If you crave really big, good tasting fish, head to New Jersey shore points for some saltwater action.
According to On the Water Magazine, our saltwater fishing reporter, keeper fluke remain hard to come by. Anglers are getting some bigger fluke by boat fishing rough bottoms with bucktails. Beach anglers are getting a few to take home, but they’re mostly shorts.
In the meantime, the excellent bluefin tuna bite continues with sea bass limits pretty much a given as are Spanish mackerel, kingfish and small bass that populate the surf. Snappers too are in the rivers and bays and the blue claw crabs are plentiful.
Rick Hebert, at Tackle World in Rochelle Park, went fluking over the weekend and found only undersized fish. On the plus side, he believes the fluke are getting more aggressive. Now if they would only get bigger. He did say the bluefin bite remains strong with the fish now hitting jigs. Trolling them continues to work as well.
Fast talking Capt. Phil Sciortino, owner of the Tackle Box in Hazlet, said there were striped bass hitting plugs in the Sea Bright and Long Branch surf last Tuesday morning with several keepers among them. Lots of fluke are being caught but not a lot are making it to the coolers. There are also plenty of kingfish in the surf and he had good reports of Spanish mackerel farther to the south.
Capt. Phil added that snappers are all along the Bayshore and the crabbing is very good in Red Bank and Keyport. Plus, weakfish are in the Reach Channel and hitting worms and soft plastics soaked in shedder crab oil.
Mike Gleason, at Tak Waterman in Long Branch, said popping plugs and shads have been catching stripers in the surf. Tuna anglers have been picking up big epoxy jigs with a sand eel profile at the shop as they are proving very effective on bluefin tuna. Local surfcasters are suffering from the short fluke problem as well, but there are kingfish, small blues and Spanish mackerel to be had. Gleason did add that Spanish mackerel were getting a little finicky lately as to what they’ll hit. “They were jumping all over the place in Ocean Grove last Monday, but wouldn’t take the Hogy epoxy jig I was tossing. Several followed the lure right to the jetty then decided against hitting it. Include small metals like an Ava 007 or a Deadly Dick among your lures when pursuing these fish” he suggested.
Bob Matthews said Fisherman’s Den North in Atlantic Highlands, weighed in a 67-pound cobia that was caught in the Mud Hole, with a few others being caught this year. Kingfish and triggerfish are a good target as it’s been a better than average year for them as well. And the striper bite is better this week with short and keeper fish hitting small poppers, clams and sand crabs. And for the kids, the snappers are in the marina.
Capt. Pete Sykes, of Parker Pete’s Sportfishing out of Belmar, said there are keeper fluke around, you just have to work hard for them. He’s finding them on rough bottoms with bucktails enticing the bigger fish. Anglers are having no problem getting their limit of sea bass.
The only good freshwater news comes from Herb Gottshall, president of Lehigh Fish & Game Association. Gottshall informed me on Friday that they just returned from Cabela’s with 53 golden trout from their in-store pond. Cabela’s refreshes their trout stock yearly and donates those that were there to selected F&G associations for stocking in local streams. Gottschall said those 53 trophy trout were stocked in the Little Lehigh in the Lehigh Parkway section.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.