Big bass are back. After a major Nor’easter shut down the hot bass bite in Raritan Bay, jumbo stripers reappeared and started biting from the bay south to Seaside Park this past week. The fish, many in the 50-pound class, were on schools of bunker in the back of the bay and just off the beaches. Live lining bunker, Nichols flutter spoons, shads, and trolling Mojos and bunker spoons were all working on these monster fish.
No question the fall run is on. The influx of jumbo stripers overshadowed all the other action taking place but there were good reports on tautog, tuna, and porgies.
Before we get to the report, a quick note: The Asbury Park Fishing Club will be holding its 29th Annual Fishing Show on Sunday, March 20 at the Berkley Hotel in Asbury Park. After a long absence, it will be good to have the original plug show back in a new location.
Northern New Jersey Fishing Report
Rick Hebert at Tackle World in Rochelle Park reported that everyone is scrambling to get in on the striper bite. He heard of big bass in Raritan Bay and off the beaches. Anglers looking for black sea bass, he said, have to put in the miles with the better fishing about 30 miles out. The rivers and streams up north were returning to normal levels after all the rain and he expects the trout fishing to improve quickly.
Capt. Phil Sciortino at The Tackle Box in Hazlet said the striper fishing has been just incredible with numerous fish in the 40- to 50-pound range. Keeper fish are hard to come by as most exceed the 38-inch size limit. The back bay has been a hot spot but the ocean is giving up its fair share of fish.
Mike Pinto at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright said that if you have a boat, the striper fishing is phenomenal. He said the local surf anglers have yet to share in the current bounty as the fish are staying out of reach. The Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers, he said, are still giving up stripers on shads and topwater plugs.
Mike Gleason at Tak Waterman in Long Branch said the bass got close on Tuesday morning. He got a late report of a blitz on the beach with fish on peanut bunker. Surfcasters fishing at night or early in the morning continue to pick up bass and he, too, said the river fishing has been good. There’s still a lot of bait moving out of the rivers, he added. He also heard of bluefin crashing into the bunker pods not too far off the beach. Judging by the explosions I saw from the sand in Ocean Grove on Monday afternoon, there was definitely a chance tuna were involved. Huge schools of bait 200 to 300 yards out would suddenly erupt with adult bunker flying in all directions. The spectacle stretched from Asbury Park to Bradley Beach and lasted well into the evening.
Capt. Pete Sykes of Parker Pete’s Sportfishing out of Belmar has been catching the jumbo stripers for the last several days trolling and live lining bunker. He’s finding the bass just a short trip from the marina and has added a striper extravaganza trip aboard the 55-foot Express for this Sunday leaving at 5:30 a.m. Check the website for details.
Capt. Steve Spinelli of Skylarker Charters stayed with bottom fishing this week and was happy with the decision. He reported good catches of sea bass, porgies, and winter flounder. He added that bluefish are still popping up, adding some excitement to the day’s fishing. He’ll also be adding stripers to his target list for upcoming trips.
While everyone is talking stripers, Vinny at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant Beach started his report with the excellent tog fishing in the Point Pleasant Canal. There have been lots of keepers, he said, and plenty of action. It’s the stripers, however, that are top of mind for most anglers right now and Vinny reported one customer landed a 52-pounder. The bass are stretched out along the coast and Vinny believes there are more fish north of the Manasquan Inlet. He’s also received good reports about offshore tuna fishing.
Capt. Jay Richardella of Side Job Charters out of Belmar has been on the bass as well since the beginning of the week. Tuesday’s trip saw a dozen of the big fish come over the rail. Although a lot of the stripers are too big to keep, there are a few smaller fish among the giants that will make it to the table.
The Voyager and Gambler out of Point Pleasant Beach reported very successful canyon trips with yellowfin and a few longfin. Most of the action has been at night but there was a good day bite earlier this week.
Capt. Kenny Namowitz of the Mimi VI out of Point Pleasant Beach started his striper trips this week and has open boat trips scheduled for Saturday and Tuesday. The Mimi VI is now accepting online reservations.
Frank Giacalone at Gabriel Tackle Co. in Brick said the run has begun with plenty of huge stripers caught between the Manasquan Inlet and Sea Girt live lining and trolling bunker spoons. He, too, highlighted the excellent tog fishing in the Point Pleasant Canal.
Pete Kupper at Charlie’s Bait and Tackle in Normandy Beach said there are pods of bunker off the beach but the big stripers haven’t reached them as yet. However, there have been some keeper bass caught off the beach on needlefish. Live eels are catching stripers at night in the Point Pleasant Canal and at the bridges in the Manasquan River. There’s still plenty of time to sign up for the Surf Turkey Tournament held on Thanksgiving Weekend.
Scott at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park said the bunker stretches from Bay Head to Seaside and it appears surfcasters are having better luck to the south. Grumpy’s reported several bass over 40 inches caught from the sand on artificials and bunker in the last few days. Scott also reported good tog fishing at the Barnegat Inlet jetties.
John Vafiadis at the Reel Seat in Brielle reported a lot of stripers caught north and south of the Manasquan Inlet. He said the bass got close to the beach on the Manasquan side but there are still plenty of frustrated surfcasters as the fish stayed just out of reach. He’s had several reports of bluefin tuna and thresher sharks crashing the bunker pods. There are still stripers in the Manasquan River and the Point Pleasant Canal and the tautog fishing, he added, has been very good in the canal. Togging has been good at the Inlet as well and shop does carry green crabs. While the bass have grabbed most of the headlines, Vafiadis said boats heading offshore have been doing well with yellowfin tuna.
Bob Matthews at Fishermen’s Den in Belmar said the party and charter boats out of the marina are getting in on the bass action. Giant stripers have been reported all along the Monmouth County coastline. The Big Mohawk and Golden Eagle have been catching jumbo stripers since the beginning of the week. Unfortunately, Matthews said, the bass are staying just far enough off the beach so there hasn’t been much for the beach anglers to celebrate. Matthews said the Shark River fishing has been pretty good with winter flounder, tautog and kingfish being caught at the inlet and back by the pier.
Northern New Jersey Forecast
It’s all about the bass right now. Boaters are getting the best shot at the stripers right now. Schools of bunker stretch all along the coast and all you have to do is find the one with stripers in it.
Hopefully, some of these bass will get close to the beach and give surfcasters a chance at these big stripers.