Report from Monday, 3/16:
The creek this weekend was solid ice where the boat becomes docked to fish Hudson River, said Capt. Chuck from Angler Sportfishing Charters. Fishing the river’s migration of stripers might begin late this year, if only because of access. The creek usually only holds ice along the edges this time of year. The Hudson also held ice, but authorities kept that ice broken up for navigation. Chuck’s trips will fish the river for the bass this spring like every year. The stripers are a chance to land some of the biggest anywhere, because the fish are large, mature ones returning to the river to spawn. He’s been fishing the run many years. Chuck fishes from Staten Island, on Raritan Bay to the ocean, the rest of the year.
A few winter flounder, not many, were reported from the back of the rivers, said Jimmy from Julian’s Bait & Tackle. Anglers were just getting boats ready to fish for the season. Those who trailered boats back home, to the north, still dealt with 18 inches of snow on the ground Friday. No striped bass were heard about. A few cod and ling bit at the Mudhole, and one of the local charter boats will begin fishing for them on Friday. All baits are stocked, including worms and fresh clams.
One of the crew fished this weekend, Capt. Pete from Fin-Taz-Tic Sportfishing wrote in an email. “Capt. Mike was fishing the rivers … (and the) fishing was slow,” Pete wrote. “… there was some life,” but the water was cold. The boat will be splashed next week, and some of the year’s first trips will fish for striped bass. But if stripers are yet to bite in the early season, winter flounder can be targeted, from the rivers to Raritan Bay, and cod and ling can be fished for on the ocean. Charters will sail, and open-boat trips will fish daily, when no charter is booked, with a minimum of four anglers. That’s fewer than many boats that require six. Only a few weekend dates are available in April for charters and open trips. The angler with the year’s biggest striper aboard will win a free charter. Any angler who lands a striper heavier than 52 pounds aboard will win $1,000 from Fin-Taz-Tic. ***Update, Thursday, 3/19:*** A discount will be available for open trips for stripers and flounder throughout April, Pete wrote in an email. The trips will fish with clams, livelined bunker, chunked bunker, on the troll, “… whatever works …,” he said. Bait, tackle and soft drinks are included, and catches are filleted and packed in ice for your ride home. Charters will fish 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and, on twilight trips, 1 to 7 p.m.
Last Lady Fishing Charters will probably begin fishing in a couple of weeks, Capt. Ralph said. He hopes to schedule an individual-reservation trip for cod for the end of the month.
Wind, cold, clouds and rain seemed to keep water from warming much, Bob from Fisherman’s Den wrote in an email. That seemed to keep few winter flounder from biting in Shark River. Several anglers showed interest in the angling Sunday morning, but the cold quickly made them leave. Fishing for striped bass was no better. In fact, no customers attempted to fish for stripers. Sunny weather was needed to get fish “moving.” Weather was “still torturing us,” he said. “… Most of us say, enough is enough. We are ready for spring. Time to fish!”
Just working on the boat, said Capt. Pete from Parker Pete’s Fishing Charters. The year’s first trips are being booked for striped bass fishing in May. But he hopes to begin fishing in April, depending on weather. One of Belmar’s party boats occasionally sailed for cod, pollock and ling on the ocean. A few winter flounder stirred around Shark River. Catch Parker Pete’s exhibit at this weekend’s Saltwater Fishing Expo in Somerset, at booth 101. Stop by and say hello, and special prices are available for charters booked at the show. During the fishing season, Parker Pete’s also offers individual spaces available on charters, when the trips need anglers. Jump on Parker Pete’s website to subscribe to the emailed newsletter to be kept informed about the spaces. Look for the place to sign up on the right side of the page.
***Update, Saturday, 3/21:*** Weather was tough, but when weather was fair, trips fished aboard, still picking mostly cod and ling, Capt. Ryan from the party boat Jamaica II wrote in an email. A few pollock were decked on some trips. Many cod hooked were throwbacks on some outings. Recent catches included Hans Falkinhagen from Freehold’s three cod to 14 pounds and five ling, and Eric Swanson from Wayne’s four cod to 10 pounds and 10 ling. The boat is wreck-fishing 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and also on Good Friday, April 3.
Small striped bass began to be picked along the Mantoloking Bridge, said Alex from The Reel Seat. That’s on northern Barnegat Bay, and stripers were reeled from Oyster Creek, the warm-water discharge from Forked River power plant, like before. Soft-plastic lures, bucktails and worms hooked the bass at both places. Nothing was heard about winter flounder, but Alex expects to hear about them this week, once air temperature reaches above 40 degrees a couple of more days. Flounder fishing should really turn on in the next couple of weeks, he expects, and locally, the flatfish usually bite in northern Barnegat Bay first, during the year. As the water warms, they migrate to Manasquan River and eventually the ocean. No fishing on boats was known about, but the weekend’s weather was rough. Local party boats are fishing for ling and cod on the ocean. The store is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.
Point Pleasant Beach
***Update, Thursday, 3/19:*** Fishing sailed a few days this week on the party boat Dauntless, not on Wednesday, Capt. Butch said. He wasn’t asked the reason Wednesday’s trip was docked, but maybe that was because wind blew strongly. The angling wasn’t good, but bagged a few cod and just a few ling, and began to bag a few pollock. Quite a few cod bit, actually, and a few were keepers. Butch hopes more and more fish bite, as water warms. The ocean was 35 to 36 degrees. “It’s cold,” he said. The trips fished in 130- to 200-foot depths, and most bites came from 130 feet to 150. Hardly any fish, hardly even eels, and no dogfish, bit in the deep. An eel might be hooked on occasion in the deep. The Dauntless is bottom-fishing 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily.
One winter flounder was heard about that was caught from the Toms River at Island Heights last week, said Dennis from Murphy’s Hook House. That was the season’s first reported from the river, and, the store’s Facebook page said, ice was just about gone from the river, currently. Dennis heard about no striped bass or white perch from the river yet, he said. Anglers reported a couple of bites from the water. A few anglers rounded up stripers, mostly throwbacks, but sometimes keepers, from Oyster Creek, the warm-water discharge from Forked River power plant. Worms and bucktails, like with Fin-S Fish, hooked the fish. Jared Goldy weighed-in a 1.7-pound flounder, the season’s first entered in the shop’s contest, from Oyster Creek. The flounder tournament is free and runs until May 15, and a dozen anglers signed up, so far. The creek was the only place with decent fishing, because of the water warmth. But, with the ice melted from waters, this might be time to fish Barnegat Bay, behind Island Beach State Park, for stripers with bucktails, like with Fin-S or paddle-tails, or small swimming plugs, the Facebook page said. But nobody really had boats in the water yet, Dennis said. He began working on his, preparing for the fishing season, this weekend. Nearly all baits are stocked, including bloodworms, sandworms, fresh clams, and chum, and bait like that should be carried daily now. Shiners are stocked, and he hopes to carry killies by the end of the week. He couldn’t be sure whether killies would be available, because the baitfish don’t pot in the cold. Murphy’s is open daily, and also owns Go Fish Bait & Tackle, on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River. Go Fish was opened this weekend, for the first time this year, and will probably be open Thursdays through Sundays for the next week or two, before being opened daily.
***Update, Thursday, 3/19:*** Grizz’s Forked River Bait & Tackle is slated to be opened April 1 for the fishing season, Grizz said. So the shop hasn’t been opened, and reports from customers haven’t been heard. But white perch, striped bass and winter flounder were known about that were hooked at Oyster Creek, the warm-water discharge from Forked River power plant. Though the shop will be opened in April, fishing busts open in May for the year, really. That’s when the shop reliably becomes busy.
Anglers fished for striped bass at Graveling Point, supposedly feeling a few nibbles, but the bites couldn’t be confirmed, said Brian from Scott’s Bait & Tackle. Graveling is the nearby shore-angling spot, and the store’s annual $100 gift certificate will be awarded to the angler who weighs-in the year’s first keeper striper from Graveling. But the water was cold, only 36 degrees on Sunday. The bass begin to bite when the water reaches 40 to 42. They bite consistently when the water reaches 43 to 45. Decent-sized stripers chomp when the water reaches 46 to 52. The store’s staff is thinking that the first might be weighed-in by the end of March or beginning of April, but that was optimistic, he said. The anglers fished bloodworms and clams, and stripers usually prefer the worms in the early season. The worms are easier to digest, when the fish metabolism is low, in cold water. But some anglers will give both baits a try. As the water warms, clams will become the preferred bait. Graveling is located at the confluence of Mullica River and Great Bay, and is one of the state’s first places to give up stripers each year. That’s because the river’s warmth attracts stripers to the flats there, but also simply because the location is accessible. Throwback stripers were sometimes caught and released farther upstream in the Mullica. White perch didn’t bite well in the river, though anglers tried for them. Bloodworms, fresh, shucked clams and live grass shrimp are stocked.
***Update, Thursday, 3/19:*** A photo of an angler with a striped bass was shared on Riptide Bait & Tackle’s Facebook page this week. “Thanks for sending me to a nice spot,” the angler wrote in the post. “Had a great time with lots of shorts and a nice one. I’ll be down your way as soon as the water warms up.” Fred from the store didn’t know details about the photo, Fred said in a phone call for this report. But Fred thought the angler tugged in 10 or 11 throwback stripers, finding a place with warm water to fish for them, maybe at a power plant, but that was unknown. Andy from the store might’ve known details. “Thanks for the pics Yanni,” someone, apparently Andy, wrote on the page. “See you soon when the action starts to hit the surf.” The striper in the photo looked fair-sized, but size can be deceptive in photos. The year’s first catch was yet to be brought to the shop, and water was cold. But a few customers bought bloodworms and clams this morning to fish, Fred said. Three or four were headed to the surf, and weather was also cold, but was supposed to be nice otherwise, in calm wind. One of the customers was going to boat the ocean for cod or whatever fish were in season.
More catches will start to be seen this week, Capt. Dave from Absecon Bay Sportsman Center thinks, he said. No catches were brought to the shop, since the year’s first three stripers were checked-in at the store, during the first week of March. They were clocked at Oyster Creek, the warm-water discharge from Forked River power plant, covered in past reports. Striper season was opened on March 1 in bays and rivers, and the anglers won the store’s awards for the first three. Striper fishing is open in the ocean year-round. More prizes are up for grabs, and click here for details. No confirmed catches were known about, since those stripers. But rivers, like the brackish Mullica and Great Egg Harbor rivers, definitely began “to give up something,” he said. That’s where the year’s first stripers are caught, besides at warm water like the discharge. That’s because the rivers are relatively warm. No white perch, from rivers like that, were seen at the store, but some anglers reported nabbing them. The angling seemed to keep improving. Customers already telephoned and asked about surf fishing. But striper fishing in the surf, or any fishing in the surf, was probably a good amount of time from beginning. That’s unless ocean herring show up, and anglers can “play with them,” he said. Worms and fresh clams are stocked. Dave will probably drop the minnow pot in the water, trying to stock the baitfish for freshwater fishing.
The Stray Cat will begin fishing this weekend, Capt. Mike said. Open-boat trips will sail for cod 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and telephone the vessel to reserve. He had hoped to start fishing last weekend, but rain poured on Saturday, and wind blew on Sunday. Two feet of water filled the back yard. But recent weather raised the ocean temperature to 38 degrees, and a few cod began to be picked.
Two striped bass were reported reeled from the back bay Saturday, on clams, said Justin from Fin-Atics. Anglers were secretive about locations of any catches, but Justin guessed the bass came from Corson’s Inlet or along the 9th Street Bridge. That was because the anglers on the trip are customers who usually don’t venture far from the store. The bay reached 40 degrees that evening, and was back down to 36 on Sunday morning. The fish became active because of the warmer water, Justin would say. So, that was a start, he said, and was good news, was more than he’d expect to hear about, this time of year. Frozen baits are stocked, and bloodworms might be stocked Thursday, he thought.
Sea Isle City
***Update, Thursday, 3/19:*** The boat is ready to fish, said Capt. Joe Hughes from Jersey Cape Guide Service, affiliated with Sea Isle Bait & Tackle. He’s one of the first captains to fish for striped bass each year, catching them in the back bay. But he’s waiting for the bay to warm a little. The bay must’ve been in the 30 degrees, and the fishing is running two weeks behind many years, because of this winter’s cold. Flowers are springing through the ground late. Joe has often landed his year’s first striper in the first week of March. Still, he was talking with a friend, Joe said, about how fish migrations, like weakfish, seem to arrive at the same time each year, no matter the weather. Bluefish and weakfish usually migrate to the bay by mid-April or tax day. The bay’s stripers, however, don’t migrate to the bay. The bass are already there, living in the water year-round. Water just needs to warm to make them active. The stripers are younger stripers, yet to migrate. Only two or three days in a row in the 50 degrees are needed, and Joe will catch the bass. His trips fish for them in the early season with soft-plastic lures, worked slowly along bottom, at places in the bay like at a creek mouth, on outgoing tides, pushing warm water into the bay. Afternoons, when the water has warmed during the day, fish best. When the blues and weaks migrate to the bay, that will be sudden. Joe usually lands lots of fish before many anglers begin fishing. Many miss out on some of the year’s best angling. The fish will still be there afterward, but the early season gives up some of the most action. All three species often bite that time of year in the bay. Summer flounder will also migrate to the bay around then. Flounder season is yet to be decided in New Jersey, but is usually opened in late May. But the fishing on the bay catches and releases them before the opener. This is a chance to reel in all four of fishing’s most popular species in the bay in one trip. That’s called a grand slam. South Jersey’s shallow, warmer back bays attract all of these fish before many of the state’s waters. The angling’s some of the year’s best.
The year’s first striped bass, a keeper, was actually reported from the surf, at mid-island, on salted clam, said Mike from Sea Isle Bait & Tackle. The catch was made on Wednesday, he was pretty sure, or on one of the better-weather days, at least, with sun beating on the water. Ice was almost melted on all waters. He saw a small patch on Ludlam Bay. The local party boat will begin fishing on April 1, he thought. Fresh clams and salted clams were stocked, and the store is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but open most days.
Delaware Bay was 38 degrees, said Capt. Jim from Fins and Feathers Outfitters. He ran snow-goose hunting trips there the past several days, and though the water was cold currently, the bay last week was frozen solid across. Jim will fish for striped bass and drum on the bay, usually starting in late April. Stripers usually school tight to shore in the bay this time of year, migrating to Delaware River to spawn. But whether they did yet this year was questionable, because of the cold water. He saw no signs of the fish on the goose trips. Lots of commercial nets were set in the bay, close to shore, but Jim didn’t know what for. Floats were set maybe 200 to 250 feet apart. Commercial anglers used to gill-net for stripers and bunker this time of year, a buddy, an old commercial netter, said. Snow geese seemed to depart the bay, probably because of no feed, because of the freezing. Jim’s trip today was going to hunt the fields for the geese instead. He’s been hunting the geese five days in a row, and hunted fields in Pennsylvania nearly every weekend previously for the waterfowl. The geese currently seemed to depart the bay for the fields farther north. The goose season lasts until April 4, and Fins offers a variety of outdoor adventures. That includes saltwater fishing on the bay and ocean, duck and goose hunting on the bay and in surrounding states, wherever the migrations fly, salmon and steelhead fishing on upstate New York’s Salmon River, from Jim’s lodge, and fly-fishing for trout on Pennsylvania’s trout streams, like the Yellow Breeches. Jim will likely fish for steelheads on the Salmon, after the goose season is closed. Spring is the best time of year for that. The lodge hosted snowmobilers this winter, like every year. That business wasn’t as busy as some years, because everywhere held snow, not just upstate New York. That happens during years when snow falls like that. For the saltwater fishing, the 23-foot center console is being re-powered this weekend. To fish the bay, the boat is trailered to be launched wherever’s closest to the best fishing. Fins also fishes the back bay and ocean from Avalon, from a slip where the boat is docked for that.
Capt. George from the Heavy Hitter visited the boat this weekend to begin seasonal maintenance, he said. The vessel’s bottom was being sanded, being prepped to paint it. Usually, the boat maintenance is finished by now. But weather was too rough this winter. Hardly anybody was around, during the visit, and Cape May was barren. People just began working on boats. On Sunday, the day he was there, wind blew strongly, and that was cold under a cloudy sky. The weather was warmer when the sun shined that day. No ice was in the harbor or local waters. George visited the Ocean City fishing flea market the previous weekend, and ice formed all over the back bay, and a ton of snow covered the ground. Ice even covered Tuckahoe River at Yank Marine then. Charters are being booked for drum and blackfish. Drum fishing usually sails in May, and blackfish season is open in April. Trips can also be booked for striped bass, and will sail, if the fishing turns on. Stripers used to begin to be boated locally in late March and early April in Delaware Bay. In recent years, the fishing was best farther north, toward Salem River, early in the year like that.