Nothing like a few days of warm weather to get things going.
A couple of sunny days lit up the bass bite in the Toms River and Barnegat Bay and even brought a few keeper flounder out of the mud in the Shark River.
Stripers are also hitting along the Raritan Bay beaches on bloodworms and small plugs.
There’s been better action in freshwater as well as panfish, pickerel and largemouth bass are being caught in local ponds and lakes.
Capt. Phil Sciortino at the Tackle Box in Hazlet said short and keeper bass have been caught on blood and sandworms in Leonardo, South Amboy, Cliffwood Beach and Union Beach.
Tommy Karindrakas, Long Branch, who weighed in a keeper last week, got another one at the beginning of this week on worms.
A few bass have also been caught on soft plastics and small plugs, Sciortino said, but he hasn’t heard much about winter flounder.
Rick Hebert at Tackle World in Rochelle Park said blood worms have been flying out the door. Most of his customers are fishing for bass in Raritan Bay or heading to the Toms River.
Mike Pinto at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle said the shop officially opens full time starting Monday, March 15 but he’s usually around most days.
He’s heard of the bass in Raritan Bay and suspects the fish are in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers as well but hasn’t received any first-hand reports.
Mike Gleason at Tak Waterman in Long Branch is also getting good reports on the stripers in Raritan Bay and the Toms River on small plugs and worms. He’s hoping to check out the bite in the Shrewsbury River next week.
The freshwater bite picked up, he said, with the nicer weather.
Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar saw the first two keeper winter flounder of the year caught on Wednesday in the Shark River. There had been only a few short fish taken up until then. The fish were 14 and 15 inches and blood worms and chum did the trick.
Matthews expects the fishing to get better daily and suggests fishing the outgoing tide.
He also heard of a couple of stripers taken in the river at night.
Matthews said the better bass fishing has been to the south in the Toms River and Barnegat Bay with Rapala X-Raps, Kettle Creeks and other small plugs doing the job. While there have been a few fish in the 30-plus inch size, most of the fish are between 18 and 26 inches.
The Ocean Explorer, Matthews added, continues to sail for cod, ling and pollock out of the marina. The good weather earlier this week gave the boat a chance to sail and catch some nice cod.
Capt. Jay Richardella of Side Job Charters in Belmar will be sailing out of Lockwood Boat Works in South Amboy for spring stripers starting on April 5. Trips are booking fast, he said.
John Vafiadis at the Reel Seat in Brielle said the Toms River has been the hot spot for bass on shads, X-Raps, SP Minnows and Yo-Zuri Minnows. The shop has been swamped servicing reels but he managed to get out Tuesday night with a few other anglers and find the bass from the river bank.
He also heard of a few winter flounder in the Island Heights area but that fishing is still very slow.
Kyle at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant said Barnegat Bay and the Manasquan and Toms rivers lit up in the last few day with stripers. He and a friend had all the bass they wanted fishing the bay earlier this week, catching and releasing well over 100 fish.
X-Raps were the hot lure. Kyle said a couple of stiff jerks and then a pause usually triggered a strike. The biggest fish was 27 inches.
He hasn’t heard much in the way of winter flounder but with all of the bass around, he’s not sure anyone is targeting them.
Frank Giacalone at Gabriel Tackle Co. in Brick said the striper bite is going strong in the back bay on worms and plugs. He expects the action to keep improving as the warm weather continues.
He hasn’t heard much on winter flounder as yet either. The shop, he said, is fully stocked with blood and sandworms, chum and any lure you might want.
Pete Kupper at Charlie’s Bait and Tackle said the bass fishing in the bay is pretty good on worms, plugs and soft baits like Kettle Creek shads. X-Raps have been the most popular choice.
The winter flounder fishing is really slow, he said, but that may change soon as the water warms.
Frankie Z at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park joined the chorus when he reported that Barnegat Bay blew wide open with bass this past week.
Frankie said the stripers are pretty well spread out around the bay and the rivers are holding plenty of fish as well. Again, it’s X-Raps, small plugs, soft baits and worms getting the fish.
There’s white perch in the mix as well.
Frankie wanted to remind everyone that Grumpy’s will be holding its Spring Has Sprung Sale on March 20 and 21 with sale pricing on rods and reels, discount tables and special deals on kayaks from Yakkity Yak Kayaks.
Fishing Forecast for Northern New Jersey
Head to the rivers and bays for some backwater bass. Barnegat Bay and the Toms River have been the most productive so far, but the action should pick along the beaches of Raritan Bay and in the Shrewsbury, Navesink, Shark and Manasquan rivers.
Plugs, soft baits, and blood worms are all catching fish.