Archive for barnegat light

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…

A STFF Thanksgiving…

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on November 25, 2009 by stflyfisher

Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones, like Jeff, a recent visitor to this blog, who, in the company of another angling friend, celebrates the start of Thanksgiving Day on Fall Creek every year.  Most of us with families, and especially those who have angling-averse families, must resign ourselves to the traditional family get-together; watching football, drinking, and eventually sitting down at table adorned with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry relish, gravy, more drink, pumpkin pie, and more drink.  It’s not all bad, mind you.  It’s just that the holiday is all about giving thanks, and what better way to give thanks than to catch and release a few.  Symbolism is great…

Thanksgiving at STFF headquarters. Note the happy faces, the gala atmosphere...

No matter, my destiny this year, as in all years past, is chewing on a drumstick while visions dance in my head of jigging for stripers and blues on the DorisMae’s Thanksgiving trip off Barnegat Light.

Now mama always said, if you’re handed lemons, make lemonade, and so I decided to assign a little research regarding this historic event to the ever-scholarly STFF staff in hopes that their findings might support a change in the family tradition – a change that might even extend to a cultural renaissance of this feasting holiday.  What follows is sure to enlighten thee…

First off, a little background for those non-history types.  The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620 – towards the end of the striper run, oh by the way.  Apparently the Pilgrims were not too skilled with jig or fly, because their first winter was terrible.  They lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower.  The next year, however, smiled on the survivors, as the harvest of 1621 was bountiful.  The colonists, along with 91 Wampanoag Indians (credited with saving them from complete disaster), decided to celebrate their good fortune with a feast.

Some broiled bluefish, Squanto?

And what did that feast include?  Well, our research shows many variations in the menu, but by most accounts, one controversial item that may have been missing was, of all things, turkey.  Turkey were present in the wild at the time of the first Thanksgiving, but the word “turkey” was used by the Pilgrims to mean any sort of wild fowl.   Good ole’ gun-toting Governor William Bradford apparently sent four men “fowling”, so more than likely, any “turkey” in the center of the table were wild sea ducks or geese.  Also missing from the feast was the potato, considered poisonous by many Europeans at the time, and dairy products, since there were no domestic cattle available.

From other accounts and records of daily life in Plymouth, we know that rabbit, chicken, squashes, beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, maple syrup and honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and possibly goat cheese were available, although not necessarily all used in the same meal. The corn was most likely in the form of meal rather than on the cob, and pumpkin would have been served in the form of a pumpkin pudding or stew, and not in a crust.

Most noticeably “on the list” were some items few Americans would ever consider to be Thanksgiving table fare.  Governor Bradford lists bass, cod, and “other fish of which they took good store”, these fish being herring, bluefish, and lots of eels. Clams, lobsters (without the drawn butter), mussels, and oysters were undoubtedly part of dinner, too.

All they need is a little cocktail sauce...

So seafood, yes, seafood, made up a good part of the original Thanksgiving meal.  And how might that seafood come to our modern-day Thanksgiving table?  You guessed it; flyfishers and hardware fishers alike could go out and catch, and maybe this one time not release, their favorite piscatorial delight for part of the feast.  Imagine the pomp and circumstance as the weary fishermen return in the early afternoon and spread their bounty across the table for all to marvel over.  This addition to Thanksgiving would strengthen the tradition, put smiles on the multitudes, and kill TV ratings around all the damn football games that play that day.

I therefore propose that the readership spread the word.  This isn’t your grandfather’s Thanksgiving anymore – go forth and fish up some fare, and put a little Thanksgiving in Thanksgiving…

To all, a safe, belly-expanding, and joyous holiday…

Tight lines…