Report from Monday, 3/3:
Striped bass fishing on Raritan Bay will probably be launched during the third week of this month on the Down Deep, Capt. Mario said. Charters and open-boat trips will sail for the bass, and open cod trips will probably also start that week. That all will be the season’s first fishing on the boat. Sign up for the Short Notice List on the Down Deep’s website to be kept informed about open trips.
***Update, Tuesday, 3/4:*** A few striped bass that were plucked from Raritan Bay were known about, Capt. Frank from the Vitamin Sea wrote in an email. But by April, “things should be happening,” he said. The season’s first open-boat trips are slated for Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6, and reserve while space is available. The trips will sail for stripers and winter flounder in the shallow back of the bay, the waters that warm soonest. Charters will also sail for stripers first then fluke. New York’s relaxed fluke regulations this year will enable fluke trips to hit those waters as well as New Jersey’s, so the fishing should be great. Frank just received a delivery of Gulps for that angling. Blackfish trips will sail in fall, and the book is relatively open for charters for all these species. Weekends book fast, so don’t wait if you know a date you want. The boat will probably be splashed during the third week of March. Anybody who books a charter will be given a Vitamin Sea T-shirt this season. Like the Vitamin Sea’s Facebook page for real-time reports and open-boat dates that are expected to be announced at least a week in advance. “Get your dose of Vitamin Sea!”
Julian’s Bait & Tackle was open during the weekend, Jimmy said, and worms and clams were stocked. Striped bass season was opened in bays and rivers this weekend, but nothing was heard about anybody catching any. Nothing was heard about anybody fishing in the cold, really. The shop is open on weekends and will be open on weekdays when weather improves, maybe starting next week.
“Here we go again,” Bob from Fisherman’s Den wrote in an email. “Snow,” he said. “Will we ever get a break?” Another snowstorm was forecast for today. Striped bass season was kicked off this weekend in bays and rivers, but striper anglers seemed reluctant to venture out. Water temperatures were below 40 degrees in bays. Waters everywhere were cold, including the ocean. But one of the Belmar party boats sailed the ocean when weather was fair and enough anglers showed up to go. The trips put together fair catches of cod, ling and other bottom-fish, fishing 200-foot depths, where the ocean was a little warmer than closer to shore. In recent years, winter flounder season was opened on March 23. New Jersey’s Marine Fisheries Council still needs to approve this year’s flounder regulations. But the shop’s crew is working on the rental boats, and the boats and baits will be ready for flounder. Customers fish Shark River, one of the state’s best flounder fisheries, for the black-backs from the boats and bulkheads.
No reports rolled in about striped bass landed, said Eric from The Reel Seat. This was opening weekend of striper season in bays and rivers, but waters were cold for stripers to bite. If anglers really wanted to hook some, they could probably pick stripers at Oyster Creek, the warm-water discharge from the Forked River power plant. But even the creek is cold during cold weather. A couple of warm days in a row were probably needed to pick stripers there. On boats, a few cod were scratched out from the ocean. The Reel Seat was moved to a new location at 707 Union Avenue in Brielle this winter. That’s Route 71, and the new store is 4,100 square feet, compared with 1,500 at the old shop. Catch the sale on S&S bucktails at a 40-percent discount.
Point Pleasant Beach
The party boat Norma-K didn’t fish this weekend, and underwent yearly maintenance instead, Capt. Matt wrote in a report on the vessel’s website. Previously, the boat sailed for cod and ling on weekends, and Matt hopes the trips will resume after the maintenance. He’ll keep anglers posted, he wrote.
***Update, Thursday, 3/6:*** Mostly ling and a few cod and a couple of pollock were cranked aboard the party boat Dauntless, Capt. Butch said. The fishing was slow in cold, 34- to 36-degree waters, but the fish that were caught were sizeable. Trips are fishing deeper than before in 160 to 220 feet, and are scheduled daily, but sailed about twice a week, when enough anglers showed up, and weather was fishable. The Dauntless is bottom-fishing 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily.
Customers bought bait to fish, some of them heading to Oyster Creek, and a couple going to the surf, said Jeff from Murphy’s Hook House. But no results were heard, and waters were cold. Oyster Creek is the warm-water discharge from the Forked River power plant. Striped bass season was opened this weekend in bays and rivers, and Murphy’s was opened for the season during the weekend, after being closed for a winter break. The shop will be closed today and Tuesday, but will be open daily afterward. Another customer bought bait to try to catch and release out-of-season winter flounder on one of the rivers, but, again, no results were heard. Bloodworms, killies, clams, garden worms and frozen baits were stocked. The shop’s owner will open an additional store at the former Go Fish Bait & Tackle on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River, probably during the middle of the month.
Waters were 35 degrees at Graveling Point, Scott’s Bait & Tackle’s Facebook page said. Graveling, the shore-angling spot at the confluence of Great Bay and Mullica River, is always one of the state’s first places to give up striped bass each year. But that’s cold water for stripers to feed in. Striper season was opened this weekend in bays and rivers, and the store’s annual $100 gift certificate for the year’s first striper weighed-in from Graveling is apparently yet to be won. In past years, sometimes the prize was won on March 1, and other times in late March, but always in March. The relatively warm river that meets the flats of the bay attracts the bass at Graveling, and the location is simply accessible. That’s the reason the place turns out stripers in the early season. Visit the store’s Graveling Point Web page for info. Bloodworms, the bait to fish for the bass in the early season, are stocked, according to the store’s website. So are fresh, shucked clams and minnows, and live grass shrimp are out of stock, according to the site. The worms are easy for the stripers to digest in the cold waters in the early season. But clams become the favorite bait as waters warm. The store was opened for the season on Saturday, and is usually open year-round, but was closed this winter for repairs from Hurricane Sandy. As usual, Scott’s is open daily except is closed on Tuesdays. ***Update, Thursday, 3/6:*** The reopening of the shop was great Saturday, Scott said in a phone call. People brought cookies and so on. Then only three customers showed up Sunday, and three more the rest of the week. Waters were cold, reportedly in the low 30s, at Graveling Point. The temp needs to reach 45 degrees for striper fishing to take off , and the shop’s $100 gift certificate for the first weighed-in from Graveling was yet to be won. But live bloodworms, grass shrimp and small minnows, and fresh, shucked clams, are stocked. The state is holding a meeting today in Galloway Township to discuss this year’s summer flounder or fluke regulations. That’s apparently only to gather opinions, before the state decides the regulations it prefers. That decision will reportedly be made in early April, postponed from earlier. Because of the new regional management for the fish, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York will need to agree on one set of regs for those states, after the individual states decide on a preference.
A few dozen bloodworms were sold Saturday at Absecon Bay Sportsman Center, Capt. Dave wrote on the store’s Facebook page that day. That was opening day of striped bass season in bays and rivers, but that was the last he mentioned fishing on the page through the weekend. The shop’s annual gift certificates were apparently still up for grabs for the anglers who weigh-in the year’s first several stripers. Dave did say Oyster Creek was reportedly 40 degrees. That’s the warm-water discharge from the Forked River power plant, a likely place for the season’s first stripers to be bagged. But that was a low temperature for stripers to bite in. Last year on opening morning, eight stripers were weighed-in, and all but one of the gift certificates, the one for the first striper larger than 30 pounds, were awarded. But that was a warmer winter. This year’s prizes are similar to last year’s and are: 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. ***Update, Thursday, 3/6:*** Weather became warmer yesterday, somewhat thawing snow and ice, Dave said in a phone call. Ground could be seen a little through the snow. But an awful lot of ice floated in waters. Forecasts look warmer for the weekend, but maybe not enough to warm waters immediately. Maybe warmth will make a difference next week, at least. Nobody really expressed interest in fishing since the snowstorm earlier this week. Plenty of bloodworms are stocked, and the prizes for the year’s first stripers are still up for grabs. ***Update, Friday, 3/7:*** Finally, some good news, Dave wrote on the shop’s Facebook page yesterday. One angler caught and released six stripers to 26 ½ inches. They were throwbacks, “but it is a sign of life,” Dave said. Dave saw the news when the angler posted a photo of one of the fish. “He’ll be out looking for a keeper for sure …” Dave said. The angler in past years checked-in some of the year’s first stripers at the store, sometimes winning the shop’s prizes for that.
***Update, Thursday, 3/6:*** A photo of snow on the beach from Monday’s storm was posted in a report on Riptide Bait & Tackle’s website. “This is what March looks like?” the caption said. Winter has been brutal, and anglers hoped this was the final snow. The store was opened for the season Saturday, after a winter break. Bloodworms were stocked, and the Riptide Striper Bounty was up to $1,220, because four more anglers signed up. The 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 money will be awarded this winter or spring. Entry is $5, and anglers must register at least 24 hours before entering a fish. Last spring, the bounty reached $2,005, and was won on May 27, with a 46-inch 32-pound striper. The prize was rolled over from fall last year, like this year. 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 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.
No trips fished in the weather this weekend on the Stray Cat, Capt. Mike said. But he’ll try to sail this weekend on open-boat trips for cod, if the weather breaks, including after today’s forecast blizzard. Telephone to reserve, and the trips are sailing 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. to wrecks 30 miles from shore this winter. Dates are starting to book up for charters this summer, including for sharks and tuna.
From Fin-Atics, a few customers fished the back bay at the Beesley’s Point power plant, Ed said. Anglers fish there for striped bass in the early season, because of warm waters the plant discharges. But nothing was heard about anybody catching anything, and Ed also saw an angler fishing along the 9th Street Causeway on the bay. He also heard about no stripers picked up at the Forked River power plant, farther north. Near Ocean City, the bay was 32 to 34 degrees, too cold for stripers to bite. Waters need to break at least 40. No reports came in about boats fishing, and boat crews seemed to wait for better weather by this time of year. The store starting today is open daily, after it was open only Fridays through Sundays this winter. Frozen baits are stocked, and live and fresh baits will be carried as soon as the weather somewhat warms. Bloodworms will probably be some of the first.
Sea Isle City
Waters are cold this winter, for sure, said Capt. Joe Hughes from Jersey Cape Guide Service and Sea Isle Bait & Tackle. Air temperatures were supposed to plummet to 9 degrees last night. Still, he expects to fish for striped bass within a couple of weeks on the back bay. Air temps need to reach the mid-50s for a couple of days in a row to make the fish active enough to catch. But his striper fishing will begin soon, at least by the end of the month. By mid-April, fishing is gangbusters for him, is some of the best of the year, and anglers will want to jump aboard. Bluefish and weakfish will arrive in the bay, and stripers that wintered in the bay will have already become active. Catch-and-release fishing for out-of-season summer flounder will also be good in the bay then. The year’s flounder season is yet to be decided, but in recent years, the season was opened sometime in May. South Jersey’s shallow bays are some of the state’s first to warm each year. So they produce some of the first catches. At first when Joe begins to fish the bay, the trips will work soft-plastic lures on jigheads, slowly along bottom, for all those species. Outgoing tides, the warmest in spring, will fish best in the early season, in afternoons on sunny days, when the waters will become warmest. Joe will target places like creek mouths to intercept the warmer waters. Joe will also keep running his annual traveling charters to the Florida Keys that he guides from Christmas until Easter, mostly on weekends. See Jersey Cape’s traveling charters Web page. Keep up with Joe’s fishing on Jersey Cape’s blog.
***Update, Tuesday, 3/4:*** Fins and Feathers Outfitters hunted snow geese on upper Delaware Bay on Saturday, Capt. Jim Weiser said. Nine birds were bagged, a successful day, he said, and another trip was supposed to hunt the geese Friday, but the hunters cancelled. Ice had to be broken up to sail the boat to open waters, and “icebergs,” Jim said, floated in the bay. The waters were cold, and Jim couldn’t imagine any fish, like striped bass, would bite in them. The day was 19 degrees when the trip began, and was 40 later on the outing. No winds blew, and seas were flat. The next trips are supposed to hunt snow geese on Friday and Saturday, and Fins and Feathers will keep guiding the trips until April 17. The geese were migrating away from New Jersey for the season, starting to become more abundant in Pennsylvania, gathering right at the “snow line,” Jim said. But Fins and Feathers hunts them in a variety of states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. The company offers a variety of adventures, including steelhead fishing on upstate New York’s Salmon River starting in April from Jim’s lodge. Steelheads winter in the river, but fishing for them really takes off in April, maybe into May. Lodge guests enjoy snowmobiling along trails currently, and fish for salmon on the river in fall. Saltwater fishing with fins usually begins in April with trips for striped bass on Delaware Bay or the ocean, wherever the fishing’s best. Drum charters on the bay sail in May, and both types of fishing should be booked now.