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NJ Fishing Report

April showers bring more than May flowers, they bring plenty of striped bass. Always during the second to third week of the month, an inevitable Nor’Easter rumbles through, churning up the waters and ushering in the first droves of bass in full force along the coastline. Some important news is that blackfish season is reopened for the month from April 1 to April 30 with a four fish limit and 15-inch minimum size. Winter flounder season should be in full swing as well as the flatfish are warming up in the baywaters. Let’s also hope that bluefish make a comeback and show up in the bay systems as they are prone to do in April. Meantime, get ready for some fantastic fishing! Here’s where to look.

Flat out, last March saw a massive influx of stripers into the bay system and April should be gangbusters. Start off by looking back inside the R-Bay by the mouth of the Raritan River system and surrounding areas off of South Amboy, Perth Amboy, Cliffwood Beach and Keyport. Bass will aggressively attack topwater poppers if they are pushing bunker schools to the surface. Savage Gear Panic Poppers and pencil poppers are key to throw. Go with the color white as that color scheme contrasts nicely with the sometimes turbid Raritan waters. Bunker chunkers can also set up with either chunks of bunker or live bunker sent back on a size 8/0 to 10/0 Octopus circle hook. Remember, it is mandatory to use circle hooks now when fishing with ANY type of bait for striped bass, including sandworms, bloodworms and clams. Bass may already be gravitating to the middle parts of the bay off of the Ammo Pier, Chapel Hill Channel and West Bank lighthouse. Keep a keen eye out for birdplays as they often betray where the bass schools are pushing bunker up to the surface. A run and gun approach works fine this time of year cruising around looking for feeding bass. Trollers will no doubt find their mark with Mojo Ball rigs and shad bars, but you can also mark bass schools and pull the engines out of gear to drift over them jigging big rubber baits like RonZ lures, Storm shads and flutter spoons.

Stripers will be running thick inside the Navesink and Shrewsbury river systems here. Early morning sessions are prime time to find shallow flats that dip into channels from like 4 to 8 feet of water. By far, the best producer is a white Yo-Zuri Mag darter tossed out and jerked back to the boat or from the shorelines. SP Minnows are also a good option. A bulk of bass will also be staging off the northern section off the Highlands, Asbury Park and Spring Lake areas with poppers, live bunker baits and trolling patterns of shad bars hanging plenty of linesiders. Often overlooked, blackfishing is super hot this time of year, especially inside the Shark River Inlet waters and rockpiles near the coast in 25 to 50 feet of water. The Sandy Hook reef, Shrewsbury Rocks, and Elberon rockpiles will all have tog staging there eager to bite soft clam baits as well as green crabs. The Shark River system will be the epicenter of winter flounder fishing to boot. Boats can be rented for a half day out of Fisherman’s Den in Belmar Marine basin to take out and ply the waters behind the shop off the Tennis Courts, mussel beds and channels that line the area. Prepare with plenty of clam chum blocks, anchor up and get the flundies chewing by using bottom rigs fixed with yellow grubs on size #6 to #8 Chestertown hooks baited with bits of bloodworm, sandworm or clams.

Staying with the theme of winter flounder, the warm winter could bring old flounder haunts back to life this month. Traditionally, the mouth of Oyster Creek in Barnegat Bay, the BB and BI buoy areas, Metedeconk Creek and the Mantoloking Bridge are all hot spots to find packs of flounder stuck to the bottom and feeding with the moving tides. Back to bassing, look to the Barnegat Baywaters close to the Barnegat Inlet to hold plenty of slot size fish from 28 to 38 inches eager to pounce on swimming plugs, rubber baits like shads and Fin-S fish as well as poppers. Bluefish usually come rumbling through the Barnegat Inlet area and if bunker are present in the bay, the blues will stick to them like glue all springtime long, providing for awesome topwater activity on poppers as well as mid range lures like Ava jigs and swimming Bomber plugs with the treble hooks removed and changed out for single Siwash hooks. The Manasquan river system is usually red hot to find blues along the sodbanks on the east side of the train bridge as well as back by Treasure Island. Work the early morning hours that have incoming tides as the blues push in with the ocean water to gobble up bait schools inside the bay. Bass will also be holding along the Manasquan river sodbanks though they tend to feed in the dark right up to sunrise, then shut off until the night falls again. Drift slowly along the edges and cast as close as you can to the banks by pulling the poppers where most times hits will come within 10 feet of the banks. As the month wears on, flounder will push out to the Inlet area and off of Clark’s Landing if you want to split a morning bass and bluefishing, then turn over to targeting flounder.

Once again, there’s more than a puncher’s chance that bluefin tuna will be well within an easy morning trip range to target at spots like the Mud Hole, Humpty Dumpty, Shark River reef and Barnegat ridge areas, but they may be spread out all the way to the Chicken Canyon and Texas Tower. It all depends how far they choose to push in and where the predominant bait schools are hanging in. Pack up with Shimano Benthos jigs 110 to 150 g, Stingo jigs, Savage Gear metals and the like to drop down and rip back to the surface. Look for feeding whale pods as they corral bunker, sand eels, herring and mackerel schools. The tuna will be on the outskirts of the whales picking apart the remnants of the baits the whales injure. Of course, mind the whale pods and don’t get too close. By month’s end, there’s a possibility the first yellowfin tuna could also be pushed in on spinning warmwater eddies as last year they moved in to as close as 20 to 40 miles with the bluefin schools. Keep your network of captains and intel close as once word gets out, the corresponding fleet of boats running and gunning with make the tuna a bit wary to bite. Get on it early!
April is a month full of realized promises. From tog to flounder, to bass, blues and tuna, all hands are on deck for a month of action!