Here we go! October ushers in the first real signs of prime time “Fall Run” season. We may still have some remnants of the mullet run, while peanut bunker, spearing, rainfish and sand eels should be ultra-thick alongshore, attracting plenty of striped bass, bluefish and even weakfish if we should be so lucky. Pelagic opportunity abounds as well as there should still be schools of little tunny and bonito patrolling about, while offshore tuna fishing should hit its stride in the canyon areas. Bottomfishing will open its doors once again to black sea bass from October 8 to October 31 runs with a 10 fish limit at 12.5-inch minimum length, then opens up to a 15 fish limit at 13-inch minimum size starting November 1st. But let’s get to fishing…
Fluke were on a big time bite in the deeper sections of the R-Bay as Ambrose Channel, Raritan Reach and the TC Buoy area all held fish, but as that season is now over, let’s move onto what you can target. Porgies will be laying thick along the riverside rockpiles on the backside of Sandy Hook. Poke chops will also be sticking tight to the Keansburg, Monmouth and Belford piers. Try dropping clam and squid bits down for a bite. The main game here in the bay though will undoubtedly be bass. If the baitfish schools get pushed into the deep reaches of the bay, it could be all out bananas for the striped bass bite. In early September, stripers were loaded up in the deeper channels at Flynn’s Knoll and the Reach and night shifters drifting eels loaded up on quality fish up to 25 pounds. Those resident fish could still be hanging around at the start of October, but more importantly, a huge influx of migratory fish should be entering the R-Bay. As bass will be on an aggressive feed, tactics such as trolling with Mojos, Stretch plugs and shad bar rigs will score with big numbers of bass.
Big time bottomfishing was going down along the Rattlesnake, Farms, 17 Fathoms, and Sandy Hook Reef. A mixed medley of porgies, winter flounder, sea bass, ling, chub mackerel and boston mackerel contributed to the coolers of many bottomfishing aficionados. Trips out accounted for 15 to 50 fish per man on most days and all those aforementioned species should be on tap in the 90 to 150 foot depths this month. Any wrecks in the Mud Hole like the Arundo, Oil wreck, Lillian and so on should be holding plenty of action. Speed demons in the form of albies and bonito should be holding over from September along this stretch and its best to localize around the inlet areas at Manasquan and Shark River as well as targeting the Sandy Hook Rip area. Slim metals like Deadly Dicks, Williamson gomoku jigs and Hogy Epoxy jigs are all hot items to hook the albies and bones. Get ahead of a moving school and cast 20 yards in front of them so you time the drop of the jig in concert to intercept their movement. Big blues generally make their way down along the coastline this month. Rig up with single hook topwater poppers as well as one-hook Ava jigs to toss at the roving wolfpacks. Striped bass should start to show in earnest near the end of the month as trollers pulling bunker spoons and anglers snag n dropping adult bunker off the Asbury Park, Deal and Long Branch jetty rocks should be into action on fish up to 30 pounds, but if its like last year, most fish will be in the 10 to 20-pound range.
Even though the season is closed, I have to mention that August and September were epic months for fluke fishing along the central coast. Boat limits were tallied up before 10 AM on most days and all the keepers were in the 3 to 8-pound range with some doormats over the 10-pound mark. I haven’t seen a fluke bite like that in years, and most trips I went out on to the Axel Carlson Reef, Sea Girt Reef and Seaside Pipe area had us into a 75% keeper to throwback ratio, it was that good. Now, the main focus will be putting a bead on the striped bass as they migrate southward. Usual spots can range anywhere from just off Jenkinson’s to the old Thunderbird down to the shores of Island Beach State Park. Literally, the bite can be anywhere, but most importantly, look for birds diving on sand eel, rainfish and bunker schools to notify you where the bass are feeding. Jigging with Kroc Spoons and Crippled Herrings are preferred in the fall as wide profile baits such as herring and bunker are prolific during this time of year. Bottom brawlers can start searching around for blackfish on the Axel Carlson reef and nearshore wrecks to prepare for the reopening of a more liberal limit in November. Sea bass will have pushed a bit further offshore by now, the 10 to 20-mile range wrecks holding the most fish as they migrate outward to the continental shelf to winter over. Try the Shark River Reef where you’ll probably also tie into a few cod and pollock patrolling the glacial rocks and shipwrecks.
What an incredible summer for tuna fishing!! Definitely one for the record books as an historical tuna bite has been going on since June. Some boats are reporting tying into over 50 tuna on a trip and landing 30 to 40 of them! I have no idea if that bite will still be going on in October but as of early September it was all out nuts. Yellowfin in the 30 to 70-pound class and bluefin that were pushing up to 200 pounds but averaging in the 50 to 100-pound class were the main heavyweights in the fight. Topwater poppers tricked up plenty of fish and if you could find the bait schools you didn’t even have to troll as poppers did all the work. You can still drop back daisy chains, squid spreaders and ballyhoo/Ilander/Joe Shute combos to troll for tuna, but popping is way more exciting. White marlin were so thick that they were considered a nuisance by tuna anglers, yes you read that right, there were days of 20 to 30 white marlin bites for many charter boats. Textbook October canyon fishing is usually about chunking for tuna and swordfish with butterfish, sardines and live squid, but who knows how its going to play out riding off the high of this summer season. Either way, plug in the numbers for the Hudson, Toms, Lindenkohl, Poormans and Spencer Canyons, study your most up to date temp charts to find the eddy temp breaks and gun it full throttle to get in on the tuna chew!
Don’t miss the boat this October. The way the late summer season is setting up, this could be a blockbuster of a Fall Run!