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Tuesday, October 31, 2006 BY AL RISTORI

Only pressure from New Jersey lawmakers is likely to save next year's fluke season, and three members of the state's delegation combined to write a letter yesterday to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez and Rep. Frank Pallone urged regional administrator Patricia Kurkul "to exercise scientifically viable and legally acceptable flexibility" by accepting the 19.9 million-pound quota already adopted by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, rather than the mere 12.983 million pounds the agency advocates, in order to avoid the drastic economic consequences of virtually shutting down the 2007 season.




Lautenberg, Menendez and Pallone signed on to the letter, which emphasized that NMFS has the required flexibility under the Magnuson-Stevens Act to extend rebuilding timelines in order to avoid imposing economic hardships on fishermen. The legislators conceded that might delay full rebuilding of the stock past 2010 to 2013, but noted that Congress had provided the flexibility required to do that.

TOP CATCHES

The Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Tournament had weighed in a contest total of 119 striped bass and 178 bluefish by the 942 registered anglers through 6 p.m. Saturday. Richard Di Martinis of Barnegat won the first segment striped bass title in a runaway with a 42-pound, 1-ounce entry. John Campbell of Harvey Cedars took the Week 2 bass prize with a 29-9/16-pounder, and Jon-Michael Cucinotta of Manahawkin was that week's juvenile winner at 13 pounds, 6 ounces.
Brian McAllister came up from Middletown, Del., to take the Week 3 lead with a 31 1/4-pounder that hit bunker at Barnegat Light last Monday. While bunker account for most of the entries in this contest, Darcy Kolodziej of Ship Bottom plugged a 24-pound, 13-ounce bass at Holgate last Monday.
The first segment bluefish winner was Robert Vallone of Marlton with a 13~-pounder. Winners of the first two weeks were Mike Di Martinis of Pennsauken at 10-5/16 pounds, and Dennis E. Gallagher of Westhampton with a 12-13/16-pound entry. David L. Bonanni of Titusville took a big lead in bluefish Thursday when he hooked a 16-pounder on bunker at Harvey Cedars.
Saturday's storm left a riled-up ocean, but it was clearing yesterday and the sky was full of working birds in Sandy Hook Bay.
Capt. Willie Egerter Jr. was pleased to find that bottom fishing for sea bass and porgies from his Dauntless at Point Pleasant was fairly productive so soon after a storm, though he had to fish a bit deeper in 80 to 90 feet. Anglers still averaged 20 to 50 fish. The only bird action was off-shore a bit, though 2- to 3-pound blues hit when he tried closer to the beach. The water temperature dropped to only 58 degrees, which indicates bottom fishing should remain good for some time.
Capt. Victor Medina of Newark boated a 37-pound striper Friday to take the seasonal contest lead at True World Tackle in Bayonne. Medina joined Chuck Many of Annandale on his Tyeman for a trip out of Old Saybrook, Conn.

Gerard Vitiello of Nutley returned Saturday morning from a canyon trip aboard Miss Barnegat Light that was very slow with only four albacore boated by 30 anglers. Vitiello got one of them while also jigging more than 200 squid. The water temperature was down to 62 to 63 degrees, but there was a lot of life. Yet, two of the albacore had nothing in their stomachs and the others were full of krill. Four blue herons flew aboard during the night along with many golden finches and a storm petral.
At Point Pleasant, Capt. Jim O'Grady was disappointed with the rest of the week after starting off with a good striper trip last Monday on his Cock Robin. Very few bass were caught, though there were huge schools of peanut bunkers, and stripers often followed jigs up to the boat before swimming away.





Capt. John Brackett also started striper fishing last week with his Queen Mary, but wasn't happy with the pick of stripers plus mostly small blues he encountered before the storm.
At Brielle, Capt. Joe Bogan said he sailed Jamaica II every day before the storm despite strong northwest winds and still had good bottom fishing on inshore wrecks for sea bass and porgies. Bruce Helburg of Marlton had his limit of 25 sea bass plus 32 porgies, and Jim Drumhelzer from Princeton also limited on bass while adding 18 scup and a pool-winning 9-pound blackfish. Even the wind and strong currents didn't slow the Mud Hole trips. Ken Biehle of Toms River bagged 38 ling and 10 sea bass. Bob Blasket of Medford added two cod to 36 ling.
Brielle Tackle weighed a 29-pound striped bass caught last week by Matthew Perna of Trenton while working an Ava jig from the Mimi VI out of Point Pleasant. Doug Rusch of Asbury fished bunker from his boat last week for stripers up to a 20-pounder plus several 8- to 10-pound blues.
The Capt. Cal from Belmar has been doing well bottom fishing. Capt. John De Rose was aboard Friday when porgy fishing was good and many anglers had their one-fish tautog limits as well.
At Atlantic Highlands, Capt. Ron Santee didn't get into jigging fish Friday with his Fishermen, but ended up clamming on the New York side where Joe Santostefano of Moore Township, Pa., boated the 14-pound pool winner. A pick of stripers lasted through the flood, but Santee said they never caught one on the ebb.
Capt. Rob Semkewyc of the Sea Hunter noted there was plenty of bird life in the bay during a windy week, though just a few bass were mixed with the blues under them. Friday started the same way, but Semkewyc hit the right school at the end of the day that included bass from 20 to 34 inches. Many limits were taken, and the pool winner weighed 17 pounds.