Big bright sun and cool sea breezes define the post Labor Day scene along the Jersey Coast. The crowds are mostly gone and anglers have wide-open seas where plenty of fishing opportunity abounds! Inshore, stripers and bluefish will begin their southern migration along the coast. Wreck fishing for fluke, porgies, sea bass and more are all primed for the picking. False albacore schools will be stripping lines up and down the coastline. Exotics such as cobia, king mackerel, mahi-mahi, Spanish mackerel, bonito and pompano will all be milling around. Crabbing is some of the finest you’ll find in the back bays. Tuna fishing will be entering its prime month for both bluefin and yellowfin species. Need I say more? You simply can’t ask for more in the month of September! Here’s how to plan your days:
Be on the look out for some of the largest fluke to come out of the deeper parts of Raritan Bay. Channels like Ambrose Channel, Swash Channel and Chapel Hill Channel can all reach depths from 50 to 75 feet and more in some spots and that’s exactly where doormat caliber fluke to 10 pounds will be hunkering down. Drop down with long, lean strip baits like fluke belly and work them on fishfinder slide rigs. The big bay will also be holding plenty of smaller fare for the pickings including croakers, kingfish, spot, small bluefish and even a few weakfish. Concentrate your efforts around the Keansburg Pier and Belford Pier areas. Porgy fishing could be really hot and heavy off the Coast Guard rock piles and that season is open now through the end of the year. Historically, September used to bring the start of the bluefish migration with gators cruising through the big bay, let’s hope that happens this year.
To start off with the usual suspects, striped bass and bluefish may begin to start their southern migration during the latter part of the month. Spots to find both bass and blues are notoriously the Shrewsbury Rocks and off Jetty Country in Deal and Elberon. However, a huge focus for fishermen will be on little tunny, aka false albacore. A super hot spot where albies congregate is always off the tip of Sandy Hook at the Rip as the swirling currents confuse and swirl up rainfish and bay anchovy schools for albies to pounce upon. Small thin metals drawn back at a super quick pace should land their mark. You can also patrol the entire stretch of coast starting from the Manasquan inlet and moving northward as the schools tend to stick around the mouth of the Squan and Shark River inlets. Oceanic bonito may also be in the mix with the tunny. Other exotic species that could be hanging around the early part of September include Spanish mackerel, cobia, king mackerel and bar jacks, along with chicken mahi-mahi to 5 pounds which all could be sticking to hi-flier pot flags. Fluke anglers will be plying the deeper waters from 50 to 85 feet off the Long Branch humps, Elberon Rocks 17 Fathoms and The Farms. Some of the biggest fluke tend to hang near the rubble pile structures so be sure to use 40-pound type fluorocarbon leader when bouncing bucktails and using 6-inch Gulp grub tails.
September ushers in all sorts of unusual catches for the central coast. Starting off, some massive king mackerel were taken in August off this stretch as a new NJ state record king mack of 67 pounds was trolled up 5 miles off of Point Pleasant! Adding to that were myriad kings to 15 pounds being trolled on high-speed deep diving plugs at the Seaside Lump and Tolten Wreck areas. Mixed in with the kings could be Spanish macks, bonito, cobia, jacks, dolphin fish and more exotics as the warm waters attract oddities, especially after a few days of onshore easterly winds. There could even be pompano in the surf for anglers fishing Island Beach State Park with sand fleas. Fluke will still be the number one target as the flatfish schools stack on the reef sites like Axel Carlson Reef, Sea Girt Reef and the Barnegat Light reef. A good plan when fluke fishing the reefs is to always have a spinning rod ready to launch out small metals or bucktails as the lobster potters hi-flier flag buoys attract mahi and even small bluefin tuna to cast to. Stripers will be hanging inside the Squan and Barnegat Inlet areas as live spot or croakers are prime baits to score with fish to 25 pounds. Bluefish will generally maintain their summer sizes of 1 to 3 pounds, but more chopper class fish to 8 pounds should be moving down the coast and into Barnegat Bay and the Manasquan River systems as topwater poppers get lit up by the blues during sunrise hours.
Well, this could be both considered offshore and inshore as the tuna were caught there and everywhere in between this summer so far. Bluefin tuna fishing seemed to be a pick of fish with pretty much a guarantee to land at least one fish of 55 to 70 inches every time you went out, and possibly tangle with 2 or 3 more. Those fish were found anywhere from 5 miles off the beach at Humpty Dumpty and the Manasquan Ridge to 50 miles out at spots like the Atlantic Princess and Glory Hole areas. Though trolling spreader bars definitely put up fish, marked fish could be jigged up with RonZ ZFin lures and butterfly jigs. If you were lucky enough to find surface feeding schools, topwater poppers could trick them up. Yellowfin tuna were more plentiful but generally smaller in stature from 30 to 70 pounds. YFT schools were found out at the Hudson Canyon, Texas Tower and AP areas, but filtered in even closer to spots like the Chicken Canyon, Resor Wreck and 19 Fathom Lump and Cigar only 30 miles offshore. The YFT were more apt to take butterfish chunk baits even during the daytime and good days out could land a crew 7 to 12 fish in the ice box. This month, all methods from trolling, jigging, popping and chunking should work to bring tuna on deck.
September’s song is a sweet one in the saltwater. Get out and enjoy the cool breezes with some heated fishing action!