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Monster mash

10/26/2009

Monster-sized striped bass have appeared in the Cape May rips and Delaware Bay, and their abundance and size has stopped the offshore tuna hunters in South Jersey dead in their tracks.

This is a typical fall run. When these big fish appear, everything stops and people get out as 35- and 40-pounders are common and fish over 45 pounds are not uncommon.

This migration of fish, disappearing off Montauk, N.Y., and reappearing around the bay, offers residents of Philadelphia, South Jersey, Wilmington, Del., and all the little communities in between opportunities.

This waterway offers a myriad of techniques and tactics. Some enjoy casting bucktail hair jigs on light outfits while others cast lures and flies. Chunking bunker from an anchored position up in the bay is common practice, too.

"Right now, monster-sized stripers have invaded the bay and these fish are spread out," angler Pete Plummer said. "The best way to target these fish is to set anchor, chum and chunk bunker."

Plummer has been a regular striper hunter along the Maurice River confluence, well inside the bay, for years. Fishing from a 14-foot aluminum boat, his best days are wrapped around Halloween with 30-40 pound fish being caught on a 7-foot flat.

Astute charter captains and boat operator's bump troll specific rips. Bump trolling is the epitome of boat control, proper live bait placement and patience. As tidal flows force water over the rips (underwater sand dunes), big bass wait to ambush bait.

Bump trolling the rip has the captain bumping the engine throttles in and out of gear so that the bait crawls along or across the rip in very specific spots. The best captains at bump trolling continually put 40-50 pound fish on the scale.

The fish are in a wide range, and most charter boats can put anglers on them. If you like to figure things out on your own, I suggest breaking it down to a tactic.

If you like casting and retrieving lures or flies, target either the Cape May Rips or the various flats inside the bay. If you wish to chunk bunker, anchor on flats and channel edges inside the bay.

A good chart or map will highlight all of the flats inside the bay. Don't be shy with water depth. Some of the biggest bass of the season fall to fresh bunker heads in 5-6 feet of water.

Another spot often overlooked is the Cape May Lewes Delaware Ferry Channel. Anchoring alongside this channel or adjacent flats is always a safe choice.

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).