Last year at this time we had no reports due to the pandemic shutting most everything down from marinas to tackle shops to charter boats. Thankfully, it appears we have much more freedom and opportunity this June to get out and enjoy the outdoors. To start, fluke season is in full swing as the season opened last month. Even though it just reopened on May 15th, black sea bass season once again closes on June 22nd. Fantastic news comes in the form of bluefish as they storm trooped the Jersey Coast in early May. As summertime starts in earnest, focus on spending time outside and on the salt as much as possible this year to make up for last year’s quarantine days. There’s plenty to do in June, so let’s get crackin’.
As usual, stripers took top billing in late April and May inside R-Bay but the strange thing was that it truly was off and on like a light switch day to day. You could be marking schools of hundreds of fish that wouldn’t bite anything one day, and they would be rabid feeding the next, then off the day after. It all mattered when you hit it right when it turned on. While the usual Mojo trolling and shad bars took fish, jigs accounted for plenty of bass, meaning Hogy soft baits, A Band Of Anglers Dartspins, Savage Gear sand eels and Storm or Tsunami shads all cleaned up on fish ranging from minuscule 15 inchers to 35 pound linesides. Just be sure when fishing for bass inside the Raritan Bay that you pay attention to the demarcation line that separates NJ and NY. The patrol units were out and about enforcing the laws for those keeping stripers, as NY law dictates one fish between 28 and 35 inches and NJ has a 28 to 38 inch law. What matters is what waters you are in when the game wardens or police board you. Long missed the past 4 years, as of early May, bluefish from 5 to 15 pounds stormed inside the bay, whacking poppers, chunk baits and metal jigs. Hot spots were the Keansburg Pier, Belford Flats and Leonardo. This is a great sign of a hopeful presence of them throughout the summer months. Fluke fishing will get a lot of attention at the Ammo Pier, Chapel Hill Channel and even further back inside the Morgan Creek and West bank area flats off of Staten Island.
An onslaught of bluefish action kept anglers running like mad in early May and we can hope to see the continued action through June. Sandy Hook at the Rip was going off early May with choppas to 17 pounds lambasting poppers and SP Minnows. Shark River Inlet had blues coursing through on the tides, with 5 to 15 pounders whacking anything thrown at them from Ava 17 jigs to SP Minnows to Zman Paddletails. Shark River Inlet was also the hot spot for winter flounder, as the chew would heat up literally on sunny days, as a two fish limit wasn’t hard to snatch off the L-street dock and concrete Pier. Small boaters working chum slicks off the gas dock or channel edges were into the same limits. Blackfishing was pretty solid when the season was open in April though we will have to wait until August to see that fishery open again. For black sea bass, those fish should be fully involved and close to shore in the 3 to 15 mile range which means spots like the Sandy Hook Reef, Shark River Reef, 17 Fathoms and the Farms can be hotbeds of sea bass activity. Simple hi-lo rigs with 4-inch Berkley Gulp! Swimming Minnows will do the deed there. For fluke, look inside the Shark River again at the start of June as doormat caliber breeders will still be hanging in the area as they prepare to move out of the inlet and stack up nearshore. Bounce ½ to 1-ounce bucktails with fluke strips or spearing and sand eels through the inlet and river system from the 35 bridge out to the inlet breakers.
It was bombastic for blues in the Manasquan Inlet all through May! Finally, a run like we had 5 years ago hit the Squan River and the inlet. Generally speaking, incoming tides produced the best bite as blues flushed in from the Atlantic and hot ticket items were Ava jigs with black tails, SP Minnows, and Zman PaddletailZ as the soft baits could withstand a few blues before they completely tore up. The Squan Inlet was mayhem as bomber blues up to 18 pounds were destroying angler’s tackle, snapping rods and flinging treble hooks into people hands and bodies. Barnegat Inlet also had its fair share of gators crushing lines. One point to note is to switch out any treble hooks on plugs or poppers to single Siwash hooks as it makes it much easier and safer to release and thrashing and slashing blue. Whispers were around that weakfish were hanging in the Manasquan River and Barnegat Bay, as soft baits were hooking into some 20 to 22 inch spiketooths up to 4 pounds. Pink and white are always hot colors for the weaks. Black sea bass activity should blossom around the sea Girt Reef and Axel Carlson Reef as the 75 to 90 foot depths should be targeted with plenty of scent baits down there. Be sure to douse all baits with FinEssence oil to put the smell out. Most of the attention now in this section will be on the fluke. Early season water temps in the Squan River will be from 58 to 70 degrees, and if temps are on that lower end, look to target the flats into the channels in the river as well as inside Barnegat Bay along the ICW in Oyster Creek Channel out to the inlet. Generally, think 4 to 10 feet. If water temps are above steady 63 degrees and more, lurch out toward the inlet area of both Manasquan and Barnegat as the fluke stage to make their push out on a full or new moon tide in late June. The key is to be adaptable and move inside to outside to find where the bulk of the fish are stacking.
There’s only one thing on the mind of anglers – tuna. Last year, mid-May saw the first bluefin in the Texas Tower area and even closer in the realm of the Barnegat Ridge. Best bet is to look toward the historical spots at the Chicken Canyon, Ridge, Fingers, Resor Wreck, Triple Wrecks and such until a spot begins to develop into reliable intel. Bluefin can run anywhere from 25 pounds up to 300 pounds if it follows the same pattern as last year so you better be prepared with beefy enough rods and reels to tangle with what could be on your line. Start dragging SideTracker spreader bars by Chatter Lures and the like, or if you do find some tuna moving water, drop some jigs on them or toss topwater poppers and slidebaits like the Savage Gear Mack Stick or Madd Mantis Poppers. By next report, I hope to be writing about an insane chew going on offshore for tuna.
This is the summer we take back from Covid! Get out and hit the salt right now, don’t wait!