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New Jersey
Saltwater Fishing Report

Report from Monday, March 18.

| Keyport | Leonardo | Belmar | Brielle | Point Pleasant Beach | Toms River | Forked River | Absecon | Atlantic City | Sea Isle City | Last Week's Report |
IN WINTER THROUGH EARLY SPRING,
THIS REPORT IS UPDATED
EVERY MONDAY, AND A FEW UPDATES
ARE POSTED EVERY THURSDAY,
SOMETIMES ON OTHER DAYS

THE REPORT IS FULLY UPDATED
EVERY MONDAY AND THURSDAY
AFTERWARD THROUGH FALL
Keyport
Fishing will be launched for the year with an open-boat trip for striped bass on Sunday, April 7, with Down Deep Sportfishing, Capt. Mario said. The trip will fish Raritan Bay, and the first trips will probably fish with clams for the bass. Open trips and charters will sail regularly beginning then. Telephone about available dates, and updates about the schedule are usually posted in the reports on Down Deep’s website once Down Deep gets rolling for the year. The crew looks forward to the striper fishing, and the catches were great aboard last spring. Charters are available for up to 15 passengers.

Capt. Frank will splash the Vitamin Sea by the end of the week, make shakedown runs afterward and kick off fishing two weekends from now, he wrote in an email. That will be on open-boat trips for striped bass Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7, on Raritan Bay. Telephone if interested. Great dates are still available for striper fishing on the boat. If you haven’t booked your trips, please do, he said. Both a.m. and p.m. trips will fish. Capts. T.J and Craig will be back to help with the work load this coming season. Great dates also remain for fluke trips that fish after stripers depart, and those should be booked now, too. Gulps for fluke bait will be available to customers at cost. All the key colors were just ordered, including Salmon Red. That makes fishing affordable and fun. “Our rates have not changed in years,” he wrote. Follow Vitamin Sea on Facebook for the latest reports and the open-boat schedule. ***Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** Frank had considered launching the boat today or tomorrow, but will probably drop-in the vessel this weekend, because of stormy weather currently, he said. He heard about stripers hooked in the bay already, and even bluefish, though this was especially early for blues. Were the stripers also caught from shore? Yes, he said. Catches of stripers were made at night around the full moon this week, reportedly. Maybe it’s going to be an early “season,” he said.

Leonardo
The boat is hoped to be splashed before Easter, said Capt. Joe from Sour Kraut Sportfishing. Then trips will fish for striped bass on Raritan Bay. He always searches for the fish with trolled Stretch plugs first. If fishing with clams is best for the stripers, the trips will clam. But the trolling is usually best for him that time of year. Trips around then will mix in blackfishing, too. Blackfish season will be open in April and closed afterward. The year’s first stripers were reportedly reeled from the back of Raritan Bay, where the water’s warmest. The fishing depends on weather. When nights rise above freezing, the fishing improves quickly. Daytimes can still be in the 50 degrees and 60s. But that nighttime freezing is key. Weekends are booking quickly, and only a couple of weekend dates remain in April. May is more open, and this is the time to reserve those dates. Joe recently returned from fishing from Los Suenos, Costa Rica. He fished inshore, and that’s really an overlooked, phenomenal fishery. His catches included going 8 for 9 on roosterfish and landing snappers and jacks. Most anglers target the offshore fishing for sailfish, tuna and marlin.

Belmar
Winter flounder fishing was slow, Bob from Fisherman’s Den wrote in an email. Customers fish for them in Shark River, running past the shop. Anglers will see if warmer weather will pick up the catches. Striped bass were rumored caught in the Toms and Manasquan Rivers. Some were supposedly hooked from Barnegat Bay, too. A few bluefish were reportedly landed from Barnegat Bay and Raritan River, though this was early for blues. Bunker supposedly schooled the Raritan, and a big kill of bunker was even reported from the river. Get your tackle ready, because things are looking up, Bob suggests. For freshwater, trout gear is being stocked for the opening of trout season April 6. ***Update, Friday, 3/22:*** Some winter flounder are beginning to be hooked from Shark River, Bob wrote in an email. That fishery should open up as the season’s weather becomes a little warmer and sunnier. Striped bass, mostly throwbacks, are biting in back waters from Raritan Bay to Mullica River. A few keepers are being wormed in the back of the Raritan around the Amboys. Bloodworms, sandworms and fresh clams are stocked. Lots of new rods and reels are stocked for all kinds of fishing from surf angling to trout fishing. Stop by and browse.

Brielle
Small striped bass were plucked from the Toms River and Barnegat Bay, said Bob from The Reel Seat. A few bluefish were angled from that Barnegat area and Raritan Bay, unusually. The bluefish migration usually arrives in mid-April. Winter flounder catches were almost nonexistent, maybe because of cold water.

***Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** The next fishing is supposed to sail
for cod Saturday and Sunday on the Jamaica II, the party boat’s Facebook page said last week. Contact the vessel to confirm. The boat had been kept in a port a while because of dock repairs. *** Another Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** “Too much wind for Saturday,” the Facebook page said today. “Stay in touch for Sunday.”

Point Pleasant Beach
***Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** Bottom-fishing sailed one to three days a week on the party boat Dauntless on the ocean, Capt. Butch said. The angling was slow, scooping up a few ling and a cod on one day, a few cod and a couple of ling on another. The trips fished in 120-foot depths to 220, and no particular depth in that range fished better than another. The water was 38 to 39 degrees, pretty cold. So the fishing was tough, but the crew is trying to sail every day. The trips are slated for 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. The boat is one of the only, if not the only, that’s scheduled to fish daily from New Jersey this time of season each year.

***Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** The Gambler fished wrecks and rocks 40 miles from shore, at depths 120 to 225 feet, last week on Wednesday, the party boat’s Facebook page said. The fishing was slow, but the next trips were expected to try different areas. Trips are sailing 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, targeting cod, ling and other fish at mid-range wrecks.

Toms River
A striped bass, the year’s first, was brought to Hook House Bait & Tackle, Dennis said. The angler clocked the fish from the Toms River on Saturday and won the $100 gift certificate to the store for the first. Other keepers also came from the river lately, among throwbacks, and striper fishing was great on the river, and getting better. Most were angled at night, and some were hooked at daybreak. The fish were grabbed this morning at Island Heights and Bayville. A customer said the top 4 inches of the river were 50 degrees at Bayville this morning. The river’s striper fishing was slow in the middle of the day lately. The bass were bloodwormed, and fishing for them with lures was good, too. Rapala X-Raps, Yozuri 3D Minnows and Kettle Creek shads were the top sellers for that. The river’s white perch fishing slowed, maybe because stripers were so abundant. Throw a hook in the water, and you’re likely to hook a striper before a chance at a perch. Stripers began to be wormed from Barnegat Bay at Seaside off the docks, too. Stripers were everywhere. Pushes of bunker showed up in Manasquan River and the Sandy Hook area. Winter flounder fishing improved beginning Saturday. One angler limited out on two Sunday on the Toms. Two anglers on a boat limited this weekend on a trip on that river. One of their flounder had mud on its back, and the others did not. There seemed a mix of flounder just coming out of the mud and others that were out and about a while. Dennis’s nephew limited on flounder off Pelican Island. A few flounder and stripers were heard about from the Mantoloking Bridge area, too. A few bluefish were rumored caught in the Barnegat Bay area, and anglers said they saw photos on Facebook. But Dennis saw no blues first-hand, and the earliest he ever saw blues locally was in the final week of March 2016. He’s lived along the Toms all his life. Blues traditionally show up around April 12 or 13 locally. No blues were even heard about from Delaware yet. Usually blues are reported from there. Then they’re reported from the Atlantic City area, and quickly they arrive locally afterward. Bloodworms are stocked. For freshwater, shiners, killies, nightcrawlers and garden worms are carried. Hook House, located on Route 37, also owns Go Fish Bait & Tackle on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River.

Forked River
***Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** A couple of keeper striped bass to 30 inches were reported socked in the Toms River during the weekend, said Mike from Grizz’s Bait & Tackle. Seemed a good sign, he said. A few white perch and winter flounder nibbled in the river. No flounder were heard about from farther south yet. Baits stocked include bloodworms, large and small minnows, nightcrawlers and salted clams. The usual baits for this time of year are carried. Chum for flounder fishing is on hand. The shop is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Absecon
The year’s second keeper striped bass was seen yesterday at Absecon Bay Sportsman Center, Capt. Dave said. That was in a video the angler shared on the store’s Facebook page to win a prize for the year’s first to catch-and-release a keeper and share the video. The angler won a $100 gift certificate to the store for that, and caught the fish from Great Egg Harbor River on a lure. The angler reported good fishing for smaller stripers on lures on the trip, too. Striper fishing seemed to be improving in somewhat warming, sunnier weather. Dave expects the angling to break loose now, including because spring begins later this week, and the full moon is in the next day or so. The moon should get stripers moving around. Stripers have mostly bitten in rivers so far. But a friend had a couple of good bites, though never hooked the stripers, in the bay yesterday behind Atlantic City. Dave also heard about other stripers, small ones, from bays recently. More should be heard about from bays now. Lots of throwback stripers have been bloodwormed from brackish rivers, and more and more have been heard about that were hooked on lures. White perch fishing was great on the rivers. Two newbies came in yesterday with a bucketful of large. Grass shrimp seemed scarce, but if anglers could scrounge up some, the shrimp nabbed the perch best. But plenty were bloodwormed. The worms are stocked, and the store is all geared up for fishing. Prizes from the store remain for some of the year’s first stripers brought in, including the second and third keepers, the first from a woman, and the first from kids. Click the link to see.

Atlantic City
A few striped bass, one here and there, small ones, began to be beaned from the back bay, like along bridges, said Bill from Fin-Atics. There weren’t many of the fish biting, but some were heard about. At the bridges, most anglers fished soft-plastic lures for them. A few of the bass were bloodwormed. A few stripers and white perch were talked about from Great Egg Harbor River. Bloodworms are stocked.

Sea Isle City
Capt. Joe Hughes from Jersey Cape Guide Service and Sea Isle Bait & Tackle worked on prepping the boat this weekend, he said. He’ll kick off his fishing soon from Sea Isle for the year, beginning with striped bass fishing on the back bay. He heard third-hand reports about stripers angled from the bay at places like Wildwood and Cape May, and is sure he’d catch if he tried. He wouldn’t expect to bail them, but he fishes for the bass with soft-plastic lures on jigheads and Clouser Minnow flies on sinking lines this time of year. He works them slowly along bottom. He didn’t know the bay’s temperature currently but guessed that the water was in the low 40 degrees. See the traveling charters webpage on Jersey Cape’s website. Traveling trips fish the Florida Keys through Easter. Keep up with Joe’s fishing on Jersey Cape’s Blog.

Last Week's Report
Report from Monday, 3/11:

Keyport

The Vitamin Sea will be splashed in about the last week of March, ready to fish during the first week of April, Capt. Frank wrote in an email. The year’s first open-boat trips are slated to fish for striped bass Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7. Telephone to reserve. The fish might begin biting early, because little snow fell this winter. Good dates are still available for charters for stripers and fluke. Fluke regulations look like they’ll be the same as last year. Gulps will be available for sale at a reduced price aboard for fluke bait. Both newcomers and expert anglers are welcome aboard. Some of the East Coast’s best anglers are customers. Give us a try, Frank said. Raritan Bay and surrounding waters are the boat’s home. “We are not a transient boat,” he wrote. “With over 40 years experience we can put you on the fish.” Frank and crew make every effort to provide a great day on the water, he said. Get your dose of Vitamin Sea!

Atlantic Highlands

No catches were heard about, said Joe from Julian’s Bait & Tackle. That included striped bass from shore from Raritan Bay that are usually some of the year’s first. The warmer water there usually triggers bites. The store is open, and baits stocked include worms. Fresh clams are expected to be carried soon.

Neptune

***Update, Thursday, 3/14:*** Here we go: Last Lady Fishing Charters will kick off fishing soon, Capt. Ralph wrote in an email. The first trips will steam for cod and blackfish in April. Blackfish season reopens that month. Fishing for striped bass and sea bass will sail next. Some choice dates on weekends remain for charters, and those booked before April will lock in 2018 prices. See 2019’s prices at LastLadyFishing.com. Ralph will announce individual-reservation trips soon.

Belmar

Bob from Fisherman’s Den saw no winter flounder but heard about a few landed from Shark River since flounder season opened on March 1, he wrote in an email. Weather was rough since the opener, and on a few days when weather was somewhat warmer and was sunny, anglers appeared somewhat more interested in the fishing. Bob didn’t say whether any of the store’s rental boats were available for the angling. But Tom from the store in a previous report here said a couple probably would be by now. No striped bass were known to bite locally since striper season opened on the first of the month. But small stripers reportedly hit in rivers to the south. So did white perch. None of Belmar’s party boats fished lately. But one is supposed to sail for cod later this week. Keep the faith, Bob said. Fishing will kick in soon, like always. The shop will be stocked for whatever angling begins, including for the opening of blackfish season April 1 and the opening of trout season April 6.

Parker Pete’s Fishing Charters will exhibit at the Saltwater Fishing Expo from Friday through Sunday at the New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center in Edison, Capt. Pete said. Stop and say hello. Book trips for this fishing season.

Brielle

Small striped bass seemed to begin to be picked away in Manasquan River upstream from Route 70 Bridge, said Eric from The Reel Seat. That was mostly on bloodworms, but sometimes on small, 4-inch Fin-S Fish, small, white rubber shads or lures like that. This seemed only a beginning to some fishing, but a start. White perch, small stripers, a few keepers, and a few winter flounder were angled from the Toms River. That was also mostly on bloodworms, but the stripers were sometimes nailed on small soft-plastic lures or small hard plugs. No flounder were reported caught locally. But some are usually taken from Barnegat Bay off Bay Avenue this time of year.

Repairs to the dock kept the Jamaica II from fishing last weekend, the party boat’s Facebook page said. But the vessel is expected to sail for cod next weekend. ***Update, Thursday, 3/14:*** The dock repairs will keep the boat from fishing this weekend, the Facebook page said. Trips are expected to fish Saturday and Sunday, March 23 and 24, for cod.

Point Pleasant Beach

***Update, Thursday, 3/14:*** Bottom-fishing sailed a couple of days now and then, including yesterday, on the party boat Dauntless on the ocean, Capt. Butch said. The angling was slow, sometimes picking up ling, cod or blackfish. The blackfish are out-of-season and were released. Yesterday’s trip fished in 100-foot depths to 200, just looking for a bite. But the trips mostly fished the deep in 180 to 200. Hardly anything bit shallower. The ocean was 38 degrees from the beach to the fishing grounds. Though the angling is slow this time of year, the crew is trying to fish every day on the trips. The outings are slated for 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. The boat is one of the only, if not the only, that’s scheduled to fish every day through winter from New Jersey. Christmas is the only day no trip is slated each year.

Fishing was weathered out recently on the Gambler, the party boat’s Facebook page said. But trips are slated to fish Wednesdays through Sundays, and forecasts look great for Wednesday. The trips, sailing 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., are targeting cod, ling and other fish at wrecks 20 miles from the coast. Weather also looks good for Thursday. Rain might fall Friday, but the weekend also looks good. Catch the crew at the Gambler’s booth at the Saltwater Fishing Expo on Friday through Sunday at the New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center in Edison. The boat’s fall tuna schedule will be unveiled at the show, specials will be available and Gambler T-shirts and hats will be for sale at a discount that’s only offered once a year. Capt. Bob will be at the show, and Capt. Mike will run the trips this weekend. ***Update, Thursday, 3/14:*** Weather looked great for Wednesday’s trip, the boat’s Facebook page said Tuesday. That trip was expected to sail. Today’s and Friday’s trips are canceled, it said.

Toms River

The cold and ice that formed slowed the Toms River’s fishing last week, said Dennis from Hook House Bait & Tackle. White perch, striped bass and a few winter flounder were yanked from the river previously. Weather is improved this week, so maybe they’ll chomp again. The water temperature had dropped 5 degrees because of the weather. But the recent rain raised the temperature back up 4 degrees. So that was good. Bloodworms fished on bottom caught most of the fish lately. Sometimes the stripers had also been grabbed on soft-plastic lures or rubber shads before the cold. The stripers were mostly hooked at night. They were located all along the brackish river, including at Ocean Gate, Island Heights and Beachwood. A few stripers were also played on Barnegat Bay behind Seaside. No flounder were heard about since the cold. This week might be the first when anglers really see what flounder fishing’s going to be like this season. Before the cold, a few flounder were nabbed in the Toms and at Pelican Island. Bloodworms, shiners, killies, nightcrawlers and garden worms are stocked. Hook House, located on Route 37, also owns Go Fish Bait & Tackle on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River.

Forked River

***Update, Thursday, 3/14:*** Many customers who fished for winter flounder worked northern Barnegat Bay up to Mantoloking Bridge, said Mike from Grizz’s Bait & Tackle. But flounder, white perch and striped bass were also winged from the Toms River. Mike knew about a keeper striper, 30 inches, from there. Bloodworms and salted clams are stocked. Minnows arrived today for freshwater fishing. Anglers were itching to get out. The shop is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Absecon

Anglers didn’t like last week’s cold, said Capt. Dave from Absecon Bay Sportsman Center. But a few fished, and weather looks better this week. The anglers pulled in white perch from brackish rivers like the Mullica that he heard about. Throwback stripers are also biting in places like that. Too few fished for a keeper to be heard about. But he expects keepers to come in this week if weather’s better. The year’s first keeper was brought to the shop on March 1, covered in a previous report here. The second keeper was yet to arrive, and prizes from the store are up for grabs for the second and some of the year’s first other stripers. See the prizes here. Plenty of bloodworms are stocked. Dave had been netting grass shrimp to stock, but the shrimp became scarce, and none are carried currently.

Ocean City

White perch were plucked from Great Egg Harbor River, said Bill from Fin-Atics. Surely striped bass roamed the river, but nobody mentioned catching any. Bloodworms, a bait for either, might be stocked beginning this weekend. The store is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Sea Isle City

Capt. Joe Hughes from Jersey Cape Guide Service and Sea Isle Bait & Tackle expects to pick away at striped bass on the back bay soon this month to early April, he said. The bluefish migration usually invades the bay by tax day, April 15. Then all mayhem breaks loose on the bay. The blues, stripers, weakfish and out-of-season summer flounder can be reeled from the bay then. That’s one of the best times of year for fishing aboard. The flounder are released until flounder season opens. Flounder season is yet to be announced but usually opens in late May. Joe Pewdo jumped aboard traveling trips to the Florida Keys on Saturday and Sunday with Joe. The fishing was great, cranking in catches including snappers, jacks, a bunch of lemon sharks and a 25-pound permit. The sharking was sight-fishing along shallow flats. The permit jumped on a jig with a shrimp. A little breeze blew, but weather was good. See the traveling charters webpage on Jersey Cape’s website. Keep up with his fishing on Jersey Cape’s Blog.

Avalon

The bluefish migration will show up in April in the back bay, Capt. Jim from Fins and Feathers Outfitters hopes, he said. That’s usually some of his year’s first fishing. The run was strong two years ago. Last year, the blues showed up, but more did the previous year. Every year can be different. He’s busy guiding snow goose hunts in Pennsylvania through Wednesday and at New York’s Finger Lakes afterward. Snow and cold pushed the geese south last week. But weather was in the 40 degrees during the weekend. He hopes that brought the migration back north. He had a hunt scheduled for today that he hoped scored well. April is usually prime for steelhead fishing on Salmon River from Jim’s nearby lodge in upstate New York. Many guests currently kept booking for snowmobiling. Lots of snow covered the ground. Openings will be available after Saturday. A discount is available for the lodge, but only on Airbnb.