By Tom Pagliaroli
The break in the prolonged cold spell is expected to begin today and despite a distinct nip in the air Sat., it appears that spring weather will finally arrive Sun. and last through next week, just in time for the NJ blackfish season that commences April 1 - April 30. Today, with the rain and blow-the-hair-off-your-head winds, it is definitely a no go for the boats, with Fri. winds and big seas just as bad. Sat. will give a fair shot and Sun. is by far the best of the weekend with much calmer seas and moderating temperatures. The fishing? It's been better, that's for sure, and it's still rated a slow pick across the bottom board. Cod and pollock seem to be the dominant life on the wrecks, and it remains a frustrating 8-10 to 1 throwback-to-keeper ratio. With the minimum length for cod at 21 inches and pollock at 19 inches, it's been the case of keepers for both being not much more than a few inches beyond what is legal. To be sure, there are some larger specimens in the mix, with pool drainers for both coming over the rails at 5-7 pounds, with the rare-but-there double digit fish hitting the deck. Ling? Not so many and this is disturbing considering that the red hake is considered the mainstay of the frostfish set. Several captains opine that it is the swarming packs of spiny dogfish that are ravaging ling populations and this certainly has some plausibility. Red hake populations though, like other marine species, is cyclic, and this is shaping to be a second year of low numbers. Ling being caught are in the 1-2 pound range with high hooks between 8-10 and average catches 3-5. The outlook for the brief pre-spawn tog season is more upbeat. Marine research scientist Jeff Brust from the NJ Bureau of Marine Fisheries states the recently evaluated stock assessment shows that for this year at least, the tog population is steady and there should be no adjustments (read: a minimum length increase and/or reduced limit) until 2016 at the earliest. The daily limit for the April season is four with a minimum length of 15 inches. In Delaware waters, the blackfish season is still open and will remain so until May 12, and could well be worth a visit to Indian River Inlet.