As we enter the final official month of summer, it’s a fantastic time to be out and about in the saltwater. This is basically the last month you can hit for summer flounder as the season closes on September 5th. Look to find flatties biting in the deeper water as the month rolls on. Sea bass season sits at two fish at 12.5 inches through August 31. Sea bass should still be loading up the nearshore waters on the mussel beds and rockpiles nearshore. And in spectacular fashion, the tuna bite has gone ballistic as Bluefin have been covering the midshore grounds en masse! Look for canyon fishing to be off the charts for yellowfin, bigeye and Bluefin tuna, as well as white marlin. August should be a blast on all fronts!
R-Bay should be the best option to land doormat caliber fluke in the month of August as the deep water channels at Ambrose Channel and Raritan Reach tend to hold the largest flatfish of the summer months as they hunker down to get in cooler waters. The bayshore piers at Port Monmouth, Belford and Keansburg provided opportunity for shore bound anglers to tangle with some fluke, and occasional 3 to 6-pound bluefish were also on tap for those walking the planks. Depending on the water temps, the piers could still be prime time areas to find fluke early in the month, but look for the flatties to make their move out to the mouth of the bay come later in August. Strangely enough, in late August, you always hear of a weird report or two of a cobia hanging around Romer Shoal or outside the Rip, so be prepared with a live eel to toss at one if it rears its head. Night time excursions drifting Swash Channel and Flynn’s Knoll will have eelers on striped bass with many twilight and night trips running to get into the linesiders. Porgies may be back on the move inshore and you can usually find a couple pork chops hanging around the Monmouth and Keansburg Pier pilings as well as the Ammo Pier.
Wreck and rockpile fishing really took off once again this year off the northern section of state as Mud Hole wrecks in depths from 85 to 130 feet of water had rods bouncing with action. Number one on the hit list was ling, as big fatbelly red hake were caught by the dozens on the structure piles and a 40 fish catch was not uncommon. Small clam bits lanced on size 2/0 Octopus hooks were the ticket to score with ling. More impressively, there was an unbelievable amount of winter flounder stacked up offshore on the wrecks and the deeper waters of 100 to 150 feet held fat blackbacks, like fish averaging 2 to 5.5 pounds, and that is truly uncommon to see all these thick flatfish out offshore when we didn’t really see them too much this spring inshore. Any way you look at it, it was still a two fish limit at minimum 12 inch length and coolers were being loaded with limits of winter flounder as charter boats were catching a dozen at a time, and I even had one particular trip where I caught and released 7 myself on one drop. Winter flounder were taking the same clam baits sent down for ling though you may want to scale down your hook size to a 1/0 for a better hookset into the small peanut sized mouths of flounder. Regarding fluke, the inshore waters should be paved thick with flatfish, anywhere from 40 to 80 feet could be hot depending on the water temperatures at the time. Usual haunts in August are the Elberon Rocks, Rattlesnake, Klondike, Long Branch mussel beds, Sea Girt Reef and the Shrewsbury Rocks. Bang away at the flatties with 2 to 5-ounce bucktails tipped with fluke belly or simply drag sand eel/spearing combos on three-way flasher squid skirt rigs with appropriate weight from 5 to 12 ounces. You should also be able to score your two fish limit of sea bass quickly wherever you are fluke fishing. If you want to test the waters to see if any pelagic speedsters are around, try dragging 3-inch feathers in blue/white, black/purple or green/yellow or put back some 00 clark spoons and you’ll quickly see if any grasshopper mahimahi, bonito, Spanish mackerel or little tunny are patrolling the waters. Drag your spreads at a 5 to 7 knot pace over the Sandy Hook Reef, Shrewsbury Rocks and around the lobster pot buoys off of Elberon.
As fluke are the highlighted species, your best bets are bumping a little bit off the coast into 80 to 100 feet of water to find keeper class fish over 18 inches. Some nice spots are the Manasquan ridge, Mohawk Wreck, Barnegat Ridge, and the Garden State North Reef. Deeper water means using a bit heavier gear to get down in the strike zone vertically, so beef up to reels like a Shimano 20 Torium class to hold enough braided line to winch up flatties from the depths. Swifter currents mean heavier lead like 8 to 12 ounces to hold bottom, and if using three-way swivel rigs or fishfinder slide, utilize longer leaders up to 36 inches long to allow more free-flowing action if the drift is moving fast. When out further say at the Barnegat Ridge which is about 14 miles offshore, always try dragging feathers or spoons to see if any Spanish mackerel, bonito or mahi are around, and you may also be surprised when a Bluefin tuna takes your offering as 10 to 20-pound “football” class BFT seem to hang around the area in late August. Back bay angling should be a blast a Barnegat Bay becomes a festival of fishing delight for young and old alike. Scores of species will be available to target, mainly in the form of blowfish, weakfish, kingfish, stripers, cocktail bluefish, fluke and even a few tropical exotics like jacks or moonfish which always seem to find their way into the temperate baywaters in August. Simple size #1 beak hooks tipped with clam or squid bits can dial you into any of the aforementioned species, but a good way to go about it is to create a chum slick from the boat by hanging a clam chum bag pot overboard and cast your baits back into the slick. Its usually non-stop action so bring the kids or newbies on board to have some fun, and don’t forget to drop a few crab traps over the side to catch a bushel of blue claws!
What an absolutely incredible offshore season we’ve had into July and hopefully carrying into August! First off, Bluefin tuna fishing was off the charts at the midshore grounds as the Chicken Canyon, Triple Wrecks and Atlantic Princess had innumerable BFT hanging around, and the weights were spanning anywhere from 30 to 250 pounds on any given day. Trolled ballyhoo on Joe Shute skirts in blue/white and purple/black claimed a ton of fish, but so did squid spreader bars, Green Machines and jet lures. The BFT spanned all the way out to the Texas Tower and Bacardi wrecks too and it’s a toss up where they could be right now, but they should still be anywhere from 45 miles out to the Hudson. There were even some yellowfin tuna in as close as 45 miles as my crew actually put a 70-pound YFT on deck at the Chicken Canyon in July. The real canyons of the Hudson, Toms, Lindenkohl, Wilmington and Spencer had fantastic action on the trifecta of tuna of Bluefin, yellowfin and bigeye as dozens were caught by charters on a daily basis. The troll was hot in early July, but the bite may transition over to a chunk bite by the time you read this. Also, don’t forget that midshore spots like the Hot Dog, Hambone and Sausages are holding big BFT up to 300 pounds and they can be jigged up with butterfly jigs or caught on butterfish chunks and whole sardine baits. Look for white marlin to be occupying the southern canyons like the Poormans and Baltimore, and troll ballyhoo on blue/white Ilanders for best success.