November should be one to remember for many reasons. First off, blackfish season amps up to a 5 fish limit at 15-inch minimum size on November 16th to December 31st. Add to that the black sea bass season is now officially open as of November 1st until December 31st with a 15 fish bag limit at 13-inch minimum size. And for the real kicker, the Fall Run of striped bass will be hitting its peak all throughout the entire month, with scattered bluefish and weakfish schools spicing up the mix. October still had water temperatures up to 72 degrees, so we may have a delayed run all around this November, which could mean a long-lasting fishery on all fronts throughout the end of the year. Whatever the case, you do not want to miss November’s bounty. Keep the boat in the water until the end of the year, because I have a good feeling Jersey anglers are going to be in for one heck of a Fall Run finish!
A steady stream of porgies sat on the Coast Guard rockpiles inside Raritan Bay for most of last month, as anglers dropped clam and worm bits off the rocks to pull on double digit catches, which also included some good numbers of triggerfish. At the Rip, false albacore schools sticking on the seam during the outgoing tides while anglers whip out Hogy Epoxy jigs for reel-screaming runs. A welcomed show of weakfish snuck into the scene with 4 to 6 pounders being taken during the night hours on sandworms and thin rubber baits in areas such as Flynn’s Knoll and the Raritan Reach. That fishery may just continue on through the month if we get lucky. Now for the main game. Striped bass should already be laying thick inside the R-Bay, with schools being found anywhere from all the way off the Ammo Pier, Chapel Hill Channel, 9 and 10 Buoys, out to Romer Shoal and the Sticks. It all depends where the bait schools are, usually in the form of bunker, sand eels and rainfish at this time of year. Prepare yourself with metal jigs such as Crippled Herrings, Avas, and Deadly Dicks to drop on the schools and reel them in at a moderate pace up the water column to get struck by stripers. As always, striper chasers can also opt to drag Mojo balls, Stretch plugs and umbrella tube rigs all throughout the bay to intercept feeding striper schools.
Wreck fishing should really be gaining some steam heading into November. Mud Hole area wrecks such as the Oil Wreck, Arundo and Lillian should be covered up with slab porgies up to 14 inches long as they colonize the rockpiles and low-lying structures. Simple clam bits on snelled #1 size hooks are best equipped to handle the rat-tat-tat hits from poke chops. Blackfish aficionados will be working over the 40 to 70 foot depths to stick some tog with green crabs, fished on the half shell with or without the legs on. You have to feel out the bite with blackies, sometimes they want the legs on, othertimes, a clean leg-free bait. And always crush the top shell or take it off so tog really get a good whiff of the greenies scent. My bets would be to hit the Sea Girt Reef, Shark River Reef and Klondike areas to scratch out a bite. Now, for the striper run. Early in the month, stripers will just really begin to filter in the area, with packs of bass following sand eel and bunker schools. More often than not, the bait gets trapped alongside the rock jetties in Asbury Park, Deal, Spring Lake and Long Branch. Early morning hours you can cast 3-ounce poppers and wooden swimmers around the jetty tips to pull out bass in the 15 to 25-pound bracket. Trophy hunters will snag n drop big bunker as well as troll around with Maja bunker spoons in order to target 30 to 50-pound class bass. With sea bass season wide open, boxer fish over the 13-inch minimum should be holding strong at local spots like 17 Fathoms, the Farms and the Rattlesnake areas, though depending on how quick the water temps drop, they may also move off further into the 15 mile wrecks areas of 120 feet and over. Try by starting in 75 to 100 feet, then work your way out from there if the bite is sour to find where the majority of the fish have migrated to.
With deep water existing close to shore south of Manasquan Inlet, world class striper fishing can be achieved by surfcasters and kayakers alike, though boaters obviously have the upper hand and can position anywhere from outside the breakers out to 3 miles to find bass schools. Historically, sand eels and bunker are the main forage for bass along this stretch, and action is hot and heavy right off the beaches, especially along Mantoloking, Lavallette, and off the Seaside Casino Pier. Standard offerings include 3-ounce Kroc spoons, Ava 27 to 87 jigs, Hogy Barbarian and Pro-tail jigs and Ron-Z rubber baits all seem to hang a fair share of stripers when sand eels and bunker schools are prevalent. Late into the month, herring schools have been making a show in recent years and that may mean switching up to use plugs such as silver SP minnows and Crippled Herring jigs to mimic their profile. Sea bass fishing could be ripe out at the Garden State North and South reefs, but also look to explore wrecks such as the Tolten, Mohawk and other 15 to 20 mile structures. Generally, drop down with fresh clams or squid strips, but if you can find ‘em, go with Bergall and mackerel strips to get more bites. Also, always have a 3 to 4-inch Berkley Gulp! Swimmin Minnow lanced on the hook for added scent and attraction. Blackfish hounds may be covering a range of depths as where they are all depends on the water temperatures. Early in the month, you can probably still find tog hanging on the nearshore Axel Carlson and Manasquan Reefs, and maybe even inside the Manasquan Inlet along the rocks. As the month wears on, start working out towards the Shark River Reef and 100 foot depths as they move out to deeper water to find warmer temperatures along the sea floor. Green crabs will get bit by the bulk of blackfish, but if you want to up your game to chase after a bulldog whitechinner, drop down whole or half white legger crabs on a Snafu two-hook rig.
An extended summer into October kept tuna schools around for the taking and the trend may just keep yellowfin and bluefin in the canyon areas well into November. Historically longfin tuna are the main fare during this month as water temps usually are a little too cool to keep the warmwater pelagics in town. The chunk bite may still be in play, with butterfish and sardines dropped down in the slick getting bit by 30 to 80-pound yellowfin, and possibly a swordfish or two. If the chunk bite has passed, then break out the big jigs, such as 8 to 12-ounce Hammered diamond jigs, Vike jigs and Shimano Butterfly jigs to work the waters for longfin albacore and possibly small to medium class bluefin tuna. Keep an eye close to shore as well for those bluefin tuna as the wolfpacks always seem to stick with the bait schools which could be right off the beach and into midshore waters in the Chicken Canyon and Glory Hole areas. Always be prepared with large scale Madd Mantis poppers and butterfly jigs to drop on the busting schools if you happen into them.
Let’s get it on, it prime time fishing season on all fronts!