Party boats are sailing, stripers, blues, and sea bass are biting and fluke season opens on Friday.
Granted, it’s still curbside service at bait and tackle shops, there are restrictions on the for-hire fleet and a ferocious wind wrecked fishing during the week. But, hey, it’s Memorial Day Weekend and things are definitely looking up.
Mark at Tackle World in Rochelle Park said they haven’t been getting many reports from their saltwater customers with the exception of striped bass in the Passaic River.
The freshwater guys, however, are doing great on bass at Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake. Ned rigs are proving the popular choice.
The trout fishing has also been excellent, he said, and the state just restarted stocking last Monday and it will continue through Thursday of next week.
Tackle World, which had been taking online orders only, is now open for curbside service.
Capt. Phil Sciortino at the Tackle Box in Hazlet said bunker chunks are producing big bass along the Raritan Bayshore at night.
He also said some monster stripers, up to 50 pounds, have been taken on the troll with Mojos and bunkers spoons in the bay and ocean. Big blues are in the bay as well.
Wendy at Julian’s Bait and Tackle in Atlantic Highlands said they’ve been selling a lot of worms, clams and bunker to folks fishing the bayside of Sandy Hook. Fishing has been good there for stripers and blues.
Mike Pinto at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright said he continues to get reports of nice bass in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers on chunks and swimming plugs.
Striper fishing remains good for the kayak and boat anglers in Raritan Bay on Ben Parker spoons and shads.
The surf bite, he said, is picking up but it’s still a little slow in Sea Bright. We fished there on Saturday in a little family outing and three short bass and a blowfish were caught, none by me.
Mike Gleason at Tak Waterman in Long Branch said the bass fishing is Raritan Bay is holding up nicely. The bite isn’t there every day but it’s still good.
Ocean-going boats trolling Mojos and spoons are getting trophy bass, up to 45 pounds, close to the three-mile line.
He said the surf bite for bass had been getting better on the local beaches until the wind came. There were even a few short fluke caught in the wash.
Gleason added that there are a lot of fluke in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers being caught by bass anglers and he’s expecting a good opening this Friday.
Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar reported anglers fishing the Shark River were catching and releasing a lot of fluke. The Den has rental boats ready for Friday’s opener. Blowfish were also being caught in good numbers in the river.
He was glad to see the boats sailing out of the marina again and reported all did very well on the sea bass grounds, catching a lot of ling along with the sea bass.
Matthews said the Belmar surf is giving up a few more bass and there are some kingfish being caught there as well. I saw one come out of the Ocean Grove surf on Sunday.
Capt. Pete Sykes of Parker Pete’s Fishing Charters out of Belmar was among the boats that sailed on Sunday and he reported phenomenal sea bass fishing.
He’s currently booking spring striper trips and will be out after the bass as soon as the ocean calms a bit.
Capt. Jay Richardella of Side Job Charters out of Belmar got into the sea bass big time as well on Sunday. On Monday, he trolled in the ocean and hooked two jumbo bass of 45 and 47 pounds.
Both fish were well over the 38-inch limit and released. He’s booking spring striper and tuna trips and can be contacted through his website.
Tommy Freda at the Reel Seat in Brielle reported excellent sea bass fishing since last Friday’s opening. He said rock piles seemed to offer better fishing than the reefs right now.
Big stripers are being taken on the troll out by the three-mile line from Sandy Hook to Seaside Heights.
And, he said, the tuna aren’t much farther out. He had reports of a number of bluefin caught as close as 8 to 10 miles from shore.
Be aware that there was late breaking news on tuna with NOAA Fisheries closing the trophy bluefin angling category as of Thursday, May 21 at 11:30 p.m. Trophy bluefin are those 73 inches or greater. The season remains open for smaller fish.
The Manasquan River, he added, is full of cocktail blues with a few gators showing up now and then.
Kyle at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant Beach said a lot of fluke are showing up in the Manasquan River just in time for Friday’s opener. The bass and blues are still in there as well with a few choppers joining the cocktail blues.
There are some weakies around, too, as he heard of a 5-pounder caught on a Fin-S jig.
Capt. Kenny Namowitz on the Mimi VI out of Point Pleasant Beach said the sea bassing has been outstanding with winter flounder and ling mixed in with the catch.
He’s sailing open boat every day weather permitting from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Capt. Matt Sosnowski of the Norma K III out of Point Pleasant Beach reported that last Sunday was a great day on the sea bass grounds with everyone going home with their limit along with some ling. There were even a few cod caught with a 6-pounder taking the pool.
His next trip is scheduled for Friday.
All party boats are sailing with fewer passengers and social distancing rules are in effect. Space is limited so reservations are suggested.
Frank at Gabriel Bait and Tackle in Brick reported blues and stripers in the Point Pleasant Canal and in the Manasquan River.
Local beaches, he said, are producing a mix of short and keeper stripers. Offshore, boats are getting some nice size bass on the troll with Mojos and spoons
He’s also received reports of weakfish in the bay and even in some of the lagoons. Sea bass fishing on the wrecks and reefs has been extremely good, he added.
Hunter at Charlie’s Bait and Tackle in Normandy Beach said bigger bluefish are now in Barnegat Bay hitting diamond jigs. He’s also had more reports of weakfish in the bay.
Ray Kerico at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park said loads of stripers were caught in the surf on clams and bunker last weekend. Most were in the 24- to 27-inch range but there was a 40-incher caught and released last week.
There are also blowfish in the surf and on the bay side.
Ray reported bigger blues in the bay hitting poppers and bunker chunks. He said the shop is all stocked and ready to go for the fluke opener.
Best Bets for the Weekend
Fluke season opens on Friday and early indications are that there are plenty of fish around. Rivers and bays will be most productive as the ocean water is still pretty chilly. If you’re looking to fish on a party boat, call ahead as space is limited and you’ll need to make a reservation.
There are bluefish in the rivers and bays along with short and keeper bass. The surf is giving up stripers, kingfish and blowfish on bait.