I don’t think we’ve ever experienced the insanity that is the bluefin tuna bite in NJ! July was quite simply too much to handle as literally hundreds of BFT were caught every day, but more on that later. Tropical temps once again ushered in a wild array of odd species to our water including Spanish Macks, cobia, king macks and more, and I can’t wait to see what August brings. Regulation wise, blackfish season reopens again from August 1 to November 15 with a one fish limit at 15-inch minimum size and black sea bass season is still open through August 31st with 2 fish at 12.5 inches. August is the heart of the summer and there is certainly no lack of opportunity to fill the cooler.
Fluke fishing maintained its consistency in the big bay throughout July, but August is really when the bigwater shines. This month, concentrate on deeper channels like Ambrose Channel, Swash Channel and Chapel Hill Channel in the 50 to 75 foot depths where the largest of flatfish will be hunkering down. Now’s the time to score a doormat in the 10-pound plus range as the cooler deeper waters of those bay channels hold fish before they migrate offshore. Go with 1 to 3-ounce bucktails tipped with fresh bluefish, sea robin or fluke bellies or use a three-way swivel drift rig with the same accoutrements also including some fresh sand eels or large Peruvian spearing as an added attractant. Don’t forget to douse baits with FinEssence Shedder Crab or Squid oil too to emanate a vivacious scent. Point is – Go big in R-Bay in August.
Once again, the inshore wrecks and rockpiles like the Sandy Hook Reef, Sea Girt Reef, and Klondike was lights out ling fishing. I mean guys were scoring 50 to 70 fish per man, it was that good. That bite should still be around but tapering off and giving way to more porgies as the month rolls on. Clam bits, Berkley Gulp and squid strips will load you up on ling. You wouldn’t believe the amount of fat back winter flounder that were taken on those inshore wrecks and rocks too, everybody went home with their 2-fish limit of FAT flounder like in the 3 to 5 pound class though they may be on the push outward and northward by August. There’s still a chance for them though. Be on the lookout for the speedsters cruising through the are in the form of false albacore and bonito as they have made their presence known in the last 3 years in this section during this month. Troll with Clark Spoons and small feathers to hook up. Inside, the Shrewsbury River had some fluke activity going on but bass hounds will be plying the Highlands Bridge and the river itself to find schoolie stripers whacking away at rubber baits on ½-ounce bucktails during the night hours.
Its game on for the speedsters! Bonito, albies, Spanish mackerel and yes, mahi are available only a half mile to 5 miles outside the Manasquan Inlet right now. Bones and albies will take the feathers but the shiny flash of clark spoons will guarantee a hit from the Spanish. Surfcasters can also get into the Spanish casting Deadly Dick metals off the tip of the south jetty of the Squan Inlet. Mahimahi averaging 1 to 5 pounds will be hanging all over the lobster and sea bass pot buoys at the Axel Carlson Reef. Troll feathers and squid skirts at a 4 to 5 knot pace getting as close as you can get to the buoys on your passes. If you do get a mahi hookup, disengage the engines and keep a hooked dolphin in the water and start casting bucktails with rubber curly grubs attached to pull the rest of the mahi off the pot. Dolphin go into a frenzy if they see one of their own hooked up and feeding and you will score with dozens by the time you finally reel in that first one. Fluke fishing will be prime time at the Mansquan Ridge, Seaside Lump, and Mohawk wreck areas, as well as any definition of ridges in the 45 to 75 foot range. Drift with the usual three way rigs and bait up fresh every drop with spearing and sand eel combos.
Let’s get down to it. This has been a tuna season for the record books. The “midshore” grounds 35 to 50 miles off will hold Bluefin tuna in the 25 to 150-pound range, but more schools are prevalent outward to the 65 to 80 mile range at spots like the Texas Tower, Bacardi, Triple wrecks areas. What’s been working for the BFT is to start out by trolling Chatter Lures Sidetracker spreader bars in black/purple colors to start the morning, along with ballyhoo on blue/white skirts or pink/white. If you get to the real canyons at the Hudson, Toms, Wilmington, etc. then be ready to battle serious yellowfin tuna from 50 to 100 pounds along with an array of swordfish, blue marlin, and white marlin. Come afternoon uors, always keep an eye out for diving birds as they are telltale signs of bluefin and yellowfin pushing bait schools around. When they are actively pursuing bait on the surface break out Madd Mantis poppers or Savag Gear Mack Stick slidebaits and cast in front of the school working the lures frantically for a bone jarring strike. Every single trip out this year for me has been rewarded with 35 to 200-pound BFT whacking those topwater lures and its more than exciting to see the tuna crash on them.
This has been an unreal summer for exotics. From Spanish macks and bonito inshore to bluefin and yellowfin offshore, we should be in a real run for the money with action. Bring plenty of ice to keep the tuna cool and make sure you have a tap measure on board to accurately measure quickly and release tuna if they are under the minimum length. Currently you are allowed two bluefin tuna between 27 and 47 inches and one between 47 and 73 inches per private vessel. Hurry up! Summer is passing us by quick! Get some steaks for that grill!