Report from Monday, 2/24:
What a difference warm, sunny weather makes, Bob from Fisherman’s Den wrote in an email. “We had two great days,” he said, and a good crowd fished on one of the Belmar party boats, and a healthy number of others fished rivers and lakes. Business was good, and fishing was mediocre, mostly for cod and ling on the ocean. Out-of-season winter flounder were hooked in Shark River, and Bob hopes that the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council will open the season longer at the council’s next meeting, so flounder can be bagged on days like these. Bob with friends visited the Jersey Shore Surf Casters’ annual Surf Day on Saturday at Brookdale Community College. Everybody had a good time, he said, and he saw many great striper anglers he’s had the fortune to fish with. “Hope we see more days like the last two,” Bob said.
Cod and ling were picked, and an occasional blackfish was managed, from the ocean, said Capt. Pete from Parker Pete’s Fishing Charters. Blackfish season will be closed in March, reopening in April. He ran no trips, and is exhibiting at outdoor shows, and giving a couple of seminars, lately. But a few party boats are sailing, and the fishing is slow, even far from shore. But that’s typical for the time of year, and anglers basically jump on the trips because of cabin fever. Pete will next exhibit at The Saltwater Fishing Expo in Somerset, New Jersey, from March 14 to 16. Print a coupon from the show’s website for a discount on a charter with Parker Pete’s.
Fishing was just fair again on the party boat Jamaica II, Capt. Joe wrote in an email. The anglers picked at some good-sized cod, a few pollock “and some big fat ling,” he said. The fish bit best in 240 feet, and all were taken on clams. Ernie Kostsitski from Cranford cracked a 19-pound cod and five ling, and Eddy Crane from Mahwah decked two cod to 12 pounds, two pollock and five ling. The Jamaica II is sailing for cod, pollock and ling at 3 a.m. every Saturday and for ling and cod at 5 a.m. every Sunday.
The ocean was cold, and fishing for cod seemed so-so on a few party boats that still sailed this winter, said John from The Reel Seat. Striped bass season will be opened Saturday in bays and rivers, and waters are too cold locally this time of year for stripers to bite, like along Mantoloking Bridge on Barnegat Bay. The fish are usually hooked farther away at Oyster Creek in the early season. That’s the warm-water discharge for the Forked River power plant. But fishing even sounded tough there this year, because of cold waters. The Reel Seat was moved to a new location at 707 Union Avenue in Brielle this month. That’s Route 71, and the new store is 4,100 square feet, compared with 1,500 at the old shop. The store will be open Wednesdays through Sundays starting this week, and was open Fridays through Sundays previously.
Point Pleasant Beach
Was a beautiful day on the ocean, Capt. Matt from the party boat Norma-K III wrote about Saturday aboard. The anglers picked away at cod and ling, nothing great, but action, he said. Robert Rusnack from Point Pleasant won the pool with a cod just less than 25 pounds. Fishing was best at the first couple of drops, and currents that became stronger through the day slowed catches. Winds kicked up somewhat on the ride home, but were calm most of the day. On Sunday’s trip, seas were flat calm, and air temperatures were mild, and this was a day to be out, if anglers had cabin fever, Matt said. But fishing was slow, “to be quite honest … like fishing in a desert!” he said. Only a handful of ling were bagged, and just a handful of throwback cod bit. Trips are expected to fish this weekend if the weather is fair.
***Update, Tuesday, 2/25:*** Murphy’s Hook House will be open Friday through Sunday, Dennis said. The shop’s been closed for a winter break, and baits stocked will include bloodworms, fresh clams, a few killies, garden worms and probably nightcrawlers. Killies were difficult to obtain, but a half-gallon will be on hand. A few anglers fished Oyster Creek, the warm-water discharge from the Forked River power plant. A few striped bass and winter flounder, both out-of-season, and speckled sea trout were hooked there. Striper season will be opened Saturday in bays and rivers, and a couple of kids landed and released some on 3- and 4-inch rubber shads at the creek. Winter flounder season will be opened March 23, according to regulations posted on New Jersey Fish and Wildlife’s website, and Dennis expects good fishing for them locally. The specks in the creek obviously held over from the warmer months. Nothing was heard about freshwater fishing, but ice that covered freshwater mostly thawed by Saturday, including on Toms River. Lagoons also thawed. Murphy’s will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Dennis will also open another store at the former Go Fish Bait & Tackle on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River this year, probably starting March 14.
***Update, Thursday, 2/27:*** The season will be kicked off Saturday at Scott’s Bait & Tackle, Brian said. The shop will be opened that day and daily afterward, except will be closed Tuesdays, like usual. The store is usually open year-round, but was closed this winter for repairs from Hurricane Sandy. Bloodworms, fresh, shucked clams and minnows will be stocked. Live grass shrimp will be carried if possible, but whether the shrimp will be available was unknown. Brian wasn’t asked where the shrimp would come from, but Scott the owner usually nets them, so apparently the shrimp will be stocked if Scott can catch the crustaceans. Striped bass season will be opened Saturday in rivers and bays, and the store’s annual $100 gift certificate will be awarded to the angler who weighs-in the season’s first keeper striper from nearby Graveling Point. Some of the state’s first stripers of the year are traditionally caught there. Graveling is the shore-angling spot at the confluence of Mullica River and Great Bay. The fish are hooked there because the river’s warm waters attract them along the flats of the bay, and simply because anglers can access the location. The prize has been awarded anytime from March 1 to the end of March in past years, but never later than March. Bloodworms will be the bait to dunk for the stripers at first during the season. The worms are easy for the bass to digest during slow metabolism in cold waters. But some anglers will want to fish clams right away, and clams will become a favorite bait as waters warm. Weather and waters were cold, and thin ice covered the lagoon behind the shop today. The temperature’s supposed to drop to 9 degrees tonight. White perch should be able to be caught from the Mullica, and Chris from the store was tempted to try for them during last weekend’s warmer weather, but didn’t, he said. Anglers fish for the perch, and sometimes stripers, on the river at places like Hay Road. That’s another shore-angling location.
***Update, Thursday, 2/27:*** Bloodworms will be stocked Friday at Absecon Bay Sportsman Center, Capt. Dave said. That’s because striped bass season will be opened Saturday in bays and rivers. Weather was cold, though, and lots of ice covered waters today. But the shop’s annual gift certificates will be awarded for the season’s first several stripers weighed-in, and the angler who checked-in last year’s first telephoned this week, Dave wrote on the shop’s Facebook page. The angler wanted to confirm that the prizes will be awarded this year, saying “some hungry cows (are) around, and he can hook one,” Dave wrote. Dave will be at the shop at 6 a.m. Saturday, waiting for the first. The prizes will be: a $200 gift certificate to the store for the first keeper weighed-in; a $100 certificate for the second; a $50 certificate for the third; a $100 certificate for the first larger than 20 pounds; and a $100 certificate for the first larger than 30. Plus, an additional $100 certificate will be awarded to the angler who weighs-in the first who Liked the shop’s Facebook page and joined the page’s event named 1st Striper 2014. Kids’ prizes will also be awarded: a Sea Striker rod and reel combo for the first boy and girl age 12 or younger to catch and check-in a keeper striper. Weather was warmer last weekend, and the store then sold a flat of bloodworms, the season’s first stocked at shop, to anglers who planned to fish. But no results were heard, and cold weather returned afterward, so fishing news was scarce. The store’s been open for no regular hours this winter, but Dave will be around the shop on Friday, and the doors will definitely be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Dave will see how business goes afterward to determine future hours. But the store will probably be open something like 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Fishing was good at Dave’s Guatemala charter business, where summer is now. Warm waters draw in sailfish, dorados and other catches close to shore there this time of year.
***Update, Thursday, 2/27:***Riptide Tide Bait & Tackle will be opened Saturday for the first time this year, Capt. Andy said. The store was closed for a winter break, and bloodworms and all the frozen baits will be stocked. Riptide’s Striper Bounty, awarded to the angler who weighs-in the season’s first striped bass 43 inches or larger from Brigantine’s surf, was never won last fall. So the prize money, currently $1,200, will be awarded to the angler who checks-in the first this winter or spring. If anglers signed up last fall, they’re already registered. For those who haven’t registered, entry is only $5. Anglers must register at least 24 hours before entering a fish. The money was rolled over last spring like that, after nobody won that fall. Last spring, the bounty reached $2,005, and was won on May 27 with a 46-inch 32-pound 6-ounce striper. A $50 gift certificate will also be awarded to the angler who stops in with the year’s first keeper striper from Brigantine’s surf. Another will also be awarded to the angler who comes in with the first keeper from a boat off Brigantine. No registration is necessary for those two prizes. Riptide will be open daily starting Saturday. The doors will be open at 7 a.m. that day, and are usually open at 7 or 8 a.m. during the week. When fishing picks up, the hours will be expanded.
The Stray Cat steamed 35 miles from shore on Saturday, Capt. Mike said. Weather finally broke, but the ocean was 38 degrees or cold. Only dog sharks and conger eels bit, and no cod or pollock did. So he scrubbed a trip for Sunday, telling the anglers the fishing wasn’t good, and he hopes to fish again this coming Saturday and Sunday, or if not, the following Saturday and Sunday, or whenever the weather is good enough again. Waters might start to warm, and Mike and the boat are ready to fish for the season. The trips are open-boat, and telephone to reserve.
Sea Isle City
Capt. Joe Hughes from Jersey Cape Guide Service and Sea Isle Bait & Tackle expects to catch his season’s first striped bass soon or within a couple of weeks on the back bay, he said. Those will be non-migrating stripers that live in the bay year-long, becoming active enough to bite, because of warming waters. By mid-April, bluefish and weakfish will migrate to the bay, and fishing will be in “full swing,” he said. Anglers should book trips now. Lots of out-of-season summer flounder will also be caught and released from the bay in April and early May. Joe will fish with 3/8-ounce jigheads tipped with Bass Assassin, Fin-S Fish or Gulp soft-plastic lures slowly along bottom for all these fish. Outgoing, warmer tides in afternoons and sunny days will fish best in the early season, because of water warmth. Places like creek mouths on those tides will attract the fish, again for warmth. Joe is currently guiding traveling charters to the Florida Keys, offering the trips each winter. See Jersey Cape’s traveling charters Web page. Keep up with Joe’s fishing on Jersey Cape’s blog.
***Update, Tuesday, 2/25:*** Fins and Feathers Outfitters will launch the season’s saltwater fishing in April aboard, and is currently hunting snow geese, Capt. Jim said. The fishing usually begins with striped bass trips on Delaware Bay. There the anglers usually fish with clams, but sometimes the trips will troll for stripers on the ocean then. Charters for drum on Delaware Bay usually begin in late April, fishing through May. The full moon in May is usually the peak. One of Jim’s guides is currently fly-fishing for trout on Pennsylvania’s Yellow Breeches. Fins and Feathers offers a variety of outdoor adventures. The Yellow Breeches is a spring-fed stream that usually doesn’t freeze, and local hatcheries stock the waters with trout year-round. The next snow-goose trips will hunt on Wednesday and the next three weekends. The guided hunts take place in New Jersey and surrounding states, and Jim saw lots of the geese in Delaware this week. He might hunt there on the next trips. Fins and Feathers also offers salmon and steelhead fishing on upstate New York’s Salmon River and snowmobiling from Jim’s nearby lodge. The steelheading mostly gets under way in April, probably the best month for the angling. Steelheads winter in the river, spawn there in spring, then return to Lake Ontario for summer.