51-lb. bass - came out of the blue
Written by Star Ledger   
Sunday, 28 November 2004 10:46

Capt. Joe Mattioli of Staten Island was only looking for school stripers Nov. 19, but ended up weighing what may well be the largest Raritan Bay bass of the season.

Mattioli, a member of the Professional Fly and Light Tackle Guides Association, had a light tackle party aboard his On The Bite when they came across the huge school of large bunkers off Prince's Bay, which was described in last Sunday's column.

Mattioli took advantage of his opportunity and live-lined a bunker which was picked up.

After setting the hook, he handed the rod to Al Norton of Fort Lee, who fought it for a while before the heavy-bodied bass was alongside to be netted. It tipped the scales to 51.1 pounds at Michael's Tackle in Great Kills.

I stumbled upon that school some time later and also hooked a big one, though it grabbed a bunker I had snagged for bait and the snatch hook pulled out after a couple of minutes. Mattioli said there was a mob scene in the area the next day, but the bunkers were difficult to locate in choppy waters which also made the drift too fast.

There have been no stripers resembling that one in the ocean this week, though some 20-pounders were trolled, jigged and caught on surface plugs in the Shrewsbury Rocks-Highlands Bridge area earlier in the week as well as off Island Beach State Park. The strong southwester followed by the Thanksgiving night northwest wind seemed to move both bait and predators.

Capt. Russ Binns of Toms River ran north Friday from Manasquan Inlet and didn't find a thing up to the bridge. I ran directly south that morning and saw nothing until getting into the park off the Gillikins beach buggy entrance where there was a mile of working birds starting about a mile offshore.

As wild as it seemed, the bite was tender as those fish were working on tiny rainfish and most skippers complained about the difficulty in coming up with a bass.

Eric Moen of Troy, Mich., managed to get through all the blues to jig four stripers, though he was surprised to learn that his 31-and-32 1/2-inchers were too large to be legal. I couldn't avoid catching the choppers and managed only two bass of 28 and 31 inches on an O.B. Ultimous Diamondback jig. A very large fleet developed in that area because there was nothing going on anywhere else. The water remained very clear, and even warmed up a bit to 52.5 degrees.

Hank Klump Jr. of Redington helped avert a tragedy the night of Nov. 19 when Capt. Mike Scardigno had to steer his Mi-Jo from Atlantic Highlands into an Ambrose Channel buoy in order to avoid hitting a small boat with no lights.

Capt. Brian Faust of Layla was aboard and he reports the collision put a 10-inch hole in the bow of the Mi-Jo. Klump volunteered to go below with the mate and found four to five feet of water in the forward compartment.

They set up a 2-inch pump which wasn't able to keep up with the water coming in, but Klump came up with the idea of cutting up life jackets to plug the hole. That worked well enough to allow the pump to do its job, and Scardigno was able to limp back to port with his party of 30 anglers, including several children.

Faust had Klump aboard his Layla the day before when he caught a 25-pound striper in Ambrose Channel while his cousin, Mike Whalen, added a 20-pounder.


At Point Pleasant, the Mimi V will be running open for blackfish Mondays to Fridays. One angler bagged his limit from among 32 tog over 14 inches he caught Friday.

The Queen Mary got into hot jigging off the Seaside piers during the Thanksgiving morning trip as 30 stripers were caught along with blues. Capt. John Brackett had to join the fleet off Island Beach the next day and did very well with blues while adding only a dozen bass.

At Atlantic Highlands, Chris Lido of Clinton was aboard the Sea Hunter last Saturday when he jigged five bass up to 34 inches, while Tom Peck of Clifton boated a 36-incher. Capt. Rob Semkewyc cast a jig off the upper deck and nailed a 40-incher. Every fare caught a slot that day, and bonus cards were also utilized.

The Sea Fox concludes its northern season by blackfishing this weekend. Then it will be on its way to Cortez, Fla., for Gulf of Mexico snappers and groupers all winter.

Capt. Ed Bunting Jr. of the Sea Horse has had good action with ling and blackfish except last Sunday when there was wind against tide and a big heave. Pool winners included Russel Reinharof from Clifton with a 9-pounder and Stan Weintruout at 7 pounds.

Capt. Tom Buban reports a decent pick of blackfish most days from his Atlantic Star. Bob Prazicki of Franklin Park boated 7-and-8-pounders.

Capt. Scotty Hilliard has been working Sandy Hook Reef and Scotland for blackfish and some ling from his Prowler 5. Greg Davis of Bridgewater had the largest last week with a 9-pounder.

Capt. Danny Seich has been out almost every night the last two weeks with the Teal and has had catches ranging from eight to 60. Scott Kearney of Jackson was aboard Saturday night when 36 keepers were boated along with a dozen shorts. He caught three of 24, 32 and 38 inches, the latter barely losing the pool to a similar bass. Capt. George Bachert has been doing well on day trips to Scotland with blackfish up to 10 pounds plus the best early showing of ling in years.

At Belmar, Capt. Tommy Joseph limits out with blackfish every day on his Rightaway. Some days he is finished by 10:30, and on others he has to fish into the afternoon.

Capt. Jimmy Elliott ran into loads of big porgies during last Sunday's offshore wreck trip with Suzie Girl. Some fares had limits of scup from 2 to 4 1/2 pounds. There were also some cod up to a 25-pounder, a few pollock up to the pool-winning 31 1/2 pounds by Russell Bryk of Wall, and a scattering of big sea bass.

Capt. Marc Vitolo said last Saturday's blackfishing from his Skipper was slow, though Bruce Williams of Freehold boated an 11-pounder. Sunday was better, and the pool went to Danny Kung of Fort Lee with a 12 13/16-pound tog.

The Golden Eagle winds up its season today seeking blues and bass. They were part of the fleet off Island Beach Friday.

At Brielle, Capt. Joe Bogan had another fine cod trip last Sunday as over 100 were caught on his Jamaica II. Not all of those were keepers, but 12 were in the 20-to-40-pound class and a few pollock were also boated. Another cod special has been added for Dec. 5.

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