The true dog days of summer are upon us. Forget complaining about the heat, bask in the super hot weather in all its glory, or do I need to remind you of how long winter was this year?! Tropical muggy temps put all sorts of species on the chew in July and August should continue that momentum. Tuna fishing offshore was electric, while inshore reefin’ for fluke and sea bass kept bottom bouncers busy. For this month, remember that black sea bass regulations are two fish at 12.5 inches through August 31st. Blackfish season reopened with a one fish limit at 15-inch minimum size. Look for southern visitors like cobia, jacks, Spanish macks and mahi to start showing up in the midshore and inshore waters. This is summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Time to fish!
Fluke fishing finally got jumpstarted in the big bay during the first week of July as true doormats of 10 to 13 pounds were found hunkering down in spots by the 9 and 10 buoy channels, Raritan Reach and off the Ammo Pier. As August wears on, R-Bay should be the hot zone to find flatties in spots like Ambrose Channel, off the Coast Guard Station, and Swash Channel. Drift long strip baits and keep your leaders long to compensate for the swift currents as you near the mouth of the bay. Interestingly, we heard of three separate reports of cobia being caught in the bay, all were about the 10-pound mark, but nonetheless, its cool to see cobia in the bay so early, if at all! From what I heard, the cobia all hit fluke rigs as they were bouncing on bottom or being reeled on the way up. The Keansburg and Belford Piers held some steady sea bass and porgy activity throughout last month and no doubt, the nibbles should continue there with fresh clam bits as baits. Rounding out the mix, bluefish are the variable, as any size class from snappers to choppers to gators could be prowling the bay waters throughout the month. Always have an arsenal of poppers and even chunk baits if you want to target them specifically during the early morning hours, especially at the mouth of the bay at the Rip where swashing currents attract the hunting blues. And if you are really dedicated to go after stripers, try drifting eels inside Flynn’s Knoll during the late night, like midnight hours.
It was an all out bottomfishing brawl along the northern shores. July proved to be one heck of a structure fishing dream as scores and scores of red hake, aka ling, colonized the inshore rockpiles from the Rattlesnake to the Farms to the Sandy Hook Reef. Most all were fat boy baseball bat caliber fish of 2 to 3 pounds and even greater. Clam bits, squid strips and Gulp! Baits all worked to fill a cooler with the lingers. Black sea bass of 2 to 4 pounds were also in the mix with the ling, as were some triggerfish and winter flounder. Structure fishermen will now be plying the waters off of Elberon and Deal for fat fluke, especially around the lobster pots and Glacial rock outcroppings in 35 to 60 feet of water. Bring plenty of extra tackle as no doubt you will lose rigs drifting through all the snags and crags of the rocks. Other fluke hot spots should be on the Long Branch Lumps, the Shrewsbury Rocks and at the Sea Girt Reef. Try and drift through the low profile structures like tire units and army tanks, or set a drift near a flat barge where fluke will hang around and on top of the flat surface. Atlantic speedsters should be moving around the area now, with the first signs of Spanish macks, albies and bonito hanging in the 1 to 5 mile range off of Spring Lake, Squan and Asbury Park. Try dragging Clark Spoons or small feathers to see if any pelagics are around as they will hit those offerings with drag-burning aggression. Night time anglers will be heading to the Farms and 17 Fathoms to set out bunker chunks for big blues up to 18 pounds. Those midnight excursions are a ton of fun to introduce someone new to the fishing scene as action is usually hot and heavy.
Fluke, fluke and more fluke, that’s the central coast motto for August. Generally, flatties will be hanging around the 45 to 70 foot depths in August and prime turf includes spots along the Axel Carlson Reef, Manasquan Reef, Barnegat Light and Garden State reef sites. Some vessels may opt to drift over popular ledges like the Seaside Lump, Mohawk Wreck and Seaside Pipe areas where fluke will stack on the backside of the ledges entering the holes. Its also time to randomly drag feathers and spoons at spots like the Manasquan Ridge and Barnegat Ridge where you should find some Spanish macks, chicken mahi and bonito. The Barney Ridge also offers up a shot at catching legit bluefin tuna as at only 14 miles off the coast, its reachable by small boaters and far enough out to attract bluefin tuna schools. Word had it that the ridge also held quite a few mako sharks in July, so you may want to be prepared with some heavier tackle and chunk baits. On the backside, Barnegat Bay will be ripe with all sorts of small beasties eager to attack a clam bait. You name it – kingfish, weakfish, fluke, croakers, blowfish, bluefish – just about every bay creature will be chomping on free clam baits so long as you set up on a dropoff and send out a well defined clam chum slick by dropping a pot or two over the side on the running tides. The Manasquan River system will also be holding some prime early morning opportunity for blues, striped bass, hickory shad and yes, even weakfish if you play your cards right. Try drifting the cuts on each side of Treasure Island with small rubber baits worked low in the water column to see if anyone is home. Striper hounds will no doubt still be cleaning up on 20-pound class bass while night time drifting eels in the canal.
Man, what a tuna season in the canyons so far! Week by week, yellowfin schools have come through in surges as the warm water eddies spin off and bring in 30 to 60-pound classers. Hot bites have generally been south in the Lindenkohl, Wilmington and Washington Canyons, but look for that to move northward up into the Toms and Hudson as August rolls on. Mixed in with Yellowfin were shots of bigeye tuna, mako sharks and swordfish which were on the bite really early this year, which could be a solid sing of a memorable August ahead. Further inshore around the 40 to 65 mile mark, bluefin tuna schools did not disappoint. The torrid topwater popper bite got going again in early July with pigs of 100 to 200-pounds crushing the churning poppers. Trolled ballyhoo on blue and white Joe Shutes also found their mark on big pig bluefins. BFT schools will be popping up anywhere from the Princess, Texas Tower, Bacardi, Chicken Canyon and Triple Wrecks area. You just have to get out there and try and find the life as the tuna are moving around at blistering speeds. Search out signs like whales, dolphin and watch for birds dipping the surface as tuna will push bait up and birds will be on it.
No doubt, this should be one heck of a month for fishing from back bay to inshore to offshore. Get out and enjoy what August has to offer the saltwater angler!