OTW NJ Fishing Report – 4-18-12

Attention all anglers, you are now on the clock! In two weeks, the Holy Grail for all of you New Jerseyfish hounds, opens on the 2012 summer flounder season. The regulations have changed a bit but the objective has not. Unlike other species targeted by anglers, it has been my observation that most of us who target fluke, do so that it may eventually land on the menu. Nothing is better than a meal of fresh flounder, stuffed with Jersey blue claw crab and sides of big, beefy jersey tomatoes and asparagus followed with a desert of freshNew Jerseyblueberries and cream. God, I love summer. But to be successful in your quest, I recommend taking a little time over the next couple of weeks to get your gear in optimum working order. After all, a soldier would never go into battle with less than functional weaponry. For now, don’t worry about the scouting reports, On the Water will take care of that part. And the shops that we use as our front line are ready and waiting to help you with the logistics, be it reel repair, line, terminal tackle or the best bait for the prevailing conditions. Think of us as your own personal quartermaster corps. Ready willing and able to provide everything you need for a successful outing. Now let’s get to the skinny on current action.

I had a nice chat with Kevin at Long Branch Bait and Tackle this morning and the fish of the day up north is striper. The bunker has arrived and is plentiful so take that into consideration whether you plan your attack using bait or artificial attractants. The bite really turned on Tuesday night with fish up to fifteen pounds being taken in the back bays and river. There are bluefish in the area, mostlytaylorsand some small weakfish are in the mix as well. Located less than a mile from the beach, make sure you hit Long Branch B and T before you wet a line.

If you are in Brielle this week, make sure you stop in the Reel Seat onGreen Aveand wish owner Dave Arbeitman and his staff a happy anniversary. The Reel Seat has been serving anglers in the area for thirty years as of this season. Considering the trials and tribulations we all go through in the fishing industry that is one hell of an accomplishment. To show his appreciation, Dave is running some Real nice anniversary specials as thanks for your patronage. The striper bite has been going strong for a couple weeks now. In fact, Dave and John from the Reel Seat fished off the Gambler out ofPoint Pleasanton Tuesday and had some non stop action for the better part of the trip. The bait of the day was menhaden to match the hatch. And as luck would have it, Dave won the boat pool with a 28 pound linesider.  As Rod Stewart would say, some guys have all the luck!

If you are going to drop a line in theTomsRiverarea, I recommend you visit the gang at Go Fish Bait and Tackle onFischer Boulevard before you hit the water. They carry the best bait and tackle you will find in the area and also can handle any repair needs you might have. Locally, there have been some reports of decent winter flounder catch as well as some tog. Take advantage before the seasons shut down on these two tasty treats. Stripers are following the bunker (and herring) in the river.  I also understand that there have been some nice white perch caught in theTomsRiver. Go Fish is running specials on their bunker and green crabs to give anglers the right bait at the right prices. It certainly is nice to have a quality tackle shop back within theToms River city limits.

Turning our attention to freshwater, I spoke with Laurie at Dow’s Boat Rental on Lake Hopatcong. With the warm weather on us, there have been some nice crappies caught on fatheads and small jigs. Rich Christiansen caught a 1.5 pounder using that technique. In addition, for these of you looking for trout, try trolling a floating rapala, phoebe or a husky jerk. Anglers have had success with fish up to two pounds on these lure. Check the weed lines for pickerel and the shallows where the water is a bit warmer for a shot at walleye. Laurie asked me to remind everyone that both largemouth and smallmouth bass are closed until June fifteenth, so it’s a catch and release fishery until then. Walleye reopens on May First. The hybrid stripers are starting to show some signs of life but they are still pretty sluggish. Herring like baits fished real slow give you your best shot at getting a hybrid this time of the year.

I had the opportunity to chat with Captain Rich Wilkowski, owner/operator of both Jersey Hooker outfitters and Jersey Hooker charters in Brick.  Captain Rich informed me that the striper bite up there has been consistent with the Shrewsbury rocks area being one of the more consistent spots. Anglers jigging lures like the Tsunami Heavy Shad or trolling spoons like the Tony Maja have had best hook up numbers. There has been some talk that blues are starting to filter into the area. Bunker is around but not in the schools that should show up in a few weeks as the water heats up. In the Point Pleasant canals, there has been some nice tautog caught, mostly in the 15 to 17 inch range. Head boats in the area report some limited cod catch but most of the deep water action has been ling. Whatever your quarry, Jersey Hooker has the right bait or tackle to aid in your mission. And Captain Rich and his staff are sure to point you in the right direction.

Liberty Landing Marina, inJersey Cityis the place to go if you are fishing in the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty. A full service marina, it has everything an first time or experienced angler could possibly need to outfit their expedition. And that includes information. I spoke to Greg there this week to get the lowdown of local hot spots. Stripers have been very active this week with some near ideal conditions. Boaters trolling stretch lures or spoons have had all the action they could handle in the lower bay. When you check your tackle, make sure you have snags hooks at the ready as there have been some nice reports of schooled bunker in the neighborhood. That being said, there are also reports that the bigger blues have moved in, so wire leaders are another helpful hint. Greg also told me that there have been some slippery bass are still active around the Shrewsbury Rocks but catching keepers can be a real challenge.  If you can get some, white leg crabs will greatly increase your odds of getting a keeper.

From Long Beach Island north, the water temperatures, are in the near optimal range of the mid fifties. The shallows of the back bays and rivers have some really warm patches which seem to be holding the early spawns of bait fish. Use that in your planning. If you are fishing from land, it seems the best lures are swimmers like bombers or deep lipped divers. Beach jockeys are making the switch from clam to fresh bunker or sand worms. On the water, trolling spoons and stretch lures have been the most consistent producers, based on my discussions with shop owners. Jigging metal, especially Hopkinstype chrome has been effective as well. With bunker starting to show up in numbers, be aware that the runner blue fish are hot on their trails, so wire leader is definitely a consideration when assessing your terminal tackle needs. Striped bass are the best bets for taking home fish, no matter what region you are fishing. But remember, there are other options out available. Fresh water fiends should know that there are additional stocking of trout taking place all across the state. I have seen reports of some immense rainbow and even a palomino trout being taken in stocked streams and lakes. The tautog limit is still four until the end of the month and there seems to be no shortage of baits at any of the local shops. Winter flounder, while limited to a creel of 2 fish, are perhaps one of the tastiest versions of this flat fish and open through May 21st.  Options abound this spring season, so take your pick as to your prey. And whichever choice you make, try thinking like a fish. Now what would you do?

Michael C.

Originally written for On the Water Magazine (on line edition)

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