ghost hunt yet. Well, it’ll be with me when I get my nerve up. And I have a couple places that ooze ghostliness.
Right before calling it a coyote recording night, I tried my own call-out. I picture the coyotes hearing that and saying “I’ll never be that hard up.”
Once again pondering the influx of coyotes, I reflect on the Aristotle truism, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” The near elimination of the wolf opened threw open the predatory gates for coyotes. Paying on words, once the coyote is out of the bag, there’ no easy way to get it back in. By the by, the increased hunting for NJ coyotes has only led them to places like, well, here.
Short of all-out trapping, which endangers all sorts of innocent wildlife and domesticated animals, totally ridding the land if coyotes won’t be happening any time soon. Why not lie back and enjoy their music?
One final yote point: They are not trashers to any great extent. Your trashcans were most likely ravaged by coons or possums, with bears even more likely to upend things than coyotes. What they readily do is stalk trash can crusaders. They would much prefer to grab a fat possum than licking the inside of discarded peanut butter jar, a favorite of all trashers. Of import: Coyotes are notorious ratters and mousers. Rodent hair is the most common component of coyote scat in the outback, followed by hare hairs. When frequenting humanized haunts, scat hair varieties go wild. Rarely are there feathers, though chicken bones have shown, indicating one of the rare items yotes will go to the trouble of pulling from already turned over trashcans.
"The truth is, you may not find much evidence with a coyote kill. A coyote uses a quick bite, shake, and release kill method which rattles the internal organs and forces the animal to collapse (even if the neck hasn’t been broken). Coyotes then tend to carry their kill to a safe place before consuming it. Evidence has been found as far as a mile away from a suspected coyote kill site."
The IKEA syndrome explained ...
As vivid proof that there’s a term for everything, may I introduce you to the Dunning–Kruger effect (D-K Effect). This is a bona fide technical psychology term that must be defined to be believed. That said, it’s profoundly, uh, funnyish. I’ll hint at it by saying we all know many folks who unwittingly suffer from the Dunning–Kruger effect. As a concept it perfectly fills a towering need when defining certain members of all societies.
Let me move to the meaning by offering the language from a medical source. “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability.”
I’ll include this bit of headiness. “It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability….”
The concept was described in 1999 by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger in a report titled "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments."
You don’t need a degree in psychology to feel the nerves being touched by just that title. Later, the doctors would offer a study called "Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence." These are not sensitive professionals by my headlining standards.
The thing is the D-F Effect is now a turn-to for doctors dealing with folks who are convinced, sometimes dangerously so, that they can perform tasks – or stunts – far outside their ability envelope.
I often say I’m a perfectionist with no capacities for perfection. That means I don’t suffer from D-F Effect, since I see where I’m not going, so to speak. That can’t be said for failed bank robber McArthur Wheeler, who became the demonstrable posterchild for Drs. Dunning and Kruger’s work.
How did Wheeler fill the D-K Effect bill? First, I must obligatorily offer the old “You can’t make this stuff up, kimosabe.”
Per the doctors' study, Wheeler “Robbed two banks while his face was covered with lemon juice, which he believed would make it invisible to the surveillance cameras. This belief was based on his misunderstanding of the chemical properties of lemon juice as an invisible ink.”
This is not even remotely implying the effect isn’t steeped in large and complicated studies of hundreds of participants. In fact, just the outline of how the proved their premise would take a D-K Effect personality. “Oh, I got this, dude. It’s all about the lemon juice, right?”
Far headier were the deeper inner wranglings of doctors’ work, i.e. “After learning their self-assessment scores, the students were asked to estimate their ranks in the psychology class. The competent students underestimated their class rank, and the incompetent students overestimated theirs, but the incompetent students did not estimate their class rank as higher than the ranks estimated by the competent group.”
I told you it gets complicated after Wheeler.
I’m not sure how, but this somehow ties into the Murphy Principal, as in we’re promoted to the point of incompetency – but damn if we can recognize it.
(I often think of becoming a pessimist … but I’m sure I’d just screw it up.)
Just a heads up that both the Monica and Frances Anne just left for another trip of sword and tuna! They should be back in some time next week. We will keep you posted once we have a good idea of when they will be in. We can start taking orders now and will notify you when we know exact date.
THE WAY IT WORKS WITH SWORDFISH AND TUNA IS YOU MUST BUY THE WHOLE FISH. The smallest fish are approximately 40 lbs, and they go up from there. The price per lb is $8.00 for both Yellowfin tuna and sword. Big Eye Tuna is $10 per lb.
If they have a good catch of albacore, there is a possibility that albacore would be available as well. Albacore would be about $5.00 per lb, but not sure of exact price as of yet.
There is no filet option with these fish. They are "dressed" at sea (headed, cleaned and gutted).
When ordering, please specify which fish you would like to purchase - the choices are Yellowfin Tuna, Big Eye Tuna or Swordfish, and specify how many pound fish you need. You can also inquire about the albacore and hopefully we will have more information by then.
Call your friends and family and make a group order. We will send another email once we know Exact date but you can start calling/emailing your orders in.
When you pick up your fish, be sure to stop in our BRAND NEW SHIP STORE. A great place to shop for the man in your life!!
Please email your questions and/or orders and we will address them as received. You can also call during the week but weekends email is best bet.
The stripers are here and we are running Open Boat or Charters every day from Thanksgiving Thursday thru Monday, November 30.
The fish are ranging in size from 8 to 20 plus pounds. Most are in the 24' to 28" slot with quite a few hitting the bigger slot between 28" to 38". Most of our success has been on the troll but every trip we try casting lures and we are catching a few that way. Mostly on swimming plugs and sandeel imitations. We are also catching some bass in the inlet on live spots if the ocean is too sporty to get out.
If we get a calm ocean it is also possible to hunt for the bluefin tuna that are within 5 to 10 miles of our inlet. This is mostly run and gun fishing casting poppers to 50 to 150 lb fish that are skying out of the water. They are not easy to fool, there's a lot more watching than catching but it is something to see. It is possible to start with this and then shoot inshore to target stripers in the same trip.
Sailing Thanksgiving (Thursday), Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, November 26, 27, 28, 29 30.
Open Boat or Charter. 6AM to 2PM. $225 person. 4 people max. All fish are shared. Call to reserve a date.
The best way to book a trip is to call me as I spend most of my time on the water.
Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving with friends and family!
Joe DelRossi of Medford, NJ with a striper that hit a cast and retrieve sandeel imitation by Savage.
Mike Fuhrman of Cherry Hill, NJ with a striper that hit an umbrella rig (wearing yellow jacket)
Ocean Co. Open Space $ Will Now Go to Right Places & Preserve Land
The 2020 Ocean County Open Space, Parks and Recreation Plan is being revised after the Board of Freeholders voted against allowing the county to purchase land from its municipalities using open space funds. This has left $13 million in open space funding pending until the board can vote on the revised plan.
“Ocean County is now going forward with using open space funds to buy land that needs to be preserved. This is critical for the people of Ocean County and for the environment. It is important that they are now doing the right thing by using the open space fund to purchase properties that need to be protected. Now the Freeholders must vote on the amended plan quickly so that the $13 million of open space funding can be released. Even better, they can buy lands that need to be preserved,”said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.“The original plan was flawed, but they have since corrected it. They wanted to buy existing open space using open space money. Now that it was voted down, this funding can go toward buying threatened and environmentally sensitive lands instead of wasting it.”
The $13 million in open space funding would go toward building repairs, upgrades, and preservation projects at over 12 county parks and properties. An undetermined amount would also go toward planning a new county park in Manchester.
“Ocean County has had one of the best open space programs in the state. With this change, they will continue to put the open space money toward protecting environmentally sensitive lands. Now that they’re using this money for the right purpose, they’ll be able to get more funding from Green Acres and nonprofits. This will further stretch the $13 million of open space funding,”said Tittel.“Preserving open space is more important than ever with climate impacts like flooding and sea-level rise. Open space funds are critical for stopping inappropriate development and protecting towns from sprawl. Protecting open space means less traffic, less water pollution and flooding.”
Earlier this month, voters in Ocean County voted to increase their existing open space tax rate by 1 cent on every $100 of assessed property value. According to the Garden State Preservation Trust, Ocean County acquired 17,514 acres of open space from FY2000 to FY2019.
“The Ocean County Freeholders did the right thing by making sure that valuable and limited open space money wouldn’t be used to buy the same land twice. They now need to move quickly to make sure that the new open space plan is approved so that the funding is released. Towns like Jackson are constantly growing, which is why setting aside funding for open space is critically important. Open space not only increases the value of homes in the area, but it helps protect against flooding and stormwater runoff,”said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.“The county will now be able to purchase new land with open space funds, which is one of the most cost-effective ways to stop overdevelopment and prevent increased traffic and pollution.”--
UPDATED 6:37 AM The quote, "Lost Count" came with this latest picture. I can pretty much say with complete confidence that as long as we keep the stability in the weather pattern and surf, these bass will be here at least through this weekend and probably into Thanksgiving. Now is the time to do it. Needles, resins, teasers, paddletails, AVA's, all your typical sand eel fare.
New Jersey Video Fishing Forecast – November 19, 2020
November 19, 2020
NJ SPOT BURN ALERT – The Bird is the Word!!!
A steady dose of W/NW winds seems to be exactly what the striper doctor ordered as Jersey Shore surfcasters are buttoned up tight under birds this week. Dive-bombing gannets and tightly-clustered gulls just off the beach, often within easy casting distance along the sand, are giving way to blitzing stripers in the wash. Depending on what you stumble up into along the Monmouth and Ocean County beaches in particular, you could find peanut bunker, maybe adult bunker, or possibly the sand eels. By beach or boat this week, be prepared for most any scenario; that means tins and teasers for the plug bag in addition to an SP Minnow, perhaps a popper, and a swim shad or two. For those grabbing the trolling gear to get inside the line, it’s not just Majas and mojos right now, but consider the umbrella rigs with sand eel imitations in place. With one more week to go before Thanksgiving holiday, it would appear that things are officially breaking open with the inshore striped bass. In our weekly reports for TheFisherman.com this week, we received solid word of migratory stripers showing up down into Cape May County as well with 10- to 20-pound bass reported at the Rips on live eels, with the local jetties giving up bass at the top of the tide to pluggers. We have contests to talk about in this week’s reports, the Brigantine Elks Fall Striper Classic this weekend, followed by a couple of catch and release matchups in Ocean County next week including the Surf Turkey and Berkeley Striper Club’s “Pony Tail Mike” Striped Bass Tournament. There’s also the Captain Bill’s Blackfish Tournament this Saturday, November 21 out of Manasquan Inlet.
La Niña is expected to continue through the winter and weaken in the spring.
A strong La Niña is possible during November through January.
La Niña can influence weather in the U.S. during the winter.
A strong La Niña is possible this winter and that may impact weather conditions in the United States over the next several months.
Typically with La Niña in place, the southern U.S. experiences above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation and the northern U.S. experiences below-average temperatures (particularly the Northern Plains and Northwest) and above-average precipitation. However, it is important to note that La Niña, El Niño or the lack of either, is just one piece of the atmospheric puzzle.
The weather pattern that frequently takes shape includes an upper-level ridge of high pressure near the Aleutians, which pushes the jet stream northward over Alaska and then southward to near the U.S./Canada border. This keeps colder air across the northern tier. Additionally, the storm track is a bit farther north, leaving the South dry and warm.
Above are the general impacts in the U.S. when La Niña is present in the winter. The conditions can vary based on the strength of the La Niña event.
La Niña is the periodic cooling of the equatorial eastern and central Pacific ocean. When sea-surface temperatures are cooler than average by at least 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit), along with consistent atmospheric indications for at least three consecutive months, La Niña is considered to be present.
This is important because the interaction of this cooler-than-average water with the atmosphere can affect weather conditions thousands of miles away in the U.S. and around the world.
La Niña strengthened during October, and sea surface temperatures were well below average in the equatorial west-central to eastern Pacific Ocean. Atmospheric conditions are also consistent with what is expected when La Niña is in place, according to the latest outlook issued Thursday by NOAA.
The blue contours in the area boxed above show the development of cooler than average sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean as of early November, meaning La Niña is present.
A La Niña advisory remains in effect and there is a 95% chance of La Niña persisting through this winter. This La Niña event may also be a strong one.
A strong La Niña is defined as having sea surface temperatures at least 1.5 degrees Celsius colder than average. Recent sea surface temperature data suggest that a negative anomaly of 1.5 degrees may have already emerged.
The possibility of a strong La Niña is also supported by the significant atmospheric-ocean linkage already in place. In this case, there is a sinking air motion over the cooler water of the central and eastern Pacific.
Several models also depict a strong La Niña is possible November-January, NOAA said.
Most computer models indicate that La Niña will last through at least February 2021 and will weaken in the spring.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.
It has been eight years since Super Storm Sandy rearranged the New Jersey and New York coastlines, and “beach replenishment” became an annual event at all the shore communities. Along with that went a massive population of sand eels that hung inshore along the beaches and provided some outstanding surf fishing. They were gone, but things are looking promising again.
I’ve heard that once sand eels are “dug in,” they stick around an area for 6 or 7 years, and when they leave, they may not return for another 6 to 7 years.
Sand eels seem to be on most beaches and out to 70 miles offshore right now. Their numbers have been building up each year, much like they did prior to the epic sand eel run of 2011. When both fluke and yellowfin tuna are being caught during the summer with bellies loaded with sand eels, it’s a good indication that these baitfish are abundant. I had both fluke and bluefish spit out sand eels just about all summer long. Plus, presentations that mimicked sand eels made up for some of my best catches.
Now, we just need some stripers to find the bait. It seems the run takes longer to get going every fall, and when it does, it is usually shut down by cold weather.
New Jersey Thanksgiving Stripers
In 2019, I watched one decent wave of striped bass make their way south, and around the first week in November, they reached the northern New Jersey coast. For the most part, the fish stayed well off the beaches—way too far for even the best surfcasters to reach.
It wasn’t until a few days before Thanksgiving—which tends to be one of the best blitz days of the fall in New Jersey—that a school of smaller fish moved in and started hunting daily along the sandbars. It didn’t take long to pinpoint the feeding pattern since it was very much related to a certain tide stage and the presence of sand eels.
If you cruised the surf line looking for breaking fish before you began fishing, you really hurt your chances last fall. The fish never really showed themselves by swirling on or chasing bait to the surface and drawing in flocks of birds.
Slender lures, like soft-plastic paddle tails and needlefish work well during the sand eel run.
I had to work a stretch of water, find key points on the sandbars dropping into deeper holes and deep troughs on the edge, and fish them. The fish were there on the soft structure every day, feeding on sand eels on the bottom. It was possible to catch 20 to 30 stripers a trip until the weather became too cold to feel my hands and ice began accumulating on my guides.
Needlefish were especially productive, and though they may not be the most fun to fish, they might be one of the most effective. Patience is key because I fish them at two speeds—slow and stopped. There is nothing like getting slammed on a pickup off the bottom in the dark (and daylight). Needles are my number-one presentation when fishing around sand eels.
My number-two presentation is a teaser rig with a custom-tied sand eel teaser ahead of a rubber swim shad or paddle tail. Likewise, “Tin Squids” with rigged rubber eels dragged along the bottom caught fish many decades ago and still do today.
Back then, even without the internet and cell phones, information traveled swiftly, especially if you were a member of a select group of watermen.
“Ted Hurley was pulling his pots off Hog Island Light last night and saw bluefish busting on bait. One of the other lobster boats out there caught one about 3-pounds on a tin squid. See what you can scratch up in the lockers and in that old tackle box upstairs.”
The boathouse caretaker was up for an adventure that caused my heart to skip a beat. Bluefish! Although I had heard stories about razor-toothed chopping machines, I had never seen a live one, never mind attempted to catch one. One old-timer, who actually lost the tip of his right index finger in a milling machine claimed it was a big bluefish that jumped up from the deck and bit it off. Blues were described as vicious predators that killed for sheer pleasure, and once full, they regurgitated their stomach contents and commenced killing all over again. They had a reputation for jumping, cutting lines, and being too speedy for the conventional tackle and handlines of the day.
I was to learn firsthand that most of those tall tales were true – a 5-pound blue fought harder and was more difficult to land than a 10-pound striper. With one New Jersey-manufactured tin dressed with a single bucktail hook and two illegitimate lead copies, the caretaker, several friends, and I sailed from the boathouse out of the river and under the span of the Mount Hope Bridge into lower Narragansett Bay. We were afraid that with news of bluefish in the area, there might be too many boats around, but there was not a single hull in sight. After 20 minutes of riding around without a sighting, George, ever jealous of the old man’s popularity, couldn’t resist giving him a jab.
“Not another damn boat in sight. Your lobsterman friend got you to bite on a rumor, hook, line and sinker.” Just as the caretaker was about to issue a fiery retort, Tommy gave a shout. “Fish breaking along the Portsmouth shore, right in front of the nun’s summer retreat.” Sure enough, I turned and saw terns and gulls circling and diving into a melee created by the feeding fish. The old man told Tommy to get a pair of handlines ready as he pushed the old barge as fast as she could go in the direction of the action. By the time we got there, the fish had sounded and showed up in almost exactly the place we had just vacated. After this scenario repeated itself, the old man ordered the lines left in the water and we started trolling.
Many people attribute the disappearance of bluefish to a cyclical population pattern.
No sooner had both lines been dropped 75 yards astern when Harold let out a whoop. He reared back on the line and I saw my first bluefish go airborne. Harold hauled, but not fast enough as the fish swam toward the boat, created slack in the line, jumped, and spit the hook. An incredulous Harold took a merciless razzing.
Two more men hooked fish with similar results before we got one to the boat, but upon lifting it, the hook tore out of its mouth and it fell back into the water.
“Give the kid one of those darn lines and see if he can change our luck,” ordered the caretaker, but I deferred to the adults. I was no match for those acrobatic fish and knew exactly what would happen to me after the way they castigated Harold.
That was the night I saw my first live bluefish, though I didn’t get to see one flipping on deck during that trip. Ten years later, on a sultry July morning in 1963, I was carefully negotiating the Sakonnet boulder fields with my friend, Paul Capone, aboard. There were several school stripers up to 8-pounds in the box that had been fooled by Atom Striper Swipers. I cast into a reef spilling white water and responded to a vicious strike. At the set, the fish leaped from the water and violently shook its head. The single-hook bucktail had a firm purchase in the corner of its mouth, and after several more leaps and runs at the boat, the blue came alongside, and I lifted it into the cockpit.
I had decades of experience with every native and migratory species that routinely visited our waters, but I had never seen anything jump, flip, and spew more blood than that little bluefish did. I threw my hand towel over it and lifted it up by the tail to avoid the swinging plug and sharp teeth. I then used my belt knife to rip the tissue under the apex of its gills to bleed it out before putting it on ice.
That day marked the beginning of one of the greatest recoveries of any species I have ever fished for, though it has been either feast or famine. That year, I won a Schaefer trophy for the largest bluefish taken in our club’s contest – with a 4-pound chopper. My friend, Charlie Cinto, took his first blue off the beach at Provincetown and said he was more excited about those small yellow-eyed devils than the four keeper stripers he caught that same weekend. Those first blues brought 25 cents a pound, a nickel more than the stripers we sold at Drapes Seafood.
A younger Charlie Cinto with his first Cape Cod bluefish from the Provincetown area of the seashore. Due to their scarcity at that time, he won a club trophy with his 4-pounder.
It was the beginning of a great run of bluefish. Over the next 20 years, those fast-growing fish became the most sought-after local species, with 18- to 20-pound specimens fairly common. I immediately developed an appreciation for one of the fastest and hardest-fighting species that swims. Although some people might complain about their taste, I blame that on poor handling. I enjoy blues on the grill, and one of my favorite snacks or spreads is smoked bluefish prepared by a friend who uses the freshest and firmest fish I can provide. Mine do not sit in the sun in a tote on deck, but in a cooler with a saltwater slurry of cubed ice.
However, a few years after those first blues arrived, I became engaged in a love/hate relationship with this unpredictable species that started when they made their appearance in lower Narragansett Bay. Their first intrusion was during what we referred to as herring season.
It was May 13, at exactly 9:15 a.m., when I called my partner Fred on the VHF and told him I had landed two bass in the 18-to-20 pound class at Providence Point off Prudence Island. While he headed over in his Whaler, I netted a fresh bait out of the livewell and noted there were only six more river herring still swimming. As anyone who has slipped and gotten dunked in the pre-dawn hours while netting herring knows, those baits were worth the effort it took to collect them because every one of them was worth a bass.
I hooked the bait through the nose, let out 125 feet of Monel line, and began my pass. I was almost to the hump when the bait began to flutter and surface, indicating there was a predator sizing it up. Just then, a fish struck, but wasn’t hooked. What happened? I continued my pass, now trolling a lighter bait that showed no signs of life, when there was a second strike, also without a take. I began to race the bait back until it broke the surface; right behind it was the biggest blue I had ever seen in the bay. It sounded, then came up under the bait, swallowing the remains of its head and gills. I set the hook, which brought about a leap and some of the most exciting tail-walking I had ever seen, other than the time I hooked a skillie (white marlin) south of Nomans Island.
The same drag that had subdued a pair of 20-pound-class stripers couldn’t even slow that blue’s first run. Then, it abruptly turned and headed directly toward the boat. Despite cranking my dependable Penn 113 as fast as I could, I couldn’t take up the slack. The fish saw the hull, put on the brakes, and started to dive when I locked down the drag and lifted. It turned back toward me, jumped, and crashed into the side of the hull as its teeth finally severed the 50-pound-test monofilament leader.
Over the next few decades, I learned that the first blues to invade our bays are long, lean alligators on search-and-destroy missions. They are not satisfied with chopping the tail off your hard-won live baits; they keep chopping past the hook and into your leader.
Blues are usually “here and there,” but for the last few seasons, they have been “there” rather than “here” most of the time. One disturbing sign of their population decline, at least to me, is that for the last two seasons, the only blues we found were large. I also recall the end of the 1970s when small stripers were rare and noticeably big fish were the norm. I hope that this similarity is not a duplication of that period of the striper’s catastrophic history. We know where stripers’ inshore spawning grounds are, and with regulation and sacrifice, we have had some control over their recovery. That might not be the case with bluefish, which spawn offshore and depend on tidal currents and favorable winds to push their offspring into nursery areas in our rivers and bays.
With a three-fish-daily bag limit for private fishermen this year, I will need a two-day supply to make it worthwhile to concoct a brine and crank up the smoker. However, I can assure you that every one of those choppers will be very much appreciated from the ocean to the dinner table.