Ten days and counting! The cure for cabin fever has been discovered and shipment is scheduled for May 7 up and down the New Jersey coastline. All indicators point toward a full and complete recovery for those willing to brave the elements that come with along with an early inoculation. With striper and bluefish getting into full swing and fluke season opening in just over a week, this is a great time of year along the New Jersey shore.
Most professionals (as well as many recreational anglers) will tell you that preparation is the key to a successful season, so now is the time to review strategies and equipment, stock up on necessary gear and visit your local bait and tackle shop for any needed paraphernalia. Once the bell rings, you want to have all your ducks in a row in order to take full advantage of our extended season.
If you are thinking about heading down to Delaware Bay for some early season striper action or interested in getting the latest info on the black drum migration then head over to Cape May and check in with Chuck or Mary at Off the Hook bait and tackle. I have always been a strong believer that successful fishing adventures start with good information. According to Chuck, constant wind advisories have been up for most of the last 5 days so the beaches and jetties have been the “go-to” spots in Cape May County and the upper Delaware Bay. Clam and bunker chunks have been the best bet for hooking up with stripers up to 34 inches.
The weather may have warmed up, but according to Ed Bronstein over at Fin-Atics in Ocean City, the wind has been the biggest factor of late. The beaches have had a slow and steady pick of stripers up to 32 inches with some black drum mixed in the catch. Most of the action on the sand has been south towards and into Corson’s Inlet. For the most part, clams and bloodworms seem to be the menu of choice along the beaches. Ed also mentioned that the back bays behind Ocean City, where the water temps are a little higher, have been good for some linesider action, especially if you really want to throw some plugs as opposed to drowning bait. Swimmers seem to be the most effective right now. The guys walking eel skins at the Beesely’s Point Bridge have been catching pretty consistently, especially on the night shift. Ben DeStefano weighed in a 49-pound striped bass, which he caught live-lining river herring. Those early season cows certainly go for the herring!
I ran into Dave Showell, the owner of Absecon Bay Sportsmen’s Center, the other day when I was picking up some bait for a quick jaunt up the Mullica River. According to Dave, the rivers are still the hot spot if you are looking for some striped bass action. White perch catches have been steady and at times great with a majority of the fish being taken using grass shrimp. He also mentioned that the warmer weather has produced some keeper bass in Absecon Bay by anglers using fresh herring chunks. Anglers in Lakes bay and the north end of Brigantine Beach have also been picking up some black drum fish (on clam) and some stripers in the outgoing tides.
According to the staff at Fisherman’s Headquarters in Ship Bottom, the action is starting to pick up with the improved weather conditions. Bayside stripers up to 31 inches have been taken on bunker chunks. There have been sporadic bluefish catches as well, mostly scout runners trying to steal a free meal. Water temperatures have been fluctuating along the beaches from the high 40s to low 50s so it won’t be too long before all out blitz conditions reach optimal levels. Be there or be square is how I see it. Fishing is a lot like the lottery, if you don’t buy a ticket, you have no chance of winning. So pack up your gear and hit those LBI beaches as soon as you can.
When I think of surf fishing in New Jersey, Island Beach State Park is the first spot that typically enters my mind. With nice structure not far off the beaches and probably the best access in the state for anglers who like to cast with their feet in the sand, it was made for the surf fisherman. And when I head north from my base in Absecon, I always hit Grumpy’s as soon as I get on the island. I spoke with Paul recently about the bite in and around Seaside Heights. Water temperatures are on the rise and that is definitely a good thing. Stripers in the back bays are starting to hit smaller swimming plugs , especially blue and black Bombers. Bunker have shown up in the bays so it’s important to match the hatch, which is the law according to Paul. On the beaches, clam rules the day. And not just for our linesider buddies as decent size black drum have put in an appearance. Drums up to 31 pounds have been taken by anglers soaking clams up and down the beaches. Fresh bunker has been the meal of the day for those pursuing some solid striper action. And when you are picking up the bait dujour at Grumpy’s, take a minute to check out their custom rod building operation. If you’re anything like this writer, another rod is always in the near future and the guys at Grumpy’s do them up just right.
Best Bets for the Weekend
The weather is just about right and soon the bays and ocean front will be dotted with boats chasing everything from stripers to blues to Jersey fresh flounder. If you haven’t done your homework, now is the time to start pulling it all together. I suspect in a week or so, it is going to light up in a big time way. If the early start to the fluke season hasn’t motivated you yet, a couple blasts of 80-degree days will certainly wake you up. So until next week, get ready, get set and GO FISHING!