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NJ Fishing Report

The heart of summertime fun is upon us as the calendar page flips to August. It’s the time of year when exotics add spice to the mix. Spanish macks, bonito, mahi, skipjacks, king mackerel and more patrol the waters inshore to offshore. Bluefish in the baywaters is usually a lights-out endeavor and easily brings smiles to kids landing their first “official” catch of the saltwater. Crabbing will be in its prime in the back bays as well. Tuna fishing offshore should be firing on all cylinders. Blackfish season reopens from August 1 to November 15 with a one-fish limit at 15-inch minimum size and black sea bass season is still open through August 31st with 2 fish at 12.5 inches. There’s plenty to do this month, let’s get started!

Fluke fishing remained red hot at the mouth of Raritan Bay, especially off the Sandy Hook Rip where anglers were floating live killies out and coming up big with fluke from 3 to 8 pounds. Inside the bay, the Keansburg Pier was a highlight area to find plenty of fluke, blues, weakfish and even summered over striped bass. Porgies began to colonize the Port Monmouth Rockpiles in early July and that should be a reliable fishery this month. Look for big time fluking in the channels at Chapel Hill Channel, Ambrose Channel, Ammo Pier and off the Coast Guard Station. Historically, August is prime time for fluking closer to the Hook. Night-time sorties drifting sandworms off of Flynn’s Knoll could very well produce some quality weakfish as they have been hanging around all summer long.

As now seems the norm, ling fishing was reliable and solid throughout July and has now truly become a summer fishery. Most action has been at the Mud Hole area, 17 Fathoms, Shark River Reef and the Farms, generally all historic ling spots that range from 75 to 130 feet in depth. Interestingly, blackback snowshoe winter flounder of 2 to 5 pounds have also been hitting during those ling trips and it might be worthwhile to scale down to small flounder hooks with clam bits as bait to specifically target those chunky flundies. Fluke are going to be paved along the stretch from 50 to 65 feet of water off of Elberon, Shrewsbury Rocks, Long Branch lumps and the Sea Girt reef area. Go big this time of year with long fluke belly strip baits. You can also opt to bounce 1-to-2-ounce Spro bucktails tipped with 6-inch Berkley Gulp grubs. Hopefully, false albies will begin to show up and party boats will set out on specific “exotic” ¾ day trips where they’ll anchor up and chum with spearing as anglers flip light ½ ounce leadheads tipped with 4 to 5-3/4 inch Fin-S fish or Zoom Super Flukes to jig up albies. There should also be some bonito, chub mackerel and Spanish mackerel in the mix if all goes according to plan. If blues decide to take up residence, they will most likely be found during night trips to the Klondike, Farms and Shark River Reef with bunker or butterfish chunks on wire leader 6/0 hooks the go-to rig.

With the more liberal size limits on fluke, bag limits have not been much of a problem to fulfill this season. The Manasquan River and Inlet was a hot spot through July and should continue to be a fluke factory into August. Nearshore reefs like the Axel Carlson and Manasquan Reef held plenty of keepers as well as some trophies up to 10 pounds. On those reef sites you will also be able to pull off black sea bass and blackfish to add to the cooler, albeit only 2 sea bass and 1 tog per trip. You can never go wrong with using Gulp baits on drift rigs or bucktails. Speedsters should be running wild all along the nearshore humps and ridges. Spanish macks, bonito, false albies and even king mackerel will be patrolling the tropical temp waters all around the Manasquan Ridge, Axel Carlson Reef and Barnegat Ridge area. Troll with Williamson flash feathers and Clark Spoons at a brisk 5.5 to 8-knot pace. Do not overlook the lobster and sea bass pot hi-flier markers as mahi-mahi and macks will tend to gravitate around the structure as barnacles and marine growth cling to the potlines and attract bait thus, in turn, attracting pelagic fish to feed and stick around. A deftly cast small bucktail tipped with Gulp should be able to trick anything on the pot to come off and strike. Look to the Barnegat Inlet area for the possibility of finding some sheepshead and believe it or not, tarpon! Last year a school of about a dozen tarpon hung out off the south jetty rock tip. Sheepshead should also be hanging in the rocks at Manasquan and Shark River Inlets.

Tuna started showing up in better numbers around the mid-shore ridges and lumps in mid-July. Yellowfin pushed into the 50-mile range and were hitting trolled spreader bars and squid bars. Bluefin were also starting to show up in larger schools in early July and anglers were able to cast topwater poppers and drop metal jigs to hook into tuna. Usually, in August the canyons are lit up not only with tuna, but white and blue marlin, wahoo and mahi-mahi. The Wilmington and Baltimore Canyons were red hot in early July and that action should have moved up into the Toms and Hudson Canyons thick in August. You can’t go wrong trolling Chatter Lures spreader bars in rainbow, zucchini and black/purple colorings at a 5 to 7-knot pace. Look for large schools of mahi-mahi hanging around debris and potlines offshore. Schools can be comprised of certain size class fish like 5 to 10 pounders or even 10 to 15 pounders with an occasional bull hanging in the mix. Live peanut bunker freelined back or a bucktail dropped under the debris allowed to sink 30 to 40 feet then twitched back up will get hit nearly every time. If the tuna and marlin aren’t biting, push inshore to the 400 to 500-foot “flats” to drop heavy weights and big baits like full herring or mackerel down to pull on some golden tilefish that average 10 to 40 pounds.
If there’s any month that puts Jersey in a new light, it’s August. With tropical temps throughout the month, there’s literally no telling what species can be pushed into our waters. From cobia to sheepshead to king mackerel and even tarpon! You never know what to expect. Enjoy the salt!