The Fall Run is here! October is probably the most transitional month of the year as there can still be hot “Indian Summer” days hitting 80 degrees, but nights can get downright chilly into the 30’s. Those fluctuations really spark fish on all levels to get active as they know the big chill is coming and they need to fatten up for wintertime. Some changing regulations include black sea bass season which 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.
Rockpiles around Romer Shoal and West Bank lighthouses could very well hold some surprises in the form of blackfish and porgies. Tog will chomp on green crabs while porgies will hit clam or squid bits on hi-lo dropper rigs. With any kind of baitfish migration out of the bay, striped bass should be following with great interest as they as well migrate southward from the Long Island waters into the Raritan Bay once again. This time of year, bass are more aggressive and you don’t need to troll for them as in the springtime, but you can have exciting aggressive action on topwaters and jigs. Most anglers will look for bird plays within the bay waters where bass are pushing up bait and proceed to toss Tsunami poppers, TA Poppers, Heddon Spooks and Storm shads at the breaking blitzes. If they don’t come up but you mark them on the sonar screen, then rubber baits can be dropped down such as Hogy Pro Tails, Zoom Super Flukes and Ron-Z eels.
September showed a lot of promise as bonito finally presented themselves along the coast along with scores of false albacore. The Highlands area held plenty of albies as the schools usually hang off the area due to the deeper water and the outflow of Raritan Bay spilling out rainfish and bay anchovy schools. This is cast and blast opportunity at its finest as Deadly Dicks, Hogy Epoxy jigs, Gomoku jigs and all sorts of thin profile metals will get screamed by the albies. Striped bass will be patrolling this stretch, again pouncing on bunker and mullet schools and topwaters reign supreme as they actively circle up and crash the bait schools. Big poppers like Madd Mantis or Tsunami Popper Pros will get amazing blast strikes from feeding bass that can range anywhere from schoolies up to 30 pounds and greater. October used to be the month of bluefish, though recent falls have been lackluster with the choppers, if they do show up, look for the historical haunts like the Klondike, 17 Fathoms, the Farms and the Rattlesnake to hold them. Ava 27 to 67 size jigs dropped down during daylight sorties will score with the choppers while night chunking trips using bunker or butterfish will hang the blues then. Bottom fishing really kicks in now as well, especially with porgies and black sea bass. Low lying structures like concrete rubble piles and reef balls seem to hold plenty of both species at spots like the Sandy Hook Reef and Klondike areas. Clam bits on three hook droppers will score plenty of both species to fill up the cooler. And its worth mentioning that in September, bluefin tuna up to 75 pounds were caught 2 miles off the Highlands area so always have a heavy duty tuna popping rod on hand when out patrolling the area in October!
I’d be running out the Manasquan Ridge every day to tangle with little tunny and bonito. Those species were in thick during the month of September, and mixed in with the schools were Spanish macks, king macks, cobia and mahimahi, which may very well still be hanging around in early October. Metal lures, as well as ABOA dartspins, accounted for myriad hookups on the ridge, though you could troll Clark Spoons and small 3-inch feathers if you don’t feel like blind casting. Reef sites in the area like the Axel Carlson and Garden State Reefs will no doubt be holding the first sea bass and blackfish in the area. Out of the entire Jersey Shore, this stretch is probably the most prolific when it comes to near shore and surf fishing for stripers and bluefish as they pen up the mullet and bunker schools into the surf line so they can readily attack and thrash the schools pinned up along the shore. Plug casting from the surf is top notch here with Bomber plugs, Ava jigs, Storm shads and Stillwater Smack It Poppers. Focus on the Brick Beach and Island Beach State Park sands as the waters are deeper there and not as covered up from the beach replenishment 2 years back. The cuts, sloughs and rips are deep and act like funnels to bring bait schools in and out to get trapped. Fly casters can also have a ton of fun in the Manasquan River system as morning and night trips focusing on the bridge pilings and gas docks launching out Clousers and Surf Candies will tangle you into linesiders en masse.
What can be said? The tuna fishery on both yellowfins and bluefins was probably one of, if not the best I can ever remember. Daily trips out 60 to 75 miles to areas like the Triple Wrecks, Texas Tower and other area spots were rewarded with dozens and dozens of tuna for nearly every boat that went out every single trip. It was no joke. You could leave the dock at 4 AM ride 2.5 hours out and be back at the dock by noon with your limit of bluefin and yellowfin tuna. Bluefin seemed to scale down a bit smaller in the 20 to 50-pound class from the medium classers that were prevalent in July, but yellowfin seemed to grow bigger in the 50 to 100-pound class. Bigeyes are also in the mix, though they mainly were found out a bit further into the canyons in the Hudson, Toms and Wilmington. An unbelievable amount of life has been staging out offshore with humpback whales, porpoises, finback whales and turtles simply corralling bait schools. Some days, you could literally see over 20 different whale pods working over bait, and inevitably, the tuna schools were running with them. October historically is a chunking month, where butterfish and sardine baits dropped down on overnight trips would score with yellowfin and swordfish and that should happen again as the chunk bite during the day was red hot in September. On any trip out, bring plenty in your arsenal but be sure it includes some Madd Mantis tuna poppers, Shimano Butterfly Jigs, Savage Gear Mack Sticks, Chatter Lures Sidetracker spreader bars, Daisy Chains, Green Machines, Cedar Plugs, Stingo jigs and all the chunking gear with 10/0 circle hooks and fluorocarbon leader anywhere from 30 to 100-pound test. Also, there may still be some mahimahi hanging around the pots in the Glory Hole or at the weather buoys at the HA Buoy and Texas Tower. Bring light bucktails and rubber grub baits to tip them with as you cast around the pot lines. October can truly be a legendary offshore month this year as all signs are already pointing to it.
No doubt, October is probably the finest month of the year to fish, both in its beauty and in its bounty. See you on the salt!