Report from Monday, 3/13:
Three open-boat trips for striped bass will kick off the year’s fishing Friday through Sunday on Raritan Bay with the Down Deep Fleet, Capt. Mario said. A few spaces were left, and the trips were slated when weather was warmer. Temperatures were lower since, and a big snowstorm is forecast for tomorrow, after a smaller one of the storms last week. Plenty of bunker schooled the bay until a few days ago, because weather was beautiful and unseasonably warm in February. The baitfish schooled including from the New Jersey side to Staten Island, in the back of the bay. Whether they remained was unknown, and the last snow probably made them move deeper. But they’ll come back, if so, when weather improves. Telephone to climb aboard, and open trips will sail daily for stripers beginning with those trips, and charters are available. Down Deep runs two 40-foot boats, each accommodating up to 15 passengers. Bring the whole crew, and the boats feature large cockpits, heated cabins, full galleys and more. Open trips daily and charters will sail for sea bass, cod, ling and winter flounder in spring, and for jumbo fluke in spring and summer. Join the Short Notice List on Down Deep’s website to be kept informed about special open trips.
***Update, Thursday, 3/16:*** Individual-reservation trips have been scheduled to fish for sea bass May 31 and cod June 21, Capt. Ralph from Last Lady Fishing Charters wrote in an email. Contact him to reserve, and in a report here a week ago from today he said the boat would be splashed in a couple of weeks. A new engine and a new generator were installed, and blackfishing in April will kick off the year’s fishing aboard.
Surf anglers “had high expectations for an early bass run,” Bob from Fisherman’s Den wrote in an email. That was because small, resident striped bass had been biting in the surf during mild weather this winter. But weather turned colder, a snowstorm hit last week, and a big one is forecast for tomorrow. The snow will probably chill the water and might not encourage the migration of larger stripers to arrive early. Winter flounder gave up fair fishing in Shark River. None of the party boats fished because of rough weather including wind. “We hope to see that change soon,” he wrote.
Bunker had pushed into Raritan Bay, and boats in southern states had run into the mackerel migration, said Capt. Pete from Parker Pete’s Fishing Charters. Those were signs of the changing seasons, and the bunker will attract striped bass. But whether the cold weather recently pulled the bunker out of the bay was unknown. Pete’s shooting to begin fishing in April. Trips then will sail for blackfish, ling and cod. Striped bass trips, fishing the ocean, will begin sometime in May. Then the striper migration pours into the ocean from rivers and bays. Anglers aboard usually liveline bunker for the stripers by mid-May. See Parker Pete’s calendar on the boat’s website for available dates. Don’t have enough anglers for a charter? Contact Parker Pete’s anyway for individual spaces with charters who want more anglers. Sign up for the email blast on the website to be kept informed about the spaces. Catch Parker Pete’s booth Friday through Sunday at the Saltwater Fishing Expo at the Garden State Exhibition Center in Somerset. Get $75 off a charter if you book at the event with a coupon from the show’s website.
News was scarce in the cold, said John from The Reel Seat. Winter flounder were plucked from Barnegat Bay near Mantoloking Bridge and from Toms River. None was known about from Manasquan River yet. Flounder eventually migrate to the Manasquan, swimming through Point Pleasant Canal from the bay. They’ll migrate to the ocean in spring. Striped bass were angled from Oyster Creek, he guessed. He lives nearby and kept seeing 15 or 20 vehicles parked there. The creek is the warm-water discharge from Forked River power plant. John knew about no party boats that fished in the weather this past week. The Reel Seat is open Thursdays through Sundays. Stop by the shop’s booth, exhibiting only tilefishing gear, Friday through Sunday at the Saltwater Fishing Expo at the Garden State Exhibition Center in Somerset. Tackle including rods, reels, rigs and jigs will be for sale. The store carries custom tilefish rods, and the owner is a tilefishing expert.
Point Pleasant Beach
***Update, Friday, 3/17:*** The Norma-K III’s been getting painted and will be out of the yard today, a report said on the party boat’s website. Stop by and check it out, it said, and fishing will resume April 1 aboard. Then blackfish trips will sail 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. The season for the tautog, closed this month, will be open in April and closed again beginning in May.
***Update, Thursday, 3/16:*** Bottom-fishing sailed twice recently, on Sunday and last Thursday, between weather on the party boat Dauntless, Capt. Butch said. A few cod and pollock and a couple of out-of-season blackfish were wrenched in. Dogfish and bergals gave up plenty of action. The fishing was slow, but the Dauntless seemed the only head boat that fished from New Jersey this past week. The vessel might be the only from Jersey that’s annually slated to fish daily year-round. Christmas is the only day a trip’s not scheduled. The trips fished in 120-foot depths to 140, no deeper because an unbelievable number of dogfish bit deeper. The season was early for the dogs, and gillnetters found the sharks 4 miles from shore, and the season was very early for that. The ocean on the fishing grounds was probably 39 to 42 degrees. Butch heard about no mackerel since mackerel were party-boated off Virginia Beach a couple of weeks ago. Commercial boaters talked about finding mackerel 80 miles off Jersey recently, but those mackerel were very small. Butch hopes the migration of larger will arrive within range this coming season. During springs when the fish do, trips aboard mix in mackerel fishing with bottom-fishing. About 2 inches of snow fell before sunrise Tuesday in the storm that slammed the Northeast. Rain fell the rest of the day. Wind gusted to 40 to 60 m.p.h. that day and to 30 or 40 Wednesday. But the wind was from west Wednesday, helping to calm seas near the coast that built during the storm. The Dauntless is bottom-fishing 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
Tuna charters to the southern canyons are being booked for June and July with Mushin Sportfishing, Capt. Alan wrote in an email. The boat will sail from Cape May Marina those months, taking advantage of yellowfin tuna fishing and some of the best bigeye tuna fishing that erupts then from Wilmington to Norfolk canyons. Plus, the trips mix in fishing for mako sharks and tilefish when possible. What’s more, they mix in fishing for bluefin tuna and yellowfins at inshore spots like Massey’s Canyon and the Hot Dog when possible. The 24- and 30-hour trips are set up to maximize opportunities. Trolling and chunking for tuna, drifting for the sharks and deep-dropping for tiles might be done all in one trip. The charters are discounted $200 when booked in advance. Of course, June and July are T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops weather. Mushin means a relaxed state of readiness. The crew pride themselves on sharing the concept on outdoor adventures.
***Update, Thursday, 3/16:*** Nobody seemed to fish in the cold in past days, said Mario from Murphy’s Hook House. Previously, a good number of striped bass, mostly throwbacks, were bloodwormed from the Toms River. Night was the time for that, and winter flounder were sporadically angled from the river. White perch fishing was about the same on the river: sporadic. But the perch fishing began to heat up, until news dried up because of the cold. Oyster Creek’s striper and flounder fishing was about the same as on the Toms. Oyster is the warm-water discharge from the Forked River power plant. Murphy’s, located on Route 37, also owns Go Fish Bait & Tackle on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River.
***Update, Friday, 3/17:*** From an edited email from Capt. Dave DeGennaro from the Hi Flier: “The Hi Flier will begin fishing on Saturday and Sunday, April 29 and 30, and Monday, May 1. Really hoping those gator bluefish invade Barnegat Bay again as they did in 2015 and 2016. It’s hard to beat that action with 12- to 20-pound blues in 4 feet of water on surface lures. Last year we had them by the end of April and caught them all the way to June 1. Last year was also the first season in a long time that I had successful clamming for stripers in the bay. It also started in late April, and produced through all of May. The big surprise was the size of the fish: 12- to 15-pounders with some over 20. In years past our average fish was 8 to 10 pounds. If you take away the cold blast we just had, it really was a mild winter. With January and February very timid, it has all the signs of an early or at least ‘on time’ start. The new Hi Flier is a 25-foot World Cat with twin Honda 130 four strokes. I’m setting my sights on the blue water a little more this year. In particular the boat will be in Ocean City, Md., from June 30 to July 10, sailing every day for yellowfin and bluefin tuna. Last year Massey’s Canyon was on fire for the entire month of July with 30- to 60-pound yellowfin and 75- to 150-pound bluefin, all mixed together … on the chunk! Any way you can catch a tuna is exciting, but day chunking is as good as it gets. I got down there twice last year on a friend’s boat and connected both times. We sailed 40 miles from Cape May, and I thought that was close. When I plugged the coordinates in on a chart, we fished 25 miles off Ocean City, Md. So I rented a house with a boat slip and we’re going to hit it hard those first 10 days of July. If for some reason the tuna don’t show up at Massey’s again (they will), it’s only 55 to 60 miles to the nearest canyons for tuna, billfish, wahoo, mahi … c’mon! Finally, as some of you may or may not now, I launched a brand of fishing apparel last winter: Psyquatic. We’ll have our full line of apparel on display at the Salt Water Fishing Expo in Somerset, N.J., today through Sunday. T-Shirts, long sleeve, performance (quick dry) and hooded sweatshirts in four designs: Psyquatic Logo, Striper on Darter, Yellowfin Tuna on Squid, Mako on Mahi. You could also see them at Psyquatic.com. We’re in corner booth 312 and will have both Psyquatic and the Hi Flier on display. Stop by and say ‘Hey.’ Looking forward to seeing everyone on board.”
Not much was reported in the cold during the weekend, said Capt. Dave from Absecon Bay Sportsman Center. Previously, loads of striped bass including a few keepers bit in rivers including the Mullica. The cold might’ve slowed the fishing, but the bass will stay in the rivers currently. When weather improves a little, the fishing should be back on. Not so much snow is forecast locally in tomorrow’s storm, and the storm should depart quickly. Dave will launch his striper charters probably in a week for the season. The abundant stripers seemed to slow white perch fishing in the rivers, and if the cold slowed the stripers, maybe the perch angling picked up. The year’s first through third stripers were already checked-in at the store, and the store’s annual prizes for the fish were awarded, covered in previous reports here. Prizes remained for the first heavier than 20 and 30 pounds and the first that a woman, a boy and a girl bring in. All baits are stocked for current fishing, including bloodworms, live grass shrimp and fresh clams.
***Update, Thursday, 3/16:*** An occasional angler mustered up striped bass at the power plant, said Brandon from Scott’s Bait & Tackle. He meant Oyster Creek, the warm-water discharge from the Forked River nuclear plant, a distance north from the shop. Not much else was doing in the cold. White perch could be taken from Mullica River that’s near the store. They even bite when ice-fishing is possible during some winters. But the low temperature shut striper fishing down at Graveling Point, the shore-angling spot at the confluence of the Mullica and Great Bay that’s known for early-season stripers. Stripers bit there already this season during warmer weather, including on opening day of striper season, March 1, on rivers and bays, covered in the previous report here. The store’s annual $100 gift certificate remained available for the angler who checks-in the year’s first keeper striper from Graveling. The cold shut off striper fishing farther up the river, too. One or two could probably be managed if anglers were persistent. Plenty of stripers, mostly throwbacks, an occasional keeper, hit in the river there during higher temps this season. Bloodworms, fresh clams in the shell, live grass shrimp and minnows are stocked.
Weather becoming cold kept participation down, but ling are being swung from Absecon Inlet when anglers get out, said Noel from One Stop Bait & Tackle. So are a few striped bass, and stripers are also being eased from the bay. So are white perch and winter flounder. At the inlet, located near the shop, fish cut bait including mullet and clams for the ling, and bloodworms for the stripers. All those baits and more, including live grass shrimp, are stocked. Less snow is forecast for tomorrow locally than farther north in New Jersey, but one never knows. This storm might be the last major winter weather, Noel thinks. The migrations of bluefish and large stripers are impending. Stripers locally and practically everywhere in New Jersey currently are smaller, younger ones, yet to migrate. The tackle supplier said blues began to arrive in Delaware, and stores there were ordering bluefish tackle. Noel is supposed to be on Shep on Fishing’s radio show Saturday with Atlantic City’s mayor, talking about angler access to the inlet from the boardwalk that’s being reconstructed. The jetties along the inlet are also being reconstructed, and everything looks beautiful, Noel said. The construction has included probably five blocks of new jetties along the inlet, and the jetty-lined inlet was already known for attracting fish. The addition of more jetties might make the area blackfishing central, Noel thinks. The inlet was already known for blackfish, and jetties attract crustaceans and other forage that attract the tautog and nearly every other fish. The inlet is one of the best places in New Jersey for bluefishing and striper fishing in spring for anglers on foot. Anglers are concerned about access to the inlet since the new construction, and need to fight to ensure the town accommodates them. Currently, anglers can duck under the boardwalk railing to easily step onto a completely flat jetty that runs parallel to the boardwalk. That gives access to abundant jetties that line the inlet perpendicular to that jetty and the boardwalk.
Capt. Mike from the Stray Cat will try to run open-boat trips the next two Saturdays and Sundays for cod, ling, mackerel or whatever will bite, if weather is fishable, he said. That will be along the 20-fathom line, and the boat usually begins fishing around St. Patrick’s Day. Trips will jump on blackfish in April, when blackfish season is open. The season is closed this month and again beginning in May. The boat is in the water and ready to fish. New gear includes rods and trolling gear.
A few striped bass and white perch were heard about from Great Egg, Middle and Tuckahoe rivers, said Bill from Fin-Atics. Not a lot was reported about the angling, so the fact that only a few of the fish were heard about didn’t mean only a few swam the rivers. It meant that anybody fishing the rivers was only heard about a few times. Not more than one or two of the stripers were keepers that were mentioned. Stripers should also bite along bridges on the bay, like the 9th Street Bridge, he thinks, but heard little about that. More anglers fished when weather became warmer a couple of weeks ago. Herring usually migrate up the rivers in late March. The migration of big stripers, heading north after winter, follows the baitfish into the waters. Both the bait and the bass head up rivers to spawn. Customers usually pick at fish in March. Then suddenly the migrations belt in. The bay was 45 degrees, the last Bill saw. The water was probably somewhat colder now in colder weather. Fin-Atics is now open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays, after being open on Fridays through Sundays for winter until now. Bloodworms are now stocked, and frozen baits are on hand.
Capt. George will try to splash the Heavy Hitter in early April, he said. Trips will blackfish that month aboard the ocean. Striped bass might swim Delaware Bay that month, but usually far up the bay toward Delaware River, too far for trips from Cape May. George heard about no boats fishing. They could’ve fished in mild weather in February. But weather became cold and rough now. He checked on the boat in dry dock yesterday, and weather felt freezing and windy. Drum charters will fish in May on the bay aboard. Drum usually arrive in April sometime. They usually arrive then take some time to bite, and small ones usually do first. Then suddenly big bite, and that will probably happen in May.