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New Jersey
Saltwater Fishing Report

Report from Monday, March 25.

| Keyport | Leonardo | Atlantic Highlands | Neptune | Belmar | Brielle | Point Pleasant Beach | Toms River | Absecon | Longport | Ocean City | Sea Isle City | Cape May | Last Week's Report |
IN WINTER THROUGH EARLY SPRING,
THIS REPORT IS UPDATED
EVERY MONDAY, AND A FEW UPDATES
ARE POSTED EVERY THURSDAY,
SOMETIMES ON OTHER DAYS

THE REPORT IS FULLY UPDATED
EVERY MONDAY AND THURSDAY
AFTERWARD THROUGH FALL
Keyport
***Update, Thursday, 3/28:*** Splash! The Vitamin Sea was launched Tuesday for the fishing season, Capt. Frank wrote in an email. He took the boat for a shakedown cruise the next day, and trolled for striped bass in shallow water with small plugs a moment. None was caught, but bait would’ve “made a difference,” he said. That was obviously on Raritan or Sandy Hook bays. Piles of fish were marked, and stripers are certainly swimming the water. Trolling in 10-foot depths was difficult, but the year’s first stripers bite in that warm water. The water was almost 47 degrees at some places. The fishing will pop soon. The year’s first open-boat trips will fish for stripers Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7. Telephone to reserve. “Get your dose of Vitamin Sea!”

Throwback striped bass, a couple of keepers, were beached from Raritan Bay’s shore, said Capt. Mario from Down Deep Sportfishing. The year’s first open-boat trip will fish for the bay’s stripers on Sunday, April 7. More of the trips will fish the following two days, too. The trips will probably clam for the bass. Clams usually work best for the angling aboard at first in the year. The stripers from shore currently were wormed. Charters are available, and the roomy boat accommodates up to 15 passengers. The 10 winners of free trips were announced and are: Tracy Brown, Walison Silva, Ed Lundy, Joe Gordon, Larry Rossi, Peter Corcoran, Kevin Koslosky, Daniel Johnson, Josh Zander and Joe Riccardi. Telephone Down Deep to redeem. You must confirm the phone number you provided on your ticket last year. Those anglers fished aboard last year. All anglers aboard are automatically entered to win one of the free trips for the next year. John Ackerman won the custom rod awarded for the biggest fluke a customer caught on the boat last year. His weighed 9 pounds, and one of the rods is awarded each year. Down Deep will relocate to Hans Pedersen Marina this year.

Leonardo
Capt. Joe from Sour Kraut Sportfishing heard about a few striped bass landed from the bay’s shore, he said. The fishing was slow, and he knew about no stripers boated from the bay yet. He knew a couple of boaters who tried for them halfheartedly. Joe expects to splash the boat within two weeks and then begin fishing for the stripers. He’ll troll for them with Stretch lures and maybe clam for them. The trolling usually catches best aboard at first in spring.

Atlantic Highlands
Surf anglers dragged in striped bass, mostly throwbacks, at spots like Keyport, Keansburg and Leonardo on Raritan and Sandy Hook bays, said Jay from Julian’s Bait & Tackle. That was on worms and clams, and baits stocked include sandworms, bloodworms and fresh clams.

Neptune
***Update, Thursday, 3/28:*** Blackfish season will be open April 1 through 30, Capt. Ralph from Last Lady Fishing Charters wrote in an email. That’s “blackfish month” and will kick off Last Lady’s fishing season. Cod were also caught inshore that month last year. Charters are available, and individual-reservation trips will head for blackfish April 14 and cod April 26. More individual-reservation trips will be scheduled. If you have a few anglers but too few for a charter, let Ralph know, and he’ll put together a trip. Sea bass season is tentatively scheduled to begin May 15. Striped bass fishing will also happen in May aboard. Annual weekly individual-reservation trips for fluke will start on June 25 that fish every Tuesday. Kids 12 and under sail free on those outings, limited to one per adult host.

Belmar
***Update, Thursday, 3/28:*** Fishing will get underway Monday on the party boat Big Mohawk for the fishing season, Capt. Chris said. That’s opening day of blackfish season, and the trips will steam for blackfish 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily on the ocean aboard.

***Update, Thursday, 3/28:*** The boat was going to be brought to the shipyard this week to be readied for striped bass fishing on the ocean later this spring, Capt. Pete from Parker Pete’s Fishing Charters said. But before the ocean fishing, Parker Pete’s will fish for stripers on Raritan Bay beginning April 15 on another boat. Both types of fishing are booking up, and check Parker Pete’s calendar on the boat’s website for available dates. You can book on the website with a deposit. Remember to include the date you want, whether you want an a.m. or p.m. trip and your name and contact info. Or if you want a Magic Hour Trip, be sure to specify. Those sail from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. on the ocean, are limited to six people and are by reservation only. Those trips do fill, so book them. These are the trips where you can see trophies 50 pounds and heavier, Pete said. Don’t have enough anglers for charter? Book an individual-reservation spot with a charter who wants more anglers. Join the email blast on Parker Pete’s website to keep informed about fishing aboard.

Brielle
The first couple of reports about winter flounder caught came in from northern Barnegat Bay toward Mantoloking Bridge, said Alex from The Reel Seat. Anglers had to chum heavily for them. Pieces of worms on flounder rigs seemed to hook most. Small striped bass were played in the Toms River, including on Kettle Creek rubber shads and small hard-plastic lures. Alex heard about no stripers or not many yet from Manasquan River, closer to the store. The water was slightly too cold, maybe.

Point Pleasant Beach
***Update, Thursday, 3/28:*** Bottom-fishing sailed a couple of times on the party boat Dauntless on the ocean, Capt. Butch said. The fishing was slow, but changes began to be seen for the first time this year. The water was 40 degrees, only a degree to 2 degrees warmer than previously. But it was warmer for the first time since winter, and dogfish showed up because of that. So did bergals. A few ling and cod were bagged. The trips fished in 120-foot depths to 220. Only the dog sharks bit in the deep in that range. The ling and cod were bucketed in the shallower. Blackfish season will open for the month of April. No blackfish showed up on these trips. A few throwback ones did on the previous couple. The trips, slated for 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, will fish for whatever can be bagged. The boat was one of the only, if not the only, that was scheduled to fish daily throughout winter from New Jersey. Christmas is the only day the vessel is not slated to sail each year.

Toms River
The Toms River’s striped bass fishing was great at night, decent on overcast days, said Dennis from Hook House Bait & Tackle. Dennis wasn’t asked the size of the fish, but previously said most were throwbacks but a few were keepers. Bloodworms, Rapala X-Raps, Yo-Zuri 3D Minnows, other lures like that and Kettle Creek shads socked them. Winter flounder were picked from the river at Island Heights. Few anglers fished for them, but they caught. Flounder and stripers were plucked from Barnegat Bay in the Pelican Island area, pretty much on bloodworms. But kayakers plugged the stripers. Kayakers also fished for stripers on the Toms off Crab Road in Beachwood. Waders and fly-rodders, a mixed bag, also fished there. A few flounder and stripers were rounded up from the bay near Mantoloking Bridge and Point Pleasant Canal. Nothing great, but a few, all on worms. Bloodworms, sandworms, salted clams, shiners, killies, nightcrawlers and garden worms are stocked. Hook House, located on Route 37, also owns Go Fish Bait & Tackle on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River.

Absecon
Sounded like striped bass bit well yesterday in rivers, said Capt. Dave from Absecon Bay Sportsman Center. Wind was finally calmer and more fishable that day. No stripers were brought to the shop. But he heard about a couple of keepers among plenty of throwbacks caught. A photo of one of the keepers was posted on the shop’s Facebook page. Plenty of white perch chewed in the same rivers like the Mullica. This was all mostly on bloodworms. But more and more stripers swiped lures like floating or diving stick baits and rubber shads. A few stripers began to be reported from back bays and the backs of inlets, too. Fishing there probably became worthwhile. Bloodworms are stocked, and suppliers seemed to have no problem digging them up. No grass shrimp are stocked. Frozen clams are carried, and the supplier said he’ll work on obtaining fresh soon. The year’s first keeper striper was brought to the store on March 1, covered in a previous report here. The angler won a gift certificate to the store for that. Prizes remain for the second and third and the year’s first that a woman, girl and boy bring in. See details about the prizes on the store’s website. The prize for the first keeper released was already awarded, too, also covered in a previous report here.

Longport
Daily open-boat trips for blackfish will be launched next Monday on the Stray Cat, Capt. Mike said. That’s opening day of blackfish season. The tautog seemed to begin pulling inshore a little, because someone Mike knows picked a few closer-in to the south, where the season is currently open. The ocean warmed to 44 degrees at the Light Ship, and water clarity looked good in the ocean. Recent windy weather failed to dirty the water. Mike might fish this weekend for cod or whatever bites. He heard about no striped bass migrating to the coast yet, and saw no migrating baitfish off the beach. He looked for the baitfish or birds working them every day.

Ocean City
A few small striped bass, not many, were hooked from the back bay, said Bill from Fin-Atics. Most were pasted on soft-plastic lures. A few were bloodwormed, and small stripers were also cranked from Great Egg Harbor River, mostly on the worms. That was because the anglers usually fished for white perch with the worms in the river when they also caught the stripers. Bloodworms are stocked.

Sea Isle City
Capt. Joe Hughes from Jersey Cape Guide Service and Sea Isle Bait & Tackle is optimistic he’ll land striped bass from the back bay as soon as he fishes for them, he said. That will be soon, he expects, and he worked on preparing the boat for the fishing season this weekend. Wind blew terribly Saturday, and Sunday’s weather wasn’t bad, was fishable. He’d like the water temperature to rise slightly. The water was 42 to 43 degrees the last he knew, and might’ve reached 44 now. There’s been no sustained days of warmer weather. Fishing usually begins with a slow pick of stripers in March to early April. Then catches suddenly break loose in April. The bluefish migration usually slams the bay by Tax Day, April 15. That offers some of the year’s best fishing aboard. Joe wonders whether the run will arrive late, early or on time. During cooler Marches like this month, he’s often wondered if the run would arrive late. But often it arrived right on time. But Joe will target stripers first, casting soft-plastic lures and Clouser Minnow flies, reeling them in slowly along bottom. The stripers will be lethargic in cool water. He’ll find them in the bay at places like creek mouths on outgoing tides. Creeks are warmer than the bay in spring, and those tides flush the warmth into the bay. Afternoons on sunny days can fish best, because the water’s warmest then. In April and May, the bay can give up stripers, blues, weakfish and summer flounder. If an angler nails all four in a trip, that’s called a Grand Slam. This time of year is great, the best, for fishing the bay. Keep up with Joe’s fishing on Jersey Cape’s Blog.

Cape May
***Update, Thursday, 3/28:*** The party boat Porgy IV will resume fishing Friday, April 5, sailing for blackfish in the ocean at 8 a.m. daily, Capt. Paul said. Blackfish season will open this Monday. But he’s doing maintenance on the boat, and is unsure whether some parts will arrive by Monday. Fishing on the vessel had been on break during cold weather since the first of the year.

Last Week's Report
Report from Monday, 3/18:

Keyport

Fishing will be launched for the year with an open-boat trip for striped bass on Sunday, April 7, with Down Deep Sportfishing, Capt. Mario said. The trip will fish Raritan Bay, and the first trips will probably fish with clams for the bass. Open trips and charters will sail regularly beginning then. Telephone about available dates, and updates about the schedule are usually posted in the reports on Down Deep’s website once Down Deep gets rolling for the year. The crew looks forward to the striper fishing, and the catches were great aboard last spring. Charters are available for up to 15 passengers.

Capt. Frank will splash the Vitamin Sea by the end of the week, make shakedown runs afterward and kick off fishing two weekends from now, he wrote in an email. That will be on open-boat trips for striped bass Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7, on Raritan Bay. Telephone if interested. Great dates are still available for striper fishing on the boat. If you haven’t booked your trips, please do, he said. Both a.m. and p.m. trips will fish. Capts. T.J and Craig will be back to help with the work load this coming season. Great dates also remain for fluke trips that fish after stripers depart, and those should be booked now, too. Gulps for fluke bait will be available to customers at cost. All the key colors were just ordered, including Salmon Red. That makes fishing affordable and fun. “Our rates have not changed in years,” he wrote. Follow Vitamin Sea on Facebook for the latest reports and the open-boat schedule. ***Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** Frank had considered launching the boat today or tomorrow, but will probably drop-in the vessel this weekend, because of stormy weather currently, he said. He heard about stripers hooked in the bay already, and even bluefish, though this was especially early for blues. Were the stripers also caught from shore? Yes, he said. Catches of stripers were made at night around the full moon this week, reportedly. Maybe it’s going to be an early “season,” he said.

Leonardo

The boat is hoped to be splashed before Easter, said Capt. Joe from Sour Kraut Sportfishing. Then trips will fish for striped bass on Raritan Bay. He always searches for the fish with trolled Stretch plugs first. If fishing with clams is best for the stripers, the trips will clam. But the trolling is usually best for him that time of year. Trips around then will mix in blackfishing, too. Blackfish season will be open in April and closed afterward. The year’s first stripers were reportedly reeled from the back of Raritan Bay, where the water’s warmest. The fishing depends on weather. When nights rise above freezing, the fishing improves quickly. Daytimes can still be in the 50 degrees and 60s. But that nighttime freezing is key. Weekends are booking quickly, and only a couple of weekend dates remain in April. May is more open, and this is the time to reserve those dates. Joe recently returned from fishing from Los Suenos, Costa Rica. He fished inshore, and that’s really an overlooked, phenomenal fishery. His catches included going 8 for 9 on roosterfish and landing snappers and jacks. Most anglers target the offshore fishing for sailfish, tuna and marlin.

Belmar

Winter flounder fishing was slow, Bob from Fisherman’s Den wrote in an email. Customers fish for them in Shark River, running past the shop. Anglers will see if warmer weather will pick up the catches. Striped bass were rumored caught in the Toms and Manasquan Rivers. Some were supposedly hooked from Barnegat Bay, too. A few bluefish were reportedly landed from Barnegat Bay and Raritan River, though this was early for blues. Bunker supposedly schooled the Raritan, and a big kill of bunker was even reported from the river. Get your tackle ready, because things are looking up, Bob suggests. For freshwater, trout gear is being stocked for the opening of trout season April 6. ***Update, Friday, 3/22:*** Some winter flounder are beginning to be hooked from Shark River, Bob wrote in an email. That fishery should open up as the season’s weather becomes a little warmer and sunnier. Striped bass, mostly throwbacks, are biting in back waters from Raritan Bay to Mullica River. A few keepers are being wormed in the back of the Raritan around the Amboys. Bloodworms, sandworms and fresh clams are stocked. Lots of new rods and reels are stocked for all kinds of fishing from surf angling to trout fishing. Stop by and browse.

Brielle

Small striped bass were plucked from the Toms River and Barnegat Bay, said Bob from The Reel Seat. A few bluefish were angled from that Barnegat area and Raritan Bay, unusually. The bluefish migration usually arrives in mid-April. Winter flounder catches were almost nonexistent, maybe because of cold water.

***Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** The next fishing is supposed to sail for cod Saturday and Sunday on the Jamaica II, the party boat’s Facebook page said last week. Contact the vessel to confirm. The boat had been kept in a port a while because of dock repairs. *** Another Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** “Too much wind for Saturday,” the Facebook page said today. “Stay in touch for Sunday.”

Point Pleasant Beach

***Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** Bottom-fishing sailed one to three days a week on the party boat Dauntless on the ocean, Capt. Butch said. The angling was slow, scooping up a few ling and a cod on one day, a few cod and a couple of ling on another. The trips fished in 120-foot depths to 220, and no particular depth in that range fished better than another. The water was 38 to 39 degrees, pretty cold. So the fishing was tough, but the crew is trying to sail every day. The trips are slated for 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. The boat is one of the only, if not the only, that’s scheduled to fish daily from New Jersey this time of season each year.

***Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** The Gambler fished wrecks and rocks 40 miles from shore, at depths 120 to 225 feet, last week on Wednesday, the party boat’s Facebook page said. The fishing was slow, but the next trips were expected to try different areas. Trips are sailing 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, targeting cod, ling and other fish at mid-range wrecks.

Toms River

A striped bass, the year’s first, was brought to Hook House Bait & Tackle, Dennis said. The angler clocked the fish from the Toms River on Saturday and won the $100 gift certificate to the store for the first. Other keepers also came from the river lately, among throwbacks, and striper fishing was great on the river, and getting better. Most were angled at night, and some were hooked at daybreak. The fish were grabbed this morning at Island Heights and Bayville. A customer said the top 4 inches of the river were 50 degrees at Bayville this morning. The river’s striper fishing was slow in the middle of the day lately. The bass were bloodwormed, and fishing for them with lures was good, too. Rapala X-Raps, Yozuri 3D Minnows and Kettle Creek shads were the top sellers for that. The river’s white perch fishing slowed, maybe because stripers were so abundant. Throw a hook in the water, and you’re likely to hook a striper before a chance at a perch. Stripers began to be wormed from Barnegat Bay at Seaside off the docks, too. Stripers were everywhere. Pushes of bunker showed up in Manasquan River and the Sandy Hook area. Winter flounder fishing improved beginning Saturday. One angler limited out on two Sunday on the Toms. Two anglers on a boat limited this weekend on a trip on that river. One of their flounder had mud on its back, and the others did not. There seemed a mix of flounder just coming out of the mud and others that were out and about a while. Dennis’s nephew limited on flounder off Pelican Island. A few flounder and stripers were heard about from the Mantoloking Bridge area, too. A few bluefish were rumored caught in the Barnegat Bay area, and anglers said they saw photos on Facebook. But Dennis saw no blues first-hand, and the earliest he ever saw blues locally was in the final week of March 2016. He’s lived along the Toms all his life. Blues traditionally show up around April 12 or 13 locally. No blues were even heard about from Delaware yet. Usually blues are reported from there. Then they’re reported from the Atlantic City area, and quickly they arrive locally afterward. Bloodworms are stocked. For freshwater, shiners, killies, nightcrawlers and garden worms are carried. Hook House, located on Route 37, also owns Go Fish Bait & Tackle on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River.

Forked River

***Update, Thursday, 3/21:*** A couple of keeper striped bass to 30 inches were reported socked in the Toms River during the weekend, said Mike from Grizz’s Bait & Tackle. Seemed a good sign, he said. A few white perch and winter flounder nibbled in the river. No flounder were heard about from farther south yet. Baits stocked include bloodworms, large and small minnows, nightcrawlers and salted clams. The usual baits for this time of year are carried. Chum for flounder fishing is on hand. The shop is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Absecon

The year’s second keeper striped bass was seen yesterday at Absecon Bay Sportsman Center, Capt. Dave said. That was in a video the angler shared on the store’s Facebook page to win a prize for the year’s first to catch-and-release a keeper and share the video. The angler won a $100 gift certificate to the store for that, and caught the fish from Great Egg Harbor River on a lure. The angler reported good fishing for smaller stripers on lures on the trip, too. Striper fishing seemed to be improving in somewhat warming, sunnier weather. Dave expects the angling to break loose now, including because spring begins later this week, and the full moon is in the next day or so. The moon should get stripers moving around. Stripers have mostly bitten in rivers so far. But a friend had a couple of good bites, though never hooked the stripers, in the bay yesterday behind Atlantic City. Dave also heard about other stripers, small ones, from bays recently. More should be heard about from bays now. Lots of throwback stripers have been bloodwormed from brackish rivers, and more and more have been heard about that were hooked on lures. White perch fishing was great on the rivers. Two newbies came in yesterday with a bucketful of large. Grass shrimp seemed scarce, but if anglers could scrounge up some, the shrimp nabbed the perch best. But plenty were bloodwormed. The worms are stocked, and the store is all geared up for fishing. Prizes from the store remain for some of the year’s first stripers brought in, including the second and third keepers, the first from a woman, and the first from kids. Click the link to see.

Ocean City

A few striped bass, one here and there, small ones, began to be beaned from the back bay, like along bridges, said Bill from Fin-Atics. There weren’t many of the fish biting, but some were heard about. At the bridges, most anglers fished soft-plastic lures for them. A few of the bass were bloodwormed. A few stripers and white perch were talked about from Great Egg Harbor River. Bloodworms are stocked.

Sea Isle City

Capt. Joe Hughes from Jersey Cape Guide Service and Sea Isle Bait & Tackle worked on prepping the boat this weekend, he said. He’ll kick off his fishing soon from Sea Isle for the year, beginning with striped bass fishing on the back bay. He heard third-hand reports about stripers angled from the bay at places like Wildwood and Cape May, and is sure he’d catch if he tried. He wouldn’t expect to bail them, but he fishes for the bass with soft-plastic lures on jigheads and Clouser Minnow flies on sinking lines this time of year. He works them slowly along bottom. He didn’t know the bay’s temperature currently but guessed that the water was in the low 40 degrees. See the traveling charters webpage on Jersey Cape’s website. Traveling trips fish the Florida Keys through Easter. Keep up with Joe’s fishing on Jersey Cape’s Blog.