Fishing for striped bass was up and down, and plenty swam, but didn’t always want to bite, said Capt. Mario from the Down Deep Fleet. Trips fished for them on the river, mostly with bunker chunks, sometimes with livelined bunker. Bluefishing was excellent, and fluke fishing tied into a handful of keepers and good action with shorts on opening day of fluke season Saturday aboard. Sea bass season opened today, and daily, open-boat trips will run for them, and telephone to reserve. That’s on the Down Deep, one of the company’s two boats, both 40 feet. Open trips are fishing for stripers daily on the Down Deep Bull, the other vessel, and also telephone to reserve. Charters are available for any of this fishing. Join the Short Notice List on Down Deep’s website to be kept informed about open trips. See available dates on the site’s calendar, including for open marathon trips that sail 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., including for fluke. ***Update, Monday, 5/23:*** Sea bass fishing was super on the trip aboard today, opening day of sea bass season, Mario said.
Mostly blues were pounded aboard, and a few good-sized striped bass were socked each day, and some were missed, Capt. Frank from the Vitamin Sea wrote in an email. But blues filled the water nearly everywhere. Striped bass fishing wasn’t finished, but stripers might be beyond reasonable distance for trips soon aboard. Trips will continue striper fishing, but fluke angling will be mixed in more and more in the next week or two. Afterward, fluke will be the focus, and reports about fluking were mixed during this opening weekend of fluke season. Some anglers found good fluking or many keepers, and others mostly locked into throwbacks. Sounded like typical early-season fluking. An open-boat fluke trip will fish 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday, and telephone to reserve. Trips earlier in the day are full with charters this Memorial Day weekend. Bring Gulps on fluke trips, and Frank recommends Gulp 6-inch grubs.
Fluke fishing was much better on this morning’s trip than on the weekend’s trips, Capt. Tom from the party boat Atlantic Star said at 10 .m. on this morning’s outing in a phone call. This morning’s high hook landed three keepers, so far, and the day was beautiful. Whether the sun made a difference was unknown, after the weekend’s clouds and sometimes rough weather. The water was 59 degrees on this morning’s trip, and was cold during the weekend, in the 50 degrees. The water was yet to reach 60 this season. Tom wasn’t asked where this morning’s trip fished, but the weekend’s trips fished all over Sandy Hook Bay and at Flynn’s Knoll. The weekend’s trips hooked fluke every place fished, but too few keepers. A handful of keepers were boated, and some of the anglers would catch four, five or six throwbacks and no keepers, or one or two throwbacks and no keepers, during the weekend. Morning trips fished better than afternoon trips during the weekend, for unknown reasons. But this morning’s trip fished better, so far, and Tom would see how that went. The Atlantic Star is fishing for fluke 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 6 p.m. daily.
Fishing slugged away at blues on jigs, a few on bait, on Saturday’s trip at first on the Fishermen, Capt. Ron wrote in a report on the party boat’s website. That was while the boat drifted, during the wait for the tide to change. On the change, sharks took over. When current began, the boat was anchored, and blues were nailed the rest of the trip. One angler brought his two young sons for their first bluefish trip, and the catching tired them. On Sunday’s trip, at first, the tide was ending, and a huge heave came from the ocean. No fish bit in that. Current seemed to take forever to begin, and the angling took off at the change the past couple of days. Not this day. The fish took time to bite, then some nice shots would kick in, and back off. A good hour of the angling made some anglers, not all, happy. Anglers had to work at the fishing, using fresh bait and tossing the bait away from the boat. Was difficult getting anglers “back into it” after the slower fishing. But those who listened and worked caught some. A 15-pound blue won the pool. The Fishermen is sailing for striped bass and blues 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily, 6:30 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 3:30 to 9 p.m. Sundays.
A bunch of blues were tackled quickly on a charter Sunday with Lady M Charters, Capt. Steve said. When the anglers had enough, the trip searched for striped bass, bagging three on bunker chunks. That was on the river on “the Jersey flats,” he said. Sea bass season opened today, and trips aboard will sea bass beginning today for the next days. Once sea bass season is closed beginning June 20, marathon trips will bottom-fish at the Mudhole. “People love that stuff,” he said. Anglers never know what they’ll reel in, like ling, cod and winter flounder. Haddock, not a lot, but a handful, were cranked in last year, even. Charters and open-boat trips are available. Telephone the boat for dates.
With Last Lady Fishing Charters, a trip Friday arrived too late for striped bass fishing, but loaded up on bluefish to 14 pounds on jigs, Capt. Ralph wrote in an email that day. He expected a trip Saturday to arrive early on the striper grounds, he said in the email. But the angling was slow, he said in a phone call afterward. No stripers were landed. A sea bass trip was headed out today, opening day of sea bass season. All sea bass trips are full this week, and June 8 is the only individual-reservation sea bass trip with space available (note: see the update below about a trip added). Charters are available, and sea bass season is less than a month, closing beginning June 20. Annual individual-reservation trips for fluke, sailing every Tuesday, will begin June 21. Kids under 12 sail free on those outings, limited to one per adult host. Individual-reservation trips for cod will sail July 13 and 27 and August 3, 17 and 31. Fish for cod in shorts! Those trips have been great. ***Update, Monday, 5/23:*** Today’s trip limited out on sea bass by 11 a.m., and boated cod and ling afterward, Ralph wrote in an email. He added another individual-reservation trip for sea bass on Tuesday, May 31. “Book now, while we can catch them,” he said. ***Update, Tuesday, 5/24:*** With a full boat of anglers, a trip today nearly limited out on sea bass aboard, Ralph wrote in an email. The catch was 11 fish fewer than a limit, and a good-sized striped bass, a couple of cod and one or two big ling were also cranked in. Lots of small sea bass bit. May 31 and June 8 are the only individual-reservation trips for sea bass with openings. Sea bass charters are sailing Wednesday and Friday. “Hope to limit out early,” he said.
***Update, Tuesday, 5/24:*** Many striped bass to 50 pounds were reported boated on the ocean on bunker snagged and then livelined for bait and on the troll, Bob from Fisherman’s Den wrote in an email. “Big bass on the move,” he said, and Steve Germann from Freehold trolled a 46-pound striper off Long Branch. Fluke fishing was good on Shark River today, and the river’s fluking was better than the ocean’s. Fluke to 4 pounds were checked-in, and sea bass fishing was off to a good start for the fleet, since sea bass season opened Monday. The angling was a little slower than expected, but should improve as weather does. Anglers have many choices for fishing currently, “so suggest you get in on the action,” Bob wrote. ***Update, Wednesday, 5/25:*** “Sea bass fishing off the charts yesterday!” Bob wrote in an email today. “Blowfish in Shark River in good numbers!”
On the ocean, striped bass mostly bit in afternoons to evenings, and bluefish chomped throughout daytime, said Capt. Pete from Parker Pete’s Fishing Charters. He ran his season’s first party boat trip for stripers Thursday, trips that he’s newly running on another vessel this year, and stripers to 40 pounds were beaten, all on livelined bunker. That’s the goal -- to liveline bunker for the bass – and the trips sail with a limited number of anglers. Book to ensure a date, and see info on Parker Pete’s website. The party boat trips are in addition to charters on Parker Pete’s boat. Striper fishing on the ocean was during the full moon this weekend, and Pete expects the angling to pick up after the moon. The bluefishing was good on the ocean, plenty of action. For Parker Pete’s, don’t have enough anglers for a charter? Book an individual space on a charter that needs anglers. Visit the website to subscribe to the email blast to be kept informed about the spaces. Also see a trip calendar, where available dates are posted, on the site. Individual spaces are available for striped bass fishing this coming Tuesday morning, Friday afternoon and Memorial Day morning and afternoon.
On the Golden Eagle, bluefishing was super-excellent Thursday, good Friday, outstanding Saturday, and a decent pick Sunday, a report on the party boat’s website said. The angling was absolute chaos Saturday. On Sunday’s trip, when the fishing was a decent pick, lots of blues schooled, but they “didn’t bite like they have been the past week or so,” it said. The trips caught on Run Off hammered jigs and crocodiles, and the Golden Eagle is fishing 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily.
Excellent bluefishing for 8- to 16-pounders was plowed Saturday on the Miss Belmar Princess, north of Shark River Inlet, an email from the party boat said. The angling slowed at midday, when breeze came on, but blues were still picked then. Crocs and diamond jigs caught best, and watch a video of the trip’s fishing. On Sunday’s trip, bluefishing began with a slow pick, and a couple of good shots at catches were scored later … “however, we did not catch them like we saw them,” it said. Still, a good catch was clocked, and Ava 47 jigs caught best. Today’s bluefishing was slow aboard, giving up none until late on the outing, when a few blues were picked per drift. Ava 47’s worked best, and the Miss Belmar Princess is sailing for striped bass and blues 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily.
Ocean striped bass fishing sounded like it improved a little, said Eric from The Reel Seat. Quite a few 50-pound-class stripers were boated on the ocean in the past week, and most ocean stripers were trolled on Mojos and bunker spoons. A few boaters persevered at livelining bunker and caught the fish. Most stripers were boated from Seaside Park to Bay Head, but sometimes the fish came from farther north, like off Spring Lake and at Shrewsbury Rocks. Shark River was the place to be for fluke, during this opening weekend of fluke season. Fluke 8 and 9 pounds were sometimes reported from there, and some limits were reported. Small, 4-inch, chartreuse and white swimming mullets on jigheads were key. Fluking was fair on Manasquan River, giving up some. Toward Route 70 Bridge and Osborn Island seemed to hold the most. The angling was “kind of slow” at Manasquan Inlet, because water was colder. Bluefish still swam back in the Manasquan, and were smaller than before or 3 to 5 pounds. Large blues were still fought in the surf, and more about that is written below. First, a handful of fluke were boated at Sea Girt Reef on the ocean. Sea bass were released there, and sea bass season opened today. So the fish seemed to swim inshore. Bluefin tuna were sighted at Sea Girt Reef, and 100-pound bluefins were reported trolled at Little Italy last week. Mako sharks were sometimes subdued at Hudson Canyon, and bluefins were trolled there, too. Fish-holding water seemed to begin pushing into the canyon, and tilefishing was also good in the area. In the surf, Island Beach State Park was the place to be, for bluefish. Bluefishing was insane at Barnegat Inlet, at the southern end of the park. The blues were big, up to 15 and 20 pounds, there still. In the local surf, shots of the big blues popped into Bay Head. Many were popper-plugged, and stripers were occasionally slid from the surf. That was nothing consistent, but they were taken, including 20- and 25-pounders. When bunker showed up in the surf at a location, that was a chance at the large stripers.
Point Pleasant Beach
Fluke fishing was launched Saturday, opening day of fluke season, on the Norma-K III, Capt. Matt wrote in a report on the party boat’s website. A few fluke were picked at each place fished, not good fishing yet, but life, and it can only get better, he said. Fluke trips are sailing 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 to 6:30 p.m. daily. Beginning Friday, bluefish trips will sail 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays through Sundays. Later this season, bluefish trips will fish every night.
A charter Friday morning sailed to the ocean for striped bass, catching plenty of bunker for bait from the water first, Capt. Alan from Mushin Sportfishing wrote in an email. But stripers failed to “cooperate,” so the trip ran north for bluefishing. That angling was off the charts, and big slammers, feeding on rainfish, smashed jigs, popper lures and anything thrown at them, along the water surface. In the afternoon, a quick trip pushed to the ocean for stripers, finding abundant bunker schooling, with stripers feeding on them. The baitfish were snagged and then livelined for bait, and big stripers were quickly boated. Afterward, the trip trolled bunker spoons, catching more stripers. The trip limited out on the bass to 35 pounds. A charter the next morning, on Saturday, limited out on stripers to 35 pounds on the ocean, mostly on livelined bunker that were snagged. On Sunday morning, an ocean heave was forecast, because of wind Saturday might. So a trip slated for then rescheduled for Sunday afternoon. “There were no bass under the bunker schools, so we made bait and drifted the deep …,” Alan wrote. Stripers to 40 pounds were decked.
Large blues and some striped bass chased schools of bunker in the surf from Ortley Beach to Island Beach State Park, a report said on The Dock Outfitters’ website. Cut bunker was best bait, and clams and mullet also worked. But the blues bit nearly anything,. Crabbing was a slow pick from the dock, but good-sized keepers were nabbed. The Dock Outfitters, located on Barnegat Bay, blocks from the ocean surf, features a bait and tackle shop, a café, a dock for fishing and crabbing, boat rentals and jet-ski rentals.
The Tuna-Tic was moved to Forked River to fish for striped bass on the ocean from Barnegat Inlet, after fishing for stripers on Raritan Bay this season, Capt. Mike said. That’s an annual move, and the striper fishing was good, pretty consistent for big ones, on livelined bunker and on the troll, from Barnegat. The angling was phenomenal last year, and most of that fishing will probably last another week aboard, so telephone if you want to get after the catches. Trips will still chase the bass afterward on the boat, if the fish remain, but Tuna Tic is also moved to Barnegat for shark fishing each spring now. Charters for sharks or sea bass will be available the next few weeks.
***Update, Wednesday, 5/24:*** From an edited email from Capt. Dave DeGennaro from the Hi Flier: “Finally … made it outside the inlet Friday afternoon for our first ocean fishing this season. We didn’t throw the ropes until 2 p.m. Made it up to almost the Bathing Beach by 3 p.m., when we put the Maja bunker spoons out in 55 feet of water. Ocean was flat, light breeze, crystal-clear water. Set out two of the big, No. 4 Tony Maja spoons, one chartreuse and one white. Thirty minutes into our troll north, the white gets freight-trained. Ten minutes later, Gary Paulino from Absecon had his personal-best striper, a 38 pounder: Watch a video. We put the rods back out, and 15 minutes in, the white spoon goes off again. A 30-pounder hits the deck. This was like robbing a bank, so rather than hang out in the getaway car with the radio on, we trolled for another 20 minutes and headed into the bay for some blues on poppers. On Saturday, I returned and beat up the same area for 2 hours without a hit. I chalked it up to the impending massive storm system. Sometimes the front will make them eat their heads off, and sometimes it gives them lockjaw. Sunday was too rough for my boat to go outside, so we fished the bay. In the morning, I had Tom and Jenn Kopsie from Plymouth Meeting and Matt Polito from Philadelphia. They caught a bunch of big bluefish early in the trip, so we headed over to Oyster Creek Channel to soak the fresh clams I had on board in hopes of a striper. Nada. We did catch a few more big blues on the clam baits, but no bass. They jumped off the boat, and Gene Linder and son Aiden jumped on, along with friend Shawn Zacconi, all from Philadelphia, for the afternoon trip. These anglers have their own 35-foot catamaran sport-fishing boat out of Cape May, and all they wanted was to put 11-year-old Aiden into some gator blues, and go home with a bunch of mako shark bait for the tournaments coming up. ‘No problem,’ I said. ‘Sit back and enjoy the ride.’ Two hours into our trip, and I can’t find a fish. Sweating big bullets, I begin trying some different places. Nothing doing at the inlet. We set up a drift in Oyster Creek, and had our first few hook-ups (thank God). But nothing came to the net. We finally found them on the east side of the bay, and we had blitz fishing for more than 2 hours. We wore that kid out! We weighed one of Aiden’s fish on the Boga grip at 16 pounds. On Monday, I had Bob Danyluk and Roberto Calderon from Branchburg. We started out with red-hot bluefishing on the east side, and then it was time to catch the tide at Oyster Creek with the clams. We anchored up, and about an hour in, Bob hooks up on the weightless flatline he was working with a whole fresh clam bait. A little while later we netted his 20-pound striper. That was that. No more hits. One hit, one fish, but a worthwhile addition to the cooler, and a good-sized striper for the bay. That’s been the saving grace for all this clamming effort we’re doing: the size of the fish. They’re all between 15 and 25 pounds, averaging 17 or 18. That’s a healthy-sized run for May in the bay. We’re not catching big quantities, but I’ll keep fishing for that size. I have room on our open-boat Thursday afternoon for one more person. Depart at noon. The early marine forecast looks like a very good chance of getting out into the ocean to troll for the big stripers. If they change it, or they’re wrong, we’ll stay in the bay and target the big blues and stripers on clams. We’ll sail twice every day from Saturday through Tuesday. Departure times and decisions about ocean or bay will be dictated by weather and the tide. Five-hour bay trips or 6-hour ocean or ocean/bay combos. Three people max (flexible on charters). All fish are shared. Call to reserve a spot.”
Ocean striped bass fishing was on the upswing, a report said Wednesday on Scott’s Bait & Tackle’s website. That was the most recent report at press time, and the stripers were migrating north along the coast. Boaters could search for birds working pods of bunker to locate the stripers. Then the anglers could troll along the edges of the pods. Or they could drift the boat toward the bunker, snag the baitfish and liveline it for bait, or jig the stripers. Bluefish 8 to 20 pounds schooled Great Bay, biting almost anything. Use wire leaders for the toothy fish. The report was posted before Saturday’s opening of summer flounder season, and the shop’s crew were gearing up for a busy weekend for the opener. All flounder supplies were stocked.
Surf fishing was on fire at Brigantine, a report said Friday on Riptide Bait & Tackle’s website. The angling was also great Saturday, the shop’s Facebook page said. Drum 30 to 40 pounds were dragged in, and 40-inch striped bass and some blues were picked off. A good showing of kingfish were plucked from the surf this weekend. Today in the surf, strong current was tough to fish, and weeds were brutal. A charter boat trolled a 35.6-pound striper from the ocean on a Mojo, and had another knock down. Bunker were marked deep during the trip. The Riptide Spring Striper and Bluefish Derby was wrapped up Sunday. Winners and prizes for the striper division were: first place, Gary Hill, 33-pound 3-ouncer, $500; second place, Phil Moses, 32-pound 4-ouncer, $300; and third place, “Reds” Wilborn, 31-pound 14-ouncer, $150. Winners for bluefish were: first place, Rodney Wert, 15-pound 14-ouncer, $300; second place, Ron Alia, $200; and third place, Keith Marnell, 13 pounds, $100. Entry was $25 and, like every year, included a permit to drive Brigantine’s front beach, when accompanied by a Brigantine Beach buggy permit. Without the Brigantine permit, not the entire beach can be driven.
Anglers on foot plucked kingfish from Absecon Inlet and the nearby surf on bloodworms, said Noel from One Stop Bait & Tackle. The T-jetty, at the ocean end of the inlet, and the Pacific Avenue jetty fished best for them, though the Pacific Avenue jetty is difficult to reach, and anglers need to crawl around rocks and so on. Off Atlantic Avenue also produced some. The shore anglers still caught some striped bass from the inlet and nearby surf, two hours before and after tides, on fresh bunker and fresh clams. A couple of bluefish were still angled in the same areas on fresh bunker. Photos posted on the shop’s Facebook page included 45-inch and 32-inch stripers, this 44-1/2-inch 27.8-pound striper, this big striper, this blue, this 22-inch 4.1-pound weakfish and more. A few summer flounder, not many, but some, were bagged from the surf at the T and from the inlet off the Flagship on this opening weekend of flounder season. Minnows, favorite flounder bait, are $6 a pint if you Check In to One Stop on Facebook when at the store. Eight dollars is the usual price. Baits stocked include all those mentioned and more, a large supply. Fresh bunker are $2 apiece or three for $5. Bloodworms are on special on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for $20 for two dozen. Cash-in on your catch: sign up for the shop’s free tournament until Sunday that will award $250, $150 and $100 for first through third places, respectively, for the three heaviest stripers caught from land in Atlantic City. Registration is required before making the catch, and the fish must be weighed at the store.
Sea Isle City
Summer flounder or fluke season opened this weekend, but weather was rough both days, so a trip slated for Saturday fished Friday instead aboard, said Capt. Joe Hughes from Jersey Cape Guide Service and Sea Isle Bait & Tackle. A few flounder to 4 ½ pounds were released on the back bay on the trip, on Gulp shrimp bounced along bottom on lead jigheads. Flounder anglers reeled in some of the fish during the weekend on the bay, not great fishing, mostly because of the conditions. Joe will keep after flounder on the bay, and bluefish swam the bay sporadically. They were smaller than the bay’s blues previously, typical for the time of year. Currently they weighed 2 to 4 pounds, sometimes 5. Striped bass fishing, on popper plugs and popper-flies, should only improve on the bay this fishing season for Joe. Water was just warming enough for the bass to smash poppers. The angling, drawing explosive, visual bites along the water surface, is a specialty aboard. So is the flounder fishing, and flounder catches can be best in the state in the early season in South Jersey’s shallow, warm back bays. Keep up with Joe’s fishing on Jersey Cape’s Blog.
“Drum are biting,” Capt. Jim from Fins & Grins Sport Fishing wrote in a text during a trip Sunday evening aboard, and included several photos of the fish. He telephoned minutes afterward, saying the trip was fishing Delaware Bay, and catching. Two of the fish in the photos were from that day, and one was from the previous day, aboard. He couldn’t speak long, but trips are drumming on the bay. Summer flounder fishing was a little slow on the back bay on this opening weekend of flounder fishing, in cool water. Sea bass season opened today, and Fins fishes for all species available. Trips are slated to fish daily, and reservations aren’t required but suggested. Telephone for availability.
Two drum were boated already, and another was landed, when Capt. George from the Heavy Hitter gave this report on a trip Sunday evening in a phone call on Delaware Bay. The third was hooked, fought and gaffed aboard, as he spoke. The first two weighed 20 and 40 pounds, and the third weighed 40. That was with Ray DeCrane’s charter, and lots of sharks and skates bit. The angling was mostly slow for the fleet, fishing on the New Jersey side of the bay, 1 ½ miles north of Cape May Canal. On boats that fished for them Friday, some trips heaved in a good catch, like seven or eight, and the rest caught one or two. George wasn’t asked whether a trip fished Saturday aboard, and he didn’t mention Saturday. Weather was rough that day, and maybe no trip sailed because of that. On Sunday’s trip, a light breeze blew, but seas were a 1-foot roll, calm, not bad. A little drizzle fell. A couple of boats during the trip heard the fish drumming, and George heard none so far on the outing. Whenever he hears drumming, he seems not to catch. Sea bass season opened today, and trips for them are available on the ocean.