Finally, a summer we can all enjoy once again! Take advantage of the lifting of Covid restrictions and utilize every moment to truly pursue your passions in the saltwater, being thankful we have the opportunity once again. Fishing is firing on all fronts. Some points to remember – Black Sea bass season reopens on July 1st to August 31st with a two fish limit at a 12-1/2-inch minimum size restriction. As well, always check with the NOAA website on the latest updated tuna regulations as they can change at a moment’s notice from one day to the next. Happy July 4th and absolutely let the fireworks fly this year!
Some humongous cow bass were hanging inside the R-Bay throughout May and June as anglers such as Chuck Tyman were livelining eels on circle hooks to put claim down on bass that ranged from 35 to 55 pounds nearly every single day out. Those bass will most likely be ghost come July, but there is still plenty to do in the big bay. Night time excursions at Flynn’s Knoll and Romer Shoal areas will hold remnant bass up to 30 pounds on live eels and drifted sandworms, but the main game will no doubt be fluke fishing. The Ammo Pier, Chapel Hill Channel and the TC Buoy are all hot summertime spots to drift for fluke with 1-ounce bucktails tipped with fluke belly or squid strips. There have been reports of weakfish through the spring in the bay and it’s a good bet to drift with sandworms around the Flynn’s Knoll or Swash Channel if you are ghost hunting. Porgies should also be hanging around the Coast Guard rockpiles if you want to switch up the game a bit, using clam bits or squid pieces to land the poke chops.
For the short June season, black sea bass fishing was unreal with limits scored on outings to the Sea Girt reef, Sandy Hook Reef and Elberon rockpiles. Though its only a two fish limit right now, its worth catching your limit of fish to put in the cooler before you head out for fluke, as both species will be hanging around the same areas, albiet with slightly different approaches. Sea bass can be caught on bucktails tipped with Gulp as will fluke, but hi-lo rigs with 3/0 Baitholder hooks and Gulp will hang the sea bass first, then you can switch over to more commonplace drift rigs with three way swivels or fishfinder slides to target fluke. Flatties can be found hanging around the low profile wrecks such as reef balls, tank units and deteriorating wrecks on all the reef sites. Ling fishing was bananas as well at the start of summer with catches of 20 to 40 per man not uncommon. The barbelled brawlers will eagerly suck in a fresh clam bait on the bottom. Put two hooks on to land doubleheaders.
The Axel Carlson reef will be a highlighted spot to fish for sea bass and fluke on the bottom to start. Same rigs with bucktails squid, Gulp and sand eels or spearing will get you into the game here. Both species can be found more shallower in 45 to 60 feet of water now as the waters are warming, but don’t by shy about exploring deeper waters of 75 to 95 feet if the reef site gets picked over. The Axel is also a fine place to start trolling feathers and Clark spoons to see if any speed demons like Spanish macks, bonito, albies or chicken mahi are hanging around. Last year on the Axel hundreds of small mahi were hanging around the Hi-Flier lobster pots and an adeptly cast light bucktail tipped with a curly grub tail were quickly inhaled by 1 to 3 pound dolphinfish.
You can’t make this stuff up. Tuna are now a mainstay in jersey waters in the early season of May and June and July should see some incredible activity on bluefin once again. You don’t have to head far as of June the BFT up to 250 pounds were hanging inshore of 15 to 20 miles at old haunts like the Humpty Dumpty, Slough and Little Italy. Troll around with green spreader squid bars or sidetrackers, and put ballyhoo and cedar plugs out as well. If the fish aren’t there, then bump out to the 45 to 65 mile range of the Chicken Canyon, Resor wreck, Fingers and the Texas Tower to find tuna on the prowl. This is the time of year when trolling is good to get a few under the belt, but then switch up to heavy duty poppers and slide baits like the Madd Mantis chugger, Nomad poppers and Savage Gear Mack Sticks to create surface commotion and get bone-jarring topwater strikes. When offshore, be sure to have a gameplan in hand that you can switch up accordingly if you don’t find fish at the first spot. Pick an area of surrounding wrecks within a 20 mile range so you can bump around to find feeding schools. Every crew member on board should have their duties delineated before you leave dock so when the craziness comes, you know who is the angler, who is the captain, the leader man and the wire man for the gaff shot. Too many times tuna re lost right at the boat due to lack of preparation. Be sure you know and everyone on board knows who has what responsibility. On a day out tuna fishing, to mix it up, drop down along the canyon flats of the Hudson to try for golden tilefish. You will be fishing in 400 to 600 feet of water, so heavy duty bottom gear is needed with sometime 2 to 3 pounds of lead needed to hold bottom. Use 150-pound crimped leaders and whole squid, mackerel or bluefish fillets for bait.
This is the summer of fishing e all need. Do not let it pass you by! Gas up the boat, set a proper plan and take all the sick days off you can to get in on the fast and furious action of July!