New Jersey Fishing Report- March 9, 2023

This week saw a steady start to striper season in the back bays and rivers, meanwhile some anglers focused their efforts on winter flounder fishing.

It was a good, if not great, opening for striped bass in rivers and bays last week. 

Stripers were caught at all the usual spots, keepers included, but most agreed conditions weren’t the best and the bite was far from hot. 

Chilly water and high winds made for tough fishing, but those that put the time in were rewarded. Bloodworms were working best and the early season action on plugs and plastics was encouraging.  

As for winter flounder, pickings were slim, with only a couple reported caught by the Mantoloking Bridge. Warmer water in the coming weeks will make for better action. 

Rick Hebert at Tackle World in Rochelle Park said folks are pulling stripers out of Hackensack River legally now. The fish were there most of the winter, he said. He’s had a lot of reports of birds working in Raritan Bay, but little word on the striper fishing itself. Freshwater folks, he said, are picking lake trout at Round Valley and landlocked salmon at Lake Aeroflex. 

Capt. Phil Sciortino at The Tackle Box in Hazlet said bloodworms are catching most of the fish in the back of Raritan Bay and in the Raritan and the Hackensack rivers. South Amboy and Cliffwood Beach have also been good spots for anglers fishing worm balls soaked in Fin-Essence. He said there is a load of bunker in the bay already and it’s just a matter of time until more stripers join them. The Tackle Box will be at the Saltwater Expo March 17 to 19 and the Asbury Park Fishing Show on March 19. 

Cyclone Lures will be among the many plug builders participating in the Asbury Park Fishing Club’s 30th Annual Fishing Show on March 19 at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel.

Mike Pinto at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright said the kayakers in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers are having the best of it right now on small plugs and plastics. There is a ton of adult bunker around, he said, which can only mean better fishing is on the way. Pinto hasn’t heard anything on winter flounder as yet. 

Mike Gleason at TAK Waterman said he’s excited about the coming weeks. Anglers are catching bass in the backwaters with plugs and plastics performing well. Gleason suspects these are resident fish. He said there is a lot of bait around, bunker in the rivers and up in Raritan Bay and herring out front. Birds are diving off the beaches, he said, but there haven’t been any reports of ocean fish. Gleason expects the next new moon will bring a new body of bass into the area. Folks fishing freshwater, he added, continue to do well with crappie and largemouth. 

Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar said it’s been a bit slow.  They’ve been selling a lot of worms and got a few rental boats out but nothing to report on winter flounder in the Shark River. He’s received reports of bass in the rivers to the north and Barnegat Bay to the south. 

Capt. Pete Sykes of Parker Pete’s Sportfishing out of Belmar said the Express will be sailing for tog on April 1 while the small boat will be sailing out of Lockwood Marina in South Amboy on the same day for Raritan Bay stripers. 

Trips can be booked through his website. Capt. Jay Richardella of Side Job Charters will also be sailing out of Lockwood Marina for Raritan Bay bass beginning in April and is currently scheduling spring charters through his website.

Matt Haeger at The Reel Seat in Brielle said all of the bass action over the weekend was back in the bay near the bridges on plugs and plastics. There’s likely fish in the Manasquan River as well, but he just didn’t hear of any being taken. Small X-Raps were working at night as were small shads on jig heads. 

Kyle Tanger at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant Beach said the fish are around but the fluctuating water temperatures have been a challenge. The cold, windy conditions haven’t helped participation either. Small artificials have been working, he said, but what we really need is some cooperation from the weather.  

The Norma K III out of Point Pleasant Beach is currently taking reservations for a mid-March cod trip and is booking early spring striper trips. 

Dennis Palmatier at the Hook House in Toms River said it was a good, not fabulous, opening for stripers. Bay bridges has been pretty productive as has the bay behind Island Beach State Park. The bass, he said, are pretty spread out throughout the bay. The Toms River has been giving up fish as well, but the windy conditions have been making it tough to fish. Small X-Raps like the SXR-10, Kettle Creek shads and bloodworms have been catching fish. Kayak anglers have been doing pretty good around the bridges. Winter flounder is off to a slow start, but he did hear of a couple caught at the Mantoloking Bridge. 

Hook House Bait and Tackle in Toms River shared this photo of a shop regular and the striper he caught in the Toms River just after opening day.

Pete Kupper at Charlie’s Bait and Tackle in Normandy Beach said small bass have been caught in the back bay and the Toms River. Huddy Park, he heard, was a good spot.  He, too, heard of winter flounder at the Mantoloking Bridge and mentioned that the birds have been diving pretty hard out front. On what, he wasn’t sure. 

Ray Kerico at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park said the bass fishing has been all right but nothing crazy. Bloodworms seem to be working best in the back bay and the Toms River with small shads picking fish as well. Kerico said the big Spring has Sprung Sales Event and Seminar Series is set for March 25 and will have Scabelly Lures and Big Rock Plugs in the house.  Local surfcasting legend, Shell E. Caris, is headlining the seminars. 

Liam at Creekside Outfitters in Waretown said there are bass and perch being caught mostly on bloodworms in the rivers and creeks. At night, around Graveling Point, the bass are favoring artificials like SP Minnows and Kettle Creek shads. 

Max at Fishermen’s Headquarters in Ship Bottom said it’s perch and small bass around there and it’s mostly on bloodworms. The perch, he added, outnumber the stripers. 

Tara at Tight Lines Bait and Tackle in Somers Point said that folks have been fishing for stripers since the opening last week but she hasn’t heard of any being caught as yet. The doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, she added. She said the white perch bite have been biting all winter and that action is still going strong.  

Best Bets for the Weekend

The weekend forecast looks less than inviting, but there are stripers to be had. Bloodworms fished in the back of Raritan Bay, along the Bayshore beaches, in the Toms River and Barnegat Bay have been catching bass since the season reopened on March 1. 

Anglers fishing at night are also doing pretty good with small X-Raps, SP Minnows, Kettle Creek shads and other plastics in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers and in Barnegat Bay around the bridges. Be patient, fishing will improve when the weather does.

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