We’re coming off the heels of a fantastic October fishery, heading into what should be stellar November and December activity to finish out the year. Mid-October, a wild big blitz of cow bass from 30 to 50 pounds made its way down the coastline for a good 5 days of solid fishing. That was way earlier than we are used to seeing big bass make a migratory move and may set up some serious bassing for November. Tuna fishing continued to be lights out, while sea bass, porgy and blackfishing was all up to speed. Remember, the blackfish limit bumps up to 5 fish and a 15-inch minimum size on November 16th to 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.
Bass were stacked in the back rivers of the Shrewsbury and Navesink River systems earlier than usual through October. Anglers fishing around the Oceanic Bridge and where the two rivers meet by the Highlands Bridge found plenty of bass on big paddletail shads. Strangely, way back by Perth Amboy and South Amboy, stripers were hanging around the Raritan River mouth. By November, most of those fish should be in the middle bay to the mouth of the bay as they prepare to migrate southward. Decent size fish of 15 to 25 pounds are the norm this time of year and it’s a good time to target the fish with topwater poppers as you find stripers pushing bunker schools up to the surface to attack. Big wobble spoons jigged below will also work well for bass. If we’re lucky, we may even see some big bluefish move into the area as Long Island held plenty of true gators of 14 to 18 pounds over the summer.
Sandy Hook should shine with action, especially off the Rip of North Beach and even down through the Parking Lots A, B and C. Many bass were already reported hitting plugs and poppers from the surf at the Hook, both on ocean side and bayside as well. False albacore may still be lingering around the area and many times the rippy waters off the Hook are the place to find the speedsters hitting small Epoxy jigs and metals. Look for bass schools up and down close to the coastline from Asbury Park through to Manasquan and during afternoon hours, move off to 65 or 70 foot of water near the 3 mile line to troll eels to find bass. Blackfishing will be the main game along the northern stretch once the season jumps to a 5 fish limit again in mid-November. Generally, togging is hot closer inshore at the start of November as the fish move off the inlet rocks and canal waters to populate the nearshore reefs and rockpiles like Sandy Hook Reef, Sea Girt Reef, Elberon Rocks and such. Start off with regular Belmar rig one dropper hooks with half crabs then if you feel the fish are nipping at baits, switch up to a tog jig baited with half a crab to implement a quicker hookset. As the waters get colder, fish will push off to the 80 to 120 foot depths into December, but November stick to the 65 to 85 foot waters. Sea bass fishing will most likely have moved out to the 15 to 30 mile wreck areas such as the Shark River Reef and other shipwrecks in that range. Go with fresh clams or squid for baits and lance on a big pink or red 6-inch Berkley Gulp! Curly grub tail on each hook as well for added scent and attraction.
A monster wave of trophy bass stormed the Barrier Island in early October and we’re hoping that’s a sign to come for November. Fleets were dropping live bunker and bunker chunks on circle hooks around the bunker schools from Mantoloking through Seaside Park and Island Beach state Park to pick away at 30 to 50 pound bass that were leftover from the first wave. Bunker schools have been prevalent along this stretch as well as plenty of bay anchovies and spearing. Last late November and early December we had a four-day massive blitz of bass the likes we haven’t seen in over a decade, which hit the shores between Bay Head and Island Beach. It was an all day long affair of 25 to 43 inch bass crushing poppers, swimmers, shads and metals sunrise to sunset and into the night. We can only hope that action takes place again, but look to that last week in November. Tautog fishing will be in its prime at nearshore rockpiles like the Axel Carlson Reef, Manasquan Reef and the Barnegat Light reef. Other wrecks in the 55 to 80 foot range like the Bone Wreck and Mohawk will also be holding the blackfish as they begin to migrate further offshore as the water temps plummet. Interestingly, in October, bunker schools were absolutely getting devoured by humpback whales, but more importantly, giant bluefin tuna up to 500 pounds or so were also hammering the bunker only a few hundred yards off the beach! Nobody had hooked up as far as I know, but its food for thought. Look for the chance of finding a few weakfish, redfish and speckled trout also to be reported near the surf line during both of these months.
They said it’s impossible for tuna fishing to get any better. That was the word on October canyon tuna fishing. Yellowfin tuna limits could be scored within an hour’s time of fishing for most boats. The FYT ranged in average of 35 to 60 pounds with 80 to 100 pound yellowfins mixed within. Bluefin tuna to 150 pounds were also cruising in the butterfish and sardine slicks, along with the occasional bigeye tuna and swordfish. Night chunking was literally lights out fishing as many boats opted to forgo the anchor and simply drifted with a slick out to tangle with tuna non-stop. Chunking also brought a jig bite to occur as snap jigging pulled on the larger model tuna of 80 pounds and more. November could very well still see plenty of tuna in the Hudson Canyon off the West Wall, the Dip and the Elbow as well as southern canyons of Toms, Lindenkohl and Baltimore Canyons. This was a fall tuna season for the ages! November and December usually see the yellowfin go south while bluefin and longfin albacore can stick around in the colder temps, but the way this season is going we may see an extended yellowfin chew lasting well into November.
An incredible fall season continues on! Be sure you make the most out of it and hit the saltwater, just be sure to bundle up and keep the hot chocolate on tap!