by Capt. Steve Byrne
With water temperatures holding at a steady 78.5 degrees in most of Raritan Bay, there hasn't been much striped bass fishing to talk about over the past month. My normal routine is to re-focus my efforts on schoolie bass before dawn, but as I get closer to the age of 50, it seems that my energy should be conserved for fishing that holds a more substantial payoff.
My oldest son will be off to college in a week or so, and we only managed a few trips together this summer. Fluke fishing yielded just a few shorts, and I haven't been motivated enough to make the ride to any of our reefs or wrecks for bottom species.
We gave the bass another shot early this morning, tossing live peanut bunker around some structure that we hoped was holding fish. Several stops with handfuls of peanuts got zero attention, so we switched up to fluke. After putting a few shorties in the boat, the current got a little too brisk for our bucktails in 65 feet, so we moved to 25.
The screen was absolutely loaded with fish, and it didn't take long to find out what they were. Stephen got the first weakfish, I had one a minute later, and then it was drop and reel for the next hour. The weakies were small, topping out at 14 inches, but they loved the Gulp baits we jigged.
A single drift lasted an hour and covered a mile. Just when you came off of one school, another filled the screen. Conservatively, we released 50 spikes - all hooked in the mouth - and every one of them swam off like a shot. It was as fun and relaxing an hour as I've had in a long time.
There have been reports of weakfish, but this was the first school this size that I have encountered this year. Hopefully this thriving mass of trout portends good things for a weakfish population that is seriously depleted.
For me, the rest of the summer will be spent laying the groundwork for a fall run full of striped bass, false albacore and one of my favorite fish of all - TOG! By "laying the groundwork," I mean finishing all of the work around the house so I'll be free to fish.
Speaking of work I'm supposed to be painting the hallway right now, so until next time!