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NJ Fishing Report

The dog days of summer are here as sweltering humid days are quelled by the invitation to jump in the ocean for a cool, refreshing dip. Summertime heat means all sorts of interesting fisheries are on tap. August is the time of year we really see the exotic species move in such as cobia, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, jacks, sheepshead, and other oddities. The anchor of the summer fishery however is always fluke, along with cocktail blues that run rampant. Weakfish will also be making their mark in the back bays. The last official month of summer is a good one, be sure to get out as much as possible to put some fillets on that grill! Here’s what’s happening.

Fluke are the main targets in the R-Bay area, especially near the end of the month when they move out into the deeper channels such as Chapel Hill, Ambrose Channel, and Swash Channel. Flatfish can be angled up by drifting long strip baits on fishfinder slide rigs, with fluke belly, squid or salmon belly top baits. Fish deep in the 60-to-80-foot depths outside of the mouth in Ambrose to score with possible doormat 10-pound plus caliber fluke. Bluefish will be hanging on the back bayside of Sandy Hook and will be eager to hit any plugs, poppers or metals you throw at them. Porgies will also be colonizing the Coast Guard rockpiles on the bayside of Sandy Hook while also sticking around the Romer Shoal lighthouse rocks. There are always reports of cobia sneaking into the bay, especially around the rip area, so always have a few live eels ready to toss out if you spy any brown clowns on the surface.

Most of the focus will be on the flatfish variety throughout the month. Fluke should be staged and in their prime off the north coast in areas such as the Elberon Rocks, Long Branch humps, Farms, Klondike, and Rattlesnake spots, but generally will stick around in depths between 55 and 85 feet. Drift with squid/sandeel/spearing combos or if you are adept at working a bucktail, do so when there are light wind drifts or when fishing around sticky rock structures. Bottom fishing should actually be pretty productive as well as a mixed bag of porgies, ling, sea bass, cod and pollock could very well be hung on most any day or night trip out to the Sandy Hook Reef, Sea Girt Reef and surrounding reef and wreck sites. Blue fishing has actually bounced back this year and many boats are running day and night excursions to areas like the Farms, 17 Fathoms and the like to tangle with blues averaging 1 to 6 pounds with occasional 10 to 12 pounders also showing up. It’s always cool to do the night blue trips as you’re almost guaranteed to see, if not hook up with, a variety of sharks that get attracted to the chum slick. Mako sharks will even show their toothy maws close to the beach!

Fluke are all the rage along the central coast, whether it’s the backwaters or out front. Back bay areas in Barnegat Bay and Manasquan River are still holding flatfish as most fish are hunkering down in the channels that are deeper with colder water temps. The deeper spots in Oyster Creek Channel or even the backside of Treasure Island in the Squan River are good bets to bounce ½ ounce white bucktails tipped with Gulp and a teaser. Otherwise, fluke are going to be stacking up on the inshore humps and bumps along with reef sites. The Axel Carlson Reef is always a productive locale as many low-profile structures such as tire units, small wrecks, reef balls and army tanks hold fluke-like magnets as they lay around the structure sucking down bait and forage as it passes by and funnels through with the currents. Small blues will be all the rage inside Barnegat Bay and in the near shore surf as cocktail blues of 1 to 2 pounds should be omnipresent and ready to hit metals, poppers and small plugs. For a real trip, set up in Barnegat Bay or Manasquan River with a couple of chum logs and use small size #4 hooks baited up with some clam or squid. A cavalcade of species will bend the light tackle rods with kingfish, spot, croakers, weakfish, bass, blues and even some wild exotic visitors like strawberry grouper, cobia, remorafish, houndsfish and others. On the reef sites, look to the hi-flier flags that mark the sea bass pots as the submarine lines and buoys will attract all sorts of baitfish to cling to the area for protection which in turn will attract mahi-mahi, cobia and bar jacks. Roll up on a pot and cast out a ¾ ounce bucktail tipped with a Gulp Swimming Minnow grub or flat strip bait of squid or bluefish belly. You’ll be pleasantly surprised as mahi to 6 pounds or greater will be hanging in packs of 40 to 50 fish to hit those bucktails.

You know what it’s all about – tuna. In early July, bluefin and yellowfin began to move into the offshore grounds after a fairly slow June. Bluefin had been quite large in stature with a lot of 100 to 150-pound class BFT hitting trolled ballyhoo along with some poppers and jigs. Yellowfin were further out into the Hudson Canyon area as 30-to-50-pound class fish seemed to be the average size. Be on the lookout for whales and porpoise schools as they crush sand eels, herring mackerel and other baits where tuna will feed with them. A general game plan is to always put out the squid spreader bars and ballyhoo baits to troll around to find schools of fish unless you get visuals of tuna crashing the surface which in that case would warrant tossing out top water poppers, slide baits or dropping jigs on them. An unusual amount of mako sharks have been reported offshore hitting spreader bars and ballyhoo baits. That’s a good sign that the species may be rebounding a little bit since their fishing closure. Tile fishing has also been a solid option for offshore hounds putting in half-and-half trips targeting tuna and then tiles to fill the ice box.
Take advantage of the summer winds and hot days ahead on the water. This is the time of year to chill out, relax and put some fish in the cooler!