by Capt. Steve Byrne
There is a ton of great fishing to be had in the friendly confines of Raritan Bay. The most obvious action is taking place around the bunker schools, and it's easy to spot them when they are being harassed. There are schools of bunker all over the bay. In the past week I've seen them all along the south shore of Staten Island – literally, from South Beach to Tottenville and up the River. I shot over to Keyport yesterday and there were bunker pods there.
Most of the kayakers and surf guys are doing the snag-and-drop when the schools come close enough. Boat anglers can take a similar approach, but have the advantage of carrying live bunker in a well.
Speaking of bunker in the well, I pulled 30 from the net Saturday morning for my trip down to Shrewsbury. When we got to the Highlands Bridge we stopped on some bunker schools getting pushed, and when I went to the well for a live bunker, I found that only 5 survived the ride.
The die-off in my live well is a result of rising water temperatures, leading to lower oxygen levels. To compensate, I will reduce the number of bunker I put in the well. Fortunately, the bunker schools on the ocean are thick and refilling the well was not a problem.
The only action taking place off the Highlands Bridge was created by the hundreds of dolphins that were feeding on the bunker. We watched them for a few minutes before continuing south.
When we arrived at the Rocks we found some of the biggest bluefish you could want to catch. The two smallest for the day were probably 12 pounds, while the average was 14. I checked out the surrounding waters for signs of bass, but I didn't find any, so we went back to the blues.
Earlier in the week I did a trip with Mitro & JB, and we stayed in the Bay. We started off by getting in on a huge bluefish blitz and went through 30 bunker in less than an hour. Again, I was able to make a throw with the net and put another 50 baits on the boat.
When we went back to work, we turned our focus from bluefish to bass by staying away from the huge blitz and instead looking for readings near structure. We worked at it and put 5 teen-size bass in the boat, keeping 3 and releasing 2.
We are using 8/0 circle hooks throw the lower jaw and out the nose. When we are fishing shallow – 10 feet or less – we go weightless. Anything deeper than that, we are using an appropriate sinker to get the bunker down.
Despite the "no-bass" outing on my last trip to Shrewsbury, I plan to go there again this weekend with my oldest son. The forecast looks good, bunker are easy, and the blues are there if the bass don't come to play.