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NJ Fishing Report

The spring run of stripers seemed to continue on the momentum of the fall as daily catches were super impressive through the month of May, and that action should roll right into early June. Fluke season opened on May 2nd and some areas hit the mark while others were a scratch of fish, but that fishery should really be blooming in June. This month, black sea bass season is open only until June 19th with a 13-inch minimum size and 10 fish bag limit. Tuna fishing had gotten off to a sluggish start in early May, but by now the grounds should be holding bluefin. Summertime is here! Let’s get right into it.

Another fantastic spring striper fishery descended upon Raritan Bay, along with the feeder rivers of the Shrewsbury and Navesink. The rivers were chock full of quality stripers averaging 28 to 40 inches as anglers tossing white YoZuri Mag Darters, Mambo minnows, Tsunami Talkin Poppers and Daiwa SP Minnows all were fast into fish. Spot in the Navesink by Hartshorne Woods and the Oceanic Bridge could still very well be producing throughout this month. The Shrewsbury River by the Highlands Bridge was a radioactive hot spot during the night hours as huge cow bass up to 40 pounds would jump on white shads through May. Raritan Bay had hordes of stripers moving around anywhere from Great Kills to the Ammo Pier to West Bank and even as far as Coney Island. Live bunker baits got them to feed when white Doc spooks didn’t work. Though stripers will still be on the menu, the main game will be summer flounder fishing. Early in May, the river systems had held some keeper fluke, and those fish should definitely be prime for the picking at spots off the Coast Guard Station, Ammo Pier, Chapel Hill Channel and the Raritan Reach. Some big gator blues to 18 pounds invaded the Navesink River in May and they may still be hanging around the R-Bay this month. Also, keep an eye out this month for weakfish inhabiting Flynn’s Knoll and Swash Channel as some old schoolers were drifting sandworms on three-way swivel rigs to lay claim to a few unicorns in the 6 to 10 pound class. That used to be a reliable fishery and though its been ghost for a decade or more, the presence of even a few weakfish at night gives some hope.

Big behemoth bass were hanging tough of the Highlands area in May as one angler, Chuck Tyman, had a legendary day releasing 43 stripers in one outing that all ranged between 30 and 53 pounds! Live eels were the treat the bass fell for. Other anglers simply dragging Stretch plugs or bunker spoons also got into those bruiser bass. Though bunker schools have been relatively scarce this spring, June usually holds bait pods close to the jetties in Asbury Park, Spring Lake and Deal. Look to cast poppers off the jetty tips or to liveline bunker just outside the breakers in those areas. Fluke fishing got off to a pretty strong start inside Shark River as drifters found their limits of slot and 18-inch plus fish while drifting bucktails tipped with Berkley Gulp! Swimmin Minnows. While fluke should still be in the river this month, they tend to exit the backwaters and stack in the inlet and nearshore humps and lumps in 30 to 55 feet of water. Spots like the Elberon Rocks, Klondike, England Banks, and the Sea Girt Reef are all best bets to drift with spearing and squid combos to find fish. Sea bass fishing should be successful for anyone plying the nearshore wrecks and rockpiles in 65 to 90 feet of water. Spots like the Sandy Hook Reef, 17 Fathoms, and the Farms can all have 1 to 3-pound sea bass clinging to the structure. Many times, fluke anglers drifting with squid bottom rigs will hang sea bass intermittently between the flatties. If that happens, mark the spot and make short drifts over it because chances are it is a bit of structure to which a population of sea bass can be targeted with precision to fill up the cooler.

Throughout late April and early May, striped bass fishing with fresh clams in the surf from Normandy Beach through Island Beach State Park was lights out as some days anglers reported releasing 25 or more fish that were all 15 to 40 pounds. The boating faction didn’t have as much luck as the surfsters in April, but in early June, schools of stripers should be easily found and caught on bunker, poppers, plugs and shads. Motor around and find marks in 25 to 55 feet of water off of Point Pleasant down through the Seaside Heights Casino Pier. Bluefish pushed into the Barnegat Bay and took up residence off of Toms river, the Mantoloking Bridge, the canal and Manasquan Inlet river system in May, and they could very well stick around into June. Poppers and plugs cast around at random would find the schools and constant casting could keep the blues biting for an hour on end. It was a mix of 2 to 4 pounders then some 8 to 12 pounders. Summer flounder fishermen will be dropping down and drifting inside the Barnegat Bay’s grounds of Oyster Creek Channel, the BB and BI Buoys, Mantoloking Bridge and Double Creek Channel. The green “Rolling Rock 33” can is always a good spot to set a drift inside the ICW channel to get a gauge on where fluke are holding as it is nearly equidistant between the inlet and the bayside banks. There’s a real possibility we could have a legit weakfishery this year as some tiderunners had shown up this spring. IF that’s the case, be prepared to drop down with a grass shrimp slick and bait up with small light shad darts of 1/16 ounce tipped with a ball of grass shrimp. Weakfish of spike size to 5 pounds could school up and start a feeding frenzy by areas like Myer’s Hole and the 40 Marker.

Everybody is hoping for an action-packed tuna season as last year was a bit lackluster compared to the previous 5 years. As or early May, there hadn’t been many reports or any serious population of anglers targeting tuna, but it could be firing full on by the time you read this. Generally, its best to get your intel to maximize your time out exploring and searching for fish, but a good start is to try the 10 to 20 mile areas like the Oil Wreck, Lillian, Mudhole areas, Resor wreck and Humpty Dumpty. If no activity is prevalent, head further to the 20 to 50 mile areas like the Atlantic Princess, Glory Hole, Chicken Canyon and Mako Alley areas. If nothing there, then the Texas Tower and West Wall of the Hudson canyon are your next stops. The presence of whales, dolphins and bait schools such as mackerel, squid, bunker and sand eels will guide you to any tuna in the area. Start by trolling Chatter Lures sidetracker spreader bars with squids in yellow, green, pink, black and purple color patterns. If you are marking fish down deep, drop 150 to 300 gran slim profile jigs to work them up from the bottom. If tuna re breaking the surface, cast and blast with Madd Mantis or any wide mouthed concave poppers to create commotion on the surface for a strike.
Let’s see how June unfolds to start the summer season. Get out and enjoy the sunshine and salt.