2008-01-18 / Sports

Rockaway Outdoors/Tales From The Wheelhouse

By Captain Vinnie Calabro

Ronnie Catches A Nice Blackfisk. Ronnie Catches A Nice Blackfisk. I guess by now many of the ''surf rats'' are experiencing withdrawal pains with the departure of striped bass from the Rockaway beaches and back bays. This anxiety is further fueled by the weather we had this past week. Plus I'm sure some of us had a rod or reel, under our tree, and are just jonesin' to use them.

*Die hards driving over the crossings from the ''mainland'' can't help but wonder as they look down the bay and out on to the ocean. Hmmm… could there still be some fish around?

Now I have hung up my surf rod awhile back, but like every good investigative reporter (I have my informants), this lot of brine soaked sleuths / fishermen is always on a mission, a quest to find fish. The Don Quixotes of the beach. I speak with my friend Tony aka ''Chic'' up in Belle Harbor daily and he gives me the low down on what's cookin' on the beach. ''Chic'' will hit me on my cell as he stalks the ever elusive stripers.

He and I have been walking the *stones from Rhode Island to Rockaway to Key West and back again since, oh, around 1970, give or take a few years. That's a lot of water under your waders. But sadly the beach upfront has little in the way of fish to offer at the time of this writing, after all it is January.

On the local scene, fishing seems to be in a little bit of a funk. Some days the blackfishing has been good, other days, just so. There doesn't seem to be any set pattern to the winter run. But Jumbo blackfish are still coming up fairly frequently. Another surprise is the codfish picking up some of the slack, and that's a good thing. The majority of the cod are just legal size, although some mid teen size fish have been landed.

Most of the boats and fishermen, myself included, have been jumping around looking for fish. Saturday saw some good fishing. Boats fishing down south, Long Branch, and offshore 17 caught, and an area called ''the farms,'' a wee bit south of 17 fathoms, also produced some quality fish. While those staying a bit closer to home up toward Ambrose and the pieces off the Rockaway reef also bent the rods.

Keep in mind that the rules and regs in New Jersey are different than ours with regard to bag limits and size, so if you're headed down that way you might want to get an update. Refer to the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife for the most recent regulations. Sunday saw some rough sea conditions, but the fishing was fairly good. Our boat had 30 plus tog tipping the scales to 10.5 lbs. For the most part, boats who put the time in catch fish and that usually is the case. How much longer will the fishing hold up? Who knows, this little blast of weather may do us in.

l'll conclude this week's fish rundown with some insight into fishing our local waters in Rockaway. From time to time I'll do so, sharing my experiences, infused with some local flavor. From the ''Big Jetty'' at Breezy Point Inlet, east to Debbs Inlet, Rockaway has some of the greatest fishing. And to go along with that fishing, some great, if not legendary, local fishermen.

Fishermen over the past decades have evolved into a cadre of sharpies. Many with whom I have wet a line over the past 40 years. I look forward to sharing some of these experiences with you. Where to begin? Well I guess I'll be a romantic and start with the BIG JETTY, BREEZY POINT.

Breezy Point

The big jetty, as * jetty jockies refer to it, is a monstrous rockpile at the tip of Breezy Point Inlet. It's an impressive breakwater. Not only does it shield the beach from erosion, it marks the entrance to Jamaica Bay. With all the ingredients a good structure has to attract fish, making it a favorite spot for locals. Without a doubt, it is one of the best runways for fish along the east coast. It's adorned by a tower at its end, a tower that on more than one occasion has been the home for fishermen when the winds and tide prevent egress to shore. It is flanked to the east by beach, ocean and the area known as the "pocket," to the west by open bay and sand.

The tip of the jetty above water becomes the launching platform for surfcasters armed with an armada of tackle. Surfcasters and the ''new wave'' crew of fly rodders all rub elbows. Social status is put aside and the kindred spirit of fishermen prevails. It also becomes a spot where boats drift, anchor and, on occasion, host divers. Due south in front of Breezy, the rockpile fans out below the water, providing a garden for fish to forage. In and among the rocks baitfish, as well as seasonal residents bass, blues, blackfish, porgies, fluke and so on, set up home.

''BIG FISH LIKE A BIG TIDE CAP"

Words of wisdom, part of a litany told to me by one of my fishing comrades. And that's what Breezy gives you as the water rushes in and out of a big tide.

To the west side of the jetty, depending upon the wind and tide, a tumultuous rip is evident. On the outgoing tide you will usually see a fleet of boats anchored with their sterns facing the rip and just about even with the tower.

Anchoring this way enables the fishermen to present their offerings directly into the rip itself. Surfcasters simulate this by casting their lures and allowing them to ''swing'' with the tide while letting out line. This technique, which they have mastered, enables them to cover more of an area and work the entire rip. This way they can ''see'' were the fish are lying throughout the different stages of the tide. It's a tactic used mostly on the incoming tide.

Fish feed in conjunction with these tides when the tide changes or swings from slack to outgoing, as the water moves, pushing baitfish along with it.

To the east side of the jetty there are a few larger submerged rocks providing harborage and a break in the tide flow for predators. To the northeast, the ocean side and pocket of the jetty. To the northwest, the bay side and further around the turn, the area known as the elbow, this would be the bay side of Breezy. Future articles will have indepth interviews with fishermen who fish there. Until then tight lines...

*die hards: fisherman who don't subscribe to the one more cast theory. *surflings: fish groupies,*stones :fisherman slang for jetties,*jetty jockies: surf casters who fish from rock jetties, *surf rat: common phrase applied to obsessive, degenerate surf fishermen.

I can be reached at www.karenanncharters. com, or 516 728 6952. Share a fish tale, kibitz, seminars.

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