Archive for the Saltwater Category

Back in the game…

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Saltwater, Writing with tags , , on August 20, 2010 by stflyfisher

It’s been a while, to say the least…

Fishing has been slow and I’m afraid I’ve been “dragging the skunk along” as fellow fly fishing blogger / uber fly fisherman Artie Loomis once quoted. Additionally, life has leaned a little heavy on my shoulders in other areas. Nonetheless, in the words of the immortal American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Be still sad heart and cease repining;
Behind the clouds the sun is shining,
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life a little rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

I recently took a family vacation to the salt and was able to wet a line in both Ocean City, Maryland and Barnegat, New Jersey. Both areas yielded nothing to the fly, but, in an 18th birthday wish for my son, Chris, I was able to temporarily throw the skunk by hitting the party boats out of Barnegat Light.

We decided to fish for blues on the Miss Barnegat Light. For the last month-plus, the big boys (and girls) have been focused on propagating the species and the catch has been primarily of the “cocktail / snapper” size (1 – 3 lbs). But on the eve of our trip, ole Miss Barney had started picking 8 – 14 lb fish – more the size that leaves you with sore arms. Unfortunately, said fishing skunk showed at the docks on our arrival: Miss Barnegat Light was not going to sea due to some type of mechanical problem.

So, a-fluking we would go. The Doris Mae was eager to have us. Some time before we headed out, the Carolyn Ann III sent her flukers to the Doris Mae and suddenly we were chock-a-block with fishermen, many of the sub-teen variety. I had noticed the wind was out of the northeast – never a great sign – and the flags about Long Beach Island were streaming straight out, indicating that wind was a stiff one and that sea conditions could be rough.

Old Barney

Sure enough, once we rounded the lighthouse, we ran headfirst into an angry inlet. The wind was working with the tidal current – had it not been, the inlet would have been a real mess. For all those history buffs out there, Barnegat is a derivation from the Dutch for “inlet of breakers”, and indeed, it can be a very dangerous inlet when wind and current align right.

We fished the inlet for a while with 10 ounce bank sinkers and fluke rig baited with spearing and a strip of squid. It wasn’t long before Chris and I started hooking up but, like all of the fish being caught on the boat, none met the legal keeping size of 18″. This newly imposed limit has a lot of fluke fishermen seething as the commercial guys are apparently not bound to it. Personally, I’m always an advocate of catch and release, but a nice fluke dinner (otherwise known as summer flounder), is hard to pass up now and then…

After a while of drift fishing the inlet our captain decided to brave the open ocean off the beach. The winds had abated some but the waves were still there, and it wasn’t long before we were rocking and rolling to 10 foot seas. The Doris Mae wasn’t the only thing rocking either – the younger kids who had been guzzling soda and all types of snacks were now looking pretty green. The rail soon filled with “chummers”.

Being seasoned sailors, Chris and I fished merrily away. We were now using 16 ounces of lead to keep in touch with the bottom, but few fish were caught by anyone. Much to the relief of our unsailor-like brethren, we returned to the inlet to finish the trip.

We fished the inlet drift and scored more fluke, but all were throw-backs. The pool went to a 20″ fish, with few keepers caught. Chris had also scored a snapper blue which we kept for the grill!

In honor of Chris’s 18th, I bought a few beautiful soft shell blue-clawed crabs. For those not familiar with this delicacy, crabs shed their exoskeletons (shells) as they grow larger. Crabs that are caught shedding are called “peelers” and bring a premium price as the entire crab is edible, meaning there’s no picking of meat – just wholesale chowing down.

Soft shell crab seasoned with Old Bay - doesn't get much better than this...

After a great dinner, we capped the day off with cigars – Chris’s first. The night was cool, breezy, and unseasonably dry. And it was ours…

Here’s wishing my patient readership tight lines…

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Striper Lockjaw Off Barnegat Light

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Saltwater with tags , , on December 3, 2009 by stflyfisher

“No birds – not a good sign”, sighed an older gentleman standing next to me.  We were on board the Doris Mae, heading out of Barnegat Inlet, and the horizon was barren except for the silhouettes of small boats.  On top of that, the weather looked almost too perfect, with light westerly winds, clear blue skies, and a bright sun that was quickly killing the early morning chill.  Last year at this time, the fishing started with lots of bird-play and fish that were obviously on the feed.  That was not be the case this day.

I had arrived at my parent’s house in nearby West Creek, NJ, the previous evening.  After chowing down on one of my madre’s most special meals, I was ready to do battle the next day on the Doris Mae – one of three party boats sailing out of Barnegat Light.

Pot roast, mashed potatoes with dark gravy, and veggies - what every saltie should eat before venturing forth...

I was equipped with my ever-trusty Penn Slammer spinning rod and an arsenal of good fishing hardware including crippled herrings, AVA’s, and bucktails – trademark jigs of the fall striper fisherman.  As one man noted when he saw my gear; “that man’s ready to fish!”

The Crippled Herring - the striper's demise...

The Doris Mae left the docks on schedule at 7 am and 15 minutes later we arrived at an area just outside the inlet that was crowded with small boats.  It wasn’t long before I had a good thump on my jig on the drop after working it off the bottom.  The fish fought like a blue, but I was surprised to find I had the first striper of the day.  This fish ended up being a short – party boat parlance for a striper under the minimum 28″ length, so back it went to the sea…

Plenty of fishing company...

Unfortunately, that early morning fish was all she wrote for me, and for the other anglers on the boat it was much the same.  We fished from 7 am to 2:30 pm, and came up with a few blues and one additional short striper.  Our captain, one of the famous Eble (pronounced eb’lee) brothers, took us far and wide in search of feeding fish.  We drifted off Island Beach State Park, but the only action we saw was from the small boats trolling umbrella rigs, picking up a striper here and there.

Leaving the beach for deeper water...

The other Barnegat party boats found the same conditions and all reported that they were marking fish with a serious case of lockjaw.  While I did have the one striper, I’m more proud of the fact that I hung in there and fished hard the whole day.  I noticed as the day wore on, the rail thinned out quite a bit.

I’ll have more to report on party boat fishing in a future post, but for me, I’m most likely done with saltwater for the year.  For those of you still itching, the fishing can be quite good through December, so give it a shot.

Tight lines…

Weekend Short Report

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Saltwater, Uncategorized on September 26, 2009 by stflyfisher

Just got back from the lower Susquehanna and thought I’d post a short report for the weekend.  The smallmouth bass fishing is great right now.  The river is in good shape and water temps are in the mid 60’s.  I caught some quality bass, and one nice one; 8 in total and all of them well fed.  There was a hatch of big mayflies coming off towards evening, and in some cases the bass were rising to them.  There was also a lot of bait busting going on – hit and miss, as usual.  Streamers will continue to work well as the bass are really keyed in on feeding up for the winter, but tonight I also caught some fish on a popper.  And this final comment is for “jigging Jim”, a coworker who believes the ONLY fish worth catching are walleye and yellow perch: I actually caught a small walleye, possibly the first walleye ever taken in such a way, on a Murray’s #6 Blue Shenandoah Popper in the tail of a pool where the water starts getting shallow and fast.  Go figure!  I’m waiting for the IGFA to contact me to enter this one in the record books…

The weekend was looking good only a day or so ago, but to my horror, that rain thing is in the forecast again – a half inch of the stuff is predicted for Sunday…

Let's hope that high pressure system stalls the front...

Let's hope that high pressure system stalls the front...

For those anglers in the Southern Tier of New York, get out and take advantage of the good fishing now – Sunday may set us back a bit…

Tight lines…

Need to get lucky…

Posted in Fishing Reports, Saltwater on July 11, 2009 by stflyfisher

I just returned back from a week long vacation.  Our family spent a few days with my mother-in-law in Ocean City Maryland – then my two sons and I headed North to New Jersey to visit my parents who live in a small town on the bay side to Long Beach Island.  I fished my favorite haunt while in Ocean City – “stinky beach” as it was once known – and had only one small fluke (summer flounder) follow my half-and-half clouser.  Apparently the fluke fishing in the bay does not get really good until August when the mullet are in the bay.  The story was pretty much the same in NJ.  I visited Barnegat Bay Outfitters, where the owner, Adam, told me the “weakies” (weakfish, aka sea trout) had not shown up in Barnegat Bay yet, but were due any time.  He suggested I fish for stripers in the inlet using a sink tip line and dark or chartreuse deceivers.  I opted out of fly fishing and tried my luck on the Doris Mae and Miss Barnegat Light for fluke and bluefish and both were a total bust.  We caught a lot of skates while fluke fishing and only my nephew, Jake, was able to land one “short” fluke.  My Dad, who admittedly has no skill, killed the flatties last year and won the pool.  No such luck for the grand padre this year.  The bluefish were spawning and the fishing was really hit or miss the last few weeks.  I took a night trip that saw only a few cocktail blues caught.  Apparently the adults were too caught up in the heat of the moment to raid the chum slick.  I didn’t catch anything but did have a few short hits, indicated by small mouth-sized chunks torn out of my butterfish.  Tomorrow I will try to find my mojo in the West Branch of the Delaware.  The smallie fishing will have to wait as the Suskie, Big T, and Chenagno rivers are all high and murky from the rains last week.  It will be quite an adjustment going from 25 lb test mono and 5/0 hooks to 5X tippet and a size 18 soft hackle BWO!  Tight lines…

The 3 amigos looking to bring home the bacon.  The little guy in the center caught the only fluke and was high hook on skates...

The 3 amigos looking to bring home the bacon. The little guy in the center caught the only fluke and was high hook on skates...

The Fluke Head Council.  Grand padre (the big guy on the left) won the pool last year but this year lost his mojo...

The Fluke Head Council. Grand padre (the big guy on the left) won the pool last year but this year lost his mojo...