Nor'easter stirs the pot

Last week's nor'easter was one of the worst we have seen in years, some say decades.

A low pressure system stalled below the mid-Atlantic region while a high pressure system situated itself well to the north. This created a powerful pressure gradient between the two systems that literally pounded the New Jersey coast with major wind. Beach dunes were demolished, towns flooded, navigable channels filled in with sand and well, communities were left to pick up the pieces.

Beyond the devastation, the nor'easter is a surf fisherman's dream.

"This past storm was like winning the lottery," said Captain Bill Veldoff of On a Mission Fishing Adventures based in Manasquan, N.J. "Rock piles, jetties and old pilings that have been covered for years are now exposed, leaving us surf addicts with a field day the rest of this season and seasons to come."

The bait and fish hunkered down and waited out the storm. All along the mid-Atlantic region from the southern shore of Long Island down into Virginia, red hot fishing also exists for boat anglers.

I was out during the middle portions of this week and I must admit that the water around Sandy Hook, N.J., resembled chocolate milk. Much to my surprise, the amount of sand eels and rainfish was amazing. Miles and miles of birds were dive bombing schools of bait along these very same demolished beaches.

Bluefish and stripers were gorging themselves throughout the morning while my paying fares caught plenty of fish to keep the day moving along. These fish are fat, they are healthy and they are aggressive. It is time to take advantage of it.

As Thanksgiving approaches, anglers fishing the mid-Atlantic region will have excellent striper fishing. Ava jigs, Butterfly Jigs and T-Hex jigs mimic sand eels and are your best bets. Three ounce T'Hex jigs and Ava 47's have been the mainstays this fall along New Jersey due to high winds.

A slow drag or short subtle hop off bottom is proving deadly for my clients. This week while fishing under heavy wind, my guys were having trouble jigging bottom with 7-ounce metal jigs. Back trolling with my big Optimax motor kept lures in the strike zone as my guys proceeded to pummel fish.

Moving to the central portions of New Jersey, some bluefin tuna are still seen busting on schools of rainfish and sand eels. It is not uncommon to be jigging for bass only to have a 100-pound bluefin tuna take your jig.

Down to the south, the Cape May rips fishing is only going to get better with each passing day. Bucktails and large Swim Shads will take plenty of fish through the upcoming months. Right now, most boats are still chunking bunker in the bay but expect that to shift as water temperatures cool and the light tackle jig fishing heats up in the rips.
I would suspect that in one or two more weeks, the bulk of fishermen here in the northeast will make the switch to tautog fishing. More on these little bait stealers next week.

On another front, it appears that the ASMFC wants to re-evaluate our summer fluke fishery regulations for 2010. An emergency meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009 to take a closer look on how to best fight this and many other battles plaguing the recreational saltwater angler here in the northeast. This meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Manasquan Elks Lodge #2534 in Manasquan, N.J.

As it stands now, recreational anglers in New Jersey will have a reduced winter flounder fishery from 10 fish to 2. The summer fluke fishery will certainly see some sort of reduced catch limit while the weakfish moratorium was diverted. Anglers looking to catch and keep weakfish in New Jersey in 2010 will be allowed one fish per person. The Sea Bass season remains closed for now with a possible re-opening in 2010.

If you live near Manasquan and don't agree with these changes and regulations, come and speak your mind at this meeting sponsored by the Save the Summer Fluke Fishery Fund organization. Visit www.ssfff.net for more information.

Editor's note: Capt. Chris Gatley can be found with his fishing clients chasing striped bass in front of the Statue of Liberty, or heading offshore to the Atlantic Ocean canyons off the NJ/NY coast for tuna. His articles on cutting-edge fishing techniques can be found in The Fisherman Magazine, and he's a regular presenter at key sports shows during the winter months (when he's not pursuing whatever he can find in East Coast rivers).