What a difference a week makes.
The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coastlines lit up of late.
Down in Virginia, redfish are beginning to show themselves with some as big as 50 inches. Alligator-sized bluefish came through southern and northern New Jersey with a vengeance, ravaging schools of menhaden.
Connecticut shoreline anglers are seeing the initial waves of bass migrating up the Connecticut River, and the cod bite offshore is still strong. Add the pelagic bite in North Carolina and fishing has heated up.
Down near Virginia Beach, Dr. Julie Ball's Extreme Sportfishing Charters reported the appearance of big red drum. Really big redfish are being caught off the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore. One fish went 51 inches this past week and was released unharmed.
Ball reports that "Peeler crabs, blue crabs, and bunker fished on the bottom will give you a shot at tangling with a bull red."
Surfcasters fishing the entire New Jersey coast this past week experienced incredible fishing for those that just wanted to put a bend in the rod. Monster schools of 10- to 15-pound bluefish invaded the shorelines. Under heavy winds, most of my friends had double-digit days with a few keeper striped bass mixed in.
Capt. Mickey Melchiondo and Nick Honechefsky began each day with a four-rod spread outfitted with fresh bunker. It didn't take long for these anglers to drop two rods and simply cast metal jigs and bucktail style lead head jigs from the beach.
Bluefish fishing will remain excellent in this region as schools of bunker drop into Raritan Bay. Reports of bluefish inside Raritan Bay, the border bay between New Jersey and Staten Island, N.Y., have been consistent this entire week.
As for that pile of really big bass residing off of Sandy Hook that I reported on over the past couple weeks, it appears that the majority have entered the Hudson River to carry out their spawn. There has been a lot of talk over the past few weeks in New Jersey and New York about anglers pounding the snot out of this spawning class fish. Fishing message boards lit up as countless pictures of big breeder sized striped bass were lying dead on the docks. It's been a hot debate and one that will never end.
Capt. Gene Quigley of New Jersey-based Shore Catch Guide Service has been field testing the new Tear Drop Jig by STINGO PBJ.
"I prefer the 100-gram jig because of its fluttering action," Quigley said. "But, when these fish do not want the jig, I immediately switch to the "Bunka Boy" diving plug. These two lures have been crushing the bass for weeks now."
Capt. Blaine Anderson of Anderson Guide Service began catching decent numbers of striped bass in and around the confluence of the Connecticut River. This river is just heating up, according to Daiwa Pro Staff member Eric Matland. The past couple weeks, the river temperatures have been in the 40s and low 50s.
"In order to catch fish, we had to use ½ to ¾ ounce jig heads and target deep holes in excess of 20 feet of water along the main river channel," Matland said. "I found major success in using 5-inch Houdini's and Slug-Go's in this cold water.
"When this river hits 50 degrees, all hell breaks loose."
Customers of Anderson Guide Service are often found casting 9-inch Slug-Go's and 9-inch Houdini's. But, talking with Capt. Anderson, I get the sense that he really enjoys watching his customer's fish BIG poppers and BIG spooks really fast.
Anderson outfits his boat with Magnum Zara Spooks and Big Saltiga Poppers while targeting 2-3 feet of water. I quickly learned that the Connecticut River is like other striped bass rivers here in the northeast in that the bite starts on the edges of the flats and as the water warms the bite shifts to 2 to 3 feet of water and it's explosive. And, no one fishes water this shallow!
Just as the inshore scene has heated up, so has the offshore scene. The Voyager Party Boat, sailing from Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., has been on the cod. This boat is catching plenty of keepers with short fish peppered in. Bob Brinton of Oceanport, N.J., caught his first cod ever and it was a respectable 25 pounds.
Captain Darrin Callahan of Over Under Sportfishing reported that his offshore bite picked up. The crew of Over Under quickly put dolphin, wahoo, king mackerel and amberjack on the deck.
But, the big news from Hatteras Village is that five blue marlin were caught last Saturday alone throughout the fleet. Capt. Callahan reported that spring fishing got a kick start with warming water temperatures. It all gets better from here!
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 N.J. / N.Y. 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).