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NJ Fishing Report

November looks like it’s going to set up to be another legendary Fall run of stripers as in October, we are already seeing large pods of big bass in the bay systems and even out front. Black seabass opens on November 1st through December 31st with a nice 15-fish bag limit at a 12.5-inch minimum size. Blackfish also go to a more liberal limit at a 15-inch size limit from November 16th through December 31st, so bottom fishing anglers are going to be in their glory! Tuna fishing has been hit or miss and the only remaining tuna this month could be some bluefin and longfin tuna unless something crazy goes down to keep the yellowfin here. Hopefully, we will see the long-forgotten bluefish runs occur again. This is not the month to stay indoors!

The same pattern is unfolding this year on stripers. In early October, stripers were thick inside the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers, some of which hit the 35-pound mark already. Those fish will be hanging for sure at the mouth of the Bay at Romer Shoal, the Rip and the Sticks areas. Live eels on planer boards will score you fish over the 40-pound mark for sure, try by the Highlands Bridge and off the Ammo Pier. You can opt to troll around with shad bars or Mojo balls at the Reach to mark and find fish, but then raise them on poppers or chunk bunker on circle hooks to get tight. Don’t be afraid to cross the bay over into Coney Island as a lot of the fish have been hanging by West Bank Light and that area.

Starting at Sandy Hook, be on the lookout for blitzing schools of bass close to the beaches as many times last year, rubber sand eels cast into the breakers and even onto the beach and dragged back through the wash were getting whacked as hundreds of bass corralled the rainfish and peanut bunker schools in the surfline. Off the Highlands, bigger fish are lurking down deep in the 70-foot depths as live eels dropped back on bobber floats and simply drifted would get attention from bass hanging below to come up and whack the snakes. Bottomfishing will be lights out close to shore in the 65 to 90-foot depths as black seabass, blackfish and porgies will be littering the rockpiles at the Farms and 17 Fathoms as well as the Sandy Hook Reef. Drop down fresh clam or bits of squid for the bass and porgies but go with green or whitelegger crabs on 1-ounce tog jigs if you can get on a good spot with no drift. False albies have been sticking around late in the year recently and the Rip and spots close to the shore north of Manasquan Inlet have had the schools rainbowing out of the water during the pre-dawn and sunrise hours before they drop down and disappear. Get out early and often to toss metals and rip them back to the boat. When you spy an albie school, don’t run and gun right up to it or you will push them down and away, pull up about 100 yards away and intercept their path as they come to you.

If last year was any indication of what’s to come here, you’re going to be in for a real treat. From late October through December, this stretch of coastline had the biggest bass blitz in the past 25 years hit the shores! Every single day stripers were blitzing peanut bunker and bay anchovy schools non-stop around the clock. You could literally catch all you wanted, go home and eat lunch and come back bending rods right where you left off. The blitzes started in Sea Girt and then moved past the Squan Inlet down into the Barrier Island from Bay Head all the way down to Island Beach. Everything got their attention from topwater poppers, swimming plugs, metals, and shads, it didn’t matter. Flyrodders were even in their glory opting to toss clouser minnows to get tight big time. This year, my bet is we will see a good show of huge weakfish pushing the 8-to-12-pound mark as they were mixed in with the bass last year. If you do find you are pulling hooks on the hookset, scale down your drag and use plugs with thinner hooks so you don’t rip the mouths of the weakfish and lose the fish. Blackfish here are world-class at the Axel Carlson Reef and Barnegat Light Reef and assorted wrecks in 70 to 90 feet of water. If you have spot lock on a trolling moor, it’s easy to work specific rockpiles, but as always you can simply anchor up on a good piece of structure to land tog. Seabass will also be hanging at those spots, but will be found even further out up to 25 miles so prepare to move around to find the sea biscuits.

Last October had a major run of bluefin tuna along the nearshore ridges, especially at Barnegat Ridge, the Resor Wreck, and the Glory and Mud Hole areas. BFT ranged from 50 to 100 pounds and hit butterfly jigs and stuff down deep but were harder to get to hit a popper. Chunking with butterfish and sardines out at the Hudson Canyon, Triple Wrecks or Texas Tower should get you into those BFT, but there can also be some YFT hanging around so long as the water temps stay above 65 degrees or so. Hardcore wreck pounders know it’s time to target massive cod and pollock out at the 30 to 60-mile wrecks so you can wrap a day fishing for tuna by dropping down clam baits or jigs over deepwater wrecks to pull on the tasty groundfish as cod can push 25 pounds and pollock over 30 pounds. Also, when out at the canyon shelf, drop down in the 300-to-500-foot range to haul up golden tilefish, which has become a go-to fallback plan if the tuna have lockjaw. Longfin tuna will stay through the end of the month, and then it will be all bluefin tuna as we head into December.
This should be a fantastic fall run on all fronts, from stripers to tuna to bottomfish. If you missed out last year, you do not want to get caught at the dock this year. Reports will change daily but there should be plenty of saltwater activity to keep you warm and burning your arms all through the month.