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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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April 22, 2012

Spring Stripers and WEAKFISH!

by Frank Ruczynski

Rainy days are perfect for catching up. This nor'easter should provide some much-needed rain and allow me to complete some of the tasks that I've been putting off: starting with my blog. To say I've been fishing a lot over the last two weeks would be a colossal understatement. Striped bass and weakfish have kept me busy on the nightshift while state-stocked brookies and rainbow trout fill my days. I love this time of year; this is what I live for!

Dock Light Backwater Stripers

A couple of weeks ago, I planned to switch from back-bay fishing to fishing out front and over in the river, but the skinny-water action just keeps me coming back for more. I had the pleasure of fishing with my oldest son, Frankie, last week and our late-night backwater trip turned out to be a memorable one. Striped bass were blowing up on spearing and grass shrimp and were readily slamming our soft-plastic baits. Frankie's a senior in high school and has a busy schedule so he doesn't get to fish with the old man like he used to, but he picked a perfect night to tag along. We caught a bunch of fish and ended up taking home a pair of beautiful 36-inch fish. These fish were a blast on our light spinning gear.

A Great Father and Son Moment

Since that great night with my son, the bass bite has steadily slowed down and I've had to work a little harder to find quality fish. They've been around, but I've had to cover some ground and put in some hours. In my experiences, this back-bay slow down happens each season as much of the striped bass population makes their way into our rivers to spawn a new generation. I have a feeling that once this storm passes, ravenous striped bass are going to pour out of the rivers. We're going to have a lot of fun in the next few weeks!

Backwater Bassin' with Dave McKinney

As luck would have it, just as most of the bass moved up into the rivers, weakfish moved into the back bays. While we haven't come across any of the big tiderunners yet, we have been catching good numbers of 12 to 20-inch fish. Usually, we don't see the spike weakfish until later in the season, but I'm not complaining. The weakies have been especially aggressive towards the end of the falling tide.

Back Bay Weakfish

This storm might be good for striper fishing, but it's not going to help the weakfish bite. I have a feeling it will be at least three days before things start to settle down and the weakies become active again. When the weakfish were active, they were spewing out young-of-the-year herring, which seem to be plentiful in our back-bay waters now. By midweek, I'll be playing the tides and spending lots of time fishing between Cape May County and Barnegat Bay.

Young-of-the-Year Herring

Historically, the month of May provides us with the best weakfish action, but everything seems to be running a little early this season due to the mild weather and warmer-than-average water temperature. My heart is hoping that we'll see a return of the big tiderunner weakfish this year; however, my brain tells me that it's going to be at least a few seasons until we start seeing good numbers of big weakfish again. Hopefully, the spike weakfish that we're catching now will make it to tiderunner status in the coming years.

Spring Weakfish

As a writer and an angler, I often check the fishing reports for my own area and other areas to see if I can find trends. I've been fishing too much lately to read through all the reports, but when I do look, I rarely see any information about weakfish. I know how tight-lipped anglers can be, especially when it comes to weakfish. I'm hoping that the fish we're seeing in Cape May County are a sign of things to come and not just an anomaly.

April 01, 2012

Eat, Sleep, Fish

by Frank Ruczynski

I woke up this morning and flipped the page on my calendar; it's hard to believe that we're just entering the month of April. Since my last blog entry, I've logged a ton of hours on the water and lipped quite a few striped bass. Friends and family have joined in the fun and we've already had some memorable trips. I feel like we're halfway through the spring-fishing season, when in reality it's only just begun!

Over the last two weeks, the fishing action has really picked up. Local anglers are catching good numbers of striped bass in the back bays, rivers, inlets, and out front in the surf. Action has been far from consistent, but we're still well ahead of schedule.

Believe it or not striped bass aren't the only game in town. Bluefish and summer flounder are here and they're hungry. Bluefish showed up out front last week and a few have pushed into the backwaters over the last few days. Summer flounder invaded the inlets about a week ago and seem to be around in good numbers, especially at the perennial early-season hot spots. A good friend has been nailing flatties behind Seven-Mile Island all week while tossing jigs for striped bass. I saw my first flatfish the other night when my buddy, Rob, landed one while we were fishing for stripers; if they're biting at night, you know they're aggressive. May 5 seems so far away!

My buddies and I have been spending a great deal of time fishing in the shallow backwaters. Even though we've managed to put together some good catches, finding any type of pattern has been difficult. Things were just about to get interesting when adult bunker moved into the Great Egg Harbor Bay last week and then a strong cold front with gusty northwest winds sent them packing. Just when we begin to think that we've got the bite figured out, the fish throw us a changeup.

The nightshift bass bite has been productive, although most of the fish have been on the short-side of the 28-inch-legal-size limit. We've been tossing soft-plastic baits on ¼ to ½-ounce jig heads with good results. One night, the fish will be blowing up on grass shrimp and spearing and inhaling our soft-plastic baits and the next they're on the bottom and only halfheartedly striking our jigs. While it seems that we can't keep a bite at one location for more than a night or two, I have noticed that our best action usually takes place on either side of high water.

I've had my fun with the little fish, but it's time to switch gears. It's time to start chasing some better fish. The bite on the Delaware River is picking up and the big girls are moving in to do their thing. This week, I'll dust off the big rods and make a trip to my river hot spots. After a few trips tossing bloodworms along the riverbanks, I'll switch over to chunking bunker and clams along the bay shores and down around Cape May Point. By month's end, I'll be back out front looking for bass busting on bunker.

I'm a back-bay skinny-water angler by nature, but I'll be making the rounds over the next few weeks. Fishing opportunities seem endless as our waters become inundated with striped bass, summer flounder, and bluefish; a stray weakfish would be nice too. It's hard to do it all, but I'm going to try my best to spend as much time as I can on the water this season. If the bite gets real good, eat, sleep, fish will turn into fish, fish, fish!
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