Report from Monday, 2/23:
***Update, Thursday, 2/26:*** In a phone call to Joey’s Bait Shack, a message said the phone was disconnected. The shop seemed yet to open this season and turn on the phone, and nearby Raritan Bay was reportedly frozen, anyway. The bay there is one of the first places to give up striped bass catches each year. The fish swim the back of the bay, in the shallows, toward the rivers, for warmth. Striper season will be opened starting Sunday in bays and rivers. Fishing for them is open year-round in the ocean. Winter flounder season will be opened starting the same day, in all waters. Flounder might bite in rivers first, during the season. Afterward, they’ll migrate to the bay, trekking toward the ocean to spend spring and summer. Both surf anglers and boaters will land both stripers and flounder in the bay near the shop in early spring. The customers who surf fish will tackle both fish at once during trips at some point during the season. Bluefish invade the water next in spring, becoming a predominant catch. Flounder push to the ocean quickly, once the blues arrive. The flounder seem to try to escape the blues. Stripers begin moving deeper, to cooler water in the bay, by that time.
***Update, Thursday, 2/26:*** See photos of the frozen Shrewsbury River and Raritan Bay on the Hyper Striper’s Facebook page. The photos were shot at Twin Lights Marina, where the boat is docked during the fishing season. “Most ice we’ve had in years,” the page said. Hyper Striper will begin fishing in spring, starting with striped bass charters. The trips should be booked without delay, because the trips do fill. The captain, Pete Wagner, was apparently still chartering from Costa Rica, where he fishes each winter, on the Dream Girl. Catches aboard included 316 sailfish, 223 groupers, nine marlin, 23 mahi mahi and 19 yellowfin tuna from December 29 to February 22, Dream Girl’s Facebook page said.
***Update, Thursday, 2/26:*** Water at the docks wasn’t really frozen, but the wintry weather made it difficult to get time to work on maintenance and upgrades to the boat, even, said Capt. Garrett Laws from Judith Anne Fishing Charters. Fishing aboard is launched during the first week of May, beginning with striped bass trips on the ocean. The trips will search for bunker to castnet the baitfish or snag them on snagging hooks and liveline the menhaden for bait. But if no bunker are schooling, the trips will jig or troll for the stripers. Gear aboard includes downriggers to troll lines deep, helping make room to fish multiple lines, instead of using wire lines that could crowd up. Work and upgrades to the boat include side-scanning sonar, a new heater, an inverter for the microwave and coffee maker, seat cushions for better comfort, paint, inspecting all safety equipment, and more.
Been a long winter, Bob from Fisherman’s Den wrote in an email. Boats were mostly docked, and the store is open “on a limited basis,” he said. Not much fishing happened. But he hopes “that will change when March arrives, and maybe some warmer weather,” he said. Winter flounder season will be opened starting Sunday, the first day of March. Striped bass season will also be opened that day in bays and rivers. Striper fishing is open year-round in the ocean. The openings were something for anglers to look forward to. Some of the shop’s rental boats will be available to fish for flounder on Shark River, once flounder season is opened. A new striper bag limit should be approved by the opener. Many anglers are unhappy about the option that’s likely to be approved: one striper 28 inches to less than 43 inches, and one 43 inches or larger, per day, per angler. That’s compared with the current limit of two stripers 28 inches or larger. “Most say (the new regs) will do nothing to protect the larger breeding fish,” Bob said. “I have to agree. We will have to work with what we are given, and hope for the best. Keep warm and safe … .”
For Parker Pete’s Fishing Charters, fishing will begin for the season whenever that becomes possible in weather, Capt. Pete said. A couple of party boats, larger vessels, fished from Belmar currently, now and then. If catches like blackfish or cod can be made in April, trips with Parker Pete’s will begin then. Pete’s pretty confident striped bass will arrive in the ocean in May, and angling aboard will start by then, if not sooner. The striper bag limit is yet to be decided for the year, but a limit of one striper 28 inches to less than 43, and one 43 inches or larger, is apparently going to be the limit. A meeting is supposed to be held March 5 about whether a bonus tag will be available to bag an extra striper. Fluke fishing will be a next angling to sail on the boat, after striper fishing. The fluke bag limit is apparently going to be the same as last year or five fish 18 inches or larger, but the likely dates for fluke season are yet to become apparent. Meet the crew at the Parker Pete’s booth at the Greater Philadelphia Outdoor Sports Show in Oaks, Pa., on Thursday through Sunday, and at the Saltwater Fishing Expo in Somerset, N.J., on March 20 through 22.
No fishing, like on party boats, was heard about, said Alex from The Reel Seat. Only ice fishing, on local lakes and lakes farther north, was reported, for catches like largemouth bass and chain pickerel. Striped bass season will be opened in bays and rivers starting on Sunday. During some years, stripers are bagged at Oyster Creek, the warm-water outflow from the Forked River power plant, when the season is opened. But whether that will happen this year seemed doubtful. Though this winter was slow to become cold, weather’s been cold now, late in the season. That seemed too cold for stripers to bite, even at the creek. If stripers were active enough to chomp, they’d probably be heard about already, and weren’t. Stripers will begin to be hooked in Raritan Bay toward late March. The next free seminar will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the store, with Jimmy Fee from On the Water magazine on fishing Cape Cod Canal. Catch the store at the Berkeley Striper Club fishing flea market on Sunday in Toms River and the Asbury Park Fishing Club flea market on March 8 at Convention Hall. The Reel Seat 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, 2/27:*** No trips fished this week on the party boat Dauntless, but maybe the weather will break now, Capt. Butch said. The crew is trying to sail every day, for ling, cod and blackfish through Saturday, and for ling and cod starting Sunday, because blackfish season will be closed beginning that day. The Dauntless is fishing 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily and is one of the state’s only boats, if not the only, scheduled to fish daily year-round. Christmas is the only day the boat’s not slated to sail each year.
Fishing was cancelled Saturday and Sunday on the party boat Norma-K III, Capt. Matt wrote in a report Friday on the vessel’s website. Friday was another cold day at the dock, and ice floated around. He expected to take advantage of last weekend to work on readying the boat for spring. But he’d see whether fishing could sail this coming weekend aboard. When the boat’s been fishing, it’s been sailing for ling, cod and blackfish on Saturdays and Sundays. Blackfish season will be closed in March that begins on Sunday. Special cod trips, reservations required, were slated recently, but were weathered out. ***Update, Thursday, 2/26:*** “Sailing Saturday and Sunday!” Matt wrote in a report on the boats’ website. The trips will sail 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for ling, cod and blackfish on Saturday and for ling and cod on Sunday, because blackfish season will be closed starting that day. Weather looks fair for the days. “Pretty sure some of you have cabin fever from this weather, so come on out and join us!” he wrote. Work on the boat moved right along in past days, mostly inside the vessel, because of the winter weather. The work included applying non-skid paint in the cabin.
***Update, Thursday, 2/26:*** Murphy’s Hook House will be opened starting Friday for the fishing season, Dennis said. A couple of kids hooked striped bass at Oyster Creek, the warm-water outflow from Forked River power plant, a couple of weeks ago. Nothing was heard about the fishing since, but the creek was almost the only place with open water. Barnegat Bay underneath Pelican Island Bridge was the other. Four to six inches of ice covered almost all other waters. People walked and ice-skated on the bay. Bloodworms and garden worms will be stocked Friday. Dennis planned to stock shiners then, but a pipe froze and broke to the livewell, and that will need to be repaired to stock shiners. Striper season will be opened starting Sunday in bays and rivers, and is open in the ocean year-round. Winter flounder season will be opened starting the same day in all waters. Both fish could be hooked in Oyster Creek in the early seasons, and both could bite in the Toms River, once the ice thaws. Hours will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. After this weekend, the shop will probably be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 6 a.m. on weekends. Murphy’s also owns Go Fish Bait & Tackle on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River, and that store will probably be opened for the season starting next week on Friday, at the earliest. That was yet to be determined.
Maureen from Scott’s Bait & Tackle saw that Collins Cove, on Mullica River, was frozen, when she drove past on Friday, she said in a phone call Saturday. She saw no anglers fishing on the ice, and heard about no ice-fishing there, but the store is closed. The cove, just upstream from Garden State Parkway, is one of the state’s most popular places to ice-fish for white perch. The fish sometimes gather there to escape the colder currents in the main river in winter. The shop will be reopened on Sunday for the year, and Maureen was unsure about the hours it’ll be opened at first. That was yet to be discussed at the store. Sunday is opening day of striped bass season in bays and rivers, and bloodworms and clams will try to be stocked for the opener. Grass shrimp might not be stocked, and Maureen heard Scott, her husband, tell someone that Scott’s too old to net shrimp in winter. She also didn’t like Scott to net the shrimp this season, because of danger. The annual $100 gift certificate to the store will be awarded to the angler who checks-in the year’s first keeper striper from Graveling Point. That’s the shore-angling spot at the confluence of the Mullica and Great Bay that gives up some of the season’s first striper catches each year. The award has been won from March to April in past years, and visit Scott’s Graveling Point webpage to see that history and plenty of practical info about the fishing. Stripers might at least be caught at Oyster Creek, the warm-water discharge from Forked River power plant, when the season is first opened. The fish usually bite there, she said, no matter the cold weather. Scott’s online store, PennParts.com, is open. That features all Penn reel parts currently manufactured, many no longer manufactured, free reel schematics, and other tackle.
Anglers ice-fished on Collins Cove, on Mullica River, last week for white perch, according to another tackle shop, Absecon Bay Sportsman Center’s Facebook page implied. The page shared a photo from the other store on Wednesday that showed anglers fishing the ice. The fishing was on, the other shop’s photo caption said, and that store’s Facebook page on Saturday said lots of anglers fished the ice. Absecon Bay’s page on Wednesday showed a photo of grass shrimp that Capt. Dave Showell, Absecon Bay’s owner, apparently netted to sell. The shrimp are a favorite bait for the perching. On Sunday, Dave took advantage of the “thaw,” he wrote on the page, to change the water in the eel tank. Plenty will probably be stocked for striped bass fishing for the early season, before eels commonly become available from trappers. A couple of customers do eel for stripers up the rivers in the early season. “But how early will that be …?” Dave asked, apparently because rivers have been frozen, and Sunday’s thaw was temporary, according to weather forecasts. “In any case,” he said, “ice or no ice, we are (days) from Opening Day, and I’ll be ready.” He meant the opening of striper season in bays and rivers this Sunday. The store has been open for no regular hours, but Dave has often been at the shop, available for customers, and regular hours will begin for the opener. Anglers can telephone the store for the schedule. ***Update, Thursday, 2/26:*** A photo of Absecon Creek, frozen, at the shop, was posted on the store’s Facebook page this week. Another was posted showing snow falling on the bait tanks today. “I (was) finally seeing some air holes in the creek,” Dave wrote in the caption for the photo of the creek. “But no way will be looking at striper water on Sunday.” He hoped he was wrong about that, but didn’t plan to stock fresh or live bait for the opener. He did hear about stripers hooked at Oyster Creek, the warm-water discharge from the Forked River power plant. “So if you catch a legal fish … and want to weight it in, it will count for the first striper contest,” he said. But don’t show up before 8 a.m., he said! He’ll be around at the shop, and isn’t holding a sale. But he’s willing to play Let’s Make a Deal, he said.
At Fin-Atics, Bill had just been beating off ice from the docks, he said. There was no fishing to report, and the main back bay began to thaw on Sunday, and was frozen previously. Rivers had been frozen, too, and the day was warmer than recently, but cold returned today. Striped bass season will be opened starting this coming Sunday, the first day of March, in bays and rivers. Stripers are usually landed on rivers, like Great Egg Harbor River, at first, during the season. That’s unlikely to happen in the beginning of March this year. Prospects looked good at first this winter, when the season began relatively warm, and water was in the 40 degrees. The season now turned cold, and the water is in the low 30s. That’ll take time to warm. The bay used to be fished for stripers as soon as the season was opened, at warm water that the Beesley’s Point power plant discharged. The plant now only discharges once a week, too brief. Frozen bait is stocked, and will be for the opener. Live and fresh bait will be carried when fishing picks up. Fin-Atics is open Fridays through Sundays, and will be reopened daily starting on the weekend of March 7. Catch the store’s booth at the Ocean City intermediate school’s fishing flea market that day.
Sea Isle City
***Update, Thursday, 2/26:*** Some of the traveling trips to the Florida Keys will fish this weekend aboard, said Capt. Joe Hughes from Jersey Cape Guide Service and Sea Isle Bait & Tackle. The anglers will chase whatever different fish give the best chance to catch, depending on weather. Joe’s sure tarpon will push around. Fish like jacks are a sure bet. Sight-fishing for sharks – lemons and bonnetheads – is on tap. All of that is in the bay, closer to the Keys. Sometimes the trips will shoot across the bay to the Everglades, in the mainland, for catches that can include snook, redfish, speckled sea trout and more. That can offer protection from wind, or the trips just might want to fish for those species. The trips can also fish the ocean side for catches that can include sailfish and fish along the reef like a variety of snappers. There’s always someplace to fish, no matter the wind direction. See Jersey Cape’s traveling charters Web page. Joe will post photos of the weekend’s fishing on Jersey Cape’s blog, and anglers keep up with his fishing there. Back at Sea Isle City, Joe usually lands his year’s first striped bass during the first half of March, in the back bay. The cold might prevent that this year. He’s one of the first captains to hook stripers each year. But snow was falling like a blizzard when he gave this report this morning in a phone call. The fishing for stripers, and also bluefish, usually breaks wide open by mid-April, in the bay, some of the best angling of the year aboard. The stripers live in the bay year-round, and begin to bite as the bay’s temperature creeps upward in late winter. Joe’s trips will fish for the bass at places like creek mouths that empty warmer water into the bay on outgoing tides. Afternoons can fish best, when the bay’s had a chance to warm up. Soft-plastic lures will be fished for them, and also the blues. The lures are worked slowly, hard along bottom, at first during the season. The fish are sluggish in the cold. The blues migrate to the bay, from the ocean off southern states, around mid-April or earlier. That’s one of the first migrations of fish to arrive from the South each year. The blues remain in the bay in spring a time, and some will remain throughout summer. But the majority of blues move to the ocean in summer. At some point in spring, Joe’s trips will catch stripers, blues, weakfish and summer flounder, all in the bay, at once. Fishing begins with a bang at Sea Isle. South Jersey’s shallow, warm bays are some of the state’s first places to give up fish during the year.