It appears that we are finally about to get some relief from both the stubborn southwest winds and the heat that comes along with them in the summer season. Hopefully this will add a new dimension to the fishing scene that we can all take advantage of. It’s not that the fishing hasn’t been good of late, just tougher conditions. Besides blistering heat brought in by the winds, water temperatures have fluctuated wildly which I am sure has confused the fish as much as it has those who have spent time on or around the water in pursuit of their favorite species. Upwell conditions have made the areas which are normally bountiful this time of year have kept those spots quiet and areas which are normally petering out as the water heat up are holding on that much longer this summer. It may be just my opinion, but I have noticed that you have to adjust your tactics almost daily if you want to have continued success this season. And that’s why we do this forecast, to help you to victory in your fishing efforts. The fish are most certainly out there, you may need to tickle your tactics to enhance your numbers. Let’s see what our scouts have to offer to the equation.
I was down in the Cape the other day and stopped in to chat with Joe at Hand’s Too Bait and Tackle just below the bridge into Cape May proper. Joe agrees with me that the missing element this season has been consistency. The Old Grounds has been hot on one day and off on the next. The inshore bite for flounder has been spotty at best with the southwest wind but good when the winds turn. Delaware Bay has been the capital of croakers with a few flounder mixed in at the top end of the waters. The back waters remain the most consistent, bit tailed Gulp Baits being the best baits along with strip baits like squid and mackerel. There are still some weakfish in the area but seem to be more of a night, early morning bite. Joe recommends trying shedder crab as bait for the spotted ones. Speaking of Spots, the back water and even the front are inundated with them, FishBytes are working well. Crabbing has been great so far and looks like it will continue to stay strong as the waters remain moderately warm.
It has been a few years since I ventured out on a head boat in search of flounder, so when I received an invitation from some friends in the area on vacation to spend a day in deep water, I jumped at the chance. More than a few people have told me that if you are going to go on a party boat in the Cape May area, the Porgy IV and Captain Paul Thompson is the best boat in the area. It is obviously a well maintained boat with a sharp and courteous crew and a captain who works hard for his fares. Conditions on the day I went out were, to say the least, less than favorable with a slow bite. But Captain Paul eventually found fish with the pool going to Tammi Citron of Florida with a 5 pound fluke which bested that taken by her husband Sam with a 4.2 pound flatfish. The regulars on the boat seem to be more experienced than the normal “tourist” day trippers that one might find on a head boat and a nicer group of anglers to spend the day with would be hard to find. I caught the skunk but still had a good time. The PorgyIV regularly sales for deeper water and we fished most of the day in 80+ feet of water. I understand their tautog and sea bass trips are some of the best for the money in the area. I will definitely be back to try them out.
Saint Judith Charters out of Atlantic City isn’t your run-of-the-mill fishing charter service. With two 55+ foot Vikings in their fleet, they offer more luxury accommodations than any most out there. I am talking some top end rides here! But that doesn’t mean they won’t put you on the fish, When I spoke to Captain Jeff Hoffberger this week, they had just returned from a charter on their 66’Viking to the southern canyons where they went 4 for 5 on big blue fin tuna. Over the weekend, the captain told me they took a few high rollers out from the casinos and loaded the box with nice sea bass in 80’ of water. If you are looking for a charter and luxury is high on your priority list, you need to check out Saint Judith Charters. Learn more at http://saintjudithcharters.com/.
Mike Cunningham of Sea Isle Bait and Tackle just keeps adding on to his shop in order to give his customers the best equipment to pursue their quarry. He has recently added a large selection of fresh water tackle to take advantage of the local non saline enthusiasm he has noticed of late. Mike tells me that Lake Magnolia has been giving up some fine largemouth bass and yellow perch lately. He also suggested the old Ponder Lodge Lake in Lower Township if you are looking for some bass action. On the salt side, Mike says they are still slamming the flounder in the bay behind Sea Isle. Anglers using the big Mantis Shrimp by Berkley are having tremendous days with fish up to 6 pound being weighed in at the shop. Top water plugs like the Tsunami line are still working off the sod banks for striped bass. Morning and night are the best times to target them. On the beaches, the northern kings are stacked up at Whale Beach in Strathmere with anglers using FishBytes and bloodworms and doing quite well. There are also croaker in the surf along with spot and some spike weakfish. The bite for fluke along the beaches has been a little slow but if you head deeper, 150+ feet of water should allow you to find some black sea bass.
For Team Tackle Direct, as one of the biggest sellers of offshore big game equipment in the area, it pays to keep their finger on the pulse of the off shore bite so they may pass it along to their client base. When I spoke with Ed at the store this week, he informed me that the Bluefin bite was still on at the lumps mostly by those jigging at first light. Some fish are still being taken trolling but jigging is by far the best odds of some nice fish. He is also hearing reports of wahoo and mahi in the area. There have been yellows in the Washington but Ed expects them to start charging north. Reports that there have been the first sightings of White and blue Marlin in the Washington are also starting to filter in. The Poorman’s has also had some yellow fin activity. Looks like things are starting to get in Tuna’d-In.
Captain David Showell of Absecon Bay Sportsmen’s Center is away at his sports fishing operation in Guatemala so I contacted his right hand man Kurt at the shop to get the local happenings. Most of the action for flounder is still in the back waters with the Cans just outside the Absecon Stakes still producing well on the incoming tide and that nasty south west wind. No reports of tog yet but there have been some nice catches of trigger fish in the rocks off the Inlet. There are still bass in the area, most being taken on top water plugs around the holes of the sod banks and by some anglers live lining spot in the same areas. Crabbing in the backwaters has been decent. There are also reports of northern kingfish off the jetties of Brigantine.
According to the gang at Tony’s Bait and Tackle in Manahawkin, the better bite is still located in the back. A 9-pound flatfish was recently weighed in by Colton Karch who was fishing in the Dike in Barnegat Light. Mike Chavis had a 7.5-pound fluke taken in Oyster Creek Channel. Most local anglers are using a combination of Berkley Gulp and cut baits or minnows. There are still blowfish in the area, don’t forget to pick up clam chum at Tony’s. Out front, I was told that the bite has been hit or miss. Water temperatures have been fluctuating based on winds. Most of the good fishing has been in the inlets and bay. Crabbing has been very good in the area.
To take advantage of all the taylor blues in the Toms River, Lenny Hahn of Captain Hippos Bait and Tackle up there is offering a $29.99 special on a beginners setup for attacking the toothy critters. It includes a rod and reel and all the other essentials you would need to thin out the herd of small bluefish in the area and make it safe to go in the water. Lenny also informs me that the Crabbing in the lower Toms River has been nothing short of fantastic. The Blowfish bite is still going strong in Barnegat Bay, try the BI Buoy. Anglers using chum pots of clam are reporting catches big enough to fill a peach basket like they used to do in the old days. Fluking in the area has been decent but still has a way to go according to Mr. Hahn. Best bat for action has been the bay and inlet as the fish seem a little reluctant to move out front this year for some reason. All the usual baits are working at different times and different conditions. I would check in with Lenny first to get the latest hot bait. He has them all.
When I spoke to Dean at Two Chums Bait and Tackle this week, he had just got done weighing in some Mahi that came into the shop from the Hot Dog. He also told me that things were beginning to perk up in the Wilmington Canyon (yellow) and the Massey (Blue). Closer to the coastline, Dean tells me that beach anglers throwing SS Bucktails have been landing some nice flounder if they can find a little structure off the sand. The rocks at Townsends Inlet have been giving jetty jumpers their one Tautog, especially if they are using some of the white leg crabs they carry in stock. I can tell you this, not too many of the local shops carry white legs crabs. And there is nothing that tog love more than white leg crabs. Speaking of crabs, the blue claws around Sea Isle have been big and hungry according to Dean. Their fleet of rental boats has been getting a workout this season. Especially their pontoon boats! The bays have been the best producers to date for big fluke, Gulp and or Minnows working best. And if you can get through the spot and croakers, there are some nice northern kingfish hugging the shoreline. Dean tells me that FishBytes have been out fishing the bloodworms lately. Must be the warmer water.
If you are heading to Ocean City and looking to fish, I recommend your first stop be at Fin-Atics Marine Supply for any tackle or bait you might need but more importantly, advice on the best places to go or fish to target. Hats what I do when I am in the area. I spoke with Pat at the store this week who pointed me towards the back bay for flounder hunts. He specifically mentioned two areas, the middle Ninth street fishing pier (over Rainbow Channel) and the drift over by Kennedy Park. Both are giving up some very nice flounder. He suggested anglers try using mackerel strips and chartreuse Glow Mullets by Berkeley. Pat also informed me that there are kingfish on the beaches from Corson’s Inlet all the way through Great Egg Inlet. The problem with that is that there seem to be about five times as many spot in the same area, making it difficult to get through the spot to the kings. At Corson’s Inlet State Park, anglers throwing bucktails tipped with mackerel are having some success with keeper fluke. The fishing inshore has been a little tougher. The AC, GE and OC Reefs have all had their good and bad days. Weather patterns play a big role in that which is why I suggest stopping in and getting the latest info from your local tackle shop, in this case, Fin-Atics. We do all we can with our weekly reports but they have the up to the minute info, provided by anglers with first-hand knowledge of the situation. Information is the key to success and you can never have enough!
Best Bets for the Weekend
As I mentioned at the beginning of this forecast, consistency is the key to success. Unfortunately, this summer has been anything but consistent. The fishing has been good at time and fair at others but such is the sport we choose to immerse ourselves in. It looks like we will get a few days of consistency over the weekend and hopefully our targets will get the message. Obviously flounder would be my first choice but one question remains about them. Will they choose to play the game? Stay in the back where the fishing has been better or move out front where the rewards can be greater, that is the question. Personally, if I had the opportunity, I would look to the reefs. Remember, there isn’t much time left in this leg of the sea bass season so at worst, you might have a shot at both if you find the right reef and the fish cooperate. And I would rig up a small hook or two in the event that triggers are in the area. I suspect that sheep head will make an appearance and still hold out for a shot of cobia. So that would be my recommendation. Or crabbing. I’m not hard to please. Whichever you choose to partake of, please be careful out there. You only get so may days in the game and you need to spend each one wisely. See you on the incoming.