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New York Bight Flamingo Blues´┐Ż
By Rich Johnson

The alarm went off at 4:15 a.m. precisely as planned and jumping out of bed, I put the old reliable coffee pot on to help clear the cobwebs from my night’s slumber. Sticking my head out the door to check the weather, I found it to be clear and cool, just as autumn should be and perfect for fall bluefishing. I took a deep breath of fresh, fall air and went back inside to pack the gear for my trip aboard the Flamingo III in Gerritsen Beach.

Capt. Bob Wiegand (pronounced Wee-gand) had invited me several times over the last few weeks to sail with him and had promised some excellent fall jigging for blues. I cleared the day to accept his offer and was not disappointed! We had some excellent fishing the entire trip as we fished the New York Bight area along the Jersey Coast, just a short ride from the dock. We eventually worked our way down to Sea Bright as well.

Some History. Third generation Capt. Bob Wiegand had been working on the Capt Bob Wiegand & Capt. Walter Wiegand boat since the age of 7 until he got his captain’s license at 21. Now almost 40, Bob told stories of how his grandfather started in the charter boat business back in the 40s and how Bob’s dad Walter was the proud captain of the Flamingo charter boats until they went into the party boat business in the 50s.

Bob’s dad Walter was still very active with the boat until recently and he still sees the crowd off every morning and greeting them again upon their arrival at day’s end. The charming Flamingo III is their third vessel and this 70-foot original Lydia was smooth and comfortable as well as clean, with a well-worn deck where many blues from cocktails to alligators have flopped about before going into the buckets of fishermen.

Preparation. The Flamingo III is a full day boat and leaves the dock at 6:30 Flamingo IIIa.m. When preparing for such a trip there are a few things that make the trip more comfortable, enjoyable and successful. First off, if you have any tendency to be sick at sea, be prepared and take your medication as prescribed on the label of whatever you’re taking. Once you feel ill on the boat, it is too late too get help by taking the medicine. Take it the night before or before you leave the house!

Bring your lunch and some beverages on board for the duration. I do not mean beer or alcohol! These only make you dehydrated and are annoying to fish next to. Water is your best bet on the high seas and Gatorade or sports drinks help as well. Pack a cooler with your lunch and snacks. Some party boats have galleys and some don’t and if there are any questions, call ahead to the captain. Don’t forget the cooler to bring your fish home. Many boats will have buckets for you on board, but you’ll need a cooler for transporting your successful trip’s catch home.

Tackle. When fishing the New York Bight for blues, you will encounter many different size schools of varying size fish. On this trip, we found all the fish to be from 2 to 5 pounds and bonito and false albacore caught tipped the scales at 7 pounds. There are many times when the Flamingo III will come upon a school of large alligators that will rum 15 pounds and it’s possible to catch both cocktails and choppers on the same trip. The variety of fish caught on this boat in the fall will put you into legal size stripers, weakfish and Spanish mackerel. We also jigged up fluke and sea bass.

Therefore, I prefer to go with conventional tackle. I used my Seeker BA85 or similar stout Penn Slammer rods with the sensitive tip for feeling the subtle hits of the blues on the down drop of the jig and the backbone to stop any blue. The reel should also be a quality reel like the new Penn International series of baitcasters like the 965 or 975. Either the star drag or lever drag is fine as is your choice of getting it with to with out level wind. This reel was fantastic for this type fishing and I could underhand cast my jig away from the boat with ease. This reel had the high-speed retrieve to get the blue turned my way and I would highly recommend this reel. Another reel that fits the bill for jigging blues for years is the Penn Jigmaster. This reel also performs admirably for decades, thus the name Jigmaster.

The line I used was Silver Thread 20 or 25-pound test but many anglers with 50 pound braid Tuf line also did well. I usually have a reel with braid and one with mono on most of the my trips. We used diamond jigs in the 2-ounce range with 007s just a touch too light to get down dep. Viking jigs also caught a load of fish this trip and bonito also false albacore seemed to favor this style with a small treble hook rather than the large, swinging single hook.

You could bring along a spinning rod with 10 to 15-pound test and a Penn Slammer or Spinfisher series spinning reel like the 260 or 360 series. This would have enabled me to underhand cast with greater distance and play the smaller 2-pound fish for a little more sport without causing tangles boat side. I could have also used the smaller 007s with greater results as some of the smaller blues followed the large jigs to the boat without taking the “bait.”

Pulling the fish. Bob and I could see from the wheelhouse that there were plenty of bonito and false albacore in these schools of blues and when this happens, the fish move at a furious pace. Unless you’re in a small runabout or center console, keeping up with them can be difficult. Capt. Bob did a marvelous job keeping up with the moving schools, but there were a few times when the schools were just too fast. In this case, Bob “pulled” and old captain’s trick on the fish. This method works on party boats but is very difficult to use when on private boats.

“By pulling the fish”, Bob explained, “we approach a school that is moving fast and while drifting off the main school, the large amount of diamond jigs in the water from a full boat cause fish to think it is a school of bait fish. The blues will actually pull away from the original school, and stay with the boat, thus resulting in continually catching fish. As long as there are fish hooked under the boat, others will respond and get in on the action as well.” Bob also says that this method works well on suspended fish. Suspended fish are fish we mark on the fish finder but can’t get to bite otherwise.

The ride home. When the final three blasts of the horn signaled it was time to head home, the deck was alive with anglers wanting their fish weighed for the pool. The winner turned out to be David Wyatt with a 7-pound false albacore. It was close though, as we hooked into a school of larger blues just before the final gun. Heading for port, I got a chance to chat with Bob and gather the aforementioned information. During our conversation, I learned that bass will be coming very soon and he has had days where it’s possible to jig over 150 and sometimes up to 200 bass during the height of the fall run. Many times the possibilities exist where weakfish to 5 to 6 pounds will be available on jigs at certain times in the fall. The Flamingo III will target such species with sandworms and eels. “Whatever it takes to catch fish,” Bob says. The Flamingo III sails for blues and bass sometimes into December, depending on the weather. Reach them at 718-763-8745.

 

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