It’s finally here, opening of Back Bay Bassin’! The somewhat mild and short winter should set up awesome back bay fishing along Long Beach Island and the surrounding areas to its north and south. A few recent reports from “Winter White Perchers” tell us our favorite seven striped fish are in the mix with perch. They are eating worms and grass shrimp, two great early season bait choices.
Early Season Backwater Striped Bass
South / Central Jersey is very fortunate to have a population of resident bass. They winter over in the deep holes and when hungry eat the simple stuff. What’s easiest to find, eat and digest? Soft baits like worms, clams, mussel, crabs and shrimp are their preference.
The first place to hunt striped bass that are looking to eat is river side beaches and along the shallow dark bottom mud flats in the backwaters. Here, the water warms first. But sure to target these areas on the outgoing tide to ensure the warmest water possible. Time of day can make a huge difference. Fish midday and afternoons as opposed to mornings. Let the sun get out and warm up the shallow mud flats.
Don’t be afraid to look as far back as possible. You’ll be surprised what you find. As the days get longer, more hours of sunshine warm the waters and soon other areas will begin to produce. Then work towards the point, mouths and adjacent/outer banks.
Winter Flounder Fishing
We are all excited to have fun catching Striped Bass but don’t forget Barnegat Bay offers good winter flounder fishing which also opens March 1st. With a regulation of two flounder at 12″ some overlook the fishery but it is a great way to enjoy early season fishing on the bayside on LBI. I had a ton of fun growing up catching flounder on the Island’s bayside nooks and these same areas still produce. Ship Bottom and Surf City’s bayside dock and street ends offer a multitude of areas to fish. You just need to poke around. There were a few slow years, but last year was one of the better showings in some time. We hope that it’s the beginning of a new cycle and this year keeps the trend rolling.
Fish Head Team member Steve-o shares, “If looking for winter flounder you need to pick your days right. I look for the water to break the 42 degree mark (45 is best) and then go on the first sunny day. I like fishing high sun midday. Rig up with a classic winter flounder set up and then soak some bloodworms or sandworm on the bayside. Add a corn kernel for extra bling! I’ve found my ticket to success to be finding and fishing the mussel beds. They are common along some sod banks and they hold fish. There are some areas that can be accessed land based if you know where to look. Another tip, when in the boat chum heavy!”
Current Bait Status
Just a heads up on the bait… We decided to not get live bloodworms for the last weekend of February since opening day the weather looked poor (on the long range when we had to place our bait order). We do our best to have the best bait, so we felt like selling five day old worms on Tuesday and then each day getting progressively older wasn’t the best idea. We expect to have a batch of beautiful bloods this week. We are hoping at latest Wednesday. We will be sure to post on our social media pages when they are in as well as our “Bait Board” on here. In the meantime Dyna Bait offers a great solution. Dynabait Freeze Dried Bloodworms work great, they are convenient and affordable.
What’s Our Go To?
As many of our blog readers are looking to put a bend in a rod, so is the crew here at Fisherman’s Headquarters! The crew is stoked to get out and go fishing. We get questioned every day what do you guys fish. A quick poll from the crew has these as the top three approaches for early season striped bass fishing.
Here’s Our Back Bay Favorites
- For bait fishing, bloodworms and clam are phenomenal baits that hungry striped bass love
- Kettle Creek Shads with Kalins 1⁄2oz jig heads
- Yo Zuri Mag Darters (4″ & 5″) & In Shore Minnow (3-1/2″), a top producers every spring for getting those lethargic schoolies to bite.
Here at Fisherman’s Headquarters, we have all your back bay needs in stock and more on the way.
Opens March 1 – Resident striped bass that call our waters home year round will be hungry. A few days back in the bitter cold store staffer Grey shook the snow dust off with a couple cast and caught two striped bass fishing the bayside. He tried the same spot this weekend but struck out. “They are definitely around but I wasn’t about to connect the right time and tide.”
NJ Striped Bass Regulations: The same limits as 2020 are still in place… One fish 28″ to less than 38″. The 2021 change is inline circle hooks must be used when fishing for striped bass with natural bait. As most know there’s lots of discussion and debate over situational specifics as well as possible exemptions (for bucktail tipped with pork rind, rigged eels, tune and worm rig) but NOTHING was approved in NJ. For right now there are no exemptions!
Here’s two great circle hook options:
NJ Tautog Regulations Reminder: New Jersey’s Blackfish “Tog” Tautog season closed on Sunday Feb 28. Team Fish Heads angler Rob Vallone went out aboard the Jamaica this past weekend to try his luck before the end of the tog season. Unfortunately he reported a bad trip. “It as a gorgeous late February day to scratch the itch but the fishing was dead. 14 anglers with only one tog. Ocean pout and big dogfish.”
New Jersey Blackfish Season will re-open April 1, 2021 with a 15″ minimum size and a 4 fish bag limit. There will be a lot of anglers ready to hit it hard after a long winter. A great spot to look on opening day will be the Barnegat Inlet Jetty. Every year April is very productive for land based anglers fishing the rocks with live crabs.
Summer Flounder “Fluke” Fishing
NJ Summer Flounder Regulations: For the 2021 New Jersey Fluke Season there were no size limit changes. It is still a 3 fish bag limit with an 18″ minimum size. However the exact season dates are still up in the air. Expect them to be finalized at the NJ Marine Fisheries Meeting this Thursday March 4th 5pm. Link will be posted on this page if you are looking to join in.
There’s two options on the table. NJ Fluke Options:
- Option 1) May 22nd – September 19th, 121 days (the same as last year)
- Option 2) May 28th – September 28th, 124 days
The two options really boil down to three days and a slightly earlier or slightly later season? Option 1’s earlier season is preferred by most anglers in South Jersey who want to target fluke in the bays before the Memorial Day rush (May 31, 2021). Option 2’s later season and three extra days is preferred by most anglers in North, Central and some in South Jersey who want the slightly later season to take advantage of fall fluke fishing along the beaches and the ocean waters and reef sites. Obviously the extra three days are a plus.
After reviewing the options I wrote in that I prefer Option 2. Why? In late May there’s a lot more going on in the local LBI fishery with striped bass, black sea bass, black drum, bluefish and weakfish. The three additional days in September helps anglers fishing the LBI surf and inshore waters. September is a great month for fluke fishing NJ artificial reefs during a time when all other fisheries are slow or close. Option 2 helps close the gap between fluke and sea bass season giving saltwater anglers opportunity to fish.