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New Jersey Inshore Saltwater Fishing Report 1-23-17

<b>Keyport</b>

Striped bass trips will begin the year’s fishing on the <b>Vitamin Sea</b> during the first week of April, Capt. Frank wrote in an email. Trips might also blackfish then, and if winter stays mild, trips might begin during March’s final week. Blackfishing is closed in March. The boat’s undergoing seasonal maintenance. The engine’s horsepower was increased to 370 from 330. Last winter, heat was installed in the cabin, including for comfort during striper fishing in the early season last year. Many spring striper trips are already booked this year. Booking preferred dates now is better than settling for what’s left. Both a.m. and p.m. trips will fish, and so will Working Man’s Specials that fish late in the day every Wednesday. Charters and open-boat trips sail each year.  “Looking forward to seeing all of you in 2017 and giving you a ‘Dose of Vitamin Sea,’” he said! <a href="https://youtu.be/8lo864-B7Jg" target="_blank">Watch a video of last season</a>.

<b>Belmar</b>

<b>***Update, Thursday, 1/26:***</b> Trips for blackfish and cod on the ocean were about the only fishing, Bob from <b>Fisherman’s Den</b> wrote in an email. Blackfishing was fair on some days, good on some and slow on others. The tautog were sizable, many weighing in the double-digits.  When weather enabled cod trips to sail, the angling was good. Jim Rice from Wall and Scott Mitchell from Neptune, sailing from Belmar, boated a good catch of cod, weighing-in Scott’s 30-pounder.

Fishing did land some mackerel Saturday on the <b>Golden Eagle</b>, a report said on the party boat’s website. “…but it wasn’t enough fish for the distance we had to travel …,” it said. The trip sailed 30 miles to reach them and 30 miles to return to port. So fishing is finished aboard until resuming in March. “Thanks to everyone for a great season!” it said.

<b>Brielle</b>

Boaters picked or scratched away at blackfish in 80 to 100 feet of water on the ocean, said Eric from <b>The Reel Seat</b>. On some days catches were okay, and on others they were slow. That was pretty much the only fishing along the coast. Fishing both at Manasquan Inlet and in the surf was slow. The shop is open Thursdays through Sundays.

A few blackfish were cranked from depths 90 to 135 feet on the ocean Saturday on the <b>Jamaica II</b>, the party boat’s Facebook page said. The crew knew about one angler who limited out. “Had a few big fish broken off,” it said. The trip fished for ling farther from shore at the Mudhole at first. “No ling life at all,” the page said. Only silver eels bit well there. Twelve- and 14-hour trips are fishing for ling, cod and blackfish. <b>***Update, Thursday, 1/26:***</b> The next trips will probably fish Saturday and Sunday, the boat’s Facebook page said. Also, the schedule’s been changed. Trips will now fish for 12 hours, beginning at 5 a.m., on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays for ling, cod and blackfish.

<b>Point Pleasant Beach</b>

Blackfishing was tough aboard the past few trips, a report said Saturday on the party boat <b>Norma-K III</b>’s website. A few of the tautog were picked. “Really weird because the water temp is right where it should be,” it said. “… we will keep giving it our best!” Some of the fish were hooked on white crabs, and some were caught on green crabs, and both have been carried aboard. Trips are blackfishing 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. The storm was expected to cancel trips today and Tuesday. <b>***Update, Thursday, 1/26:***</b> Blackfishing was supposed to resume today aboard, the boat’s website said. After the storm kept trips in port Monday and Tuesday, no trip was slated for Wednesday, because the crew decided to give the ocean a day to settle.

<b>Absecon</b>

Capt. Dave from <b>Absecon Bay Sportsman Center</b> netted a few grass shrimp to stock last week, and a couple of customers bought some Saturday morning for white perch fishing, he said. Customers fish for the perch on brackish rivers like the Mullica, and Dave “heard a few things” about the angling. A few anglers were wondering around fishing. Sometimes anglers telephoned to ask whether green crabs or white leggers were stocked for blackfishing on the ocean. But none of the crabs are stocked this time of year. Weather was warmer than usual for winter. Saturday was foggy, but wind was calm that day. The weather was about as good as could be for fishing in winter. The store is open for no set hours, but Dave is usually there. Telephone before stopping by. 

<b>Longport</b>

The <b>Stray Cat</b> is finished fishing for the moment but will run offshore in February and March, Capt. Mike said. Inshore fishing slowed, and a trip blackfished inshore on Saturday aboard. That was in 90 feet of water at three of Mike’s favorite pieces. But no blackfish would bite. Anchoring was difficult in hardly any wind and mild current. Very few dogfish were even hooked, and anglers got hung up quite a bit. Open-boat trips had been blackfishing inshore whenever weather was fit. Beginning in February, open trips will fish every Saturday through March for blackfish, cod and pollock at wrecks offshore. Mike still has green crabs for blackfishing. Open trips will target blackfish beginning in April, when blackfishing is reopened, after it closes throughout March.

<b>Ocean City</b>

Customers don’t really begin fishing for white perch and striped bass until March, said Bill from <b>Fin-Atics</b>. They target them on brackish rivers like the Great Egg Harbor, and striper fishing is closed in rivers and bays this month and in February, reopening on March 1. So anglers get after them then. But one customer was headed for the perch fishing Saturday morning. Striper fishing is open on the ocean year-round, but stripers there mostly migrated south for winter. No blackfishing was heard about from the ocean. A charter boat or two might’ve still been blackfishing, but no party boats were known about that were sailing for the tautog currently. Even charter boats might’ve finished the angling for the season. Party boats used to sail for sea bass and other bottom-fish at offshore wrecks this time of year. That used to be the only angling happening this season, and it was good. Catches included big sea bass. But sea bass season’s been closed in recent winters. The store is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and frozen bait is stocked. Bloodworms are usually stocked once striper season is opened March 1 in bays and rivers.

<b>Sea Isle City</b>

Fishing aboard will next sail on February’s first weekend, said Capt. Joe Hughes from <b>Jersey Cape Guide Service</b> and <b>Sea Isle Bait & Tackle</b>. That will be some of his traveling charters to the Florida Keys that fish each winter until Easter.  See the <a href=" http://www.captainjoehughes.com/page3.html" target="_blank">traveling charters’ page</a> on Jersey Cape’s website. Joe always turns attention back on fishing from Sea Isle after the holiday. He might even fish from Sea Isle before, because Easter is late this year, on April 16. He’s usually one of the first captains to catch striped bass from New Jersey each year. In the early season from Sea Isle, he fishes for stripers on the back bay, once striper season is opened in bays and rivers beginning March 1. He fishes jigheads with soft-plastic lures or Clouser Minnow flies for the stripers, working the lures or flies slowly, along bottom, at places like the mouths of creeks on the bay, on outgoing tides late in the day, when the water is warmest. Creeks are warmer than the bay that time of year, and outgoing tides flush warmer water into the bay from them.  Keep up with Joe’s fishing on <a href="http://captainjoehughes.blogspot.com/" target="_blank">Jersey Cape’s Blog</a>.

<b>Avalon</b>

<b>Fins and Feathers Outfitters</b> wrapped up saltwater fishing for the season some time ago. But trips are waterfowling, and the most recent of those outings were with hunters from Louisiana during three days this past week, Capt. Jim said.  The hunters, who were dog trainers and taxidermists, first waterfowled in North Carolina, then with Jim and then in Massachusetts. With Jim they shot brant, black ducks, red breasted mergansers, buffleheads and old squaws. Those were the birds they wanted, including to mount some. They were going to mount 12 they shot, and brant season will be closed later this week. Then trips will hunt Canadian geese and snow geese. Canadian goose hunting will last into February, and snow goose hunting will run into April. Afterward, Fins will saltwater fish again, beginning with trips for striped bass and drum. Drum fishing, on Delaware Bay, is usually best in May. But steelhead fishing is underway on upstate New York’s Salmon River, and anglers do that from Jim’s nearby lodge. They also snowmobile, back-country ski and snowshoe from the lodge, and plenty of snow is on the ground, and openings are available. Five feet of snow was recently shoveled from the lodge’s deck. For the steelheading, Fins can book guides for anglers. Or the crew from the lodge can show guests how to go about the angling, and then the anglers can fish on their own. Or guests can completely fish for the steelheads on their own.

<b>Cape May</b>

<b>***Update, Thursday, 1/26:***</b> A sizable crowd joined a blackfish trip Saturday on the party boat <b>Porgy IV</b>, Capt. Paul said. The trip sailed to an area where he used to find the fish when water was cold, but the angling was slow there. Then the trip scrambled around to different places for only a few blackfish that hit. The angling wasn’t good, and Sunday’s trip, in spitting rain but calm wind, iced a few good-sized blackfish. But Paul now decided to wrap up open-boat trips until spring, because blackfishing was mostly shut down close to shore for the season. He might still run charters for the fish farther from the coast. Open trips will probably resume on April 1, when blackfishing season reopens, after being closed in March, unless other fish bite before then. Striped bass used to be caught before April 1, when clam boats attracted them. But the clam boats no longer sail. The mackerel migration used to school within range early in the year, but didn’t in recent years. Not many ling or cod would be around to begin trips before blackfishing, Paul thinks, or he thinks he wouldn’t experiment to see if they were. So unless other catches pop up beforehand, open trips will resume April 1, sailing for blackfish.

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