Northern New Jersey Fishing Report – April 1, 2021

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Carmine Tango with a beautiful bass taken on a Red Fin this week, posted by the Tackle Box.

The fishing right now is no joke. Stripers galore from Barnegat to the Raritan, winter flounder fishing picked up, trout and tog season opened today, (April 1), and fishermen are out in force.

Tom at Giglio’s reported that fishing in Raritan Bay is on fire right now. He said some fishermen are catching fish after fish, with 15- to 25-pounders in the mix. Plugs are working well for fishermen from shore, especially plastic swimmers, like the Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow and Yo-Zuri Mag Darter, and clams and bloodworms are catching as well.

Wooden metal lips are catching too, and have taken what is probably the largest striper of the new season, a kayak-caught bass of more than 50-pounds caught by plug builder Bobby Read of Back Bay Plugs. The lure was Bobby’s own version of an Atom A40 Swimmer with chartreuse back and white belly.  And just like that, Back Bay Plugs have become some of the most in-demand lures of the 2021 striper season.

Bobby Read’s enormous striped bass caught on his own version of an A40 metal-lip swimmer.

Besides the Raritan, Tom said fishing in the Navesink River has been quiet so far.

Captain Jay of Side Job Charters is eager to splash the boat on the Raritan on Friday. He’s heard that good-sized bass are being taken on plugs, jigs, chunks, bunker, trolling, casting, live-lining – in other words, everything is working.

Captain Steve of Skylarker Charters said weather cancelled what would have been the first day of tog fishing, but he’ll be sailing as soon as the conditions allow. He’ll be targeting tog, cod, and ling until the striper fishing in the ocean picks up.

Ryan at the Reel Seat said the bass fishing in Manasquan and Barnegat has been good. The fish are smaller than the ones in the Raritan, but there are still good numbers of fish willing to take minnow plugs.

Jimmy Sweeney weighed in this pair of 15-inch winter flounder at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park.

There’s lots of bass in Barnegat Bay reported Scott from Grumpy’s Tackle. Bloodworms, Yo-Zuri Mag Darters, Daiwa SP Minnows, Rapala X-Raps are all catching bass from schoolie sized to 35 inches. There had even been some rumors of stripers falling to clams on the ocean-side beaches.

Winter flounder fishing perked up over the past week as well, and in the past week, Grumpy’s checked in a pair of 15-inchers caught by Jimmy Sweeney. Worms are the ticket for the flounder.

Frank at Gabriel Bait and Tackle has heard of some flounder to 18 inches in the rivers in recent days, but the main attraction has been stripers, which are taking minnow plugs and bloodworms.

Bob at the Fisherman’s Den wrote in with his report:

The weather cooperated for a few days warming the water up in the rivers. This, in turn, woke up some winter flounder. We had out a few rental boats this week and they all limited out on some nice flounder.

The striper action in the back waters of Bay Shore communities to our north has been hot. The biggest bass brought in was a 36″ taken by Payton Gepp on a plug.

There are a considerable number of smaller bass to 30 inch in the back of Manasquan and Barnegat ,Blood Worms are working well. Surf is still slow, only a few bass reported in our area.

Bob mentioned that Fisherman’s Den is stocked with green, white-legger, and hermit crabs for when the weather allows for some tog fishing.

The backwater fishing gets better every day, reported Pete at Charlies Bait and Tackle. Bass seem to be vacating the Tom’s River and spreading through Barnegat Bay, staging at bridges and docks. Many of those fish are 18 to 22 inches, but are plenty of fun on light tackle. Pete said bloodworms are working for the bait-and-wait crowd, while soft-plastic paddletails like the Kettle Creek are catching for fishermen casting artificials. Trolling Daiwa SP Minnows has also been a productive tactic lately.

Winter flounder fishing has been fickle, Pete said, but on sunny days, with some aggressive chumming, fishermen are finding success.

White perch fishing has been quiet lately, Pete said, but he wasn’t sure if the fish had moved around, or if fishermen had shifted their focus to the stripers and flounder.

Pete’s been seeing some bait out front in the ocean – likely herring, though a bunker washed up this week as well – but nothing is harassing them yet. He suspects the water temperature needs to bump up a few degrees before the fishing out front starts to fire up.

Pam at the Mimi IV said while the opening day of blackfish season was a blowout, the conditions were looking good for Friday, and they had a full boat heading to the tog grounds. Pam mentioned they have open spots on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, for fishermen looking to get back after the blackfish after the season’s month-long hiatus.

“Hectic,” was how Kyle at Fishermen’s Supply described the current state of the fishing, with many fish, and many fishermen out and about on the waters of Ocean and Monmouth counties. The action is pretty wide open from Raritan to behind Long Beach Island, Kyle said. There’s even been good action on the other side of the state in the Delaware River.

In Barnegat Bay, Kyle said fishermen are having good luck along the sod banks during the day and better luck around the bridges and docks after dark. Minnow plugs and soft plastics have been working well, especially the Mag Darter and SP Minnow.

Winter flounder fishing picked up in the Manasquan, but the rain and large full moon tides may curb the action a bit. Chumming heavily has been the ticket to getting a limit, Kyle said.

While it can be tough to steal time away from the salt when the striper fishing is good, the freshwater fishing is also excellent right now. Trout season opened today on all trout-stocked waters. It’s catch and release only until 8:00 a.m. on April 10, when fishermen can begin filling their stringers. Shad are in the Delaware, smashing darts and spoons as far up as Easton, Pennsylvania at least. And, in the lakes and ponds, bass and pickerel are on the prowl.

Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright posted this photo of Dave Glass with a river keeper caught drifting sandworms.

Fishing Forecast for Northern New Jersey

Stripers from schoolies to 50-plus pounds in the bays and feeding heavily are easily the top pick for the weekend, but expect company out there, whether you’ll be pursuing them from boat or shore. Plugs from small plastic swimmers to large metal lips seem to be the ticket right now from boat, kayak, or shore, though expect trolling, chunking, and live-lining to pick up as the water warms and more fish move in.

We won’t know how the tog fishing is until the weather allows the boats to get out and get after them, but if you’re looking to do some bottom fishing, you can give winter flounder a shot. Be sure to bring plenty of chum, and choose a sunny day for the best odds of success.

Shad fishing is off to a good start in the Delaware, and that should keep getting better throughout the month.

Be sure to release any stripers you catch in good condition, as the larger fish in the Raritan right now are just a few weeks away from heading up the Hudson River to spawn, and remember all bait fishing for striped bass must be done with circle hooks.

And be sure to check out the trailer for our upcoming fly-fishing film, Angels of the Flats, below.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

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