Bight Flamingo Blues�
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 nights
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 boat since the age of 7 until he got his captains 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 Bobs dad Walter was the proud captain of the
Flamingo charter boats until they went into the party boat business in the 50s.
Bobs 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 days 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 a.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 youre 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
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 dont
and if there are any questions, call ahead to the captain. Dont forget the cooler to
bring your fish home. Many boats will have buckets for you on board, but youll need
a cooler for transporting your successful trips 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 its 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 youre 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 captains 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 cant 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 its 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.