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Capt. Vinnie Calabro

Capt. Vinnie and his crew of Karen Ann Charters have a combined 150 years experience fishing Jamaica Bay and NY Bight

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May 01, 2014

Jamaica Bay Report

by Capt. Vinnie Calabro

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that after this mini-monsoon, Jamaica Bay will get its ass in gear.

Seems like the only game in town is across the pond, so to speak, in New Jersey and Staten Island. Raritan Bay is continuing to produce for both the clammers and bunker boys alike, which is the norm for the early season.

Now, Jamaica Bay is a different story. All the cast is in place, bait, water temperature around 53 degrees (not bad), and winds coming from the west. All this, except any appreciable body of fish. I'm optimistic that if the sunshine holds and weather conditions improve, the season will progress. Okay, so much for the weather forecast. Let's talk fish.

Anyone following the reports can see that bass and flounder fishing is pretty good out front and to the west. And Jamaica Bay is also representing with the flatties. The only problem is in that Raritan Bay rains impact the fisheries big time. Surface runoff and sewers on overload should be factored into the equation, though usually a tide or two will purge the stained waters to a more palatable color. Regardless of if they're on the bunker, I don't think it matters. So there it is--your brief snapshot on the Bay's conditions to catch you up.

April 21, 2014

Jamaica Bay Report

by Capt. Vinnie Calabro

Surface water temperature fluctuated from 49 to 50.8 degrees on the low tide the past few days. Those readings are fairly consistent with both the north and south side of the bay from Canarsie pier back up into the five towns. On the flood tide the water dropped a degree or two so I can imagine the ocean readings. Not too great if your looking to put together a catch, but since this past moon east winds have or were fairly dominant add to that minimal sun and it's going to take awhile to warm up. The other factor in the equation is Jamaica bay has some pretty deep water with a somewhat stagnant tidal flow so bottom temperatures will be considerably colder.

Bait movement was on the rise so that's a positive. However from decades of experience it's right on time, Easter week or Passover and they'll be bait in J bay. So many variables relevant to that ; day light period, lunar phases, winds the obvious and not so obvious the bay moves to its own rhythm. The osprey population also spiked over the last couple of weeks and seeing is how they're "fish hawks" means good things are on the horizon.

April 03, 2014

Jamaica Bay Fishing

by Capt. Vinnie Calabro

Jamaica Bay, with its much heralded Spring striped bass fishery, is beginning to show a little bit of a spring complexion. The various marsh grasses begin to take on a little different hue as daylight begins to stretch its warmth over the water. Migrant shore birds, another telltale indicator of things to come, also filtered in. Upfront off the Rockaways, schools of dolphins were seen by my good friend Capt. Frank. That being said any day we'll be getting some news of life, you know life with fins.

Traditionally the back bay with the infusion of fresh water becomes the residence of herring schools lingering from the past few months. Locals invade the marshes all the way in the back, toward Inwood, Woodmere and Rosedale. Anyone looking at a topographical chart of the bay can easily see the various shore points, coves and drains that become popular haunts for early fish. Doing some recon this past week a few anxious anglers were sited along the banks of Inwood Park a favorite preseason spot for bait sightings. It's really an interesting spot because of the dynamic of its location. It marries three back bay areas and acts as a quiet spot that tends to warm quickly with its dark bottom. As a kid I would wade in the flow of Lillco and take full advantage of its' steamy water returned to the bay. Tufts of spartina grasses would form small islands, dinner tables if you will, where various life on flood tides would congregate only to be ambushed as the ebbing tide pulled them away from their "safe houses."

The beauty about Jamaica Bay is that it offers so much for both shore bound and boating fishermen. Structurally above ground there's no shortage of bridges and beneath well wrecks, ledges and every depth conceivable is offered.

The first crossing or North Channel bridge is worth an eyeball. On the west side one sees the facade of Manhattan, due east across from Charles Park the tarmac and tower of JFK. Its structure and lighting too attracts fish and usually under the cover of darkness savvy contributors to this site score some noteworthy catches.

May 05, 2013

I fish Jamaica Bay

by Capt. Vinnie

May 01, 2013

Live Bait Techniques

by Capt Vinnie

As one progresses in their fishing career, people being the competitors that we are often set goals for ourselves. Coinciding with obtaining these goals anglers try and learn all aspects of their craft. I think it was Julius Cesar who said he who masters his opponent conquers him. That being said I'll begin to discuss some of my methods for fishing live baits and future articles will elaborate on gear in depth.
Striped bass we can usually agree is one of the most heralded inshore game fish that is recognized in our area. Jamaica bay, Raritan, Great Kills as well as points east and south all have spring runs of "big fish", which excites us all.
Big fish in my opinion like big baits and our success is often governed by bait movement a key factor throughout the seasons.
As of this writing off the moon bait that was anemic for the month of April has begun to appear in the usual areas of Jamaica Bay. Much of the bait movement has been governed by the predominant winds easterlies and cooler air and water temperatures. Despite these unseasonable conditions Mother Nature answers to a different call, day light period, precipitation, lunar phases all and more combine to make a phonological calendar, uh? Well stop scheduling your season with dates and let the surroundings clue you in. For example when forsythia bloom you know the yellow multi canned shrubs we see along the highways, they bloom generally when the soil is fifty-five degrees, which coincidently is a decent temperature for bait and subsequently striper movement. Now being aware of what's going on makes one begin to see patterns in an overall ecological sense, and in turn makes one sharper.
Enter the bunker: Bunker as any seasoned angler will tell you is a great striper bait, it has everything you want in a bait scent, skin slime and they ball up in schools that with their tell tale slaps are the basses equivalent to a dinner bell.
Tide especially in JBay plays a big role in technique and I'll explain why, previously it was noted that Jamaica Bay doesn't have the strongest of tidal flow especially in the back bay. Therefore you have to adjust; light lines, light leads, and light gear will outperform the meat sticks day in and day out.
Bunker also have the added bonus in that they are free, they can be snagged or cast netted and fished live, whole dead, chunked and each has it's own merit under different conditions.
Okay so let's get into the conditions and presentation.
Big bass like structure it breaks the tide, disrupts water movement, creates eddies where they can glide effortlessly and attracts bait. Tide or water movement is key to presentation, usually when the tide hooks up and runs hard the fish like to be down deep where breaks in the tide are provided by the different bottom geography, ledges, wrecks, bars, cuts and so on. As you watch your sonar you'll see the bass many times stacked like cord wood in and around these structures. Then as the tide breaks the fish will become loose and be seen throughout the water column and sometimes tend to wander into the shallows or skinny water often cruising the shoreline ambushing bait along the shallows. Therefore you need to experiment and adjust your presentation fine tuning the details till you click in on what works for that particular stage of the tide and day. Early in the year the fish are finicky especially with colder water temperatures, they'll hit a bait for a variety of reasons curiosity, aggression, hunger and countless things we know little about. The keyword here is finicky so if the bass ever so lightly tap a bait you need to fish soft. Light lines, sensitive sticks and a knack for reading the telegraphing signals the bunker relays to you. Usually we prefer a slide or fish finder early in the year it gives you he ability to drop the bait back and stay with the lazy fish longer. Then as the tide diminishes we may go to a drail, egg sinker or flat line. If you have a crew experiment and set each with a different pattern. I like a long leader and I'll tell you why it provides a free bait movement and dulls response time meaning often with a soft hit you'll pull the trigger and miss the fish but the loner leader will allow the fish to inhale the bait more. Now as the fish become more abundant and feed more competitively I'll adjust and go to a three way set up this keeps the bait in the zone more and look very natural with the bunker swimming parallel to the bottom.
Early in the tear bait is lean, and it's a good idea to stick with the schools snagging and working the them. It can be a killer approach because it makes sense the fish at least the bigger ones tend to stay with this floating feedbag. Next up fishing the various structures of the bay.

April 25, 2013

Spring a new season is upon us

by Vinnie Calabro

As we approach this moon tide surges will be peaking in Jamaica bay as in other backwater bays. This is an important factor in figuring out and tweeking ones succes for catching striped bass. I'm going interject some basics here some of this"good stuff" many of you will know but it's good to take a slant or different perspective on ones mindset toward striped bass fishing and once these skills become inherent will apply to all fisheries.

Moon tides do a lot for our bay, they with their abnormal highs and lows bridled with a strong current not only flush the bay so to speak, but assist migratory fish in their travel, fish a broad term to include predators and prey alike. So into the deepest recesses of Jamaica Bay these moon tides provide movement, life rides with each ebb and flow. And as Cole put it in his book "Striper" there is life here.

Jamaica bay is unique because as I delve deeper into its' makeup and geography you'll see it has a lot to offer. Funny tourist with their heads buried in the Times can't fathom the drama that unfolds alongside the very tarmac they are on.
If you were to take a birds eye or dorsal view of this magnificent bay you would see all manner of structure for the most part man made bridges, golf courses, marinas, piers, National Parks and an airport. The shoreline has a character of its' own riddled with cuts, points, marsh banks, drains, outflows you name it's here. Each a factor in the way one can adjust their fishing techniques to catch fish.
The bay has a north and south side each with its own personality, but the most decisive factor between the two is that the south side being closer to the ocean tends to have more pull, a point to remember when fishing off or between the moons.

So with the moon given its' props let us start to explore the bay.
The bay has its begining or ending however you look at it way back toward the area known as five towns, past Inwood Golf Course, past Woodmere bay all the way up Rockaway Turnpike. Here the mud flats are rich with clam and mussel beds and in years past spartina grasses cascading over each other as they bend in the springtime easterlies. The water somewhat stagnant at times has a good deal of freshwater infused with it attracting the seasonal crop of herring that tend to linger here early in the season. Hmm herring isn't that a principal feedbag for bass leaving the Hudson. The dark mudflats warm up earlier than the deeper areas and the quiter waters attract bass lethargic from the cold water and long run. Here they can forage hitting the different points and drains that bring all manner of food a smorgaseboard to them.The next in this series will discuss techniques to catch early bass and favorable spots.

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