Northern New Jersey Fishing Report- May 18, 2023

Sea bass season starts off hot, bluefish are everywhere, and large stripers hit eels, bunker, swimming plugs, clams and more off the beaches.

Despite tough conditions, sea bass season started with a bang as all boats reported excellent fishing and limit catches. A number of captains also reported ling and cod among the sea bass. At the same time, fluke fishing remains solid in the rivers and bays with plenty of keepers reported. 

And then there are striped bass. Rivers and bays still have their fair share of fish but the action has picked up out front with jumbo bass being caught on the troll, live eels and bunker. The beaches are also giving up stripers on big plugs, clams and sand bugs.  Throw in the bluefish, which seem to be everywhere, and a strong showing of weakfish in the rivers and ocean, and you have every reason to go fishing. 

Rick Hebert at Tackle World in Rochelle Park reported big bass caught between the channels in Raritan Bay on the troll. He also had reports of jumbos at the Shrewsbury Rock on live eels. On the freshwater side, Hebert said trout fishing is good in the streams and rivers, largemouth are being pulled off the beds and there’s been a solid crappie bite in local ponds and lakes. 

Tackle World in Rochelle Park sent this photo of Amanda Fuduli and the jumbo striper she caught trolling Mojos in Raritan Bay last weekend.

Danny Stolba at Fish Tail Bait and Tackle in Carteret said bass were hitting bunker chunks in the Arthur Kill by Perth Amboy. Big eels were eating the chunks up by Carteret and one local angler did get an 18-inch fluke on bunker. 

Capt. Phil Sciortino at the Tackle Box in Hazlet said the bass bite in Raritan Bay is amazing with a few 50 pounders caught in the last week. There are fluke back in the rivers and big blues are in there with them. 

Mike Pinto at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright said the bass fishing in the local rivers has slowed down but it is picking up on the beaches.  Clams and chunks have been producing most of the fish but a few are hitting artificials. Anglers are picking up big stripers offshore on metal-lipped swimmers and trolling eels. Fluking is getting better in the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers, he added, on Gulp and bucktails. 

Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright shared this photo of Dave Glassberg and his son, Jack, and the monster bass caught on a Next Level Spook and an ODM boat rod.

Mike Gleason at TAK Waterman in Long Branch said the bass bite in the rivers and out front is still very good. He said a new body of jumbo stripers moved into the area and they’re hitting big metal-lipped swimmers and wooden plugs off the beach. Gleason also said the tuna are here but still a good distance offshore. 

Stripers are eating clams off the beaches in the Ocean Grove area and I got my first bass of the year on sand bugs on Wednesday. Mike “Two-pole” Compoly said the bugs have been working for him for a while in the wash and he picked up two stripers to 37 inches on Tuesday morning. 

Mike Compoly with the 37-inch striper he caught on sand bugs on Tuesday.

Bob Matthews at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar reported an excellent start to the sea bass season for the party boats sailing out of the marina. The Big Mohawk and Capt. Cal II both reported limit catches. Shark River fluking continues to shine. Matthews reported that Rich and Jay Lyle from Staten Island caught 30 fluke from a rental boat, keeping two of 4 and 5 pounds. Bass and blues are biting in the river as well and  Matthews said there are a lot of  blowfish in there with them. 

Capt. Jay Richardella of Side Job Charters out of Belmar had a banner day on Wednesday catching a sea bass limit then finding jumbo stripers to close out the trip. He’ll be sailing for sea bass, stripers, fluke, blues and tuna. There are still a few openings on the calendar and he can be contacted through his website. 

After catching a limit of sea bass on Wednesday, Capt. Jay Richardella of Side Job Charters caught and released jumbo stripers like this one.

Capt. Pete Sykes of Parker Pete’s Sportfishing out of Belmar reported limiting out early on sea bass in Wednesday’s challenging conditions. Between the two vessels in Parker Pete’s fleet, Capt. Sykes will be sailing for sea bass, fluke and stripers. His schedules are posted on his website and there are openings available. 

Double-header sea bass caught aboard Parker Pete’s Sportfishing out of Belmar on Wednesday.

Capt. Steve Spinelli on the Skylarker out of Belmar also put a limit catch of sea bass in the boat on Wednesday along with a few ling. He’s going to be sea bass fishing until the season closes. Check his website for availability. 

Matt Haeger at the Reel Seat in Brielle said there is plenty to catch in the Manasquan River with fluke, blues and stripers all keeping anglers busy. There are bass on the beach taking clams with a few hitting artificials. He’s had reports of bluefin being caught offshore, including a 500 pounder. 

Kyle Tanger at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant Beach said now is the time to go fishing because you’re bound to catch something. There are bass, blues, fluke and weakfish in the Manasquan River. The water, he added, has never been clearer. Tanger said the weakies were initially being caught by bass anglers by accident, but now people are having luck targeting them. Some of them have been up to 20 inches. SP Minnows, 7-inch Z-Man shads and other soft plastics have all been working. Stripers are all over the place, he said. In addition to the river, they’re out front and some quality fish, up to 40 pounds, are hitting big plugs. Fluking on the beach is also half-way decent. There’s been a lot of chatter on tuna, he said, with boats heading offshore and bluefin being caught. Not all of it, however, is verifiable. That should change in the next couple of weeks. 

Capt. Danny Gregory on the Norma K III out of Point Pleasant Beach also reported a boat limit of sea bass on Wednesday along with some ling. He’ll be fishing for fluke and sea bass in the coming days. 

Chris Parlow from Captain Bill’s Landing in Point Pleasant Beach reported that sea bass fishing for those who were able to make it out Wednesday was outstanding. The fishing was good on both the Axel Carlson and Sea Girt Reefs. Captain Alex on the On Point was back at the dock by 9 a.m. with a limit of sea bass. Blues have been blitzing in the Manasquan River, he said, and the fluking keeps getting better with a number of fish exceeding five pounds. 

Captain Bill’s Landing in Point Pleasant Beach shared this photo of Evan Krause and the nice opening day sea bass he caught aboard the On Point.

Capt. Kenny Namowitz on the Mimi VI out of Point Pleasant Beach sailed for sea bass on Wednesday and, though there wasn’t a late report, knowing Capt. Kenny’s reputation, there’s no doubt the trip was a success. The Mimi VI will be sailing for sea bass through June and there are still some afternoon charter dates available.  

Frank Giacalone at Gabriel Tackle in Brick said fluke fishing remains good in the Manasquan River and the north end of Barnegat Bay. Anglers are also having fun with the blues in the river, Point Pleasant Canal and Barnegat Bay  

Pete Kupper at Charlie’s Bait and Tackle in Normandy Beach said the bass bite out front has been good at night on blurple Bombers and SP Minnows. And the fish have been big, up to 45 inches. During the day, clams have been the ticket. The wash is also holding fluke that are being caught on bucktails and Gulp and by dragging SP Minnows. Bluefish are hitting bunker chunks and mullet. The blues are back in the bay as well, Kupper said, hitting whatever you want to throw at them. Crabbing reports are also getting better, he added. 

Ray Kerico at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park said the good surf fishing continues with blues, bass and fluke. Some jumbo stripers, up to 40 pounds joined the action this week, hitting poppers early in the morning.  The fluke are on the usual favorites of Gulp and bucktails while the bluefish are hitting mullet, bunker chunks, metal and poppers.  

Best Bets for the Weekend

Fish are waiting for you wherever you decide to go. Jump on a party or charter boat and get in on the excellent black sea bass fishing. Fluke are biting in the rivers and bays on Gulp, bucktails and spearing.  

Stripers and blues are in the same places hitting poppers, plugs and plastics.  You’ll also have a shot at weakfish. 

Bass and blues are on the beaches as well. Bait, plugs and poppers are all working. Just go. 

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