As November rolls in, get ready for some serious fishing in the Garden State. The Fall Run promises plenty of stripers and bluefish along the Jersey Coast, as well as a bottom fishing bonanza of blackfish, cod, ling, pollock and sea bass. Add to that the chance of serious battles with bluefin tuna pushing the 100 to 200-pound mark and the early winter months are to be reckoned with. To start, blackfish season “reopens” on November 16th with a 6 fish bag limit at 15-inch minimum size. Black sea bass season also “reopens” with a 15 fish bag limit at a 13-inch minimum size. Believe it or not, also be on the lookout for winter flounder fishing to be prime in the northern section of the state.
Northern and Central Coast Bass & Blues
Stripers everywhere! Starting in Raritan Bay, migrating linesiders will be filtering down the coast through the end of December, with peak time occurring around the second week of November to the second week of December. Tactics and techniques are varied. Raritan bayshore anglers will be looking to drift eels or worms in the Raritan Reach and swash Channel. Jigging with 3 to 5-ounce Kroc spoons will be the preferred lures if bunker or Atlantic herring schools are abundant, but if sand eels are the predominant bait, look to jig Ava 27 to 87 jigs with green or yellow tails or without a tail at all. Jigging hot spots along the coast include areas such as the sandy Hook Rip, off Asbury Park Convention Hall, outside the Manasquan Inlet, off of Lavallette and finally the Seaside Heights Casino Pier. Trolling will also put up numbers of fish, dragging white and chartreuse shad bar rigs, stretch 25 plugs, bunker spoons and even Mojo balls. Look to troll by low lying snags off of Spring Lake, Asbury Park, Deal, Mantoloking, Seaside Park and IBSP. A sure bet is to liveline bunker back to the bass. Find bunker schools loaded up all alongshore from Sandy Hook down through LBI. Focus efforts inside the Barnegat Inlet where bass hang off the north jetty rocks as well as inside behind the coast guard station where outgoing tides get the stripers feeding aggressively on live bunker or drifted bunker chunks. Bluefish schools will continue their onslaught through mid November, and the same bass offerings on the troll or jig will work to score blues, but you can up your excitement factor by tossing topwater poppers to chopper blues for explosive aerial strikes from the surf or boat. Barnegat Bay will be holding plenty of the choppers as they filter in through Barnegat Inlet to attack topwater poppers off the sodbanks and sand bars lining Oyster Creek Channel.
On the bottomfishing front, there are plenty of wintertime options, starting inshore by searching out winter flounder in the Shark River Inlet. During years past, Shark River was the fall flounder spot but in recent years regulations have not allowed for the targeting of the species during the autumn months, which makes the answer kind of unknown if the fish will be lying in wait back there or not. Give it a try, chumming heavily with mussel, clam and corn chum, and employ the use of size #8 Baitholder hooks tipped with 1-inch yellow curly tail grubs and a piece of bloodworm, sandworm or clam bit and work the channel edges as well as the flats off the Tennis Courts for your best shot at scoring the “snowshoes”. Moving offshore, the Mud Hole, Farms, and 17 Fathoms area will be solid rock and wreck-strewn spots to pick off plenty of ling, cod, pollock, porgies and blackfish. Blackfish anglers will be working over the hardscrabble structure off of Elberon and Deal, in hot spots like the Rattlesnake and the Sea Girt Reef, using green crabs and whitelegger crabs to trick tog in the 3 to 14-pound range. Ling and cod will be hanging tight around the Mud Hole wrecks like the Arundo, Oil Wreck and all sorts of glacial mountains and wrecks on the Shark River reef 15 miles offshore. Fresh clams are always the top baits of choice for offshore bottom brawlers, with ling taking 2/0 Octopus hooks lanced with clam bits lying right on the seafloor and cod with hi-lo dropper rigs fixed with size 6/0 Baitholder hooks tipped with clam tongues. Don’t be afraid to drop a 10-ounce Hammered Diamond jig, Crippled Herring or Vike jig down on the wrecks and rocks to trick up some cod and reel-screaming pollock that can push the 30-pound mark.
I know it sounds improbable, but in the most recent past Novembers, Bluefin tuna in the 100 to 200-pound class have been cruising along the northern and central jersey shorelines, splashing and crashing sand eel and herring schools and frustrating many an angler. A few sharpies have dialed the bluefin in, mainly by dragging large Hogy Harness Jigs way back in a trolled spread, about 500 yards, behind the boat, where tuna are grabbing them and smoking reels. If you are lucky and see the bluefin breaking water, break out a heavy duty Yo-Zuri Hydro Popper and pop the surface to see if you can convince them into a surface strike. Hot spots have been the areas outside of the Manasquan Inlet and off of Long Branch, but anywhere you mark sand eels or herring schools would be good bets to start trolling your spread.
Black Sea Bass Update
A contentious issue for Jersey anglers has been the seemingly “unfair” regulations on black sea bass season. As it stands, NJ regulations have been tightened considerably for sea bass, with a disjointed season spanning May 23 to June 19, 10 fish bag at 12.5 inches; July 1 to August 31 2 fish bag at 12.5 inches; and October 22 to December 31, 15 fish bag at 13 inches. The issue for recreational anglers seems to be on the speculation that regulations are being based upon flawed scientific data that doesn’t accurately describe the state of black sea bass stocks. Talk to any fisherman on the dock and he will tell you that sea bass were loaded up on the inshore lumps this summer and through October, where most fish had to be released. The sea bass population migrates offshore to the 40 to 80 mile rockpiles during the winter months, and many anglers cannot reach them at that distance, thus more accurate assessments of stocks are harder to come by on a recreational level, but from years past, all accounts state that sea bass are loaded on the rocks offshore during the winter months. But now you can make a difference and let your voice be heard. In efforts for more comprehensive collection of scientific data, National Marine Fisheries Management and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council areimplementing a public comment period for an “Industry-Funded Monitoring Omnibus Amendment” that would modify all the fishery management plans to allow for prioritized, standardized, and streamlined development of future industry-funded monitoring programs. Public comments will be accepted from September 23, 2016 through November 7, 2016. Go to www.regulations.gov, search docket number NOAA-NMFS-2016-0125, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.