In many angler opinions, you’re not going to find a finer month to fish the salt than October. Most of the “summer” fishing is gone, but what replaces it is completely and utterly electric. The Fall Run really begins to take shape and even peak during the month, as hordes of bait schools including mullet, rainfish, bunker, and sand eels push out of the backwaters and into the surf and nearshore, where millions of striped bass, bluefish, weakfish and tuna await to gobble ‘em up. Nights are noticeably cool and require the heat to be turned on, while daytimes still allow for T-shirts and crisp air which a nice hot cup of coffee cures instantly. Some changing regulations include black sea bass season which reopens from October 8 to October 31 runs with a 10 fish limit at 12.5-inch minimum length, then opens up to a 15 fish limit at 13-inch minimum size starting November 1st.
Get ready for bass and blues to re-enter the R-Bay waters. Bunker schools have been hanging around all summer and will most assuredly be finning around the baywaters this month. Big stripers are migrating back down the coast from New England now and will be feeding in spots like Romer Shoal, Chapel Hill Channel, Flynn’s Knoll and off the Rip. Livelined bunker on circle hooks will work, but the fall run is about casting lures and artificials such as topwater poppers when bass and blues are crashing bunker up top or jigging with metals such as Kroc spoons and Ava jigs if sandeels are the predominant bait down below. Rubber baits like Hogy Pro Tails, Zoom Super Flukes and Ron-Z eels will also get grabbed by bass.
Sea bass and porgy fishing should be lights out in the rubble areas like The Farms, 17 Fathoms, Rattlesnake, Klondike and Shark river Reef areas. Sea bass will stick around til the end of the month before they start to migrate offshore, while porgy fishing is just getting started in the area. Drop bits of clam or squid to nail down both species as they will be hanging together in the same areas. False albacore school should be streaking up and down the coast from Shrewsbury Rocks down to Manasquan Inlet and can be found during the early morning hours best up until around 9 or 10 AM before the boat traffic pushes them down. Small metals like Hogy Epoxy, Joe Baggs Resin and Savage Gear Glass Minnows will all connect with albies. Both bluefish and bass schools will be patrolling the nearshore waters within 3 miles to harass bait pods of bunker sand eels and rainfish. This is one of the finest times to toss topwater poppers like the 3-ounce Yo-Zuri bull popper to elicit massive explosive surface strikes. Bluefish can be caught with more ease on metals like Ava 47 jigs dropped down and reeled up in the water column. The outflow from Raritan Bay off of the Atlantic Highlands area always seems to attract schools of bass and blues. Don’t forget to fish the churny waters off of Sandy Hook Rip as well for both species.
Some wild stuff was happening in this stretch during September. First off, the Manasquan Ridge was alive with activity of all sorts. Bluefin tuna up to 50 pounds were caught with jigs sporadically and were marked nearly every day. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and little tunny were covering up the spot left and right and were caught both trolling feathers and on metal jigs. Then you had cobia and mahimahi hanging on the lobster pots dotting the area. Then the capper, loads and loads of sharks like hammerheads, blacktips, spinners and brown sharks were on the prowl with dorsal fins out and hunting. It was really nuts out there and this month should see much of the same though mahi have probably moved more south by now. The Axel Carlson reef and Sea Girt Reef will be holding black sea bass before they make their move offshore. Porgies and ling will also be hanging on the structure piles and shipwrecks. This stretch of coast usually sees the best bass fishing for boaters as schools hug the coastline’s deeper water sections from Bay Head to IBSP and can be caught right outside the breakers on a variety of jigs, popper, plugs and spoons. Flycasters also have the best shot at connecting with stripers from on deck of boat, both outside the breakers, but also in the surf itself and in the backwaters of the Manasquan River and Barnegat Bay sodbank areas.
Here we go again. Another summer chock full of bluefin and yellowfin tuna close to shore! Giant bluefin tuna were literally hanging 3 miles off of Long Island last month and bluefin were covered up at spots like the Atlantic Princess, Resor Wreck, Triple Wrecks and even more inshore only 8 to 15 miles off at areas like the Slough, Humpty Dumpty and the Lillian. The bluefin bite last month changed over from the troll to the chunk and jig as sardines freelined back into a slick got whacked as did 80 to 150 gram slim jigs during the sunrise hours. Once the sun is fully high in the sky, you can put the trolled offerings out again such as sidetracker spreader bars, ballyhoo on Islanders, Cedar plugs and Green machine daisy chains. Yellowfin tuna came in close too, as some were even reported only 10 miles from the shoreline, and even more were 30 to 40 miles off. Canyon runners found the bulk of the yellowfin schools as the chunk bite regained its historical steam. There weren’t too many reports of swordfish, but full and new moons in October always seem to bring in the broadbills to the Hudson Canyon. The way things are going, we may see the “ol days” of October chunking tuna at the canyon areas once again. Bring plenty of sardines, butterfish and squid jigs to jig up fresh squid baits to liveline back.
October is truly the last month of warmth as we transition into the cold of November. I can’t prod you enough to get out and sample the bounty October has to offer in the salt. Whether it’s the beauty of the colorful season or the feeling of that crisp, salty air, you simply can’t beat October!