Recent reports confirm that striped bass are moving more and more into South Jersey. Bigger fish are still jammed up above Barnegat Inlet, but there is evidence they are spreading out.
The War Dance tournament-tested team of Capt. Dan Ponzio with Jay LeVance and Dave Pharo made it back-to-back titles in striped bass contests the past two weekends.
Ponzio runs his charter boat out of Atlantic City, while LeVance and Pharo are from Tuckerton. In the course of the two weekends, the three experienced pros provided an indication that striped bass are migrating.
This past weekend, they played the weather card very well because the winds were forecast to blow up Saturday, which happened pretty much as predicted. So instead of daring a longer journey up past Barnegat Inlet like they did last week in the Brigantine Elks striped bass tournament, they stayed closer to home base with a shorter sprint off Brant Beach on Long Beach Island.
They were there early, put two bass in the box and beat it home in building seas and wind this past Saturday morning with a 43-pound title-winner and a 20-pound plus backup.
In the Brigantine Elks classic last week, they brought back bass that weighed 341/2, 32 and 311/2 pounds. The Elks contest counts top two fish, so they won with a total weight of 661/2 pounds. The Elks competitors endured some rugged weather with 21-degree temps on the morning trip up the beach.
Alex DePhillipo of Margate fished off Manansquan with Capt. Gene Quigley on a Shore Catch Charters trip in windy conditions Saturday. DePhillipo runs a video company called Dark Fall Productions and was recording a striped bass episode. They caught bass by snagging and dropping bunker in close to the beach after they started out plugging. DePhillipo called it a “quick mission” that produced a lot of action and his personal-best 40-pound bass.
Another 20-pound striper made the leaderboard of the 63rd Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic. Ryan O’Connell of Mays Landing took over the junior division lead with a 24.36-pound striped bass he caught Saturday at Barnegat Light with bunker.
According to a post on the webpage of Fisherman’s Headquarters in Ship Bottom, No Limits Sportfishing with Mike Villanova and Jess Rinck picked off two prizes in the Stafford PBA. Rinck won women’s striped bass with a 25.5-pound entry, and Villanova made some news with an 18.3-pound bluefish. That could signal the return of the big blues.
Emanuel Valentin of Atlantic City showed that maybe a few nice bass have crossed through Absecon Inlet with a 30-inch bass he certified at One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City. Noel Feliciano said Monday that he weighed some “nice” tautog caught from the Atlantic City jetties.
All it took was one phone call to get a sense that probably few if anyone tried to venture out on the ocean for tautog or sea bass with an occasional triggerfish over the weekend.
John Nigro at Starfish fleet headquarters in Sea Isle City said Monday the Susan Hudson partyboat stayed dockside Saturday and Sunday, and he said he knows of one boat that gave a look by nosing out from Townsend Inlet before wisely turning around.
Before this latest blow, local party boats, charter boats and private boats were mugging them up as the old cliche describes.
The combined meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the MidAtlantic Fishery Management Council that will discuss summer flounder is Tuesday, Dec. 12 in Annapolis, Maryland. Summer flounder, scup and black sea and bluefish lead off the afternoon session at 1:30 p.m.. Scup is first up followed by summer flounder in two different sessions 2:30-4 p.m. and 5-5:30 p.m. Check out the MAMFC website at www.mafmc.org.
All local knowledgeable fishers recommend a strong New Jersey participation.