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New Jersey Inshore Saltwater Fishing Report 12-21-17

<b>Keyport</b>

Fishing for striped bass was the best of the year aboard, said Capt. Mario from the <b>Down Deep Fleet</b>. Super, he said, and the fish measured up to 40 inches. They were hooked on the ocean on jigs and rubber shads. Lots of herring schooled, and open-boat trips are striper fishing daily. On Down Deep’s other boat, blackfishing was up and down, not fantastic. Open trips are blackfishing daily on that vessel. Both boats feature heated cabins and galleys. Charters are available for up to 15 passengers. Sign up for the Short Notice List on <a href="http://downdeepsportfishing.com" target="_blank">Down Deep’s website</a> to be kept informed about special open trips for ling and cod.

An edited email from Capt. Frank from the <b>Vitamin Sea</b>: “… I've been holding off … saying that it’s time to pull the boat, but I think the time is here. I was hoping that blackfishing would improve, but seems it’s just a daily grind out there for a dozen or so fish. So with that, the Vitamin Sea will be hauled (today).  On the whole, 2017 was a great year for the Vitamin Sea. Seems our popularity grows each and every season. I cannot express enough gratitude to all of my regular customers who’ve been with me for so many years, and all of the new people I had the privilege of meeting this year. Capt. T.J. and I pride ourselves in giving you the best possible day on the water. Do we come up short sometimes? Yes we do. When we do, I will report that no different than if we had a stellar trip. I believe it’s that truth in reporting that has made us popular. We write as it is, with no fluff … . As I did last year, I’ll try to compose a video of our 2017 season that I’ll post on <a href=" https://www.facebook.com/vitaminseafishing/" target="_blank">Vitamin Sea’s Facebook page</a>. You’ll find all of our pictures and up-to-the-minute info there. With all the small striped bass we saw this fall, we can be excited for many years of good striper fishing to come. Some of our fall trips had over 100 of these smaller fish. They seemed to be everywhere. Holidays are a time for family gatherings and appreciating this wonderful life we’re so fortunate to live. Life is to be lived with gusto and adventure. I promise to continue giving you the adventure part and a full ‘Dose of Vitamin Sea’ for as long as the good Lord lets me. Happy Holidays Everyone and God Bless.”

<b>Atlantic Highlands</b>

On the party boat <b>Atlantic Star</b>, the daily trip for blackfish yesterday fished inshore because of forecasts for strong wind that blew calmer than that, Capt. Tom said. A few keepers and shorts were tied into, but the fishing was probably some of the tougher this blackfish season, and was slower than on recent trips aboard. Like up and down the coast, the angling’s not been great, but catching some, and the trips are getting after them daily. The boat is blackfishing 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 or 3 p.m. every day. No trip will fish on Christmas, and the trip on New Year’s will be the final this season aboard. The boat goes on break afterward for winter. <b>***Update, Friday, 12/22:***</b> Forecasts currently looked like Saturday’s trip might be weathered out, Tom said at 11:30 a.m. today aboard in a phone call. Anglers can telephone the boat to confirm whether the day’s trip will sail. Sunday’s weather looked better. Today’s trip so far, when he gave this update, picked at throwbacks and not many keepers in rough weather and seas. Seas were becoming a little rolly, and he was moving to a new location. <b>***Another Update, Friday, 12/22:***</b> Blackfishing improved a little at today’s trip’s final drop, Tom said. That was the drop after, in the update above, he said he was going to move the boat, and was the trip’s third stop. Some anglers ended up with three keepers apiece. <b>***Update, Sunday, 12/24:***</b> A delicate pick of throwbacks and keepers was rounded up on today’s blackfish trip so far, Tom said at 11 a.m. aboard in a phone call. Some anglers waxed two keepers apiece by then, and weather was good, much better than strong wind that was forecast. The trip made two drops so far, and Tom was sticking with the second location. Forecasts are calling for cold and some wind coming up this week, but the wind is supposed to be from west, so Tom expects to sail. He reminded that no trip will fish on Christmas, and daily trips will resume Tuesday through New Year’s, the final day of fishing aboard before the winter break. Tom wishes anglers Merry Christmas. <b>***Update, Wednesday, 12/27:***</b> Forecasts for Thursday look rough, but are calling for much calmer wind Friday, Tom said. Cold, but less wind, and Friday looks like the day to jump aboard. He’ll try to sail throughout the weekend, too.

Boaters suddenly angled striped bass, not big, pretty well on the local ocean, said Johnny O. from <b>Fisherman’s Den North</b>. They jigged the fish, and lots of throwback stripers hit in the surf on lures like Tsunami rubber sand eels and other small, rubber lures. Boaters who blackfished were picking the slipperies on the ocean. Green crabs and white crabs are stocked. The store will probably close beginning January 15 for a moment for a winter break. Its sister shop farther south, Fisherman’s Den in Belmar, will remain open. 

<b>Neptune</b>

Only two anglers sailed on a blackfish trip Tuesday with <b>Last Lady Fishing Charters</b> on the ocean, but fishing for the tautog was the best of the year aboard, Capt. Ralph wrote in an email. A 10-pound cod was also iced. Individual-reservation trips for blackfish will sail Friday, Sunday, Wednesday and the following Friday, Dec. 29. The trip on Sunday, Christmas Eve, will be back at the dock by 2:30 p.m., and green crabs and white crabs will be carried aboard the trips. Weather might cancel an individual-reservation trip Saturday for offshore wreck-fishing. If the trip is nixed, it’ll be rescheduled for Saturday, Dec. 30. The trip is a last chance to paste sea bass, because sea bass season will be closed beginning Jan. 1. Ralph expects the trip to slap aboard cod, pollock, sea bass, porgies and white and red hake. <b>***Update, Thursday, 12/21:***</b> The wreck trip this Saturday will be rescheduled for the following Saturday, Dec. 30, because wind will prevent Ralph from sailing to where he wants, he said. <b>***Update, Tuesday, 12/26:***</b> Wind will blow from northwest Wednesday, so an individual-reservation trip for blackfish will sail that day, Ralph said. Room is available for that outing and for more of the trips Friday and Sunday, and for the offshore wreck trip Saturday.

<b>Belmar</b>

Striped bass fishing was excellent on the ocean for <b>Parker Pete’s Fishing Charters</b>, Capt. Pete said. Up and down the coast, birds worked baitfish, and a crazy number of 28- to 36-inch stripers and slots schooled. The bass were jigged aboard. Blackfishing was slow. A trip for the tautog Monday aboard only hooked about six keepers. Don’t have enough anglers for a charter? Contact Parker Pete’s about individual spaces with charters who want more anglers. Sign up for the email list on <a href=" http://www.parkerpetefishing.com/" target="_blank">Parker Pete’s website</a> to be kept informed about the spaces. <b>***Update, Thursday, 12/21:***</b> Fishing crushed stripers today aboard, Pete said. The boat limited out on unders and slots and released twice as many, all on jigs.

<b>***Update, Friday, 12/22:***</b> Angling for winter flounder was holding up, Bob from <b>Fisherman’s Den</b> wrote in an email. Ronald Byrnes from Manchester weighed-in a 3-pound 12-ounce flounder that was fat and longer than 19 inches. Marty Westerfield from Wall limited out on two flounder to 18 inches on most days this past week. Bob mentioned no location for the catches, but seemed to mean the flounder were bagged from Shark River. The store’s rental boats are available to fish the river. Boating for blackfish on the ocean this fall had its ups and downs, and most would say the angling wasn’t the best. But a trophy or two were checked-in at the shop every week. Scott Crilly from Toms River stopped by with a 12-pounder this week. In the surf, large numbers of small striped bass bit at most local beaches. Bob, a surf angler, thinks the shorts could remain all winter, unless a large snowstorm chills the water. Keep the light tackle out, he said.

<b>Brielle</b>

<b>***Update, Sunday, 12/24:***</b> Surf anglers slid-in striped bass from 18 inches to keeper-sized, mostly 18- to 20-inchers, said Alex from <b>The Reel Seat</b>. The catches were heard about from Manasquan Inlet to Seaside Park on Tsunami sand eels, small metal and teasers. Sometimes two at once were hooked, because of the teasers. Boating picked stripers from schoolies to keepers on the ocean. Alex thinks this might be the last “shebang,” but who knows? he said. The fishing lasted longer than expected, and if boaters farther north are socking them, maybe the local angling will continue. Blackfishing put together catches on the ocean, but not as well as the fishing should be this time of year. Maybe the angling will improve in the next weeks. Blackfish were clocked from Manasquan Inlet. So were a few from Point Pleasant Canal still, though few anglers might’ve tried for them there. Winter flounder were plucked from the inlet and the south end of the canal at Bay Head. Anglers just cast worms for the flounder, did no chumming, he thought. A few private boats and party boats sailed offshore for good catches of sea bass and porgies at wrecks.

<b>Point Pleasant Beach</b>

If weather continues like lately, striped bass fishing might last into January, a report said on the party boat <b>Gambler</b>’s website. Stay tuned, it said. Stripers are around, both north and south of Manasquan Inlet. White, rubber shads and Krocodile spoons tackled them best aboard. The boat will fish for stripers today, Saturday and Sunday. A sea bass trip will steam offshore Friday. Spaces are available for <a href=" http://www.gamblerfishing.net/offshore-sea-bass.php" target="_blank">sea bass trips</a> that will sail until sea bass season is closed beginning Jan. 1.  Book soon by telephoning the boat or purchasing tickets online.

Beautiful weather for blackfishing Monday and Tuesday on the <b>Norma-K III</b> on the ocean, a report said on the party boat’s website. No trip sailed Wednesday, the report said, and no reason was mentioned. The fishing those two days was a little slow, but picked and scratched a few of the catches. “You would get a good hit and then they would not come back to finish off the crab,” it said. Both green and white crabs caught, and some of the fish were jigged. “The blackfish are there, (and) we just have to get them chewing,” it said. Trips are blackfishing 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. However, the trip on Christmas Eve will sail 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and no trip will run on Christmas.

<b>Toms River</b>

Small striped bass swarmed all over the surf, feeding on small bait or sand eels, said Jeff from <b>Murphy’s Hook House</b>. Any jig or lure with a skinny profile like a sand eel caught. Small paddle-tails and teasers also worked. Boaters nailed some good-sized stripers on the ocean. Winter flounder were tugged from Shark River, farther north. Nobody reported trying for flounder locally. Blackfishing slowed in Point Pleasant Canal and gave up small ones, occasionally a keeper, but still turned out the tautog. The store will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. until whenever the crew decides to close on Sunday, Christmas Eve. The shop will be open next week for different hours, depending on demand. Holiday gift certificates are available with a 20- to 35-percent discount, depending on how much you spend, through Christmas Eve. Murphy’s, located on Route 37, also owns <b>Go Fish Bait & Tackle</b> on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River.

<b>Seaside Heights</b>

Catches of striped bass seemed to be diminishing in the surf, a report said on <b>The Dock Outfitters</b>’ website. Maybe bait became scarcer, water temperature dropped or fewer anglers fished the beach, or a combination of all of that. Nevertheless, “the end is near,” it said, so get in those last few casts. It’s a long winter. Previously, good numbers of small stripers were reported beached on rubber sand eels, metal like Ava jigs and even Daiwa SP Minnows with teasers. A little time remains to shop for Christmas. Take advantage of the storewide sale, or buy a gift card with 20-percent additional value. The Dock Outfitters, located on Barnegat Bay, blocks from the ocean surf, features a bait and tackle shop, a café, a dock for fishing and crabbing and, in season, boat and jet-ski rentals.

<b>Forked River</b>

<b>***Update, Friday, 12/22:***</b> Striped bass were boated on the ocean on trips from the local area, but few and far between, said Mike from <b>Grizz’s Bait & Tackle</b>. Most customers who fished seemed to boat for blackfish on the ocean, and that angling was good. They bought green crabs for bait from the shop. After Christmas Eve Day, the store will be closed through New Year’s. After that, the shop will be open 8 a.m. to 12 noon on weekends, depending on weather.

<b>Mystic Island</b>

For ocean boaters, striped bass caught were a little smaller than before, but were still picked up, said Brandon from <b>Scott’s Bait & Tackle</b>. The catches were heard about on the troll and on jigs, rubber shads or popper lures or all the different tackle usually fished for them. Some trips whaled the fish. For blackfishing on the ocean, a little deeper water seemed to fish better than shallower. Bigger held deeper, and the shallower might serve up smaller or no blackfish at all. Nobody mentioned white perch fishing on Mullica River. But a few bloodworms are stocked that can be fished for them. One angler traveled all the way south to the store to buy the bloods for winter flounder fishing on Shark River. The angler and friends were limiting out on flounder every trip on the river. Green crabs and eels are also stocked. Scott’s will be open daily until closing at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Christmas Eve, through February. The store will be reopened full time at 8 a.m. March 1. Striped bass season opens that day in bays and rivers, and Graveling Point near the store produces some of the first stripers in New Jersey each year. That’s a shore-angling spot at the confluence of Mullica River and Great Bay. Warm water from the river seems to attract them there. Striper season closes beginning Jan. 1 in bays and rivers but is open in the ocean year-round. By March, the ocean is too cold to attract stripers locally. They hold in back waters at first each year. The store annually awards a $100 gift certificate to the shop to the angler who check’s in the year’s first striper from the point.

<b>Brigantine</b>

Off Brigantine in the ocean, striped bass schooled for a while now, said Capt. Andy from <b>Riptide Bait & Tackle</b>. Ron Maturazzo had just weighed-in a 14-pounder from the area and trolled double-headers on the trip. He caught on umbrella rigs, “believe it or not,” Andy said, instead of Mojos, and also caught on Stretch lures. Surf fishing was slow. The season’s Riptide Striper Derby will conclude on Christmas Eve Day, but the beach-buggy permit will continue to be valid through February that’s included with the $25 entry fee. The permit allows beach-buggying along Brigantine’s entire front beach, when drivers also have a Brigantine buggy permit. Without the tournament permit, not all the beach can be driven. New Jersey announced a decision controversial for anglers, saying the state will take over the natural area at northernmost Brigantine and begin charging an additional fee for a permit to beach-buggy there. Until now, only the Brigantine permit was needed for that. The additional fee is $75 for Jersey residents and $50 for non-residents, and <a href=" http://www.state.nj.us/dep/newsrel/2017/17_0124.htm" target="_blank">click here</a> for a press release. Andy is supposed to talk about this on the Shep on Fishing radio show this weekend. Heads up: Riptide in conjunction with a local towing service is starting a new service named Brigantine 4x4 Assistance that for a fee will give unlimited towing for vehicles stranded on Brigantine’s beach, like if stuck in the sand or a mechanical problem. The service is supposed to be quicker than other towing, like arriving in 5 or 10 minutes, and less expensive than towing that can cost $300 to $600. The fee will probably be something like $75, and Andy will offer a $10 discount for those who sign up in January. You can sign up at the shop. Riptide is open daily until 12 noon on Christmas Eve. It’ll be closed on Christmas and open again afterward through sometime on New Year’s Eve Day. In January and February, Andy will be at the shop, but telephone ahead to confirm, until the store is open full time again in March.

<b>Atlantic City</b>

A blitz of striped bass blew up in the surf from the T-jetty to off Vermont and Massachusetts Avenue on low, incoming tide, said Noel from <b>One Stop Bait & Tackle</b>. Anglers saw baitfish and life in the water previously, but the stripers only began to bite on that tide. Lots of stripers have been around in the area, though not a lot of anglers have been fishing for them this late in the year. Lots of large herring schooled the water. Clams and Daiwa SP Minnows hooked the stripers well. The T is at the ocean end of Absecon Inlet in Atlantic City. Boaters on the ocean creamed stripers. One angler’s trip departed at 9 a.m., returned at 12:30 p.m. and landed 12, keeping four. A 29-pound striper that was boated on the ocean won the store’s Fishing for Toys Holiday Striped Bass Tournament that ended on Sunday. To register, anglers only needed to donate a toy to be given to the Police Athletic League for needy families. The toy drive went well, Noel said. Blackfishing was slowing down along the T and off the Flagship. The Flagship is a resort building farther back along the inlet in town. The inlet, located near the store, is lined with jetties that blackfish hold along, and customers fish the inlet on foot. Plenty of blackfish were boated on the ocean, including on green crabs, clams and jigs. One Stop will be open daily until Christmas Eve Day, and Noel will decide what the hours will be afterward. A large supply of bait is stocked.

<b>Absecon</b>

In the ocean, striped bass were scattered throughout the local coast, but really good blitzes erupted for boaters, if they were in the right place at the right time, said Capt. Dave from <b>Absecon Bay Sportsman Center</b>.  He heard about catches from the ocean off Little Egg Inlet to Ocean City. Herring swam the water, and they seem to make stripers a little more aggressive, for some reason. A couple of stripers were angled along jetties. Nothing fantastic, but there was hope for surf casters. Not a lot was reported about boating for blackfish, and most who concentrate on the tautog seemed to chase stripers. Green crabs are stocked for blackfishing. Several great reports rolled in about white perch fishing on Mullica River. One especially experienced perch angler said he walloped a couple of hours of the best-sized perch and best number in years. Throwback stripers up to 24 inches, not tiny, were mixed in. That angler saw bank anglers who couldn’t fish through the stripers to hook perch. The stripers were abundant in the shallows, and the perch schooled deeper. The river seemed to be gearing up for a good winter fishery, and Dave just spoke with the bait supplier who said bloodworms, a bait for the perch and stripers in the river, should be available. Dave will try to keep them stocked, and he’ll also try netting grass shrimp, another bait for the fishing, to stock, maybe even today. A big sale will continue at the store this weekend for Christmas, and items will be on sale this winter for clearance. The shop will be open daily until Christmas Eve Day. Afterward, Dave will be there for no set hours, so telephone ahead. But he’s usually there. Full-time hours will resume by March 1.

<b>Longport</b>

Fishing went well on the <b>Stray Cat</b>, Capt. Mike said. Striped bass fishing was great on the ocean. Everybody was hooking them from Atlantic City to Cape May. Some of the fish schooled beyond 3 miles from shore, where striper fishing is closed. But a decent number swam within 3 miles. The fish were trolled on chartreuse Mojos aboard. A trip aboard tried jigging them, but that didn’t go well. Blackfishing wasn’t bad aboard either, on the ocean. “Not bad at all,” he said. During blackfishing yesterday aboard, stripers showed up underneath the boat, with birds working the surrounding water. No blackfish hit while the stripers were there 40 minutes. But blackfish chomped again once the stripers departed. Neat to see, he said. Open-boat trips are fishing, including for stripers at 8 a.m. next week, if the bass are still around. Spaces are available for an open trip 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. That will probably fish for stripers, if stripers are still in, but otherwise will sail for blackfish. Whatever’s best. Charters are available, and the boat will fish until Jan. 17. It’ll go on a winter break afterward.

<b>Ocean City</b>

Stripers are still there, Bill from <b>Fin-Atics</b> said about fishing for striped bass on the ocean. Most were trolled on Mojos, a few on umbrella rigs like those from 9er’s Lures. Smaller stripers were nipped on the back bay here and there on soft-plastic lures. A few blackfish were still heard about from the bay, but not many. They depart for the warmer ocean when the bay becomes cold. Nothing was mentioned about blackfishing on the ocean, and boaters on the ocean all seemed to striper fish. The shop is open daily until Christmas Eve Day. Afterward, it’ll be open Thursdays through Saturdays until hours are expanded in late winter.

<b>Sea Isle City</b>

<b>***Update, Friday, 12/22:***</b> Boating for striped bass was awesome on the ocean, said Mike from <b>Sea Isle Bait & Tackle</b>. The fish were trolled, mostly on Mojos, a few on bunker spoons. One angler’s trip left port at 8 a.m., limited out and returned at 10:30 a.m. No other fishing was reported, including fishing for blackfish or sea bass on the ocean or fishing the surf. Mike felt like he couldn’t give away trips for any of that angling, he said, because customers wanted only to boat for stripers on the ocean. The store is open for no specific hours but mostly around the weekends when customers are likely to show up. Playing it by ear, Mike said.

<b>Cape May</b>

<b>Fishin’ Fever Sportfishing</b>’s been blackfishing a few days on the ocean, Capt. Tom said. The angling’s been a grind, though conditions have been right, catching a few decent-sized. The last couple of trips bagged 14 of the tautog apiece to 10 pounds. The water was 48 to 50 degrees on the blackfish grounds. Rougher weather is forecast for part of this weekend, and maybe that will stir up the water and help the fishing.  A trip yesterday sailed for striped bass on the ocean aboard, limiting out on unders and releasing a bunch of additional. Most of the stripers were trolled, but a few were bucktailed. The water was 45 to 47 degrees on the striper grounds, closer to shore than the blackfishing.

Capt. George from the <b>Heavy Hitter</b> knew that striped bass were boated on the ocean Monday and Tuesday, he said. He’s working on something mechanical on the boat that he expects to complete Saturday. He’ll run no trips from now through Christmas Eve and Christmas, but will continue striper charters, like he’s been running, until the end of the year. A trip last weekend aboard limited out on unders, released a bunch more and also bagged one 45-inch over. That was while trolling the ocean off Ocean City at bird play, and was covered in the last report here.

Trips for blackfish sailed Friday and Sunday through Tuesday on the party boat <b>Porgy IV</b>, Capt. Paul said. Weather canceled the other daily trips for the tautog during that period. Not a whole lot of action was copped, but some good-sized blackfish were. Only a few customers limited out. Bob Key from Lancaster limited and smashed a 15-1/4-pound blackfish he released. He catches quite a few of the tog, Paul said, and handled the fish gently and weighed it before letting the catch go. “So there’s a 15-pounder swimming around,” Paul said! Kevin Olbrich from Pittsgrove bagged three blackfish including a 12-1/2-pounder. Bud Callahan from Philadelphia landed only two keepers, but those included a 10-pounder he released. Some anglers like to release the large, old fish, thinking the tog are breeders that will replenish the population. Some think the large fish don’t taste as good as younger blackfish, too. Alex Levantovsky from Philly and Dan Tinsman from Atco limited. The fishing wasn’t great on trips, but if you want a chance to hook blackfish, the boat is sailing for them at 8 a.m. daily. However, Christmas Eve’s trip will sail 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Weather might be rough that day, but if weather is fishable and anglers want to go, those will be the hours. Also, no trip will sail on Christmas.  

Seems still a strong striped bass bite on the ocean, said Nick from <b>Hands Too Bait & Tackle</b>. He heard about the catches from Ocean City to Cape May. That included good ones yesterday. The fish lately were trolled on Mojos or sometimes hooked on cast bucktails or caught on bunker snagged and then livelined for bait. Nothing was heard about stripers from Delaware Bay and the Cape May Rips. All boaters whom Nick knew about headed for stripers in the ocean. Still, if a boating trip can only fish a short time, eeling for stripers at the rips might be a good option. The rips are located just off Cape May Point at the confluence of the ocean and Delaware Bay, and eels are stocked. Not much was reported about catches from the surf, except an occasional throwback striper beached here and there. Blackfishing in the ocean seemed to begin pulling farther from shore, like 10 miles out and deeper. The store is open for no set hours but in mornings when enough customers are likely to drop in.

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