New Jersey Fishing Report- February 23, 2023

Freshwater fishing is productive, tautog fishing has been quiet, and shops are stocking up on bloodworms for the striped bass season opener next week.

In less than a week, the seasons for striped bass and winter flounder open in New Jersey’s rivers and bays.  

The openings can’t come soon enough. Anglers are itching for a chance to target stripers again, hoping the excellent fishing they enjoyed last fall picks up where it left off. 

This big girl was caught and released aboard the Mimi VI out of Point Pleasant Beach earlier this week.

The prevailing wisdom is that it should be a good start. The water never got too cold this winter and bass are already swimming in the rivers. In the meantime, white perch, blackfish and freshwater species will have to tide everyone over until March 1.

Rick Hebert at Tackle World in Rochelle Park is among those predicting good bass fishing right from the get-go. He said the bass never really left and there are stripers in the Hackensack River. Freshwater fishing has been decent in the local ponds and lakes and there are holdover trout being caught in the rivers. 

Mike Pinto at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright said the shop should be open full time by the second week of March if not sooner. It will be open this Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon and by appointment. The Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers are usually prime spots for early season stripers. 

Mike Gleason at TAK Waterman in Long Branch believes bass will be caught right away once the season opens. He reported seeing birds diving on bait in the ocean and he’s confident the bass are in the rivers. For those who can’t wait to wet a line, freshwater fishing for crappie, bass and pickerel has been good in local ponds and lakes. He said the shop did a brisk business at Surf Day at Brookdale last Saturday and added that they just received a big order of St. Croix rods that are now available at the shop. 

Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar said the freshwater folks are having most of the fun these days with crappie, largemouth and catfish in the local lakes and ponds like Lake Como and Spring Lake. Anticipation is high for stripers and winter flounder and Matthews said they will have blood and sandworms in stock. He said there also will be a few rental boats available for the beginning of the season. He, too, believes the fishing will get off to a fast start with all the warm weather lately. 

Capt. Jay Richardella of Side Job Charters out of Belmar will kick off his spring season sailing out of Lockwood Boat Works in South Amboy to be closer to the Raritan Bay striper action. He’s currently booking trips and can be reached through his website. 

Capt. Steve Spinelli on the Skylarker out of Belmar said he’ll be sailing again on April 1 when blackfish season reopens. 

Drew at The Reel Seat in Brielle said that while the fishing has been quiet with a few cod and tog reported, they’ve been busy with a big reorganization in the shop. They’ve been closed for the last few days but will be open again on Saturday.

It was a full house for Surf Day at Brookdale Community College last Saturday.

Kyle Tanger at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant Beach said he’s positive it’s going to be a good striper opening. Yo-Zuri Twitch baits and Rapala SRX-10 plugs are good choices for early season bass, he said.  A productive technique is to rip and stop and let the lure suspend in the water for a second or two. That’s when the strike comes. He also reported a good freshwater bite and he’s been doing well fly fishing for trout in rivers and streams up north. 

Capt. Kenny Namowitz on the Mimi VI out of Point Pleasant Beach continues to catch keeper blackfish. Crowds have been light so there’s plenty of room and there are still some nice tog being caught. Saturday will be his last trip until April 1 when blackfish season opens again. 

Frank Giacalone at Gabriel Tackle Co. in Brick said the shop will have blood and sandworms in the shop this weekend ahead of Wednesday’s opener.  

Dennis Palmatier at Hook House Bait and Tackle in Toms River said the white perch fishing remains good with some nights just better than others. He said there are plenty of fish around and it looks like they’re starting to spawn. He’s well stocked with plugs, shads, worms, clams and killies and is looking forward to a good opening for stripers and winter flounder. Jerk baits, like the Rapala SRX-10, are a popular choice among his customers for spring bass.  

Ray Kerico at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park said they had a successful outing at Surf Day this year. Grumpy’s will also be holding a special spring sale March 25 and 26 with plug builders in the shop along with seminars and special offers and discounts. Kerico expects a solid start to the striper season as well with unofficial reports of bass back in the bay and in the Toms River. He’ll have bloodworms in stock for the stripers and white perch along with a wide variety of plugs and soft plastics.  

Max at Fishermen’s Headquarters in Ship Bottom said it was quiet there this week but he expects things will get busy come March 1. There are white perch being caught in the rivers and creeks and there’s little doubt the bass are back there as well. Bloodworms are expected by the weekend and the shop is already stocked with a full line of plugs, lures and plastics.  

Best Bets for the Weekend

Until next Wednesday, March 1, anglers will have to be content fishing for the same species that have been sustaining them since the start of the year.  There’s still some tog and cod offshore, white perch in the rivers and an abundance of freshwater targets in local ponds and lakes. 

You can also spend some time getting reading for when the opening bell sounds by making sure all your gear is in good working order.  

And don’t forget to mark you calendar for the Saltwater Expo in Edison from March 17 to 19 and the Asbury Park Fishing Club’s 30th Annual Fishing Show at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel on Sunday, March 19.

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