Fish On

Flounder season in the Garden State is almost here

RON NUZZOLO

All we can do now is wait for water temperatures to rise as New Jersey charter boat captains and anglers prepare for striped bass and winter flounder fishing to turn on. With bass season already on, winter flounder season in the Garden State starts March 23 through May 21 with a 12-inch minimum size and a 10-fish limit.

Now is a good time to reflect on what we learned from last season and how to make this season more productive. I look forward to a healthy 2008. To find out where and when the bass and flounder turn on, log on to NJSaltWater-fisherman.com.

I would like to share with you an article about a local New Jersey charter captain’s outlook on the sport, and I hope it will help you prepare for 2008: “A Day in the Life of Reel Fantasea Charters” by Capt. Steve Purul of Barnegat Light.

Well, to start with, weather is probably more on my mind, good, bad or otherwise. The reason is simple whether it be hot or cold, wind velocity or direction, precipitation amounts and or forms, and cloud cover or a lack there of, they will all play a major role on the day’s fishing strategy or the next or so on. So with that being said, every trip starts with a good understanding of the weather for that day.

The next step is always ensuring equipment (boat, tackle and rods) is in tip-top shape; it is accomplished easier to always maintain your equipment at all times. Depending on the type of fishing, bait should always be secured one to two days ahead of time, especially if it happens to be specialty bait [live bait]. If your bait is fragile and does not hold up well, this is where weather comes back into play as making a special bait order with impending bad weather can put you in a bind with the bait shop.

Mornings come real early, depending on the time of the year. Some mornings start as early as 3:30 a.m., I am a one-man show, so setting up the boat before the clients arrive is all on me. I will usually be at the boat 45 minutes before departure, getting some last-minute details finished, all the while rechecking the weather for any updates that could impact the day’s plan. Once the clients arrive and welcomed aboard and their gear stowed, there is a quick safety course on locations of personal flotation devices, fire extinguishers and safe casting techniques until it is time to push off and see what the sea will give up that day.

I must admit as much as I love to be out on the water, as much as I am there, there is always a little angst until that first bent rod or the silence is interrupted by “fish on!” There is nothing like when your trip has just started and your clients are high-fiving each other, laughing and having a great time, catching fish after fish until arm weary! Then there are days when you can feel something is amiss and each fish is going to be hard earned, each missed hit could make or break a day. For instance, I have had days where the only fish boxed was a single 40-plus-pound striper (yes, it is a catch of most people’s lifetime), but that one fish, if lost, could have been catastrophic! There is a saying, “A bad day’s fishing is better than a good day at work”; yes, this is a true statement unless your job is fishing. Still, every day is a blessing that I love to be part of.

I have recently taken up photography; I believe a picture can tell a story better than any written report can ever try and duplicate. Although, I must admit I am still struggling with some of the basics, I know in time I will get there.

Once back at the dock, it is at least a couple of hours of filleting fish and cleaning the boat and the gear for the next day. All the while checking any weather updates for the next day’s fishing. Home sweet home is usually time spent at the computer with photos and fishing reports and answering e-mails for about 45 minutes. A quick 20-minute nap and it is time to go play with my kids and wife or just meet them over at the beach and nap in the warm summer sun all the while having the Atlantic lull me to sleep before building sand castles and some shell collecting.

I know I will never be a rich man doing what I am doing but being a charter boat captain has enriched my life in so many ways that I am truly thankful for all my blessings. Thank you. For some of the best bay and inshore fishing New Jersey has to offer, contact Capt. Steve at reelfantasea@comcast.net. He has over 30 years of experience fishing these waters Fish on!