We are set up for a superstar type of late fall through November and into December. October waters stayed warmer than usual, ushering in bluefish like we haven’t seen in years, while striped bass pushed in early last month as well. November’s relative chill will truly spark species of all shapes and sizes to bite including those stripers, sea bass, remnant blues, false albacore and bluefin tuna to name a few. Add to that mix one of the top NJ targets blackfish, where the season “re-opens” with a five fish bag limit and 15-inch minimum size on November 16th through December 31st. Then black sea bass season is open as of November 1st through December 31st with a 15 fish bag limit at 13-inch minimum size. Let’s get this November started!
Early in the month of November, stripers will still be stacked in the backwater river systems in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers. Nighttime bites are usually red hot on slow rolling wooden swimming plugs in yellow or white. Cast around the Oceanic Bridge or back by the Route 35 bridge to find some quality linesiders that can push 20 to 30 pounds. Sandy Hook always seems to hold plenty of stripers around the Rip and through the parking lot areas, with a special focus around Lot B and C. Cast away with Deadly Dicks, Kroc Spoons, and Hogy baits to find bass down below and in the surfline. There’s a slight chance there may even be some straggler false albacore hanging around and they will be right off the Sandy Hook Rip out to the sticks, chasing down rainfish, peanut bunker and sand eel schools. Deadly Dicks and Williamson Gomoku jigs along with Hogy Epoxys will take the speedsters.
All the rage will be on blackfishing here. There’s so much sticky structure along the northern coast that some days it looks like the garden state parkway on rush hour with so many boats out on the tog grounds, but there are plenty of spots to try out. Areas such as the Elberon Rocks, Klondike, Rattlesnake, Shrewsbury Rocks, Sea Girt Reef and Shark River Reef will all be tog playgrounds. You’re going to have to bump around and try different depths to see where the bulk of fish are staging according to the water temperatures they are settling into, which should be around the high 50’s by now. Bring a variety of baits to send down and see what they are keying in on, including white legger crabs, green crabs, clams and conch if you can find any. If jigging, go with orange or white leadheads in 1 to 2 ounces, but nothing over 2 ounces and tip with half a crab to walk over the rocks and structure piles. Striped bass will be patrolling the nearshore waters from Monmouth Beach down through Manasquan, many times within reach of surfcasters launching plugs and poppers from the sands. Stripers will be feeding aggressively during the sunrise hours before the sun rises over the horizon. Get out early every day and find the busting schools blowing up baitfish and launch shads, poppers, plugs and jigs into the melee. The early start of sea bass season will have those fish hanging most likely in the 90 to 150 foot depths around the Shark River Reef, Arundo, Oil Wreck and such depths, though they may be a little further off, it all depends on water temps.
Now that we’ve had three years since the beach replenishment fiasco, the shoreline looks like the beachfront of old with myriad cuts, sloughs, bars and pools for striped bass and bluefish to patrol. All that soft structure traps baitfish inside meaning not only will surfcasters have their pick of fish, but boaters motoring just outside the breakers should find consistent action on blues and bass anywhere from Bay Head down through Island Beach State Park. Sand eels will be the predominant bait in the waters, so thin profiled soft baits like Tsunami sand eels and Bill Hurley eels along with thin metals like Deadly Dicks, Ava jigs and so on will work wonders. Blackfish on tap will be hanging at the Axel Carlson Reef, and at low-lying shipwrecks like the Mohawk, Barge and surrounding wrecks from 3 to 8 miles off the coast. I personally find that larger tog hang around the low lying structures like the army tanks or tire units in the Axel Carlson reef and tog jigs from 1 to 1-1/2 ounce tipped with half crabs baits held steady on the sea floor get the big whacks from trophy tog up to 10 pounds and greater. There’s always a chance some weakfish may show up along the shoreline as they were in thick inside Barnegat Bay during October and may spill out alongshore. Try tossing soft baits and metals for them and make sure your drags are set loosely so as not to tear the papermouth of the fish and lose it. Interestingly there had already been reports of red drum caught in the IBSP area surf in October on mullet chunks. That would be amazing to see more of the reds taken in November. And be on the lookout for the southern visitor of speckled trout, which showed up last November in the Mantoloking surfline.
Bluefin tuna. That’s all you need to know. The BFT had not only still been staging off of Long Island only 2 to 3 miles from shore, but they were true horse mackerel, giant bluefin, up to 800 pounds. Those fish could very well be making their way south in November and running the 15 to 20 fathom lines in spots like the Lillian, Humpty Dumpty, Monster Ledge and the Slough like in the glory tuna days of the 80s. Bluefin were already blowing up bait schools off of Long Branch in Mid-October and some were even taken on topwater Madd Mantis poppers. This could very well be an historic November and December BFT season right near the shoreline. If you do venture offshore to the canyon areas, November usually means the end of the yellowfin run and the pushing in of mostly longfin albacore, which generally average 25 to 45 pounds, but are some of the most delicious tasting of the tuna species. Bring plenty of jigs, poppers, and twitch baits to target all tuna species through the end of the year.
November is always one of the finest fishing months in the Jersey salt. Offshore, inshore, surf or bottomfishing, you are guaranteed a great time! Enjoy the last days of 2021 and see you in 2022!