Northern New Jersey Fishing Report- September 7, 2023

Fluke bite well in the surf and at local reefs, albies, bonito and blues blitz on bait out front, and yellowfin take jigs and poppers around the mid-shore tuna grounds.

Coming off a hot week of fluke fishing—a week some are calling the best fluking of the year—the bays and rivers remain loaded with peanut bunker, spearing and rain bait like bay anchovies. Fishing around these bait schools in the backwaters will hook you plenty of snapper bluefish and short fluke. However, with false albacore, bonito and Spanish mackerel arriving in better numbers along the beaches, the best fishing will occur as those schools of bait are forced in and out of the ocean inlets.

Fluke fishing remains steady this week despite some big surf, and stripers are being caught in the rivers at night on soft plastics while bluefish interrupt any bass fishing efforts during the day. The local wrecks and reefs are fishing well for fluke, with triggerfish, porgies and the occasional keeper blackfish rounding out the catch. As a reminder, sea bass season closed on September 1, and will reopen on October 1.
Yellowfin tuna fishing is still great in the mid-shore areas with most fish being caught on jigs and poppers, and near shore, mahi are stacked in numbers.

Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright reported that albies are becoming more commonplace for surfcasters this week, it’s just a matter of putting in the time down at the beaches and inlets. There are scattered reports of albies popping up around Sandy Hook. Bonito are in the mix too, and anglers are catching them with Game On Exo jigs.

The guys at TAK Waterman in Long Branch said that there is tons of bait off the beaches, and surfcasters are catching Spanish mackerel around the nervous water when they’re not actively blitzing on top. They also said there are still some keeper fluke being caught in the surf on bucktail jigs and teasers tipped with Gulp. With all the small baitfish around right now, those surf fluke are far more likely to hit a teaser. There are also plenty of snapper blues in the rivers, which can be fun on ultralight tackle with 1/4-ounce Kastmasters. The tuna fishing is still good despite the squid bite having fizzled out, it has just turned into more of a jig bite. Over the next few weeks, stripers fishing should improve with the abundance of bait around.

Captain Steve Spinelli of the Skylarker out of Belmar said that it was a pretty quiet week on the bottom fishing front due to sea bass season being closed, although their fluke trips saw some quality fish hit the deck. The fluke seemed to prefer strip baits over artificials like Gulp.

Captain Pete Sykes of Parker Pete’s Sportfishing in Belmar put a beatdown on the bluefish over Labor Day Weekend, and they plan to go out again for blues this Saturday night, 9/9, after wrapping up their open boat fluke trip.

Parker Pete shared this photo of a happy group of fishermen who cleaned up on cocktail blues during a trip earlier this week.

Kyle Tangen at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant Beach reported that the Manasquan River has been great for anglers looking to catch lots of bluefish. He said there are some bass biting soft plastics and metal lips around bridges during the low-light hours, as well. Live spot will work too, and they can be easily caught with a basic chicken rig and FishBites. Short fluke are abundant in the rivers, while out front fluking remains solid. The local reefs are producing keepers, with Sea Girt seeing the better fishing recently for anglers using 6-inch Gulps in pink, but really any color of Gulp will do. He added that there are albies all over the beaches down to Mantoloking, with the standard epoxy jigs and a new lure from Yo-Zuri doing the most damage. There are some bonito with them, and Spanish mackerel are allegedly mixed in, though he hasn’t seen them himself. In the Point Pleasant Canal, Tangen said the blackfish bite has been good too but you’ve got to pick through the shorts to get your keeper. The mid-shore yellowfin bite is holding well, but the bluefin bite fizzled out recently. Yellowfin are being caught in the 50 to 75 mile range anywhere from the Corvallis Wreck to the Bacardi, as well as around the hills by the Triple Wrecks. He said that it is not a chunk bite, but he advised anyone going out to bring bait. Jigs and poppers will catch, but you’ve got to keep the fish near your boat with bait. The near-shore areas around Glory Hole and Monsters Ledge have seen some good mahi fishing this week, and there are still some wahoo around the mid-shore grounds for anyone interested in  high-speed trolling. He said they got bit off by a big wahoo while jigging for yellowfin the other day.

Captain Danny Gregory of the Norma K III out of Point Pleasant Beach has been taking advantage of a quiet week on the water after Labor Day, and said they’re finding fast action while fluke fishing outside of their local range. They’ve added full day fluke trips each Wednesday to target these areas, and so far, it’s working in their favor.

Fluke fishing has been hot for the Norma K III this week. They’ve seen multiple limits and left them biting in most cases.

The Mimi VI out of Point Pleasant Beach reported some decent results on their recent fluke trips. The fluking has been pretty touch and go around local reefs depending on how the tide is running; if it’s been running too fast, the skipper has been trying to anchor, but it doesn’t always produce results. However, their local bottom fishing trips have also brought in some big porgies, triggerfish and some keeper blackfish as well. With triggers, porgies and the allotted one keeper blackfish per angler, they have been able to put together a nice mixed bag on the days when fluke fishing has been unreliable.

Chris Parlow from Captain Bill’s Landing in Point Pleasant Beach reported that the yellowfin tuna fishing has really picked up over the weekend. Fish are hitting just about everything from butterfish to topwater plugs and jigs. He also reported that this week the fluke are biting better at the Sea Girt Reef and at The Klondike, with multiple double-digit fatties having been caught.

There’s some great topwater action out at the canyon. Pictured is Michael Gallagher (@bpmfishing_nj) out with Captain Gonzo over the Labor Day weekend with a nice yellowfin.

Gabriel Tackle Co. in Brick reported that the surf was a bit tough to fish on Wednesday on account of shifting winds, but there are bluefish and fluke taking advantage of small baitfish tumbling around in the wash. They reported that good fluke fishing has continued at the local reefs, with the bulk of the big fish action coming from Axel Carlson reef rather than Sea Girt. Meanwhile, closer to home, the Manasquan River, as well as the inlet, are both experiencing good fluke fishing due to the influx of baitfish, with a healthy mix of keeper and short fluke. The Point Pleasant Canal has some good fluke fishing at the mouth of the canal, with stripers and blues also active in the area, taking live spot or eels drifted in the current. Blackfishing in the canal has seen some good action, too; there are keepers to be caught, but the bulk of the catch are shorts. Offshore, anglers are catching tuna, wahoo and mahi in the canyons.

Pete Kupper at Charlie’s Bait and Tackle in Normandy Beach said the surf has been hit or miss for fluke this week with big swells, but there are still blues, Spanish mackerel and false albacore around. Their patterns have been difficult to figure out, though, he added, with fish everywhere in the surf one day and gone the next. He also said the Manasquan River is packed with bait and small stripers are being caught on slow-moving, soft-plastic jigs at night. There have also been some bass and blues taking live baits in the Point Pleasant Canal. Additionally, sea bass are being caught with tog along the jetties, which is unfortunate since the season closed last week. And in the back bays, crabbing has slowed and they’re catching everything but crabs in the traps, including small triggerfish, blowfish, juvenile sea bass and spot. Lastly, he made it a point to note that if you use clam chum around hard structure in the warm back bays, you’ll probably end up with a nice blowfish dinner.

Connor at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park said fluke and bluefish are being caught regularly in the surf, although anglers have to pick through shorts to find the keepers. Fluke are hitting mostly bucktails and Gulp on the beaches, but the boats going out to the local reefs are catching bigger keepers by live-lining spot. Back inshore, Spanish mackerel, bonito and false albacore are popping up sporadically in the surf and near the inlets, with classic epoxy jigs and metals getting it done. Back in the bay, spot, blowfish and snapper blues are the main event. Offshore, yellowfin tuna are hitting poppers towards the Triple Wrecks.

Joe Matise caught several fluke up to 21 inches and 3.75 lbs this week. The guys at Grumpy’s said the surf is big, but there’s fish to be caught!

Best Bets for the Weekend

Fluke and hardtails are the best options for surfcasters going into the weekend. With reliable reports of bonito and albies around, and Spanish mackerel close behind, even fluke fishermen would be wise to pack a few metal casting jigs or epoxy/resin jigs. Bluefish are in the surf in numbers too, so don’t be surprised if you hook a few while casting for albies or bonito.

In the rivers and bays, snapper blues are everywhere, short fluke pave the bottom, and blowfish are hanging near hard structure. Pick off a couple keeper fluke and chum for some blowfish, and you’ve got one tasty seafood dinner on your hands.

The near-shore mahi bite should continue uninterrupted, and with consistent temperatures and low winds out of the West/Southwest the next several days, that mid-shore yellowfin bite will likely continue to yield both quality and quantity tuna. And don’t forget your trolling gear! A bonus wahoo may be in the cards.

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