How long does it seem we’ve been waiting for July to come around?! With such a brutal, cold rainy spring even up through June, this is the time to finally get some sunshine warming up the place! Kicking off summer fun, look for fluke and sea bass fishing to be going bananas while bluefin tuna should be coursing through the midshore grounds providing big game action on a day trip out. Regarding regulations, the blackfish season is still closed, while black sea bass regulations change to a meager two fish limit at 12.5-inch minimum length, running from July 1 to August 31.
As June crept in, Raritan Bay was still producing large and in charge linesiders, as striper anglers continued to troll Mojo rigs and bunker spoons to land some serious bass pushing 40 to 50 pounds. There were at least a half-dozen bass over 50 pounds that I know of that came up in the Raritan in late May and early June. Adult bunker schools were hanging off the Navy Pier as well as back by Great Kills Harbor and then closer to the mouth by Romer Shoal and the Sticks. Occasional shots of big 15-pound caliber bluefish also made their way into the bay and so long as that bunker stays in the area, the blues and bass will stick with them. Come July, anglers will no doubt be focusing on fluke fishing the R-Bay waters. Depending on how they are stacking up, you can try a whole bunch of spots such as off the Ammo Pier, the Coast Guard Station, between the 9 and 10 buoys, Reach Channel, Flynn’s Knoll, and the flats off Plum Island to find flatfish whacking away at squid, spearing and sand eel baits drifted on a squid skirt and three-way swivel rig. Porgies always seem to come alive in the heat of the summer and they tend to gravitate near the Leonardo area as well as off the Ammo Pier and Keansburg Pier. Drop down with some worm bits or pieces of clam and see if they are home.
All things considered, it was once again a pretty lackluster spring for striper fishing along the northern coast. Granted there were a few days of pretty solid fishing with some big fish, some pushing the 40 to 50-pound mark, but again, they were a pick here and there and definitely not a pull. That’s a scary scenario, but hopefully, it was due to the commercial bunker boats wiping out the bunker schools and not a reflection of declining stocks. Sea bass fishing was off the charts in June and Should continue so through July. Any spots from 3 to 15 miles offshore held sea biscuits, with the Farms, 17 Fathoms, Shark River Reef, Oil Wreck and Sandy Hook reef all holding limits of fish for anglers. On a day out, you could literally reel in 80 fish, mostly shorts, but you’d find your 10 fish limit by the end of the day. Look for the sea bass to be hanging in the 3 to 5-mile range during the heart of the summer, in depths of 60 to 90 feet. Fresh clam strings are the best bait to get them snapping on a three-hook hi-lo rig. Ling had also started biting on the nearshore rockpiles to add to the cooler. Interestingly, bottom fishermen fishing 10 miles and further will also be able to score with fat blackback winter flounder as they sit on those far-reaching wrecks. Always drop a smaller 1/0 type hook down with a clam bit on it to see if any flounder are around. Fluke fishing will be primed inshore of the Long Branch rocks, Elberon rocks, and along the 50 to 70-foot ridges off Deal and Spring Lake. Try to hit the morning hours when drifting for fluke as the south winds usually kick in after 1 PM and that usually shuts the bite down inshore as conditions of upwelling occur to chill down the waters and stop the fluke from biting. Don’t be afraid to push off into deeper waters of 80 to 100 feet to see if any big doormats are hanging on the ridges in the 5 to 10-mile range. July should also see the first speedsters rolling through. Be on the lookout for bonito, albies and even a Spanish mackerel or two when trolling around inshore with Clark spoons and small feathers.
Well, we had a good four years of incredible bluefish fishing in Barnegat Bay, but this year they were mostly ghosts. Don’t get me wrong, there were shots of fish rolling through in the 10 to 15-pound bracket and they were mainly caught off the Island Heights area docks, Seaside Heights docks, the Mantoloking Bridge with a few in the Manasquan River, but it was nothing like the past few years. It seems smaller blues of 2 to 5 pounds moved in early this year as they were the main hitters on SP Minnows, poppers and Ava jig metals. However, the Barnegat Bay will be poppin’ with a smorgasbord of species including kingfish, blowfish, bluefish, smaller stripers, and fluke. Hang a clam log in the chum pot hung over the bow and put out light tackle spinning rods with size #4 hooks tipped with clam bits to target kings and blowfish for a non-stop action type of day. Fluke will be staging inside Barnegat, but they will also be pushing out of the Barnegat and Manasquan Inlet and setting up on the close reef sites like the Sea Girt Reef and Barnegat Light Reef which are about 2 to 3 miles outside the inlets. Striped bass will always be hanging inside Barnegat Bay off the Dike and along the flats and channels that dig into the sodbanks of Oyster Creek and Double Creek, but the key to catching them is to hit the pre-dawn hours with rubber baits and topwater poppers. Once the sun rises, they’ll pretty much stop feeding for the day. Near the latter part of July, troll around the inshore lumps and humps like the Harvey Cedars Lump, Barnegat Ridge, Tolten Ridge with small 3-inch feathers, weighted squid skirts and Clark spoons to rip into a mess of speedsters like bonito, albies, chicken mahi and even a Spanish mackerel or two.
Once again, bluewater hounds will be searching out bluefin tuna in the 40 to 70-mile range in spots like the Triple Wrecks, Bacardi, Texas Tower and Chicken Canyon. Bring an array of trolling lures like squid daisy chains and spreader bars, cedar plugs, small jets and even weighted ballyhoo to scare up a few fish, but also be on the lookout for fish busting the surface as they blow up on sardine schools. If they are actively feeding, toss out heavy duty poppers like the Yo-Zuri Bull Popper or Williamson Surface Pro Popper to garner a knee-buckling strike from a 30 to 100-pound BFT. Canyon runners will be set up anywhere from the Hudson to the Lindenkohl to try night chunking yellowfin tuna and possibly bigeye tuna if they grace us with their presence. Whenever running to and from the canyons, always take some extra time to hit lobster pot areas where mahi mahi should be magnetized to the hi-fliers. Try trolling small squids by the pots first and if you get a hookup, leave the hooked mahi in the water and begin to cast out live peanut bunkers or small bucktails tipped with curly grub tails to pull the rest of the school off the pot. Dolphin will feed aggressively once they see one fish gobbling down baits.
Enjoy the summer months! Make the most of out of it and hit the saltwater to make new summertime memories that will last a lifetime!