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Capt. Steve Byrne

Steve Byrne is a charter captain and fishing addict. He holds the current IGFA weakfish 30# line-class record, & guided his two sons to IGFA records of their own. "Catching stripers for 40 years, I love releasing big fish to catch them another day!"

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January 23, 2012

Some Fish Around Town

by Capt. Steve Byrne

My new hobby is checking the 10-day forecast. With the last days of January and the first days of February forecast to be in the mid-30s to mid-40s, every time I look at the forecast it feels like I won a free scratch off ticket. Sure, it's not the jackpot, but every week that passes without temperatures in the teens or 20s makes me feel like a winner.

As mild as it's been, I have not been sufficiently motivated to try catching the herring that are allegedly hanging around some of our local spots. There are still reports of schoolies being pulled from the surf in South Jersey, so if you were really hungry for a shot at stripers, you could make the drive down to North Monmouth County and give it a whirl. Personally, I'm comfortable on the couch right now; I look at the time off as time to recuperate from a long season.

If you just can't stand staying indoors, there are options for catching fish closer to home. The Brooklyn has been catching mackerel, Capt. Dave has been sailing for cod and the Marilyn Jean has been picking up ling and a few cod.

If you're just looking to get out of the house but not necessarily freeze you rear end off, you can hit a few of the fishing shows that are coming up. The Somerset Fly Fishing Show is taking place January 27 to 29, and if you're into saltwater fly-fishing this show is a must-see. The Suffern Show will be held at Rockland Community College March 1 to 4, and I will be helping man the Nor'east booth at the Somerset Show at the Garden State Art Center, March 16 to 18, so stop by and say hello.

On Staten Island, the Fishermen's Conservation Association hosts fly-tying sessions every Sunday morning, and will have Zeno Hromin present a "Secrets of a Surf Pro" seminar, February 7. You can email [email protected] for details. If you know of any other fishing organizations or clubs with winter activities, please share them with me at [email protected]

Let's hope the mild weather continues for another four weeks or so….before you know it we'll be on the water again, leaning back against the pull of a fat striper.

January 13, 2012

A Couple of Lessons From '11 and When Does Spring Start?

by Capt. Steve Byrne

Right off the bat, I have to thank for giving me the opportunity to write something on a regular basis again. The blog format is especially appealing because there are no hard word counts or space limitation – you can say what you have to say without worrying about going over your assigned word count. I'm also excited about including pictures and video with my blog; which brings me to the purpose of it.

Rob Pavlick asked me to approach the blog in this way: "This is what I'm catching, this is how I caught them, and this is how you can catch them too." That sounded like a good idea to me, and I'll do my best to stick with that formula. If you have any comments, suggestions or subjects you would like to read about, please let me know and I'll do my best to address them.

By now you have probably read a bunch of round-ups and re-caps of the 2011 fishing season, so I won't bore you with mine. Instead of simply reflecting on the previous year, I like to think back through the season and see if I can find anything new that I learned, or something that I did differently and had good results with. There were a few things that stuck out in 2011.

Perhaps the most important change I made was in the way I net bunker. I've always been comfortable throwing the net, and usually have decent results. But – at times, I struggled with it. When the bunker pods were small, I would throw a lot of zeros.

The problem with the approach I was using was not with my net throwing – it was the way I used the boat. I was stuck in the bad habit of throwing from the bow; not too smart when you consider that the transducer is located in the stern. By the time the transducer reads a small pod of bunker, the bow is already past it.

With encouragement from one of the guys at my dock, I began throwing the net from the back of the boat. I'd motor slowly, crank the wheel hard to the left, turn my back to the helm and throw the net on the port side of the boat. Circling above the bunker, I made sure I let the net sink all the way down. It cut the time I spend netting bunker and I was able to fill the livewell more quickly than ever before.

Speaking of bunker….

I hardly chunked bunker at all last year. In fact, I may have only dropped the anchor and chunked two or three times the entire year. Instead, I live lined almost exclusively. Watching bass tee-off on live bunker is a blast, and most of the guys who fish with me look forward to fishing with live bunker. Sometimes though, the fish just don't cooperate.

There were a few trips that featured less-than-enthusiastic bites from the bass. After 30 to 40 minutes of bass taking our bunker but not getting hooked, I had enough and started cutting chunks. We dropped our chunks on the next drift and we were doubled up almost immediately. These bass were in the mid-teens, so maybe the live bunker were just a little too much for them.

I used that same back up plan whenever the bass were reluctant to take live bunker after that, and it produced fish consistently. So in those situations, it's almost as though the live bunker were used to attract the bass, but the drifted chunks closed the deal.

I suppose that's enough reminiscing for now. On a completely different note, now is the time to get ready for spring bass. I replaced the lower unit on my motor last July. Unfortunately, when the new unit came the drain holes were cross-threaded. Since I didn't want to lose even more of the season, I worked with what I had and got the screws to go straight in. That said, I'm not happy with it so I sent it back to the manufacturer on Thursday. They said that turn-around time is about three days, so I should have it back and mounted on the boat by the second week of February.

There are a few other minor items to take care of, and I plan to complete all repairs before April 1. I decided that it would be a good idea to pull out all the wiring from the bilge, and re-wire everything from a high spot several feet from the bilge, all the way down to the pump. I could splice in the extra length of wire needed – before the installation. Touch it up with a little solder and shrink tubing and the connection will stay solid for years. I'm going to replace the original bilge pump with one of those new units that checks for water electronically – no more float switch to get jammed up.

The flood light for the deck needs to be replaced; not much to talk about there, but it needs to be done. I'd also like to rewire the battery switch and install a second battery. A few other odds and ends and she'll be ready for action when the bass come back.

How many more days till spring?
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