The heat of the summer is upon us and while Crockett and Tubbs (old school reference to Miami Vice) aren’t cruising the Jersey Shore, you can bet the heat is on as a cavalcade of species is running up and down along the coast. Plenty of opportunity is available both offshore and inshore, and my bet is to ply for fluke inshore, keep an eye out for southern speedsters moving in with tropical temps and to absolutely, positively, head to the offshore grounds to get a piece of the insanity that has been the bluefin tuna bite! As well, note that black sea bass season reopens on July 1st to August 31st with a two fish limit at a 12-1/2-inch minimum size restriction. Enjoy the July 4th weekend and continue the festivities all month long as the ultimate month of summer is here!
Bass continued to bite in Chapel Hill Channel West Bank Great Kills Harbor area through June, but by now, most of the striper fishing will be on a nocturnal level. Night shifters drifting sandworms or eels in spots like Swash Channel, Flynn’s Knoll and around the Romer Shoal lighthouse can connect with bass in the 10 to 25-pound bracket. Day shifters will most likely have one main target on their radar – fluke. Perennial hot spots like the Coast Guard station and in depths of 20 to 30 feet off the Ammo Pier area always ripe for pickins on fluke. You can get a little deeper and drop bucktails with squid stripes between the 9 and 10 buoys along the Chapel Hill Channel as those deeper waters will attract fluke during the end of the month when water temps are beginning to peak for the summer. Other options in the big bay include dropping down clam and worm bits off the backside Sandy Hook rockpiles to land porgies where you can also find the poke chops setting up at the Keansburg and Belford piers.
Fluke fishing is in its glory right now as flatfish have infiltrated the 35 to 65 foot depths off towns like Long Branch, Spring Lake and Elberon. Big bucktailing is the preferred method along the structure piles. Stat with a 2 to 3-ounce Spro bucktail, and loop on a stinger hook to the buck in order to properly secure long strip baits such as fluke belly, mackerel and squid. Bounce the bucktails over the rocky parts and in between low-lying wrecks and rubble piles where fluke generally stage to ambush prey as they funnel out on outgoing tides close to the coast. Army tanks, barges and rockpiles at the Sandy Hook Reef, Elberon Rocks and Klondike area are all top summertime haunts for flatties. Bluefishing is usually happening along the coastline anywhere from 17 Fathoms and the Farms down to the Shrewsbury Rocks and off the Mud Hole area. Daytime trips you can drop Ava 47 to 87 jigs to land gator blues up to 18 pounds, but nighttime junkets are generally focused on sending out bunker and butterfish chunk baits. Ling fishing has been lights out all through June and should continue into July. Even inshore spots a mile or two off the beaches are holding the tasty treats. Look to target rockpiles in the 1 to 6 miles range of shore at spots like the Sea Girt Reef, Rattlesnake and inshore snags. Drop down with 2/0 Octopus hooks and bits of clam to hang a mess of ding-a-lings. If water temps rise into the mid to high 70s again like last year, we could have an insane bite of southern speedsters moving in with the likes of Spanish mackerel, bonito, false albies and even king mackerel. Always be prepared to troll with 2 to 3-inch Williamson feathers, Clark Spoons and prepare to cast with metals such as Deadly Dicks and small Ava 007 jigs to the cruising schools.
To continue on with that speedster trend, the Axel Carlson Reef and lobster pot buoys from Jenkinson Beach to 4 miles off was simply incredible as bonito, Spanish and king macks were spooling light tackle rods and reels during late July last year. Do not overlook the opportunity to cast at mahimahi of chicken size to gaffers (2 to 15 pounds) that hung around those same pot buoys last year. Bring small 1-ounce bucktails and tip them with a curly grub tail or Zoom rubber, casting toward the pots and letting it sink before you snap jig it back to the boat. Flyrodders also have a fantastic chance at pulling mahi off the pots with Clousers or Pop Fleyes. Bottom bouncing will be the usual fare for anglers as fluke, sea bass and porgies will all be on tap. Sea bass and porgies will mainly be hanging at spots like the Mohawk Wreck, Axel Carlson, Seaside Pipe and inshore rockpiles. Simple bits of fresh clam on hi-lo rigs with 2/0 Baitholder hooks for sea bass and size #1 hooks for porgies will dial you in. By July, fluke could be laying thick in the 35 to 70 foot depths at spots like the Manasquan Ridge, Barnegat Ridge, Toilet Bowl wreck, and off of Brick Beaches where plenty of submarine mussel beds attract flatties to the area. On windy days with a swift drift, drag squid/sand eel combo baits on three-way swivel rigs, but if you have a light drift, prospect the grounds with bucktails, lightly tapping them on the seafloor in and around structure piles.
What a year so far! Bluefin tuna fishing has absolutely been bananas since May and it only seems to be gaining steam heading into July. The BFT were patrolling close to shore in June, as fish were taken from 5 to 12 miles out at spots like the Manasquan Ridge, Humpty Dumpty, Slough, and Little Italy. Those spots haven’t been mentioned since the 90’s! Even better BFT fishing was had along the 20 to 30 fathom lines roughly 20 to 45 miles off near areas like the Resor Wreck, Glory Hole, Chicken Canyon, Triple Wrecks and the Atlantic Princess. Trolling has been the hot tip as Chatter Lures Sidetracker bars in Rainbow and black/purple or pink got plenty of attention from fish that ranged from footballers of 20 to 30 pounds to huge brutes touching the 450-pound mark. If you’re lucky, you’ll happen upon breaking schools of tuna crashing on bait schools. Bring Madd Mantis and Ocean Born Poppers to toss at the feeding fish, or drop down with Shimano Butterfly jigs if they are marking down deeper in the water column. Yellowfin tuna, swordfish, white and blue marlin fishing should be primed to roll in the canyon areas at the Hudson, Toms, Poormans, and Lindenkohl. Night chunking trips with butterfish or sardine baits can be uber productive if fish are in the area. Early morning and daytime trolls with ballyhoo baits on blue/white Ilanders or Joe Shute skirts can have you dialed into the YFT and marlin species.
What a month we have ahead! Make the most of it and hit the salt this July!