Capt Robbie Radlof Shares Schedules and Strategies for Striped Bass and Tuna
PARK FALLS, WI. (February 6, 2023) – Live Atlantic Striped Bass from the St. Lawrence River in Canada to the St. John River in North Florida. Surprised that Atlantic stingrays extend so far south? If so, you may be even more surprised to learn that there is also a population of striped bass along the Gulf of Mexico coast between Florida and Louisiana. Historically, this Gulf population extended as far as Corpus Christi Bay in Texas. Today, in addition to being stocked in inland reservoirs across the country, there is also a population of stripers in the Pacific. The New Jersey striped bass was introduced to the San Francisco Bay in the late 1800s. While their West Coast stronghold remains the Sacramento Bay and River, these adaptable fish are now found in the Pacific from British Columbia to Baja California.
Stripers are anadromous, meaning they spend most of their lives in saltwater and migrate to freshwater rivers to spawn in the spring. Juvenile striped bass generally stay close to their natal rivers in coastal estuaries for two to four years before migrating to the ocean. Some stripers, however, remain in these coastal bays and estuaries their entire lives. Males reach sexual maturity between two and four years of age, while females do not spawn until four to eight years of age. Biologists say striped bass can live up to 30 years, allowing the largest females to reach weights in excess of 70 pounds.
The approximately 350 miles of coastline between Cape May, New Jersey, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts could be considered the goldilocks area for Atlantic striped bass, where they are stalked along beaches and bays, as well as further inshore, where they are often joined by Atlantic bluefin and yellowfin tunas. The lure of 50-pound largemouth bass and giant tuna make it a bucket-list fishery for any serious angler. But checking this box requires some help.
Captain Robbie Radlof, 41, grew up fishing for striped bass in Raritan Bay and its tributaries with his father and grandfather. St. Croix Rod professional staff member and member of the product development team purchased his first center console in 1999 and obtained his license from the US Coast Guard. make a living offering striped bass to their customers from March through December. He runs his 27′ Conch for Waterman Charters out of Sherer’s Boat Basin in Barnegat, NJ, chasing bass from Raritan Bay to Delaware Bay, and tuna up to 115 miles offshore.
Although Radlof’s boat is still running, he is busy preparing for the upcoming fishing season, which starts in a few weeks. “You can find bass year-round, but my skate fishing usually starts with our first significant warming in March,” says Radlof. “That initial heat brings the first push of fish to Raritan Bay and into the Hudson River to spawn. That will continue until mid-April or so, and we can continue to enjoy a good, concentrated fishery of large, mature bass in shallow water well into May, as the post-spawning fish return to the bay and maintain structure in places. predictable. ”
These spring bass show up in the Hudson River estuary hungry and ready to spawn, filtering in from the inshore waters and from the south. Radlof says they crowd in all the familiar places: holding out the largest bays, pushing into creeks, and patrolling channel edges in open water. Similar stingray action builds up from March through May in far southern New Jersey in the Cape May area.
“Before and after spawning, we generally only fish in two to ten feet of water,” says Radlof. “They mainly feed on adult bunker so we are using a lot of large topwater and swimmer lures like 2oz Bombers to even out the forage.” Radlof says the 9” Doc and the Musky Mania Tackle Li’l Doc are two of his favorite topwater lures. He will reel in 30 to 50 pound braid and fish any of these artificials on a conventional St. Croix RIFT Salt 73MMF, 73MHMF, or Mojo Inshore 79XHMF rod, depending on the lure and size of the fish. Just a decade ago, most anglers hoped to catch their biggest bass of the year during the fall migration, but recent years have seen some of the biggest cows following these bunker banks after spawning in May and June. .
Radlof says the pattern of fishing continues throughout the summer, from July to September, albeit in slightly deeper water with stronger currents. He often fishes for bucktail jigs and swims tarpon in less than 40 feet with his favorite Mojo Inshore 79XHMF conventional rod or one of the new Legend Tournament Inshore 79XHMF spinning rods. Of course, topwater fanatic that he is, Radlof is always ready to present a Doc or other topwater lure to any fish that shows up.
Come October, Radlof says the big stripers retreat to shallow depths to gorge themselves on all the bait coming out of the rivers and streams. “We haven’t had sand eels on shore for the last two falls,” Radlof says. “We had them every fall for years, but the bunker, both adult and peanut, has taken over the fall stingray run. It’s a crazy fun time… almost all hit fishing on the surface with Tsunami Talking Poppers and the like. All you have to do is chase the birds and you will find the fish.” Radlof uses the same RIFT Salt and Mojo Inshore rods that he uses during the spring race and says that the blitzes usually last until Thanksgiving. “You can always find fish in December, but most are moving away from the coast or heading south by then.”
While he has to run a bit further to find them, sometimes 60 to 115 miles offshore, Radlof says tuna fishing starts off the Jersey shore in June, sometimes in mid-May. “It usually starts with us throwing paddletails or swallowing poppers at 40- to 60-pound schooling bluefins. It’s a long day, but it’s certainly worth the effort for customers who are willing to do it,” says Radlof. “We can leave at 1 or 2 in the morning and be ready to fish at first light. We will fish until afternoon and then we will return home.”
Radlof says that the yellowfin appear next. “Bluefin usually stay and we can find them until December, but last year we had bluefin in the summer and they all went north to Cape Cod, but a group of 35- to 65-pound yellowfin moved in right behind them. . Regardless of the species, Radlof says that fishing usually starts at the surface. “We used RIFT Salt 7’10” medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action (RIFSS710MHMF) spinning rods with size 8000 spinning reels and 50-65lb braided line to cast lures like 5.5 Hogy Protail paddles. ” and three-ounce Nomad Chug Norris Poppers three-ounce.
“Once the tuna get on the butterfish and they are launched, we start fishing jigs. Since they’re not shelling the surface, I’ll use my electronics to find baits and tuna on the canyon rims in 180 to 220 feet of water, then just drop down to them,” Radlof says. This is where the team becomes a bit more specialized.
“15 or 20 years ago, all our tuna were 40 or 50 pounds, but now we have a lot of fish over 100. The problem is that the jigging rods were too slow. If you found one that could work with one of the smaller 80 to 160 gram jigs that these fish want to eat, they didn’t have the power to fight the fish fast enough to release it safely,” Radlof explains. “The way we designed these new St. Croix RIFT Jig rods, the tips are scored so they can work with a variety of lighter jigs we need to fish with, while the butts and midsections are reinforced so there’s plenty of power to land these tunas and release them quickly. Most rods are too fast to work with a really light jig in these situations. These RIFT Jig rods are very versatile and allow anglers to fish those key 80-160 gram jigs with the power to catch fish up to 200lbs.”
Radlof’s fishing experience is only outshone by his humility. After development and testing were finished, he knew how special RIFT Jig rods were. He also had the foresight to know how these rods were going to help anglers solve problems and catch more fish all over the world, not just tuna fishing out his back door. He came up with the idea to label these rods by the size of the fish they are designed for. “There are six rotary models and six conventional models in the current RIFT Jig line,” says Radlof. “Each of these rods is individually labeled for fish up to 35lbs, 50lbs, 100lbs, 150lbs or 200lbs. So regardless of what species an angler is fishing for and where they are fishing, whether they want a spinning model or a conventional model, they can make a confident decision as to which RIFT Jig rod will be best for them just by knowing the top range. of the weights of the fish they expect to catch. That is a great advantage. St. Croix talks all the time about how they are a fishing driven company. They prove it time and time again by listening to and implementing the ideas of their professional fishing staff.”
Radlof most often uses the 5’8″ RIFT Jig Heavy Power Swivel (RIFJS58H) or the 5’8″ Extra Heavy Power Swivel (RIFJ58XH). “I’ll use the heavy 5’8” for fish between 50 and 100 pounds, then move to the extra heavy 5’8” for fish between 100 and 150,” he says. “In addition to their unique tapers, the RIFT rods (the entire series, actually) are amazing boating rods. Given their extreme durability, they are surprisingly light and thin with great ergonomics that make it easy for my clients to enjoy this demanding style of fishing.”
Radlof says that yellowfin usually stay until October, and bluefin are accessible, in a normal year, until December. Then it’s time to get out there and start planning for the next season of tuna and skate fishing along the Jersey shore.
Follow Captain Robbie’s fishing adventures on Instagram. For more information on charters or to book a trip, visit watermancharters.com.
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About St. Croix Rod
Based in Park Falls, Wisconsin, St. Croix has proudly produced the “World’s Best Rods” for 75 years. Combining state-of-the-art manufacturing processes with skilled labor, St. Croix is the only major producer that still builds rods completely from design to fabrication. The company remains family-owned and operates duplicate manufacturing facilities in Park Falls and Fresnillo, Mexico. With popular trademarked series like Legend®, Legend Xtreme®, Avid®, Premier®, Imperial®, Triumph® and Mojo, St. Croix is revered by all types of anglers around the world.