Warmer weather added some heat to the striper bite but the winter flounder fishing is still pretty sluggish. There were hints of an improvement in the fishery, but overall, it remains slow.
Despite the lackluster action on winter flounder, tackle shops are reporting a brisk business in worms as folks are just looking to get out and do some fishing. It’s been a long, hard winter.
While most trout streams are closed until catch-and-release fishing starts on April 1, freshwater anglers have been doing well with perch, crappie and largemouth bass.
Rick Hebert at Tackle World in said the Hackensack River is loaded with small stripers hitting plugs, shads and worms. He also received a report that there were a lot of white perch in the back of the Navesink River.
Capt. Phil Sciortino Jr. at the Tackle Box in Hazlet said the water continues to warm up and there are more keepers showing up among many the bass being caught in the back of Raritan Bay. Most of the action is on worms but a few are being taken on small plugs.
Sciortino said the fish are biting on the bay shore beaches in South Amboy, Cliffwood Beach, Union Beach and Laurence Harbor.
He also reported loads of bunker in the bay and off the Sandy Hook beaches.
Mike Pinto at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright got a report that a few bass were caught on bait at the fishing beach on Sandy Hook. Clams and worms did the trick.
He also had a solid report that short bass were being taken on Kettle Creek shads in the back of the Navesink River. Water temps in the river were up to 46 degrees earlier in the week.
If they’re in the Navesink River, the bass are bound to be in the Shrewsbury as well.
Pinto added there are loads of bunker in both rivers.
Mike Gleason at Tak Waterman in Long Branch also reported more stripers being caught in the backwaters on small plugs and shads.
There’s a lot of bunker in the rivers, he added, and he’s seen a number of them washed up on the beach. Gannets have been very active just offshore.
He, too, said the freshwater fishing in the local ponds and lakes has been decent for crappie and largemouth.
Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar said winter flounder anglers are finding a slow pick at best. He’s holding out hope that warmer days in the forecast will bring better fishing.
The striper fishing has been good in rivers and bays and Matthews expects it to spread to the surf in the next several weeks. Blackfish will also be back on the menu starting on April 1 with a four-fish limit. Spring blues can’t be far behind.
Matthews said the shop is all set for trout season which opens on April 10.
Capt. Bobby Quinn of the Ocean Explorer out of Belmar is sailing when the weather permits and the last couple of trips have produced good catches of cod and ling.
Capt. Pete Sykes at Parker Pete’s Sportfishing out of Belmar said he expects to back on the water by mid-April targeting blackfish. He’s currently booking striper trips and says they should be fishing for bass by the middle of May.
Capt. Jay Richardella on Side Job Charters will be sailing out of Lockwood Boat Works in South Amboy starting on April 5 for Raritan Bay stripers and he still has some open dates.
Max Kristiansen at the Reel Seat in Brielle said the shop has been busy with customers but they’ve been a bit tight-lipped about what they’re catching and where.
The bass fishing has been good to the south, he said, but from what he’s hearing, all is quiet on the winter flounder front.
Jason Szabo at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant Beach had better news on winter flounder with good reports coming in from Barnegat Bay. Fish up to 17 inches were hitting worms at the top of the outgoing tide in the northern part of the bay.
He said the striper fishing has been good in the back of the bay on shad bodies and small plugs with bass up to 30 inches.
Szabo also had good reports on cod up to 15 pounds on offshore wrecks 20 to 40 miles out.
Capt. Matt Sosnowski of the Norma K III out of Point Pleasant Beach will be trying for cod, along with ling and pollock, this weekend as the boat heads back out on the water.
The Norma K III will sail at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday and return at 2:30 p.m. Starting April 1, the boat will sail for blackfish. Reservations are required for all trips.
Capt. Kenny Namowitz on the Mimi VI out of Point Pleasant Beach will sail for blackfish as well starting April 1.
Frank Giacalone at Gabriel Tackle in Brick said the striper bite in the back bay remains good and the winter flounder fishing is picking up. Sand and blood worms are working for the flounder and worms and small plugs for the stripers.
Pete Kupper at Charlie’s Bait and Tackle in Normandy Beach said it was a good weekend with bass under the bay bridges and in the Toms River on plugs, Kettle Creeks and worms.
Kupper said that participation is still on the low side and that might have something to do with the lack of winter flounder reports.
Ray Kerico at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park said the stripers have spread out a bit more in Barnegat Bay. There have been a number of keepers among the shorts with fish up to 35 inches.
He still hasn’t heard anything on winter flounder. There haven’t been any reports from the beach either, but he expects that to change in the next couple of weeks.
Fishing Forecast for Northern New Jersey
Backwater stripers look to be the best bet for the weekend with fish being caught in Raritan Bay, Barnegat Bay and the Hackensack, Navesink, Shrewsbury, Shark, and Toms rivers. Worms, shads and small plugs are all working.
And this may be the weekend the winter flounder start to chew. Warming water might just get them moving.