Truth be told, it's been a relatively slow striped bass run so far this fall.
This time of year, everyone I talk to seems to bring up fishing, and while last year at this time everyone was bragging about their monster bass they had caught, this year it's more like a Q&A session of, "Well, did YOU catch anything yet? Nothing here."
I spoke with two good anglers over the past couple of days: first, Capt. Dave DeGennaro of Barnegat, who runs the Hi Flier out of that town, and Brick resident Vic Fanelli, who's usually hitting the suds this time of year in between attending school board and town council meetings.
Dave told me that last year at this time, the Barnegat Bay striped bass fishery had taken off and was in full swing, but this year the water is warmer and it hasn't started popping yet. But he did say that we should be right on the cusp, temperature-wise, and good fishing could begin in earnest any day now.
Vic told me Thursday night that he hit the beach in Mantoloking one day this week armed with every type of bait from lures to eels to mackerel, and there were no stripers to be found. He ended up helping some youngsters on the beach get their flightless kite airborne, he told me. Hey, at least catching some wind with a kite is catching something.
But a few anglers have seen some success. One of the not-so-secret ways to see what's working this time of year is to check out the results of the LBI surf fishing tournament, which began a few weeks ago and lasts through the beginning of December. At a website run by the Southern Ocean County Chambers of Commerce, you can check who has caught what – where they caught it, and on what type of bait it was hooked.
The data shows that so far this year, nearly all of the fish weighed in with tournament officials have been caught on bunker. A 41.56-pounder caught by Gary Naylor of Mount Holly leads the tourney. And except for three fish – one each caught on a kingfish head, eel and plug – every single fish weighed in at the tournament has been caught on bunker. Interestingly, there hasn't been one fish caught on a clam as of yet. For what it's worth, most of the fish that have been weighed in – including that top fish – were caught in Barnegat Light.
For what it's worth, those who like eeling for stripers might want to try their luck at the Point Pleasant Canal. I've heard a couple of anecdotal reports that there are a few bass that are biting over there.
But that's the update for now. Remember, if you catch the striper of a lifetime, send it our way: email@example.com.