Tuesday, November 30, 2021

11.30.21 Definitely a "You should have been here yesterday..." day today....

     So at 638 tonight I got this text from my friend Joe, Joe who ran the Martha's Vineyard trips for the years that I was lucky enough to go. He shared the good news, IBSP is going good. He got his personal best striped bass on the fly rod yesterday, when the going was good, capping off say three days of solid fishing. Congrats to you Joe, a well deserved fish.

     Well I unquit #1 and decided to dig out that ISBP buggy pass I purchased last December and give it a go. Had to finish up some work so I got into the park at 1230 pm, prime time. West wind, top of the tide, lots of fish in the area, I was just concerned about the vehicle traffic on the beach and the hordes of anglers at each bowl.....yeah, someone forgot to tip me off that it wasn't going to be a good day. 

     It's been awhile that I rode the sand and spent some time double checking my safety gear and the all important tire pressure gauge. After airing down I drove to A23 and started the hunt. I was surprised there was so few guys driving, and even less fishing. That was the start of a long and disappointing day. 

     With The Dead on Sirius I drove from Gillikens to the south jetty a trio of times. Some birds bunched up off the beach from time to time with nothing under them and nothing going on off the jetty. I was surprised at that, just sexy water, with bait there, but no signs of predator fish. Didn't see a spray, a dimple, a splash, other then when the birds would take off or dip for the smaller white bait up top. 

     At one point on my way north a gaggle of guys was tight and fishing, and I just pulled out of the ruts and watched, again, no signs of life, and no fish to be had. I heard there was a solid Long Beach Island bite at first light, and maybe a few caught in Lavalette, but IBSP was dead, at least while I was there from 1230-5. 

     I took out at Gilliken's and aired up and decided to check out SSP and thee was a few guys fishing, but more leaving the beach or just holding on to every last minute to see if it would happen. Funny how this shit goes, days of a good bite, that surely would come to an end, but you would think there would be a reason, tide, timing, wind, something, but I guess the bait pulled out of town and the fish followed. 

     Checking the boat reports up and down today and they are definitely still on them, "limiting out", on what appears to be Bonus Tag fish with an occasional slot mixed in. They are reporting fish on top, boiling, which to me, seems like they are on smaller bait, or maybe sand eels, but that wasn't reported. 

    I hope to repeat this trip again before my year is up, its different, if you haven't done it before. Riding along the scarp looking for signs of life, and covering miles, not feet of beach while all toasty warm, drinking coffee and listening to some tunes. Good times. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

11.29.21 Mmmmm....look what I found.....

      You know there's usually a few quits before its really over for me.... Bought this last December, never used. Wonder if there are any fish in Island Beach State Park?

11.29.21 2021 Quit #1 for me, this one might stick....

     Seems like for years that every December I quit like 5 times. Something happens or doesn't happen one of those times, boat breaks down, truck goes swimming, I break a rod, too damn cold, micro fish have invaded, or its just the Fat Lady has sung and I'm done. 

     Anyone who knows this striped bass knows they really know nothing. We think we do, and in truth we do, but its usually we think we think we do, and then the bass tell us something else. Well, I'm being "told", by myself, that its over, for me. Usually this time of year the boats are reporting sand eels, and those that fish illegally over the three mile line have big bass still on sand eels. Now that's not to say that 100 sand eels won't pop up somewhere along the beach, its just the timing of the bass exodus and the arrival of sand eels have missed the mark this year. 

    "The waters still warm", "The bait is still in the bay". Yes, true. And those fish will either exit stage right and travel out into The Bight and head south, perfect for your favorite boat angler when they pop in at IBSP like they have been doing this week, see below. 

          So wanting to get in on the Thanksgiving weekend action I decided to give it a go. A drop off at a dumpster and returning my daughters coat to her in Red Bank put me close enough to the beach to justify blowing off the day. And that's what it takes this time of year to catch fish, luck and or time. 

     When I got to the beach the boats were stacked up off the beach about a mile in a scene that looked like it came from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. The birds moved around with the bait, and I assume bass, and the boats followed. They came in close to me once and I was able to take some pictures with my real camera with the long lens. Saw more picking from above than splashing from below, so my thinking is that the bass and birds are more on say rain fish or some other white bait that peanuts, which you see spray or at least one or two leave the water when pursued from top or bottom. 

     I watched two guys motor into the birds in what looked like a Boston Whaler and start to throw as soon as they got close. Soon one guy was hooked up with a schoolie bass. I reached out to Leif and 

he came when I said ".......looks like its about to go off". And it did. Boats all over out front, guys lined up to the south, and the beach I was on pretty much desolate except for a guy or two that came and went.  The boats stayed tight with the birds until the wind went north and kind of changed things up a bit. I think whatever was happening out there fizzled and it never went off at the stretch we were on, when we were on it. This time of year it changes 1/2 hour to 1/2 hour. 

     So with the minutes of this outing running out and desperation setting in I hit spots going south looking for any signs with my naked eye to the binoculars. A bird here or there, boats returning to the marina, a small armada way out either just inside or over the line. I did fish hoping one may be either lost or dumb but I was the dumb one. The bass are on bait and if there's no bait then there's no bass. 

     And now for the funny part of the day. So I hit Pier Village, Deal, Allenhurst and then McDonald's on Main Street in Asbury Park. Now I wanted to hit Coen Zone in Neptune and I had to get gas at WaWa so I had to coordinate where I could possibly fish, get gas, and end it with my favorite ice cream sandwich. I decided to go to Ocean Grove. I turn onto Main Street and admire all the nice happy people walking the stores or loading up from a Thanksgiving weekend down the shore. It was a Norman Rockwell scene. Then I looked up. Birds. Everywhere. Tons of them. Tight. Loose. Close. Far. 

Drum roll, snare, cymbal.......are you kidding me. 

     Some guy decided to crawl out of his mother's basement and get a few loafs of day old bread and park himself on the boardwalk and feed the gulls. Birds were everywhere. Every person that passed by, "You shouldn't do that", "It's not healthy for the birds", "There's bird shit everywhere". One guy who was on the next bench just laughed as each stuck up person stopped and commented, "He's been here for hours". And the bread thrower gave it right back to them, "Did you ever here of rain? Rain washes away the shit". So obviously with that many birds, and the picture doesn't set the entire stage, in one place some were looking along the beach so I gave that a shot for an hour on the 3/4 ebb tide. Nothing. And that's when I decided the 2021 year of striped bass fishing is over for me, at least to justify quit #1. 

     Before I left for the beach I tackled yet another home project that I don't care if you care about or not. Chimney caps! Chimney caps on a chimney that I repaired the crown on. Looks pretty f'in good if I say so myself. Now this chimney matches the one at the far end of the house. Five fireplaces in this house and with the price of home heating oil this winter I will be using all of them at one time or another. 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

11.28.21 Ok, so Thanksgiving week came and went.....

All photos Leif Pettersen

     We waited all summer for the fall.....it came and has now went. Let's call this week the start of winter. Turkey Day is over, the fall decorations are being packed away today and the blow-up Santa's are hitting the front lawns. So how would you rate this fall run of 2021? 

     Well, if you were fly fishing from a boat you had a pretty solid fall. Collectively people are saying this has ben the best fall run in years. Remember, people always say that when there are fish in front of them. One thing is for sure, the Raritan, Sandy Hook, and New York Bays continue to be a pinch point for striped bass action in both the spring and the fall now. This fall the bass camped out first eating the big bunker, then hanging around for the peanuts that started to push out around the full moon a week ago. 

     So Thanksgiving came, a day after I broke down in the boat, and the surf fly fly action heated up a touch as the school bass were chasing peanuts into the beach. Chasing peanuts INTO the beach Bech, not down the beach like in 2016. That year you could stand in Long Branch, light a butt, and watch the birds off of Sea Bright make their way down to you over the bass annihilating the bait. From what I was told, this fall you would see some birds out, wait a bit, and hopefully they would push in over the bait, a mix of peanut bunker and butterfish, and you would have 30 minutes to an hour of shots at bass to just keeper size with an occasional 28-32" fish in the mix. 

     Its the kind of fishing where someone will say "we had fish in Lavalette for two hours", and another guy will say "Fished Lavalette all day with twenty other guys and didnt see a fish caught". Why? because the were either 8 blocks apart at the same time or he left to hit the WaWa and take a leak and grab something to warm him up. Its just like that, you're not fishing tides or time or moon, well water in front of you is usually good, but its just timing when and if the bait is around and the bass are on them. There could be 100 different reports each day from the same beat. You just have to put your feet on the sand and watch and wait, or keep your cell phone on loud if you have the network like that. It seems most guys do have that, because Monmouth beaches were empty yesterday after being busy for the last two days. 

     That brings me to the slot, the 28-38 inch fish that anglers can harvest if you can find them. This fall you could find the overs and the unders but those legal fish not always easy to find. We are hammering those class size fish, I mean the guys looking for meat, they are taking the 28-38's and are utilizing the "Bonus Tag" option more-so this fall because of the new regulations. Remember New Jersey has the BT program because we don't have a commercial striped bass fishery. I am glad a quick glance into the dumpster at the Atlantic Highland Marina has a been void of poorly filleted racks of 40+ pound bass but I am not sold on the current fishery management angle. All this will be a hard sell to anglers because, "This has been the best fall ever (2021)", if you are chasing big fish around pods of big bunker. 

     And for me, no fishing this Thanksgiving, but I had a great weekend. Theresa and I got to see 5/7 of the kids, with Tara down in Texas and Ryan up with the Angels. But seeing Juliet, Patrick, Sean, Lauren and Erin was great, in fact we saw them a few times. First was Thanksgiving at my sister Jess' house where she and Austen put on a nice spread with a dinner catered from Sickle's Farm. 

    Then on Saturday we had the kids out for another turkey dinner this one since Theresa was gifted a turkey from Capital Health where she works. Everyone pitched in and helped and it was just easy-peasy fun with family including my mom who is up from Florida until after Christmas. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and, like the fall boat run of 2021, was a good one. 


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

11.24.21 Well, see you in the Delaware in March.....

     So much for high expectations. I was watching the wind along the Turnpike, Parkway and 36 on my way to Atlantic Highlands. It seemed like there was none. Got down, went to fire her up, wouldn't start, again. I don't know if its the batteries, or the cold, or a combination of the two. But after grabbing some juice and giving her a charge she fired up and I was in the water running. It seemed the wind come out of nowhere when I launched about 45 minutes before high tide. My plan was to run west and find the mother lode of bass blowing up on peanuts.....nice dreams. 

     There was only a handful of boats out, three party boats and maybe five small ones. We got sucked into the birds in the middle of the Reach but I didnt see any fish and the marks on the screen were spotty at best. I had a plan, go west, tuck in under Staten Island from the NW wind that was gusty, cold, and had the bay rocking' and rollin' and a tad off color. I did my thing and hugged SI all the way to the Verrazano. Gannets diving, birds everywhere without a purpose but on the lookout. I from the lighthouse base, to West Bank to Romer and didnt see it. It was the start of the outgoing when I decided it would be a bear to fly fish and then land a fish solo in the slop. There had to be calmer seas out front along the beach, and since I wasn't finding anything inside maybe, just maybe, the bait poured out and the bass followed. 

     I passed the sticks and was approaching the dredge when the alarm sounded and the engine lost power. You can get a feel of what is was like in the short video above. It took and hour and 10 minutes to limp around the Bug Light and across the Bay and back to the marina. I dreaded calling for a tow, and was unsure if my membership hadn't run out since I purchased it last year about this time when I got Jim's boat. 

     I was never to glad to approach the marina and got her up on the trailer and out of the water around 1230. I really wished I had got out front for the good part of the outgoing. As I traveled over the Highlands Bridge I looked to the north and saw all my boat buddies from this morning hugging the beaches of the Hook. I wonder if they got them, I'm feeling they did. 

     Before giving her a bath in Long Branch I stopped in Sea Bright to see if anything was happening on the beach. There's bait around, and some fish are chasing them into the beach. Heard today a town or two that had good blitzes of fish on the beach, mostly south of the inlets, which means the bait is on the move pretty good. 

     The NW wind died off or wasn't bad in Mercer County and I took the opportunity to continue with my honey-do-list which includes painting the house. Nothing like the smell of burning lead paint from the heat gun, but its the only was to get down or close to the wood siding. Wondering what the Delaware was doing I took a look at the USGS station and found water temps around 43 and I took a shot at the flip of the hight tide just before sunset. Surely one of those holdovers wanted to fatten up before the long winter. I hooked and lost a nice sized smallmouth, it showed itself when it flipped off. I might give it another shot tomorrow, to may just wait until March 1st when the season opens up for 2022.