Sea bass fishing on the Grizzly

November 1, 2019

I arrived at the Fisherman’s Wharf’s dock Oct. 24 around 6:30 a.m. for a 7 a.m. departure on the charter boat Grizzly with Capt. Cary Evans and Mate Dave Tarbutton. Some of the other anglers were already there and the rest arrived early, so we were underway by 6:50 a.m.

Capt. Cary tried a few spots inshore, where we picked up some keeper sea bass, but before too long, we joined the fleet at the Del-Jersey-Land Reef. Once we arrived over that structure, it was a steady drop and crank until we filled our seven-man limit of sea bass at 1:30 p.m.

I had brought my slow jigging outfit – a Tsunami Forged lever drag reel on a Tsunami Trophy Series TSSPJ-C701H rod. I didn’t want to use it until I saw what the current was like because I was afraid the lighter jig might drift into other lines and cause a tangle.

Once I saw that would not be I problem, I tied on the jig, equipped it with a FishBites Fight Club trailer and dropped it to the bottom. And there it went unmolested. Not so much as a tap. I jigged it slow. I jigged it fast. Still no takers. I did feel a slight hit before bringing the jig up and discovering the tail of the trailer had been clipped off.

Now I may not be the brightest beacon on the beach, but when guys all around you are bringing up at least one and usually two sea bass on every drop and you just proved those same fish are not interested in jigs, it doesn’t take long to go back to the top-bottom rig and six-ounce sinker on my Tsunami Hybrid reel and Classic TSCC 761H rod.

I did make one change. Instead of tossing the Fight Club FishBites, I cut it in half. One half went on the top hook and the other half went on the bottom hook. Those same sea bass that turned their collective noses up at the FishBites on my jig could not get enough of the same on a plain hook. As soon as my rig hit bottom, it was attacked, and most of the time, I came up with a doubleheader of sea bass. In addition, those two pieces of FishBites Fight Club lasted the rest of the day.

As I stated before, the good folks at FishBites did send me these as samples to try, but believe me, they really worked. Not only did they work, they lasted on the hook for over three hours of steady catching. Granted, sea bass do not have teeth like bluefish, but when I was fishing with clam, I had to replace the bait after every fish.

I want to thank the other six guys on the trip for making it a fun time. Hank Isherwood; Capt. Dave Popovich, who stood next to me and told me when we were moving because I am all but deaf; Rick Payne; Ben Cavaliere; Ken Spicer, who had a doubleheader of very big sea bass; and Bob Kauffman.

Two fewer charter boats

Last week, I learned that two of my friends were giving up their charter businesses. The first was Capt. John Nedelka, who sold the Karen Sue. I have known John since before he brought the Karen Sue down from Maine, and that was 40 years ago. He will be running other boats, but the Karen Sue has gone to Ocean City, Md.

Capt. Paul Henninger has given up the Amethyst. He had run that boat since 1984.

Both of these captains gave me good reports for many years, and I consider them my friends. I wish them nothing but the best in the future.


The menhaden story is beginning to get interesting. Omega Protein told the world they were going to exceed the cap placed on the menhaden catch by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Since the only menhaden processing plant is located in Reedville, Va., that would mean the commonwealth is out of compliance with menhaden.

At their meeting this week in New Hampshire, the ASMFC found that to be the case, and now Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has 30 days to either uphold the finding of the ASMFC or, as he did with New Jersey’s summer flounder plan, say that’s OK and let Omega keep on keeping on.

My money is on Omega getting an early Christmas present.

Fishing report

Right now, it is sea bass on ocean structure or nothing. The cold front that is supposed to come through this weekend could drop water temperatures enough to get bigger tog interested in feeding, but until that happens, only the little guys will be caught.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine. Eric is the author of three books: Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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