What an incredible year so far and June is primed for fishing fun! Starting off, the striper run has really gotten running as of early May, in fact it was pretty much lights out fishing all throughout April as well. Bass are all up and down the coastline now instead of solely in the northern bays. Fluke season opened on May 2nd and first reports tell of some fast action in the backwaters. This month, black sea bass season reopens for a short stint from May 17 to June 19th with a 13-inch minimum size and 10 fish bag limit, then closes until it reopens once again on July 1. Tuna should be ready to rumble on the offshore grounds. Let’s dive into the real start of summertime fishing.
You can always count on Raritan Bay as the striper factory in the spring and this year was no different, except that its possible the river systems leading into the bay were even hotter than the bay itself. Throughout April and early May, the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers were lights out on bass with easy 45 fish mornings on fish from 26 to 43 inches while casting Ocean Born Wideback swimmers, Yo-Zuri Mag Darters, SP Minnows and the like. Those fish began to push out into the Raritan Bay in early May. Anglers then trolling Mojos, Maja spoons or jigging large wobble spoons, shads, and RonZ lures were into plenty of fish, some up to and over the 45 pound mark. The Ammo Pier was a hot spot, as well as off the Keansburg pier, Belford flats, Port Monmouth, the Amboys and eventually out into the bay at Chapel Hill Channel. As of early May, the bay still hadn’t seen any bluefish but they did show up in the Navesink River. Expect June to be holding choppers inside the bay. Fluke anglers are going to be carpetbombing the bay with bucktails, three way rigs and all sorts of fluke tricks and toys in attempt to score the first fluke of the year. Early hot spots are around the Ammo Pier, The Raritan Reach, Coast Guard Station and back by the Highlands Bridge.
Strangely enough, this section was relatively quiet throughout April, but as of early May, things are changing and will change by the time June rolls into town. Winter flounder will be exiting the shark River backwaters and if you are dedicated to target them, you could really do well off the L-street pier and gas docks by Fisherman’s Den. Bluefish could very well be inundating the inlet area on the shifting tides as signs already point to blues moving in as of May 2nd. Try tossing Ava jigs with single hooks for easy hooksets and quick and safe releases. The Shark River should also be primed for fluke fishing as the flatfish are inside the inlet and getting ready to push out to the inshore lumps and humps off of Asbury Park, Deal, Elberon and points northward. Work the 30 to 55 foot depths with fresh bait strips of squid, sand eels or spearing as early fluke are more apt to hit scented baits than aggression strikes at this time of year. Sea bass should be colonizing the inshore rockpiles and reefs at Sandy Hook Reef, 17 Fathoms, the Farms and Klondike areas. Most fish will be just keeper size over 13 inches with a few 2 to 3 pounders thrown in the mix. Berkley Gulp! Baits are best to use on size 3/0 Octopus hooks on a hi-lo dropper rig.
Early May, big bass stormed the beaches from Bay Head through IBSP. Some crusher catches to 45 pounds were taken by clammers off the surf. Look around both the full and new moons in June to find the largest bass of the season on the feed. Bunker chunks and clams will take the bulk of surf fish as will wooden metal lipped swimming plugs or Scabelly glider plugs. Boat anglers will simply jig and pop around the schools to claim their fare. Fluke fishing should be productive in Barnegat Bay, especially along Oyster Creek Channel and even back by the 40 Marker, all depending on the water temps. Look generally to fish outgoing tides when the water warms up on the outflow to get the resident fluke snappin’. Small, light ½-ounce white bucktails tipped with Fisherman’s Choice squid strips or Berkeley Gulp! Shrimp and Swimmin’ Minnows are always a go-to lure to bounce around for fluke. Try for fluke in the Manasquan river as well. At the start of the month, begin drifts way back by the Route 70 bridge, then work progressively out to the inlet area to find where the packs are sticking. The ICW channel off of Clark’s Landing is usually the target zone for most river flukers. It’s a good sign as of early May that bluefish will be entering the Squan and Barnegat Inlets and running through the bays and rivers. Whatever size class is prevalent is yet to be seen, but so far fish from 5 to 18 pounds had been caught on SP Minnows, Ava jigs and bucktails. Be sure to switch out all treble hooks to single hooks to prevent any inadvertent hooked hands or legs.
You’ll be hard pressed to find any fish more on the minds of anglers than tuna right now. With the prolific tuna fishing going strong for the past 7 years, it seems that the bite is starting earlier each year. By June, there should already be a steady stream of tuna reports rolling in from the offshore grounds. Based on daily intel the BFT can be anywhere from in close 8 to 15 miles, to midshore at the Chicken Canyon and Atlantic Princess area 40 to 50 miles then offshore to the canyons at the Hudson and Texas Tower and Triple Wrecks. Yellowfin generally can be found from 45 miles and out, but last year they were even caught 10 miles off in with the BFT schools. With all fish, hot lures have been Madd Mantis poppers, RonZ soft baits, Stingo jigs, Savage Gear jigs, Shimano Butterfly Jigs, Savage Gear Mack Sticks and the usual Chatter Lures sidetracker squid spreader bars. Get out early before sunrise as most bites last up until 10 am or so then quiet down until late afternoon where you can find tuna schools crashing baitfish on the surface for topwater action. Golden tilefish are along the canyon edges as well, in fact, some brutes over the 40-pound mark had already been plucked from the clay flats.
We’re fast into summertime fun, point the bow to the fish and let the good times roll!