No doubt, October truly ushers in the changing of the guard as you can still have a 70 degree day or two, but you can also throw in some mid 30 degree days. That dramatic shift sparks migratory species such as bluefish, striped bass, sharks and tuna to feed aggressively and move southward while stationary species like sea bass and blackfish are just waking up to put on the feed bag big time. Black sea bass season reopens 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.
Bass and blues will be the mainstay inside R-Bay, but it’s a crapshoot just when and where they are going to show up. Stripers generally flirt with the entrance of the bay, setting up in spots like Flynn’s Knoll, Swash Channel, Romer Shoal Lighthouse and West Bank. Dragging Maja spoons or Mojo balls will dial you into any linesiders during daytime hours while night shifters can drift eels or long sandworms on bottom rigs. Blues could be running into the bay on incoming tides, chomping all the bait schools as they try to make a mad dash out. Topwater poppers garner explosive strikes if you see blues crashing on bait schools. If you are really hankering for a bluefish bite, simply set up a bunker chum slick and send back chunk baits with steel leaders. Back inside the bay, the Keansburg and Belford Piers will have porgies clutching to the dock pilings.
You gotta be quick this time of year because false albacore schools will be streaking through like greased lightning. On days of northwest winds look for albies to be pushing closer to shore. Last year daily hot spots were off the Shrewsbury Rocks, Long Branch, Asbury Park and Spring Lake as forked tails were rainbowing out of the water as tunny blitzed rainfish schools. Non stop drag burning can be had by casting out small Hogy Epoxy jigs, Deadly Dicks and Williamson Gomoku jigs into the schools and ripped back as fast as you can reel. Bonito will also be mixed in with the tunny, so expect some variety. Porgy fishing should be off the charts as inshore wrecks in 65 to 150 feet of water could be holding bang-bang type of action with the poke choppers. Spots like 17 Fathoms, the Farms, Klondike and the Mud Hole wrecks could be drop and reel fishing. Rig up with a three hook dropper fixed with size #1 beak hooks and pierce on small bits of clam or squid as baits. Drop down and set as soon as you feel a hit. Many times you can hook one fish, leave the rig down and wait for two others to hang themselves as hits are fast and furious. As well, not all fish are feeding on bottom, check the fishfinder screen and drop the rig to the depth they are stacking, suspending the rig as you get hit. If mullet, bunker or sand eel schools are prevalent, keep an eye out for migrating stripers as they hug the coastline on their southerly swim. Cast out topwater poppers with single inline hooks or drop down slender jigs like Ava 67 to 87 or RonZ soft rubber baits to trick up some linesiders in any depths from right off the jetty tips in Asbury out to 70 feet.
With fluke season now in the rear view mirror, local reef sites such as the Axel Carlson, Sea Girt and Garden State Reefs are going to be holding plenty of black sea bass during the early part of the month before they make their move to the offshore wintering grounds. As the month wears on, head out further to the Shark River Reef where you’ll probably also tie into a few cod and pollock patrolling the glacial rocks and shipwrecks. Do not overlook the potential to score big with blackfish at the same reef spots, even though the limit is still set at one fish and 15 inch minimum size. Now’s the time to be searching out big bluefish, both in the surf and on the boats as slammers to 15 pounds usually patrol the shorelines to blitz on mullet and bunker schools. Simple cut bunker or mullet rigs should get you into fish at any given time of day. Interestingly, its worth a shot to cast from the surf small hi-lo rigs hooked with sand fleas, shrimp or Fishbites baits for pompano, yes pompano, as recent years have shown that some pomps to 3 pounds cruise through in early October. Last year, bonito were zipping around from the Point Pleasant pocket down through Mantoloking and trollers could drag small Williamson flash feathers or Clark Spoons to tangle with tiny bones of 1 pound, with a few larger 3 to 4 pound models mixed in. Striped bass should also begin to poke their heads alongshore as they suck down clams that get unearthed during passing hurricane and storm surf. By the end of the month, there may be the first wave of stripers to push through en masse that will hit poppers and wooden swimming plugs anywhere from Bay Head down through Island Beach.
Another phenomenal summer for bluefin tuna fishing has passed, and it looks like we’re going full swing into fall. As it stands BFT schools are still milling around in the Glory Hole, Atlantic Princess, Triple Wrecks areas as they have been all summer, but expect them to move in even closer to shore at spots like the Slough, Humpty Dumpty, the Fingers and the Lillian. Jigging and popping with heavy duty gear will be the prime tactic, especially with Orca and Madd Mantis poppers and Stingo or RonZ jigs. Yellowfin fishing got off to a great start in September as the Hudson Canyon reports had days where hundreds of YFT were breaking the surface as anglers dropped back butterfish and sardine chunk baits on overnighters to begin slaying fish in the 30 to 80-pound class. A few swordfish were already caught in early September meaning we could be into a solid run of broadbills in October, especially around the full and new moons. Drop down a live squid or sardine bait 200 to 300 to specifically target the swords. Many anglers will combo their canyon trips going for tuna overnight, then dropping down on the canyon flats of 500 to 600 feet to try and nab some golden tilefish. Bait up hi-lo rigs with all sorts of fillets, squid and cut bait to pull the tiles out of their burrowed hole lairs in the mud. Look for more exotics like Allison YFT and swords in the Hudson Canyon, where smaller YFT and longfin tuna will be gravitating more near the southern canyons such as the Poormans, Baltimore and Lindenkohl, where you may still happen into a late season white marlin.
October’s fishing runs wild! Get out and enjoy the most colorful month of the year!