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New Jersey Inshore Saltwater Fishing Report 3-26-18

<b>Keyport</b>

Fishing will begin for the year on April 7 with the <b>Down Deep Fleet</b>, Capt. Mario said. Then open-boat trips and charters will sail for striped bass on Raritan Bay. Dates for both are being booked, and trips for sea bass will fish later this season. Mario had hoped to begin fishing sooner, but weather prevented that. 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. Look for the link underneath “Contact.”

The <b>Vitamin Sea</b> is almost ready to be splashed, Capt. Frank wrote in an email. That’ll probably happen late this week or early next week. Rough weather caused some of the boat’s maintenance to be delayed. Open-boat trips will kick off on Saturday and Sunday, April 7 and 8, for the year. Telephone to reserve. Open trips will fish for striped bass in mornings and afternoons throughout spring, whenever the vessel’s not chartered. Follow <a href=" https://www.facebook.com/vitaminseafishing/" target="_blank">Vitamin Sea’s Facebook page</a> for the up-to-the-moment schedule, or telephone Frank. Charters are being booked for striped bass and fluke. The fluke trips will fish later this season and in summer. Book a date if you have one in mind, instead of settling for whatever’s left. “Spring is here people,” Frank wrote. “Let’s go fishing!”

<b>Leonardo</b>

The year’s first gannets were seen diving on baitfish, probably herring, on Raritan Bay on Saturday, Capt. Joe from <b>Sour Kraut Sportfishing</b> wrote in an email. Bunker were seen swimming the bay beginning earlier this month. Now that herring seemed to arrive, anglers are anticipating striped bass fishing to break open soon on the bay. Spring-like weather and no snow is needed. He expects to launch the boat in April’s second week for the year, and will begin charters and open-boat trips as soon as the striper fishing picks up. Book choice dates now. Joe’s been prepping the boat, and getting ready to paint the bottom.

<b>Highlands</b>

<b>***Update, Thursday, 3/29:***</b> The boat was launched yesterday, Capt. Pete from <b>Fin-Taz-Tic Sportfishing</b> wrote in an email. The crew will fish next week and see if striped bass bite. Throwbacks reportedly hit along Raritan Bay’s flats. Charters and open-boat trips will begin during the second week of April, and an annual discount is available for open trips that month.

<b>Belmar</b>

Capt. Mike from the <b>Katie H</b> is looking to fish wrecks for cod and just run the boat in a couple of weeks, he said. Afterward, he’ll probably haul out the boat for maintenance a moment at a marina near Raritan Bay and then fish for striped bass on the bay. He did that last year, and after that, he’ll fish for stripers on the ocean. Stripers last year began to migrate to the ocean in late April from the bay. Bluefin tuna usually show up on the ocean in mid to late June. The boat will fish for them and sometimes a combo of the tuna in the morning and sharks later in the day. So Mike’s just waiting for the weather to break to begin the year’s angling with the wreck-fishing in about two weeks. He was at the boat this weekend to do some maintenance.

<b>***Update, Thursday, 3/29:***</b> Trips will begin fishing in mid-April on the <b>Miss Belmar Princess</b> for the year, an email said from the party boat. The trips will run for striped bass and bluefish, if those fish are in, and an exact date for the start will be announced.  Take advantage of a special available through April 15: purchase two gift certificates for trips and get one free, or purchase 10 of them and get five free. That’s big savings. The certificates include rod rental and are valid for any regularly scheduled trips, and never expire. The offer cannot be combined with any other offer, discount or promotion.

Weather looks like it’ll begin to break this week, and daily trips will begin to fish on Friday on the <b>Golden Eagle</b>, except no trip will fish on Easter Sunday, a report said on the party boat’s website. Temperatures are supposed to be seasonable, wind is supposed to be calmer and no snow is forecast! The trips will sail for mackerel, herring and cod 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. As soon as striped bass show up, the trips will fish for them. “I would expect the bass to show sometime in the first week of April, but I will keep you posted,” the report said.

Water temperature was yet to rise, so fishing was the same as before, said Tom from <b>Fisherman’s Den</b>. A couple of winter flounder were plucked from Shark River. A couple of throwback striped bass were eased from the surf. The party boat Ocean Explorer from Belmar landed a few cod from the ocean. April begins this weekend, and the hope is that weather will begin to warm the water. <b>Fisherman’s Den North</b> in Atlantic Highlands, the Belmar store’s sister shop, will open for the year next week sometime. Tom had been thinking about opening the Atlantic Highlands store this weekend, but none of the party boats from there seemed to plan to fish yet.

<b>Brielle</b>

The <b>Jamaica II</b> was headed to the boat yard Friday, the party boat’s Facebook page said. “ … that time of year,” it said. Fishing will resume a week or two afterward aboard on the same schedule as before: bottom-fishing every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday.

The year’s first report about good winter flounder fishing rolled in from a boater who fished Barnegat Bay near Mantoloking Bridge, said Alex from <b>The Reel Seat</b>. The angler, fishing with sandworms and chumming with clams, limited out on two and threw back four or five on a trip. That was the only news, because few fished in the cold. Nothing was heard about surf fishing, though the store earlier this year reported a few small striped bass slid from the surf to the north. No bottom-fishing on party boats on the ocean was reported. Many anglers dropped off reels and rods to be serviced. They were getting ready to fish.

<b>Toms River</b>

Throwback striped bass bit all along the Toms River, said Virginia from <b>Murphy’s Hook House</b>. They were bloodwormed from an hour before sunset into nighttime. Where she fishes for them at Island Heights is closed to fishing beginning at 10 p.m. The stripers were also angled on 4- to 6-inch rubber paddletails and shads. Sometimes white perch hit in the river, but stripers outnumbered them. A few keeper stripers chomped in Oyster Creek among throwbacks. Virginia’s husband fished for winter flounder in the Toms on Saturday and hooked none. A friend reportedly turned up good flounder fishing on Barnegat Bay near Mantoloking Bridge, the first good report about that angling in some time. Her husband planned to head there next for the flatfish. The bluefish migration might arrive in Barnegat Bay and the Toms from April 15 to 20, Virginia thinks, because of cold water. That’s a little later than during some years. But sometimes the water temperature currently has no effect on when the blues arrive later this season. No catches were known to be angled in the surf yet. Murphy’s, located on Route 37, also owns <b>Go Fish Bait & Tackle</b> on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River. 

<b>Forked River</b>

Fishing was on fire at Oyster Creek this past week, even after last week’s storm, said Mike from <b>Grizz’s Bait & Tackle</b>. Schoolie striped bass and sometimes keepers were picked off. The creek is the warm-water discharge from Forked River nuclear plant. Customers hung winter flounder from lagoons. Some limited out on two. Bloodworms, killies and salted clams were stocked. Fresh clams were scarce.

<b>Point Pleasant Beach</b>

<b>***Update, Thursday, 3/29:***</b> A cod trip is canceled that was going to begin the year’s fishing Friday on the <b>Gambler</b>, a post said on the party boat’s Facebook page. The post gave no reason, but maybe that was because of weather. Forecasts called for gusts to 25 knots and seas to 7 feet inshore and 11 offshore. More of the trips are slated for 2 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Friday in April, reservations required. Tilefish trips will sail every Saturday in April, reservations required. Blackfish trips, no reservations required, will run 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday and Wednesday in April. Blackfish season will be open throughout that month.

After being in dry dock for spring maintenance, the <b>Norma-K III</b> fished Saturday, a report said on the party boat’s website. A handful of keeper cod were copped. Dogfish and ocean perch were a nuisance, “(but it was) good to see some life on the bottom …,” it said. Trips will fish for cod and ling 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and a trip will blackfish 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Easter Sunday. That’s opening day of blackfish season, and trips will blackfish 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily beginning next Monday.

<b>Mystic Island</b>

At <b>Scott’s Bait & Tackle</b>, Brandon thinks he heard about three striped bass, small ones, reeled in at Graveling Point since the first of the month, he said. He hadn’t checked the water temperature recently but thought the water there hovered around 40 degrees. It might be lower or higher. Fifty-five degrees is when the stripers are completely aggressive. But they’ll become active and bite when the water reaches 50. Currently, the fish were probably sitting and thinking, this weather stinks! he said. Weather was cold and windy. The annual $100 gift certificate to the store will be awarded to the angler who checks-in the year’s first keeper striper from the Point. Graveling, a shore-angling spot at the confluence of Great Bay and Mullica River, is one of New Jersey’s first places to give up good striper fishing each year. If anglers want to catch currently, lots of throwback stripers are biting in Oyster Creek, farther north. That’s the warm-water discharge from Forked River nuclear plant. Friends have been tackling them and also limiting out on two winter flounder apiece in the creek. Bloodworms will hook both fish, and the stripers can also be angled on soft-plastic lures. White perch are completely active in Mullica River. On one day, you’ll find them, and on another, you won’t. Forecasts look like rough weather sometimes this week, but temperatures are sometimes supposed to reach the 50 degrees, and, late in the week, even the 60s. Anglers hope that warms water in the Mullica, and that the warm water will flush into the Graveling area and trigger stripers to bite. We’re hoping, Brandon said. Bloodworms, live grass shrimp, minnows, clams in the shell, salted clams and green crabs are stocked. The crabs are for the opening of blackfish season beginning Sunday.

<b>Absecon</b>

The few who fished, caught, said Capt. Dave from <b>Absecon Bay Sportsman Center</b>. They plowed really great catches of white perch from brackish rivers like the Mullica and tributaries sometimes. Plenty of perch, including plenty of big, seemed around. Lots of productive places were heard about, including Nacote Creek, a tributary of the Mullica, and Patcong Creek, a tributary of Great Egg Harbor River. Catches from shore and boats were made. Lots of throwback striped bass were clocked from waters like these, too. On some days, more perch were caught, and on others, more stripers were. Lots of action. Sometimes keeper stripers were taken from these waters, too. News about keepers tends to be heard when striper season first opens on March 1 in rivers and bays, including because of prizes the shop awards for the first. Anglers can be closed-mouthed about the keepers they find afterward. Prizes still remain for the year’s first stripers heavier than 20 and 30 pounds and the year’s first keepers that a woman, a boy and a girl bring in. The 20- and 30-pounders are often landed once migrating stripers, big, mature fish, show up later in spring. See the prizes on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/140066560143158/" target="_blank">the store’s Facebook page</a>. Most of the perch and stripers were bloodwormed. If anglers could obtain live grass shrimp, the shrimp seemed to catch a little better. Dave was unable to net the shrimp to stock, and most stores seemed unable, because customers kept looking for the shrimp. Warmer weather is forecast for later this week, and that should get more anglers fishing, and more catches reported. All baits will be ready for the weekend, including the bloods, fresh clams and green crabs. The crabs are for the opening of blackfish season on Sunday.

<b>Brigantine</b>

<b>***Update, Thursday, 3/29:***</b> Striped bass and white perch were rustled up from brackish rivers, said Capt. Andy from <b>Riptide Bait & Tackle</b>. Blackfish season will open beginning Sunday. Nothing bit in the surf yet. Water locally was probably 42 degrees today. “So it’s getting there,” he said. New tackle keeps arriving at the shop. All Penn reels are in. The annual Riptide Striper Derby is underway until May 20, awarding prizes for the spring’s heaviest stripers and bluefish from the town’s surf. First through third places are awarded for each of the two categories. Entry includes a permit to drive the whole length of Brigantine’s surf, except the north end, when the entrant also has a Brigantine beach-buggy permit. Without the derby permit, not that whole length can be driven. New Jersey this year created a new, separate permit that anglers must buy to drive the north end. The Riptide/AlanBrigantineHomes.com 43-Inch Striper Bounty will award cash to the angler who checks-in spring’s first striper 43 inches or larger from Brigantine’s surf. Andy wasn’t asked how much the bounty was now, but for last week’s report said it was $85 or $90. Entry is $5, and the bounty keeps growing because all the cash is awarded for that fish. A $50 gift card to the store apiece will be awarded to the year’s first angler who brings in a striper from the town’s surf and the year’s first boater to come in with a striper. Sign up at the store for the Brigantine 4x4 Assist that offers unlimited towing from Brigantine’s beach for the year for $75.

<b>Atlantic City</b>

<b>***Update, Thursday, 3/29:***</b> <b>One Stop Bait & Tackle</b> was geared up for the opening of blackfish season Sunday, Noel said. The season will be open throughout April, and when the season opened last year, the fishing was phenomenal along Absecon Inlet’s rocks. Customers fish the nearby, jetty-lined inlet on foot. Currently, customers hooked striped bass and winter flounder along the inlet from the T-jetty and off Captain Starn’s, and in the back bay off Harrah’s. The T is at the ocean end of the inlet. Bloodworms and clams pasted the fish. All baits, a large supply, are stocked except minnows. The baits include the bloods, green crabs and fresh clams.   

<b>Longport</b>

Open-boat trips will fish for striped bass Friday and Saturday and for blackfish Sunday on the <b>Stray Cat</b> on the ocean, Capt. Mike said. Sunday is opening day of blackfish season, and open trips will blackfish daily beginning next Monday no matter how many anglers show up. Blackfish season will be open only in April in New Jersey. Mike heard about good catches of the tautog from Maryland two weekends ago, before last week’s storm. Southwest wind is supposed to begin Thursday that will bring warmer weather, and that should trigger “a push” of the striped bass migration. They should begin arriving. The ocean dropped to 43 degrees from 46 previously. Throwback stripers were angled from Great Egg Harbor River at traditional locations. Mike heard about white perch from Mullica River, not the Great Egg.

<b>Ocean City</b>

White perch were nabbed from Great Egg Harbor River farther upstream, said Ed from <b>Fin-Atics</b>. A few small striped bass were played farther downstream. A little fishing began to be reported. Water is cold, about 39 or 40 degrees, and that hasn’t changed in three weeks. As soon as the water begins to warm, more catches will begin. Bloodworms are stocked.

<b>Sea Isle City</b>

After mostly being closed for a winter break, <b>Sea Isle Bait & Tackle</b> was opened Friday through Sunday, and now will be open Thursdays through Sundays, Cameron said. Hours will be extended as fishing picks up. He hadn’t heard much about fishing, and thought that maybe the store’s owner, Mike, might’ve heard more. One angler thought he saw a few bluefish in Corson’s Inlet, Cameron said. That was unconfirmed, and the season was a little early for blues. They usually arrive by mid-April. He was unsure if the local party boat was fishing currently.

Traveling charters to the Florida Keys fished during the weekend with Mike Lackman and friend aboard, said Capt. Joe Hughes from <b>Jersey Cape Guide Service</b>, affiliated with <b>Sea Isle Bait & Tackle</b>. They released lemon sharks and bonnethead sharks while sight-casting in shallow flats of the bay. Mike released his first-ever tarpon on the flats. The friend let go a barracuda. They pulled in jacks, snappers, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, blue runners and more. Traveling charters to the Keys will fish through this coming weekend, and each year fish from Christmas to Easter. See the <a href=" http://www.captainjoehughes.com/page3.html" target="_blank">traveling charters webpage</a> on Jersey Cape’s website.  Afterward, Joe turns all attention to fishing from Sea Isle City. The season’s first catches from Sea Isle include striped bass, bluefish and big, so-called tiderunner weakfish on the back bay. By April 15, the bluefish migration usually slams the bay. The blues have been big and abundant in recent years. The fishing for all of these species is some of the best of the year. Summer flounder are usually hooked beginning this month in the bay, too. Flounder season is yet to be announced but usually begins in late May. They’re released aboard until then. In April and May, charters aboard have the chance to land a back-bay grand slam, all four of the bay’s most popular fish – stripers, blues, weakfish and flounder – in one trip. 

<b>Avalon</b>

Capt. Jim from <b>Fins and Feathers Outfitters</b> wrapped up guiding snow goose hunting for the season, he said. Was a good season, and lots of the birds remain in New York State. He guides the hunts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, following the migration. Next he’ll fly-fish for trout on Pennsylvania’s streams, and Saturday is opening day of trout season in that state in, he thought, the southern zone. He plans to fish Clark’s Creek. Saltwater fishing from Avalon aboard will begin with bluefishing on the back bay. The migration usually shows up in mid-April, and was phenomenal in recent years. Big slammers schooled thick. If striped bass give up a fishery in Delaware Bay this spring, charters will chunk bunker for them aboard. Steelhead fishing is usually good in the first part of April on Salmon River from Jim’s nearby <a href="http://www.sjlodge.com/" target="_blank">lodge</a> in upstate New York. The last Jim heard, the water was cold, and the steelheads were sluggish. But that will change soon. A discount is available for the lodge, but only on Airbnb. Forty-some inches of snow fell at the lodge two weekends ago. He was unsure how much snow covered the ground currently. Most snowmobiling is finished for the season at the lodge. Guests who enjoy stuff like that will now “snirt” or drive quadrunners in snow and dirt. Hundreds of miles of trails are available for snowmobiling and snirting. Fins offers a variety of outdoor adventures like these.

<b>Cape May</b>

<b>***Update, Thursday, 3/29:***</b> Daily trips for blackfish, sailing at 8 a.m., will begin Monday, kicking off the year’s fishing, on the party boat <b>Porgy IV</b>, Capt. Paul said. Blackfish season will be open from this Easter Sunday through April.

<b>***Update, Thursday, 3/29:***</b> <b>Hands Too Bait & Tackle</b> will be open beginning Friday for the fishing season, the shop’s Facebook page said. Hours will be 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Bloodworms are stocked.

An episode of George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing will feature striped bass fishing with Capt. Tom Daffin from <b>Fishin’ Fever Sportfishing</b> at 4 p.m. Tuesday on NBC Sports, Fishin’ Fever’s Facebook page said. Or watch the episode on YouTube. The trip fished from Atlantic City last fall. Fishin’ Fever sails from Atlantic City each fall for the angling, and fishes from Cape May the rest of the year. Fishin’ Fever will sail for blackfish from Cape May throughout April. Blackfish season will be open throughout that month. 

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