It is a crazy time of year. Mid October will make your head spin with options. We are still a little south of the striper migration but there are plenty of other options while we wait one more week for the bass to be in our range.
We are still catching blowfish in the bay and casting lures at 2 to 6 pound bluefish in the inlet.
The ocean options include big gator blues on jigs, chumming bonita and albacore at Barnegat Ridge, or depending on which way the offshore forecast goes for Sunday and Monday there are still tuna to catch in the 70 to 80 mile range. We could do any of these trips. I am going to leave it to you guys and go with the majority of interest.
Sailing Open Boat or Charter Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, October 17, 18, and 19. Call for info and rates.
Pic: Max DeGennaro with bluefish at the inlet jetty.
There was one good weather day over the weekend, so we headed to the Triple Wrecks on Saturday where the never ending yellowfin tuna bite has been going on. I delayed our departure to 4AM as not to hit the last of the outgoing tide into any residual swell coming in against it. That scenario in the daylight can be ominous enough, I don’t risk it at night. We broke the inlet by 5AM and made it to the grounds by 8AM. The radio was alive with chatter of guys with their fish boxes full already. I wasn’t panicking, I was just going to make some drifts and do our thing. We couldn’t buy a hit. I even dropped to 30 lb fluorocarbon leader just to try and get a bite. Finally at 11AM one of our guys hooks up on a 200 gram Nomad Streaker jig. He fights him for 20 minutes and the hook pulls. I up the leaders to 40 lb and in the next few hours we go 2 for 6 on big yellowfins. Managed to boat a 75 and 80 pounder. Both hit live spots on weighted lines while we drifted the whales. So while we didn’t hold our own, we couldn’t have been happier with the two fish on ice. Both were epic battles on 50 class. Here is a video of Matt Tengi’s 75 pound yellowfin:
It’s a long clip, around 13 minutes, so you might want to do some fast forwarding. I don’t know how to edit them down, yet, and honestly when I started recording, I thought we were at the end of the battle.
Sailing Open Boat to Barnegat Ridge this Friday, October 9, 10AM to 6PM. Bonita and albacore on light tackle. We’re going to anchor up and chum. I am expecting other visitors to our slick but I don’t want to jinx it. $250 person, 4 people max, all fish are shared. Call me on my cell to reserve a spot. You can call right up until “go time”. Pics:
Tim Walton of Abington, PA with dark shirt (Capt Nick DeGennaro in slickers)
Matt Tengi of Pequannock, NJ with white shirt (Capt Nick DeGennaro in slickers)
Sashimi platter made from tuna at Makoto Japanese restaurant in Manahawkin. Wow!
Monday, October 5, could be the same as above, or if the forecast stays the same, calling for flat calm conditions, we could head to the canyon first for an extended trip that starts at 11PM Sunday night and returns around 6 PM on Monday. We would mix in some tilefish and canyon troll before heading to the tuna chunking grounds. This extended trip would be $550 person, 4 people max.
All fish are shared on our Open Boat trips. The boat is also available for private charter on these days.
Yesterday, Thursday, the plan came together. The marine forecast was for calm seas and light winds. The boat was packed to the brim with pre-cut chunks, buckets of freshly netted peanut bunker, a livewell full of spots and peanuts, 400 lbs of ice, 30 extra gallons of fuel in portable plastic tanks, and 29 rods already rigged for their specific purpose. Usually being this prepared and having the perfect forecast is the kiss of death….but not this time.
We threw the ropes at 2AM and set out for the Hudson Canyon. A short time into our troll, we stumbled on some lobster pots. Our first pass with the spread of bigger tuna lures produced two nice mahi so we decided to reel in and have some fun casting bait at the hifliers with lighter spinning tackle. We boxed 33 mahi in a few hours between 5 and 12 pounds. It was hard to stop fishing for them but we had an agenda. Next up, was Golden Tilefish. I had some good numbers on where to catch some bigger fish so we went on the drift in 450 feet of water where we boxed 11 fish between 8 and 15 pounds, My son, Nick’s, biggest to date. Last stop was the Triple Wrecks, where the Yellowfin bite has been happening for two months now. We did a slow jog through the fleet, just prospecting, and two of our crew pointed out some fish breaking water. I was sure they must have seen porpoise or skippies but with nothing better going on we headed in that direction where 50 to 80 lb Yellowfin Tuna were airing out. Nick grabbed his popping rod, like he has done so many times before, and on his third cast, his Madd Mantis popper got “whoofed” and he was tight for the first time ever on his popping rod! Fifteen minutes later, a 50 plus pound tuna hit the deck and all was right with the world. Congatulations Nick! I am so glad it happened on our own boat and that I was there to see it. This kid puts in countless hours of prep and then deck work only to help other people hook up. Customers, friends, family, he always makes their experience a priority over his own. He loves doing it but I know he is always waiting to be the guy on the rod. Here is the end game of his tuna:
Finally, all of the messy weather has moved out to allow us to get out in the ocean. We have been locked in the bay for two weeks straight and the fishing has been really good. We chum with live grass shrimp for weakfish and an assortment of other species on ultralite tackle, six pound spinning rods. Snapper blues, fluke, hickory shad, sand sharks, silver perch and a bunch of other species all invade our shrimp slick. We are also doing really well with the blowfish on the west side of the bay. Lots of big ones this year. The yellowfin tuna are still on the same 70 mile grounds they have been for the better part of two months now. They range anywhere from 30 to 80 pounds and we are catching them on bait and jigs. Any given trip we have some mahi mixed in, as well as skipjacks. Awesome visual fishing. Somewhere in the middle of this action we are catching bonita, albacore, and spanish mackerel within a 20 mile run from the inlet. Anchored up chumming with light tackle is the most fun way to target these species and we have the right chum and bait. Saturday, September 26, we will be running Open Boat or charter for either yellowfin tuna or bonita and albacore, whichever draws more interest. Right now the marine forecast is very good for either trip. If it’s a tuna trip, we leave at 4AM and return around 6PM, $450 person, 4 people max. If we fish for bonita and albacore, we leave at 7AM and return 3PM, $250 person, 4 people max. All fish are shared.
Monday, September 28, the forecast right now is for high winds, so we are available for charter for back bay fishing for weakfish and blowfish along with the assorted other species on light tackle. We will be offshore tomorrow, Thursday, September 24, returning around dark from a long tuna trip. If you try to reach me about one of these upcoming trips, you won’t hear back from me until Friday morning, or you could try me Friday morning on my cell. Depending on when you see this, I”ll be up until 9PM tonight (Wed) if you want to call.
Fishing is really good right now. There’s a game plan for every weather scenario. Flat ocean? We’re headed to the tuna grounds where 60 to 80 lb yellowfins are the norm this season. Mahi mahi round out the catch when we are lucky enough to stumble on some debris or they find us. Chunking, jigging, and trolling are all producing. We put most of our effort into catching them on bait, it’s my favorite way to catch them, the hit is frightening.
Semi calm ocean? We are headed to Barnegat Ridge for bonita and false albacore. Trolling and drifting with bait offers great sport on light tackle. Any given day you can also encounter spanish mackeral, king mackerel, mahi, or bluefin tuna. It’s best to expect bonita and albacore and anything else is a bonus.
Windy or rough ocean? We anchor up with live grass shrimp in Barnegat Light where we are catching weakfish. 14 to 18 inch fish on 6 pound spinning tackle. In the mix are also fluke, blowfish, sand sharks, silver perch, snapper blues, and many other critters. Lots of fun on the ultralite gear.
We are available for live grass shrimp charters this Thursday and Friday, Sept 3 and 4, Noon to 5PM. Also Mon and Tues, Sept 7 and 8, 7AM to Noon. $550 for 5 hour trip.
We are running Open Boat or charter to the tuna grounds Saturday and Sunday, Sept 5 and 6, 2AM to 4PM. $1,800 plus tip for private charter up to 4 people. Open Boats are $450 per person, 4 people max, all fish are shared.
Any of these dates and trips are flexible if you are chartering the boat.
Pics: Geri DeGennaro of Barnegat, NJ with a weakfish
Adley J Torres of Rahway, NJ with 80 lb Yellowfin Tuna and Mahi
Fishing the Barnegat Ridge, the inshore offshore spot… For those who want to jump out from the inshore fishery, this is a primer to help introduce offshore fishing for pelagic species such as bonito, albacore, mahi, king mackerel and BLUEFIN TUNA! If you want to branch out from summer time fluke and sea bass near shore, this is the next step.
July through September brings some hot fishing to Barnegat Ridge and the surrounding waters. Bluewaters with structure, bait and pelagic predators make for fun fishing not too far from port. This year (2020) the mid-shore game (10-60 mile range) has been very good. Get out there and have some fun!
First question, of course, is your boat capable?
Barnegat Ridge is about 15 miles from Barnegat Inlet. A boat of at least 20 feet should be adequate on a nice calm summer day. Personally, I only like to run offshore when the conditions are flat calm. This way, if the weather services blow the forecast, you have time to run in before the seas build to an uncomfortable ride. Make sure your VHF radio is in good working order because you will be out of cell range. An EPIRB and a life raft are two things to give you more peace of mind. Having a buddy boat is an extra step in safety and can also be very helpful finding fish.
Next up… Rods & Reels
The good news is that you probably have an arsenal that will work. You need at least four outfits to get started but five is common. More than likly if you troll mojos for striped bass inshore these same outfits will do the job. Any of your inshore outfits that have at least 20-30 pound monofilament line (50-80# braid) on them will work here. I would suggest spooling up with fresh line and putting on maximum capacity. Conventional reels are preferred but spinning can work. It’s not that critical. As long as the line is fresh and the drags are smooth, you are good to go.
Tie on a 75-100# ball bearing snap swivel to each rod. This snap swivel is used to attach any of your rigged lures. The only time you don’t use it is when you are using a feather. In this case, you pass your running line from the reel through the feather and tie on the feather hook, a Mustad 34007 stainless steel 4/0 hook.
You will need to get some 5 inch cedar plugs in natural, red/white or hot pink. You will be trolling two at a time of any lure, so buy at least three or four so you have backup. There are some toothy critters that inhabit Barnegat Ridge so be prepared for an occasional bite off.
One of the most universal trolling rigs is a planner with a spoon. Both Clarkspoon and Huntington Drone Spoon are great in the 3-5″ size. These spoons are unweighed and should be trolled behind a lead trolling weight “drail” or better yet a diving planer. The #2 or #3 planers are best for this type of fishing. Be sure to use two arm lengths ~10′ of 40-60# leader from the planer to the spoon.
A planer is more effective at getting down deeper and faster than a drail so the line isn’t stretched out into the spread. This allows for other rods to be fished in those positions. Planers and spoons fished deep are well know for getting the attention of game fish and raising them into a spread. Once a fish bites the planer trips and it’s much nicer fighting it than with a heavy drail.
Is you want to make your spread come alive and standout from the pack spreaderbars will help you BIG TIME! Designed to be trolled and look like a school of bait fish, spreader bars raise fish. They come in all sorts of sizes, colors and styles. The most popular are the Chatter Splash Bars and Chatter Side Trackers. The Splash Bars have birds that chatter and splash to cause a commotion which attract game fish. Side Tracker Bars have a rudder which makes the spreader bar track off and away from the boat. For this reason Chatter Side Trader Bars are a huge advantage to small boats who don’t have outriggers. They helps widen a spread and also allows for more rods to be fished.
My other “go to” lure has to be built because I don’t know where you could buy one.
Start with 4-5″ squid skirts. The same ones used to dress up fluke rigs. They usually come in a five pack. Snip off just the tip of each squid to allow line to pass through. Each one will get a ¼ ounce egg sinker inside the head.
Next thread onto the leader a crimp and squeeze (swage) on to the line about 20″ above the first squid. This acts as a stopper that will hold the squid in position. Add a bead and then an egg weighed squid skirt. Repeat working up the leader until there are five squids in a chain, all of them about 15″ apart. Note: The one with the hook is slightly further apart at 20″.
To finish off, thread on a crimp and then do a loose double over hand knot. Pull down (but not tight) to form an “offshore loop”. Then put the tag end into the crimp and swage to complete the rig. This loop is where you’ll attach a snap swivel from one of your rods when it’s time to fish. Note: There will be extra leader line in front of the leading squid in the chain.
I know the Hoochie Chain is complicated and we would all prefer to buy off the rack BUT! The success I have had with it is unbelievable. In fact, I would tell you that in all of the Ridge fishing I do… I almost always have just four lines in the water, two small cedar plugs and two of those squid chains. If you don’t want to go through the hassle or are intimidated at the idea of rigging, pick out some small 4 to 5 inch little jet lures or feathers. Black/white or red/white are ideal feather colors. Blue/white or green/yellow are good jet lure colors.
If you don’t have the time to make your own Hoochie Chain… here is a great alternative… The Feather Chain. Feather Chains will catch anything from mahi, albies and bonita to bluefin tuna.
Time To Hit The Ridge!
There are actually two Barnegat Ridges, North and South. They both hold fish and are about 3.5 miles apart. The water in between them is productive, as well. On your ride out you will notice the depth dropping from 40, 50, 70, 80, sometimes flirting with 100 feet and then, as you arrive, it comes all the way up to 55 to 60 feet of water. I like to stop a mile and a half shy to allow time to get all the rods set and to fish that transition from deep to shallow.
Setting The Spread
Get the boat up to 6-7 knots and set up a simple spread. Start letting out the first cedar plug. Drop it way back, maybe 150 feet and put it in the forward starboard outrodder. On the port side, do the same thing with one of the squid chains or a jet lure. In your starboard stern most rodholder put out a squid chain or feather and keep it about 25 or 30 feet behind the boat right in the prop wash. If you have a release clip or a clothespin, tie it to the stern cleat and put the line in that. This will change it to a very low trajectory and improve the presentation. This is called a flatline. Repeat this with a cedar plug in the port stern most rod holder and… You are fishing!
On The Hunt
Offshore trolling is very much a visual game. You want to constantly be scanning for anything to steer towards, like a piece of wood or debris that might have mahi mahi on it. What you are always looking for are chick birds. Technically they are Storm Petrels, but we call them chicks, chick birds, tuna chicks. They are a great indicator of where the gamefish are feeding. You’re not looking for a big flock like we encounter inshore. Just one or a few is all you need. These birds are too small to feed on the same baitfish the predators are feeding on. They are diving at the surface picking up tiny particles from the maceration that is going on below the surface of the water. The best scenario is when you find these birds diving at a slick piece of water, it has a sheen like an oil slick. This is known as “chicks and slicks” and in the world of offshore trolling, it doesn’t get any better than that. That means you stumbled on a feed that is going on right now and your rods should be singing any minute.
You won’t always find this condition, but keep your eyes open for even a single or just a few of these birds. So many times we hook up just from turning the boat towards a single chick bird. Shearwaters, gulls and other birds might present too but none are as relevant as tuna chicks.
You are most likely to encounter bonita, false albacore, spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and occasionally mahi and school size bluefin tuna. The bonita are always our target and are delicious. They average two to four pounds but last year we had them up to six pounds. The false albacore are inedible, they average 5 to 10 pounds and will smoke the reel on their initial first run. Both the spanish and king mackerel have populated this area for 10 years or so but the last few years are the greatest numbers I have ever seen.
As always care for your catch properly! Once caught, bleed ’em out (cut the throat, poke/slice the main artery and slice/cut the tail artery) and ice ’em up. Puttiung fish in a saltwater ice slurry is
The spanish are delicious and I get mixed reviews on the kings. They are both toothy and the kings especially will bite you off even on the 80 pound leader. Mahi and bluefin are always a pleasant surprise and can take up residence there any time there is baitfish and blue water to hold them. Sandeels, small mackerel, and flying fish are some of the bait found here.
That should get you started. Call me if you have any questions or need some guidance. See you out there!
Fishing is heating up. There have been 20 to 30 lb bluefin tuna within 20 miles of Barnegat Inlet. We are also catching king mackerel in the mix. All on the troll, so far. Side tracker bars are accounting for most of the hookups but cedar plugs are starting to get bit, too. Further offshore, 60 to 70 miles, there is a mix of bluefin and yellowfin. They are hitting on the troll as well as drifting with jigs and bait fishing, my personal favorite. There is nothing like when a tuna eats your bait and you are holding the rod to feel that acceleration. It is also possible to mix in some 2 to 3 ft pelagic sharks on spinning tackle when we fish the 20 mile grounds. Open Boat or Charter: Sunday, July 26 Mid Range Tuna, 60 to 70 miles, 3AM to 5PM $450 person
Monday, July 27 Barnegat Ridge, 15 to 20 miles, 7AM to 3PM $225 person
Saturday, August 1 Barnegat Ridge, 15 to 20 miles, 6AM to 1PM $200 person
4 people max on all Open Boat trips, all fish are shared.
Pic: Jon and Ray Vernon of Butler, NJ with two of their three bluefin tuna trolled at Barnegat Ridge on Saturday.
The marine forecast looks really good for offshore this Sunday. Light and variable winds, just the way we like it. We are available for charter or you can sign on as an individual on our Open Boat trips for this Sunday, July 19. Departing at 3AM, returning around 4PM. Could be yellowfin or bluefin. $450 person, 4 people max.
Call me on my cell, that’s the best way to reserve a spot or get more information.
During the week we will be running bay trips and Barnegat Ridge trips in search of bonita and albacore. We have also been doing really well with our inshore sharking trips. Atlantic sharpnose, spinners, and an occasional dusky shark make up most of the catch. Mostly 2 to 4 foot sharks. They are great sport on the spinning tackle we use, all within sight of land. Dave DeGennaro 732.330.5674 cell hiflier.com
It’s been a busy couple of weeks fishing on the Hi Flier. Inshore we connected with bluefish, weakfish (only one), fluke, and spinner sharks. The weakie hit a jig tipped with shedder crab, it was only a 20 minute try so I am optimistic about going on the hunt for them again. There are 3 to 5 pound blues all around the inlet. The spinner sharks are terrorizing the bunker pods just a few miles outside our inlet, we caught them on the snag and drop. They were 40 lb class, maybe 4 footers.
Offshore we ran to the mid range grounds (50-70 miles) for bluefin and connected on the troll, 5 for 9 on 20 to 50 pound fish. We ran two trips to the southern canyons, 4 for 4 on the first with 30 to 50 lb yellowfins and then yesterday we went 2 for 2, a 50 and 80 lb yellowfin, all trolling Chatter Side Tracker bars. We also jumped off a white marlin. We are also trolling albacore with a few bonita mixed in at Barnegat Ridge. Thurs, July 9 is available for charter to fish inshore or the bay for any number of species. Sat, Sun, and Monday, July 11, 12, 13 are also available for charter or we will run Open Boat for Barnegat Ridge or Mid Range Tuna. Things are really heating up with both of these fisheries.