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New Jersey Inshore Saltwater Fishing Report 2-26-18

<b>Atlantic Highlands</b>

<b>***Update, Thursday, 3/1:***</b> A little was heard about striped bass biting in the back of Raritan Bay, said Jay Julian from <b>Julian’s Bait & Tackle</b>. But no details were, and few anglers fished. Striper season opened today in bays and rivers, and usually some of the year’s first stripers hit in the shallows in the back of the bay. The water is warmer there because of the depth and because that’s farther away from the colder ocean. He’s trying to stock sandworms Friday for the fishing. Chowder clams but no surf clams are stocked. Surf clams are scarce. The worms are also bait for winter flounder, and flounder season also opened today. Not many anglers have fished for flounder since the bag limit was reduced to two fish years ago. That used to be a busy fishery from the local rivers to the bay this time of year into April, until the fish migrate to the ocean. The store is open from about 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. The crew is renovating and getting ready for the fishing season. “We’re making Julian’s great again!” someone, maybe Joe Julian, said in the background while Jay was talking on the phone.


<b>***Update, Thursday, 3/1:***</b> Fishing will launch for the year with <b>Fin-Taz-Tic Sportfishing</b>, now that striped bass season opened today in bays and rivers, Capt. Pete said. He’ll fish with friends at first, and charters and open-boat trips will sail aboard as soon as anglers want to go. He’ll even sail with two anglers, and fishes with up to four. Striped bass trips will kick off the trips. Stripers began to nibble. Some were hooked in the Belmar area, and Pete was yet to look for them in the back of Raritan Bay, where the angling begins locally each year in the warm shallows. He’ll look now. Bunker began to be seen along rocks or bulkheads. Trips at first will probably fish worms and clams for the stripers. The fish early in the year are sluggish in chilly water, and so are most likely to grub baits like that. Later, when water warms and more bunker show up and get stripers chasing them, the bass will bite other things, from chunks of bunker to trolled lures and more.


All bait will be stocked for winter flounder for the opening of flounder season Thursday, said Bob from <b>Fisherman’s Den</b>. That will include sandworms, bloodworms and clams. The shop’s rental boats will be available to fish for them on Shark River. Flounder seemed to be in the river. Someone who lives along the back of the river saw a seal eating a flounder. A few 18-inch striped bass were hooked from Shark River Inlet. “I think a lot of the small stripers never left,” he said. “That should keep getting better.” The one Belmar party boat that’s sailing bottom-fished yesterday on the ocean. Bob was yet to hear results, and no trip sailed today on the vessel, because only two anglers showed up. About a dozen showed up yesterday.


A weekly 14-hour trip fished Saturday on the <b>Jamaica II</b>, a post said on the party boat’s Facebook page. “First drop was the best for us,” it said, “with some (cod, pollock and ling caught). Next couple of drops only produced a couple cod.” Skies were overcast, but seas were calm. The boat is fishing on 12-hour trips every Sunday and Wednesday and 14-hour trips every Saturday.   <b>***Update, Monday, 2/26:***</b> Weather looks good for Wednesday’s trip, for cod, pollock and ling, the Facebook page said today. The weekend’s weather currently looked “shaky.” <b>***Update, Thursday, 3/1:***</b> Fishing was no good on Wednesday’s trip, the boat’s Facebook page said. Water temperature was a couple of degrees too low. “Hopefully next week it will be in the 40’s,” it said, and fish will bite. Weather might cancel this weekend’s trips. The boat is fishing for cod, pollock and ling.

A few small striped bass 12 to 18 inches were banked from the surf from Asbury Park to the north, said Alex from <b>The Reel Seat</b>. Nothing crazy, a catch here and there, on lures like small rubber shads or Tsunami sand eels. That was the only fishing heard about. The shop will exhibit at Berkeley Striper Club’s fishing flea market Sunday in Toms River, Asbury Park Fishing Club’s fishing flea market March 11 at Convention Hall and the Saltwater Fishing Expo March 16 to 18 at in Edison.

<b>Point Pleasant Beach</b>

A few ling and cod were swung aboard the <b>Dauntless</b>, Capt. Butch wrote Saturday on the party boat’s Facebook page. The fishing was slow, but the crew is “putting the effort in every day,” he wrote. So when weather’s fair, come on down, he said. Trips sail 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, and the boat is the only that fishes daily this time of year from New Jersey.

<b>Toms River</b>

White perch, some, were nabbed from the Toms River on bloodworms, said Dennis from <b>Murphy’s Hook House</b>. The fish were found throughout the brackish river, not in any one spot. Loads of striped bass mostly 16 to 22 inches filled the river. Striped bass season will open beginning Thursday in rivers and bays. Anglers will dunk bloodworms for them, and the stripers bit mostly at night. Stripers and perch were hooked in early morning Saturday on the river. But night was the time for stripers. A few stripers were reportedly angled in Barnegat Bay behind Seaside Park on Saturday. Winter flounder season will also open starting Thursday, and none was reported from the Toms yet. They should be swimming the river, and anglers wondered whether they were yet to bite or never migrated to the river or what. Bloodworms sold out and will be re-stocked Tuesday. Sandworms and nightcrawlers will also arrive that day. The shop’s also been carrying killies and shiners, and Dennis wasn’t asked for this report whether they were still on hand.

<b>Barnegat Light</b>

The <b>Miss Barnegat Light</b> is getting the usual TLC, including cleaning, sanding and painting, a post said on the party boat’s Facebook page. The year’s fishing fishing schedule will be posted soon on the <a href="" target="_blank">boat’s website</a>. Bluefishing usually kicks off angling aboard during Memorial Day weekend. A new website that will be “a little more mobile friendly” will be launched for the vessel. “Summer can’t get here soon enough,” the post said. 

<b>Mystic Island</b>

<b>Scott’s Bait & Tackle</b> will be opened for the fishing season beginning Thursday, Scott said. That’s opening day of striped bass season in bays and rivers, and the annual $100 gift certificate to the store will be awarded to the angler who checks-in the first keeper striper from Graveling Point. That’s a shore-angling spot at the confluence of Mullica River and Great Bay that annually gives up some of the year’s first stripers. Over the years, the first has been caught on all different dates in March and April. See a list of dates on the <a href="" target="_blank">Graveling Point page</a> on the store’s website. Also see plenty of other info about the fishing on the page. Scott wouldn’t be surprised if the first is bagged early in the season, because of mild weather lately. But during some years, weather’s been mild and has become wintry again. Stripers start biting at the point when the water reaches 44 to 45 degrees. Scott didn’t know the water temperature currently. Bloodworms are the bait to dunk for them in the early season. The worms are easy for the stripers to digest in the cold water of the early season. The fish are sluggish in low water temperatures. When the water warms, other baits can produce best, including clams and bunker. Bloodworms, live grass shrimp, minnows, green crabs and nightcrawlers will be stocked. Whether clams will be available is questionable.   


White perch seemed to bite throughout usual brackish rivers, said Capt. Dave from <b>Absecon Bay Sportsman Center</b> said in a phone call. Customers fish for them including on Mullica and Great Egg Harbor rivers, and the fish seemed to spread into tributaries a little. Lots of anglers got after them in warmer weather than before. Bloodworms have usually been stocked for bait for them. They sold out today but should be re-stocked later today or, if not, early tomorrow morning, he wrote on the store’s Facebook page. Dave netted grass shrimp well on Friday to stock for the perch, but tried and could net none Saturday morning. The supply of them might be unreliable. He scored better on the shrimp this morning, netting a few half-pints, he wrote on the Facebook page. He also netted a bunker when grass-shrimping along the bulkhead. A really good sign for February, he wrote. Conditions looked good for the opening of striped bass season beginning Thursday in bays and rivers. Lots of throwback stripers were heard about from places like the Mullica. Lot of fish, more than in the past. No keepers were mentioned, but anglers should be into action on the opener at least. Bring a ruler, Dave said. The store is always one of the first to report stripers caught once the season opens. That’s because of the annual contest that awards gift certificates to the shop for the first several weighed-in. Details have now been posted on the store’s  Facebook page. The prizes include a $200 certificate for the first keeper, a $100 certificate for the second, a $50 certificate for the third, a $100 certificate for the first heavier than 20 pounds, a $100 certificate for the first heavier than 30 pounds, prizes for kids and women and more. Click the link for details and rules. One notable rule is that to win, the angler must provide a photo that proves the fish was landed in South Jersey and not in Oyster Creek or waters that the creek influences. The creek is the warm-water discharge from Forked River power plant. Fish from that area are only eligible for half the prize. <b>***Update, Thursday, 3/1:***</b> Didn’t take long! Dave wrote today on the shop’s Facebook page. Nikita Grantan at 6:05 this morning was in the parking lot and telephoned Dave to check-in the year’s first striper. Dave had just poured a coffee and was walking downstairs. Nick won the $200 gift certificate to the store for the 29-inch 8.55-pounder, and also a $100 certificate for sharing the contest’s write-up on Facebook before making the catch. Nick has won first-place before, “so he knows where the early fish hide,” Dave wrote. The angler bagged the fish somewhere near the 9th Street Bridge to Ocean City, and reeled in more than 20 stripers 18 to 25 inches before nailing the keeper. Lots of action. After taking the prizes, he headed to Great Egg Harbor River “to beat the tide,” Dave wrote. What’s more, another angler was supposedly on his way to the store to check-in this 35-inch striper to claim the prize for the year’s second. That fish was reportedly bagged in the bay near Long Beach Island, but not near Oyster Creek, the warm-water outflow from Forked River power plant. Stripers caught around the creek are only eligible for half of any of the prizes. At press time, the store was yet to report that the angler arrived.


Open-boat trips will sail Saturday and Sunday for cod and pollock on the <b>Stray Cat</b> if weather is fishable, Capt. Mike said. The trips will fish 140-foot depths, and the ocean has warmed considerably to 44 or 46 degrees.


Capt. Jim from <b>Fins and Feathers Outfitters</b> has been guiding hunting for snow geese, he said. The trips saw thousands, but rain and fog hampered shots at them. The geese remain in New Jersey, where he guides for them in Salem County near Delaware Bay. Recent trips hunted them in Pennsylvania, and the next couple of the outings are booked to hunt there. The trips will hunt in New York from March 10 to April 1, following the migration. He’ll keep an eye on steelhead fishing on upstate New York’s Salmon River while he’s there. Guests who book his nearby <a href="" target="_blank">lodge</a> fish for them. The river ran high currently because of melting snow and rain. Guests who booked the lodge for snowmobiling recently canceled visits because the snow was melting. But sometimes more snow falls in March. A discount is available for the lodge but only on Airbnb. Fins will resume fishing from Avalon in spring, probably first for drum on Delaware Bay in May, maybe for striped bass before then. Fins offers a variety of outdoor adventures including saltwater fishing, duck and goose hunting, fly-fishing for trout on Pennsylvania’s streams like the Yellow Breeches and more. A buddy’s been tying into lots of brown trout and brook trout on the Yellow Breeches on minnows on treble hooks. He hooks the baitfish through the lips. He’s been limiting out on three on every trip, and releasing additional. Another angler who guides for smallmouth bass on Susquehanna River for Jim landed 60 of the fish two Saturdays ago. High water prevented the fishing in past days, but the angling is good. Big smallmouths are hooked this time of year, before the fish begin to spawn. Jim would like to book more of those trips if anglers are interested. That angler fished mustard-colored tube jigs and black hair jigs.

<b>Cape May</b>

<b>***Update, Thursday, 3/1:***</b> Maintenance and some upgrades are being done on the boat, Capt. Tom wrote yesterday in a post on <b>Fishin’ Fever Sportfishing</b>’s Facebook page. But fishing’s coming soon, and blackfish season will be open in April. That angling is pretty booked aboard, but a few seats are open. Charters and open-boat trips sail on the boat. In May, trips will fish for drum on Delaware Bay and sea bass on the ocean. Trips that month will also sail for tilefish offshore. Also in spring, trips will target big bluefish in the back bay and along the ocean front. That angling rebounded well in recent springs and is great light-tackle fishing. “Don’t forget to book your shark, tuna, fluke, marlin, and fall stripers trips, (too),” he wrote. See <a href="" target="_blank">Fishin’ Fever’s schedule</a> that’s been updated, showing available trips, on the boat’s website.

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