Story by Tom Paglianoli

 

It’s the highlight of the autumn hunting season.

Yeah, yeah. Archery deer season is still going on in select Deer Management Zones, the archery bear season was done last month, squirrel and rabbits seasons are going full tilt, the North Zone grouse season continues, and the very short (two day) first portion of the Coastal Zone duck season is already half over.

However, it’s the opening of the ringneck pheasant and bobwhite quail seasons, this year November 11 (same as the South Zone grouse opener) that draws orange clad hordes to the upland fields and field/woodland edges on select wildlife management areas (WMAs) scattered throughout the northern, central and southern tier counties.

That ringnecks and bobs will be very liberally stocked on these select tracts from November 11 through December 30 is certainly the catalyst to lay out the $40 for the mandatory Pheasant & Quail Stamp. But no matter the tab, it’s a given that guys ‘n gals and various breeds of dogs will be out and about this Saturday in pursuit of an “upland chicken dinner”.

A total of 45,090 pheasants will be liberated on 23 WMAs (seven of which are in The Hawk listening area) and also in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Sussex County, and on Fort Dix during the scheduled 15 stocking days (Fort Dix will be stocked only six times).

Bobwhites, some 11,000 strong, will be let loose on two specific tracts, these being the Greenwood Forest WMA (Ocean County) and Peaslee WMA (Cumberland County) during the same stocking days.

While Saturdays receive the most hunting pressure, those who can be afield Tuesdays and Thursday when birds have been stocked the evening before will experience less competition and much better hunting.

Following is this week’s pheasant stocking schedule (the number of birds in parenthesis) in The Hawk listening region and also the dates and counts of quail being released on the Peaslee and Greenwood Forest tracts for Saturday and next week. The dates are the same.

Assunpink: Nov. 11 (490), Nov. 14 (250), Nov. 16 (250); Colliers Mills (300, 150, 150), Howardsville (80, 40, 40), Manahawkin (70, 40, 40), Manasquan (170, 90, 90) Medford (130, 60, 60) and Stafford Forge (220, 110, 110).

For quail: Greenwood Forest: Nov. 11 (600), Nov. 14 (270), Nov. 16 (270). Peaslee (600, 270 and 270).

The full schedule is available on page 55 of the 2017-18 Hunting & Trapping Digest, or by visiting www.njfishandwildlife.com and clicking the small game hunting link. Scanning the code on page 56 will reveal the fields where the birds are stocked as per the respective WMAs. Technology is something, yes?

The daily limit for ringnecks is two, with a four-count the max for quail.

A fluorescent orange cap or hat is also required to be worn in addition to a fluorescent orange vest or jacket when hunting the aforementioned tracts.

This Saturday the starting time is 8 a.m.; after that, it’s sunrise to ½ hour after sunset.

Rob Valone with his 15.16lb bluefish (Dave DeFeo, Fisherman's Headquarters)

Big Blue Magoo

The matter of the chatter at tackle shops and marinas and okay, bars in close proximity to these has been the expected-but-sudden arrival of jumbo bluefish (oft referred to as “gators” and “gorillas” if weighing from 15 pounds and up) not only within a mile or two of the beaches and jetties but also along the rocks and sands, and in the inlets from Island Beach State Park down through Atlantic City.

Sure, stripers are the big ticket during November and through December, and they continue filtering down. No matter…it’s the rip-your-face-off strike and fights of these monster blues that prepare one for the plodding slugfest with a big bass.

It’s akin to watching the blazing 100 punch-per-minute exchanges between bantamweights or lightweights and then viewing the “one shot you’re out” lumbering swings of heavyweights.

Make no mistake, though: a double-digit bluefish is capable of torturing the forearms and biceps, not to mention the hamstrings and lumbar when chasing an especially robust ‘n ornery specimen down the beach!

With the schools of bunker running south, it’s a no-brainer that meat ‘o menhaden will draw the immediate razor dentition attention of the blues. Cut bunker or the snag ‘n drop or live line will all elicit masticating responses. Still, the thrill of the gator and gorilla smashes, thrashes and hits is best experienced to the spine via a popper, swimming plug, needlefish plug or a Deadly Dick or Slim Wave metal ripped just under the salty liquid skin. Ditto bouncing bucktails tipped with Otter Tail or Fat Cow trailers.

Expect exemplary action with these soon-to-be-gone lemon-eyed behemoths during the next week, maybe two. This weekend’s cold snap and subsequent plummeting water temperatures will soon have them on their way.

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