Capt. John's Fishing Tips....
We usually start out our season in western Raritan Bay clamming for spring Stripers around 1st of April and then as soon as the bunker arrive, we will switch over to chunking or livelining. Chunking and/or livelining bunker is great way to catch larger Stripers. In the fall, we fish for Stripers drifting eels or jigging lures out along the beach when the fish arrive from the Cape Cod area.
Summary- The spring 2015 Striper run was pretty darn good all things considered. Although everyday saw us searching as the bass did a lot of moving around, but once located, the fish cooperated either on clams or bunker chunks for most of the spring and summer. We had to do trolling on days when clamming or bunker chunking just didn't produce good numbers. Most fish caught were keepers that showed up a lot later than normal due to the extremely cold bay water from the winter. Because these fish are constantly on the move, it may require hunting these guys down as they rarely congrigate in the same area for any prolonged period of time....so you must be patient at times.
The fall 2015 run of keeper Stripers was slow in our area. Striper fishing further south was lights out from reports I read telling me that the fall migration of bigger bass bypassed the NY Bight area again and headed south offshore as they did in previous years......too bad. The fall sand eel appearance never materialized for northern New Jersey and as such, the bass stayed away in big numbers. Bunker all over the place in the bay and nobody to feed on them. Once again....too bad.
- "Clamming" is a very successful way to catch Stripers.
A bushel bag or two of "sea clams" is usually enough for our
4 man charters. Anchor up around clam beds or wherever you "mark"
fish and chum using cracked clams as bait. Put 4 - 5 clams in a bucket
and break them up with a hard object (baseball bat) and then add some
sea water to make a soupy mixture. Then disperse this mixture in the
water around the boat....works great. Shuck another clam for your hooks
making sure you impale the clam on the hook securely through the belly
first and then through the tongue of the clam. We make it a habit of
using 24" long leaders with a fishfinder rig and cast the clam
bait away from the stern of the boat and fish our reels in "free
spool" with the clicker on until pickup. DON"T set the hook
in the normal way with circle hooks, just lock the reel. We use 6/0
- 9/0 circle hooks exclusively......more hookups, and less wasted fish.
-Trolling Stretch 25's- Trolling Mann's Stretch 25 deep diving
lure products on braided line can be very successful if you use some
common sense and some very easy techniques. It might take you a few
trips to get the hang of it, but learning this technique will pay off
big in the end.
We load our reels with about 1/4 spool of dacron backing, then we fill the remainder of our reel with 40 lb braid line. Once again, the choice of braid is up to you, but I really like the Suffix or Power Pro products as they are a very supple braid. At the end of your braid, add a good high quality barrel swivel (I love the 80-100 lb. Tsunami Pro) and then attach about a 6-8 ft. shot of 40-50 lb. flurocarbon leader tied to another high quality snap swivel. Now attach your Stretch 25 to your snap swivel and you're ready to go.
Trolling speeds are crucial to success as anyone who trolls bunker spoons will tell you. I've found that a good speed for my boat is around 3 mph. You know that your lure is doing its thing when your rod tip is pulsating rapidly (you won't see the slower pulsation that a bunker spoon gives you). Drop the lure into the water and feed out enough line until you see that quick pulsation that I was talking about. You should be trolling in 25-30 feet of water and NO MORE! Remember.....BIG Stripers feed almost exclusively within 5' of the bottom. (If you want proof of this, get you hands on the video "Stripers Gone Wild" and then you'll know why) If you decide that you want to troll Stretch 25's in deeper water you can always add a drail sinker to the braid line just before the barrel swivel to get it down deeper. A 2, 3,or 4 oz. drail sinker will work wonders getting that lure to the depth you want. I've had better success trolling "with the current" than against it. But that's me, so experiment and see what works best for you.
3 -Trolling "Tube and Worm" technique -Although the "Tube and Worm" technique of trolling has been used for years by charter fisherman to the north of us, I admit I have been very slow to adapt this process on my boat. I saw first hand what an effective way of fishing this was during a recent trip to Block Island and Martha's Vineyard. What I liked about it was that it was just as successful using braid line, which I really like for trolling, as well as trolling wire line.
I admit, I'm not a big fan of any kind of trolling, but when push comes to shove and I need to produce fish on a day when bait is not working, we will get out the trolling rods. I like to have everyone involved in fishing holding a rod and working the bait and not sitting and watching trolling rods go off. But, to insure that we make every effort to put some fish in the box, I will revert to trolling.
Summary-The 2015 Fluke season, by my standards, was fair. Sure we caught fish, but many of the legal fish we retained were just not up to the size we target in the usual locations that historically hold doormat Fluke. We fished deep water structure and we put 5, 6 or 7 lb Fluke in the cooler, but just not to the same numbers as 2012. Ironically, drifting fresh baits did better than bucktailing with Gulp Alive products. Also too, was the number of boats in NJ waters which further depleated the stock of Fluke. Just the shear numbers of lines-in-the-water on any given day was staggering. So I'm anticipating a repeat of this situation for 2016 and plan on fishing many new areas with underwater structure to get away from the fleet that builds up every day. So plan on travelling......
Drifting for Fluke - Speed of your drift is CRUCIAL, so a speed of between 1 - 1.5 mph is best on my boat. Anything less and you're in trouble (try power drifting or cast and retrieve) as well as as anything more and it's time to get the drift sock out and slow yourself down. We use and highly recommend the Cabela's 76" Dia Advanced Angler Drift Sock for boats in the 25' range that will slow our drift down by about 1kt. A must have tool if you're serious about catching Fluke.
My choice for drifting baits are Squid strips/Peruvian smelt combo and for bucktailing, strips of bunker, strips of sea robin, strips of bluefish or strips of mackerel. Always targeting larger Fluke like we do, we'll use long strips and stinger hooks or even whole small squid as bait in deep channel areas such as Sandy Hook and Ambrose Channels. I absolutely LOVE sea robin strips..tough!
Bucktailing - Spro type jigs has become the defacto standard aboard Reel Fun Sportfishing for the past 5 years. Much more fun, more and usually bigger fish that hit the lure with vengeance. We like to get everyone involved in the days fishing and not just standing there holding the rod and reel waiting for a strike. Bucktail jigs with strip baits added are deadly...... rigged along with a Clouser or Deceiver teaser a foot above the bucktail on the same line. A "killer" bucktail is the 4 or 6 oz Spro type in Chartreuse/White or all White fished with a strip bait of your choice (I especially like sea robin strips and fluke belly)......... outfishes all meats.
We like the sea robin strips because they are tough. Catching 3-4 fish on one strip bait is not unusual. We like and also use "Squid Tube" strips that are thick, and pure white. A big winner for us is also nice and oily mackerel strips, bunker strips and bluefish strips. My all time favorite for catching big fluke has got to be live peanut bunker or snapper bluefish.....a big time big fluke killer in the deep.
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Capt. John at: 908- 421- 4761
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Charters Sandy Hook, NJ