For giant striped bass in Southern New Jersey, the perfect is unquestionably saved for final.
My fishing log dates again to 1998, and there are undoubtedly noticeable patterns in terms of the situation of huge striped bass congregations alongside the Jersey Coast. Throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, the Delaware Bay and Cape Could seashores have been the locations to search out 30-plus-pound fish. Since 2004, the central and northern Jersey coast from Barnegat Inlet to Raritan Bay benefited from legendary bunker runs that attracted unexpected numbers of 40- to 50-pound cow stripers. However, off the cities of Ocean Metropolis, Sea Isle Metropolis, Avalon and Wildwood, there’s been an obvious lack of huge stripers through the fall run—till now.
Since 2013, this 25-mile part of southern Jersey shoreline has been a hotbed of linesider exercise within the late fall, and native anglers are lastly experiencing the massive bass fishing they’ve been ready for.
WAIT FOR THE BAIT
One of many causes that the South Jersey space traditionally misses the majority of the autumn striper run is that the step by step sloping submarine shoreline doesn’t attain prime striper depth till a substantial distance offshore. From LBI to Cape Could, the shoreline may be very shallow inshore, and the same old bass-friendly depths of 45 to 60 ft can lie properly outdoors the 3-mile federal restrict, out of vary and out of authorized attain. Stripers most undoubtedly cruise by South Jersey on their fall migration, however go too far off to legally goal.
Nonetheless, in recent times, giant faculties of southbound baitfish have been hugging the shoreline, a change which will have been attributable to Tremendous Storm Sandy’s shoreline restructuring in 2012. Grownup bunker, sand eels, herring, spearing, peanut bunker and rain bait have been sticking near the coast and attracting main faculties of migratory stripers.
“I believe the principle purpose bass are in shut is the presence of grownup bunker faculties, which we hardly ever noticed contained in the three-mile restrict,” mentioned Captain Sean Reilly of the Kirra in Ocean Metropolis. “We’ve at all times had the sand eels and spearing, however the large bunker pushing in is one thing new.”
As soon as the bait stacks up inshore, it’s solely a matter of timing and temperature for bass to comply with. In late October by way of early December, water temperatures common anyplace between 48 and 60 levels, and the principle bass chew appears to happen from mid-November till mid-December, earlier than water temperatures drop an excessive amount of and push the bass offshore and southward.
I’ve joined Captain Sean on a number of November striper journeys since 2013, with our normal modus operandi trolling across the Nice Egg Inlet Bell Buoy and off the Ferris Wheel on the Ocean Metropolis Boardwalk, working the depths from 30 to 55 ft. Different productive grounds have included Brigantine Shoal, the Atlantic Metropolis jetties, off Lucy the Elephant in Margate, Sea Isle Lump, and the Cuma Lumps. These spots are typically featureless and flat, with no actual laborious construction like rock piles or reefs to pay attention the fish, so the true key to success is about discovering tiny divots or lumps within the space.
“Hooking up is all about watching the fishfinder and discovering variations within the depths, whether or not it’s a lump or gap,” mentioned Reilly. “You could be working alongside a gradient that stays at forty ft for a very long time, then see a small two- to three-foot drop or rise, and that’s the place fish shall be holding.” Derelict traps, coral beds or mussel beds within the space can even be fish-attracting spots. “There’s this little lumpy spot, like a dimple, and I don’t know if it’s a misplaced lobster lure or what, but it surely’s actually small and fish are at all times holding round it.” Reilly and I fish that spot time and time once more, dragging a troll sample in a determine 8 across the space. On each go on the down-tide facet, we get lit up with linesiders. “I at all times go proper to that spot to troll first, and most occasions, fish are already ready there on it,” famous Reilly. In a featureless space, just like the South Jersey oceanfront, any dip, lump or speck of construction could be an oasis.
When large bunker faculties settle in off South Jersey, the trolling lures used to focus on stripers are typically bigger than South Jersey guys are used to, beginning with the “large ball.”
With just a little southern affect from the Chesapeake Bay boys, Southern New Jersey fishermen have adopted the Mojo Rig with open arms. “Palms down, that’s our primary trolling lure,” mentioned Reilly. “We use as much as a twenty-four-ounce Mojo ball with a smaller twelve-ounce ball trailer and colours in a mixture of chartreuse and white.” We can even ship again Stretch 25 and Stretch 30 plug patterns of blue/silver, chartreuse or black/white.
Snagging reside bunker and permitting them to swim was one other wonderful tactic for these late-fall stripers earlier than new rules have been set in place in 2020. Snag them by ripping a weighted treble hook by way of a bunker faculty, then switch the bunker bait to a rod rigged with a 6/0 to 8/0 circle hook.
Bunker faculties seem as stable crimson blobs on the fishfinder. Sand eels will betray their presence when the birds begin diving like mad. “Sand eels are straightforward to acknowledge as a result of the terns and gulls dive and dip their beaks into the water to choose them up,” mentioned Reilly. “As soon as we see that sand eels are round, we change techniques and both jig metals or troll umbrella tube rigs.” Metallic jigs embrace slender-profile choices like Deadly Dicks.
Tube rigs in crimson, black or inexperienced, all mixed with some flashers, appear to drag essentially the most bass. Someday in late November 2015, Reilly and I noticed gulls diving on the Bell Buoy and despatched out crimson 9er’s umbrella rigs, dragging by way of 35-knot grey and sleety winds to nail down seven bass as much as 30 kilos in a minimum of quarter-hour.