The amount of bunker off Monmouth County beaches last weekend can only be described as biblical.
The miles-wide mass of fish stretched from Sandy Hook down to Belmar. The only things spooking it were some small blues crashing into the countless pods and the gulls flying overhead.
The bait is certainly here. All we need now are the stripers.
While we wait, sea bass season has reopened, the tog bite is hot and there are small bass and blues to be had in the surf and rivers.
Rick Hebert at Tackle World in Rochelle Park went blackfishing on Sunday starting out at the Sandy Hook Reef. It was a pick there, he said, but the fishing was lights out when they moved to the Shrewsbury Rocks.
It was non-stop action with tog up to 27 inches, he said, all on jigs.
Hebert said there was bunker everywhere but there didn’t seem to be anything in them. Hebert also had reports of weakfish in the bay up to 20 inches.
From what he gathered, the yellowfin are still around and he’d even had reports of bluefin at the Mud Hole.
He also mentioned that trout stocking is now underway in many state rivers and streams.
Capt. Phil Sciortino at the Tackle Box in Hazlet said the stage is set for a good fall run. There are adult and peanut bunker all over the bay and along the beaches at Sandy Hook.
Big stripers are currently hitting eels and chunks in the Reach Channel, by the Verrazzano Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
The porgy bite remains steady and guys bottom fishing will be able to add sea bass to their catches starting Thursday. Sciortino added that the blackfishing has been very good as well.
Steve at Julian’s Bait and Tackle in Atlantic Highlands also mentioned the good eeling for stripers at the Statue of Liberty. He said some big blues were found along with the bass.
Mike Pinto at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright said the bait was thick off the beach over the weekend but it didn’t translate into many fish. There is the occasional short bass in the surf along with bluefish but, by and large, the fishing has been slow.
The bass and bluefish bite is better in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers on poppers and shads, he said, and a few albies have been reported by the kayakers.
Mike Gleason at Tak Waterman also said there were bass in the Long Branch surf and he had word of a 20-pounder taken on a popper. The bass were still biting in the Shrewsbury River, he said, and small blues are there as well.
He said the yellowfin tuna bite was holding up at the Triple Wrecks but showed signs of slowing up as the weekend came to a close.
Blackfishing has been very good, he added, on the reefs and rockpiles.
Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar said they’ve been gearing up for the opening of sea bass season and said the party boats will be targeting them along with tog.
The boats chasing bluefish, he said, are coming back to the dock with fish up to 15 pounds.
Matthews said the surf fishing has been on the slow side for the last couple of days but there have been a few blues and short bass taken.
Kingfish are being caught in Shark River, he added, and the first winter flounder of the fall was taken at the pier.
Capt. Pete Sykes of Parker Pete’s Sportfishing in Belmar was catching blues and false albacore but will now concentrate on sea bass, blackfish and porgies.
He’s also booking fall striper trips for both boats.
Tommy Freda at the Reel Seat in Brielle said there was a good yellowfin bite at the Triple Wrecks on Saturday on jigs, poppers and chunks. The fishing wasn’t as good the following day.
He said there are some schoolies in the Manasquan River and in the surf, but he’s betting the bass fishing will get better closer to Halloween.
Freda said that anglers chasing albies are finding them a couple miles out but there haven’t been a whole lot of them.
Blackfishing, on the other hand, has been terrific in the Point Pleasant Canal, at the Manasquan Inlet and on the reefs.
Jason Szabo at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant Beach also reported phenomenal blackfishing in the canal and at the inlet with fish up to 8½ pounds.
The bass are around the Manasquan River bridges and in the canal and there are blues in the 2- to 4-pound range in there as well.
Blowfishing, he said, has been very good around the Mantoloking Bridge
Capt. Matt Sosnowslki of the Norma K III out of Point Pleasant Beach said he’s looking forward to the return of sea bass.
He’s been porgy fishing and while there was an improvement in the catch this week, it was still a little slow. Those that dropped crabs for blackfish found some nice keepers and there were a lot of shorts in the mix, he said.
Bluefishing was good over the weekend, Sosnowski added, with blues from 2 to 8 pounds caught on jigs and bait. He’ll be out again for blues this Friday and Saturday night.
Capt. Kenny Namowitz of the Mimi VI out of Point Pleasant Beach is also glad sea bass are back. He’ll be fishing for them along with blackfish from now on.
He’s been bluefishing and the solid action on them has kept his charters happy. Capt. Kenny has a few more tuna trips planned for the fall.
Owen at Capt. Bill’s Landing in Point Pleasant Beach reported massive amounts of bunker off the beach on Tuesday. While there were no bass in them, he did spot a sizable thresher in the bait.
Frank at Gabriel Tackle Co. in Brick said the state stocked some local streams earlier in the week and those that gave it a shot caught some nice ones.
He said the yellowfin bite remained good at the Triple Wrecks and there were bluefin caught 10 miles off the Manasquan Inlet on side trackers.
The reports from the Point Pleasant Canal have all been positive with blackfish on green crabs and sand bugs during the day and bass and blues at night on eels and Kettle Creeks.
Pete at Charlie’s Bait and Tackle in Normandy Beach said nothing much has changed in the surf since last week with the exception that the blues are getting bigger, up to 4 pounds.
He heard of triggerfish mixed in with the tog at the Manasquan and Barnegat inlets. There are also American shad in the Manasquan River and Barnegat Bay along with schoolie bass.
Phil at Dock Outfitters in Seaside Heights had a bit of encouraging news as he reported there was a brief bass blitz on peanut bunker in the Lavallette surf earlier in the week.
Ray Kerico at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park said he’s hearing of more stripers caught very early in the morning in the surf. Small bluefish continue to bite in there as well
He also mentioned that there are plenty of schoolie bass in the bay, hitting small plugs and shads.
Enormous schools of bunker appeared off the beaches there at the beginning of the week and he says its just a matter of time before the fall run starts in earnest.
Francine at Betty and Nick’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park also reported loads of bait off the beaches and an excellent tog bite from the jetties at Barnegat Inlet.
There are bass and blues in the surf, she said and added that there have also been triggerfish in the surf, which is a bit of a surprise.
Lenny at Capt’n Hippo Bait and Tackle in South Toms River reported there are loads of schoolie stripers in the Toms River along with some small bluefish.
After more than a decade at the shop, Lenny is looking to retire and go fishing so if anyone is interested in purchasing the business, he said to give him a call.
Fishing Forecast for Northern New Jersey
While we wait for the fall run to get into gear, sea bass season has reopened with a 10-fish limit at 12½ inches. The bite was good when it shut down and should pick up right where it left off.
Blackfishing has also been very good on the reefs, jetties and inlets. Green crabs and jigs are doing the trick.
And keep you eye on the beaches. You never know when things will pop.