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Frank Ruczynski

I've spent the last twenty-five years chasing the fish that swim in our local waters and I've enjoyed every minute of it! During that time, I've made some remarkable friends and together we've learned a great deal by spending loads of time on the water.

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May 01, 2015

Back Bay Bonanza!

by Frank Ruczynski

Our South Jersey backwaters are exploding with life! Tackle-testing bluefish are popping up all over, striped bass action continues to improve daily, summer flounder are stacked in the skinny water and the season's first few weakfish are just beginning to show up. If you haven't been out yet this season, (in my best Ellie Goulding voice) what are you waiting for?

It's time to hit the water!

I love everything about this time of year – I am in love with the month of May. The sights, sounds and smells make me feel alive. Our dull, brown landscape has been transformed into a vibrant multitude of colors. The air is filled with a sweet, floral perfume while songbirds of all types sing the days away. The warm sunshine feels amazing and some of the world's best skinny-water fishing takes place right in our own backyard. The possibilities are endless and you don't need a $50,000 boat or any other fancy equipment to take advantage of the great fishing action. A well-placed cast from the edge of the water has infinite potential.

With so many opportunities, it's difficult for me to think about anything else but fishing. Over the last few weeks, I've split my time between freshwater and saltwater fishing, but I'm making the fulltime switch over to saltwater starting today. The rainbow trout and largemouth bass were fun, but I'll take tiderunner weakfish and striped bass over them everyday of the week.

Jake and I had fun with the trout.

With each passing season, I find myself spending a little more time in my kayak. After much research, I decided to purchase a chartplotter/fishfinder for my Tarpon 120. With so many mounting options, I decided to take the ride down to North Wildwood to visit Chris Parson at The Kayak Fishing Store. Chris has an unbelievable selection of kayak accessories and is up-to-date and knowledgeable about anything and everything concerning kayaks. He installed my Lowrance unit while we made the short trip to the boardwalk and Sam's Pizza. An hour later, I returned to shop and was extremely pleased with the install - the unit and transducer placement was neat and perfect for my fishing needs.

All ready to go!

When I returned home, I couldn't wait to try out my new toy. A strong and steady northwest wind made any saltwater excursions questionable so I decided to try the new unit at one of the local lakes. It worked exactly as I hoped and I caught a bunch of pickerel, crappie and yellow perch along the channel edge. As a structure-oriented, finesse angler, having eyes below the water should greatly increase my catch rates this year or at least that's what I told my wife.

After waiting a few days for perfect weather conditions, I gave in and decided to fish in the breezy NW conditions. For much of last week, it really felt more like fall than spring. Despite questionable water temperatures, my quarry was weakfish. The new down-imaging unit picked up some great structure and I started marking fish just minutes after sunrise. While I couldn't find weakfish, the striped bass action was worthwhile.

Sunrise Stripers

Over the last few days, I've been back to my favorite early-season weakfish spot a few times, but it seems striped bass are holding in all of my old weakfish holes. Some big bluefish are patrolling the area too and they've taken a toll on my jig and soft-plastic bait supplies, but they sure are fun on light tackle. I heard few promising weakfish reports this morning so I'll be back on the hunt next week.

A school of stripers were set up on a small creek edge.

Striking out on weakfish left a bad taste in my mouth so I decided to fish a little further south yesterday. I met up with Patrick Matthews, a Facebook friend, at sunrise. Our passion for fishing and the road-kill shrapnel in the back of my kayak made for easy conversation and after a few minutes, it was like I was talking to an old friend. We loaded our kayaks and launched just before the sun peeked over the horizon. Fortunately, the flood tide and calm winds made paddling effortless - I'm still hurting from paddling against that northwest wind last week.

Spring Sunrise

It was a beautiful morning, as everything seemed to be in our favor. The conditions were prime: the tide just starting trickling out with little to no wind. We concentrated on points and channel edges for weakfish, but we couldn't get past the summer flounder and bluefish. The flatfish weren't part of the plan, but the fast-paced action and size of the flatfish made for a great day. I fished ¼ and ½-ounce jigs with bubblegum-colored Zoom Super Flukes. I never stopped trying for weakfish.

Not a weakfish, but I'll take it!

Even though I struck out on weakfish, I did have a good time with the flatfish. We caught a bunch of 15 to 17-inch fluke and a decent amount of what would be keeper-size fish topped off with a 26-inch beauty. It wasn't easy to let her go, but after a few photos, she shot off like a bullet. One more note: Bill Shillingford otherwise known as "Bucktail Willie" tagged a 22-inch flattie just a few hours before Patrick recaptured it – the flatties sure are hungry! The summer flounder season opens on Friday, May 22, 2015 and it can't get here soon enough!

Off She Goes!

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