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By Jim Flannery Photos By Tom Lynch

Tom Lynch calls it the “Thanksgiving Day Massacre,” a 10-hour blitz of striped bass that corralled and bashed vast schools of peanut bunker along 13 miles of Jersey shoreline, right at the beach’s edge.

Striped Bass

The bass ranged from schoolies to some nice fish.

The bunker were stacked top to bottom in small breaking waves, so thick that Lynch could hardly see water. More juvenile menhaden, pushed by bass and thrown up on the sand by surf, carpeted the beach. Gulls — thousands of them — feasted on the beached baitfish.

Some of the stripers were as large as 30 pounds. “I’ve never seen them attack so aggressively,” says Lynch, a Seaside Park, New Jersey, photographer, photo gallery owner and fisherman. “They were jumping out of the water, flying by me, running into me. I have a picture of a bass running into my leg. They were really amped up.”

Lynch, who is 53, had told his girlfriend that he planned to fish all day on Thanksgiving this year to make up for fishing days lost working at the gallery, but when he arrived at the beach in northern Ocean County, New Jersey, and saw the carnage unfolding in the surf, he grabbed his camera and started shooting — and shooting and shooting.

“It wasn’t until I knew I had a bunch of exciting shots that I put the camera down and fished,” he says. “I’d fish a little, shoot a little, fish a little, shoot a little.”

The bunker, which ranged from 2 to 14 inches, were so thick that a lure dropped in their midst went unnoticed in the melee. Those who caught bass worked the edges of the bait schools, Lynch says. “A friend of mine made 15 casts and caught 15 stripers,” he says.

Lynch chronicled the day in 800 photographs, landed probably 25 stripers during daylight hours and kept fishing all night, catching another 26. “It was an absolutely extraordinary day,” he says.

The action kept up nonstop from Bay Head to Island Beach State Park, New Jersey, Lynch says. Longtime Jersey fisherman Nick Cicero says he may have seen a few more intense blitzes, but “this one is about as good as I recall for the time it lasted.” Mild fall weather, which kept the bunker and bass in Northern waters longer, and the healthy population of menhaden probably contributed to the frenzy, Cicero says.

“It was a legendary day,” Lynch says. “People are going to be talking about their Thanksgiving Day for years.”

See more images of the “Thanksgiving Day Massacre” in the gallery below:



Season of the Surf

The fall migration lures legions of diehards into the suds, where they cast night and day for one last fish

Striped Bass

Striped Bass

The writer remembers the striper that made his world go topsy-turvy.

Surf fishing

Fall Surf

This is fall surf fishing, and you’d be crazy not to love it.

Fishing reel

Playing for Keeps

A group of hard-fishing captains heads to the Cape each June for the spring striper run

Bluefin Tuna

‘This Fish Has Legs’

Fishing for Giant Bluefin Tuna on Prince Edward Island

Red Drum Delirium

Red Drum Delirium

Bull Reds from Boat, Pier, Kayak and Surf


Jumbo Striped Bass

This outing on the Chesapeake Bay was full of 50-pound-plus stripers and felt better than the good old days.

Black Marlin in Piñas Bay, Panama

Marlin Metrics

A well-traveled photographer is drawn to Piñas Bay, Panama, for its black marlin and other hefty cohorts.

Tangier Island: Just Scraping By

Tangier Island: Just Scraping By

The hard-bitten watermen of Tangier Island soldier on against a host of challenges