Back Bay Bluefish Strategies

By Capt. Alex Majewski, Lighthouse Sportfishing

Entering my 18th year of being a professional saltwater fishing guide I have learned that I can often rely on my back bay bluefish strategies to bend the rods and put smiles on my client’s faces. Beginning in late April or early May, until the end of my season, I am dialed in on the bay’s fishery including bluefish.

Fishing artificials, early morning after sunrise or the magic hour before sunset may be best. On the flats I love throwing poppers. However, sometimes you need to stay off the top. There is nothing like a visual strike! Working the bay’s shallow flats, bright sun will often put the fish down. Still, cloudy days may extend surface action. When that occurs, my go to lure are soft plastics.  Use the lightest jig head possible to keep you below the surface but off the bottom. Usually that is about ¼ – ½ ounce. On the flats boat traffic is always a factor but in the channels it may not have a negative effect. More on that later. Although you may not get into all-out blitzes with hundreds of birds working, subtle signs of just a few birds picking can give the location away of actively feeding blues. The passage of a spring cold front followed by a wind from the northerly quarter can often turn the bite off.

A spring slammer caught on with a 7” popper by Jetty Ambassador Dave Werner in a few feet of water aboard the Debbie M.
A spring slammer caught on with a 7” popper by Jetty Ambassador Dave Werner in a few feet of water aboard the Debbie M.

When working artificals, I do it on the drift. And when on the flats I have my clients cast down drift or to side drift of the Debbie M since the boat may spoke fish when fishing in two to three feet of water. Yes I fish that shallow. When in the channels, fishing bucktails tipped with fresh bunker strips, I make sure my offering is close to the bottom. One thing to note is to always keep the slack out of your line so you can set the hook as efficiently as possible. Closer to the inlet you can get away with metals in the ½ to 1 ounce range.

Probably the most overlooked method for spring bluefish is bait fishing. It is simple and a deadly method. Anchoring up in prime locations such as the channels or even in the open bay where blues are roaming, fishing bait can result in nonstop action during the right tide.  In the spring the bay warms up much quicker than the ocean.  The closer to our inlets you are fishing, the further into outgoing tide you will need to fish. Pay attention to your fish finder’s temperature gauge and note when the bite turns on. My experience has shown that the bite turns on when the temperature gets around 58 degrees. For this method I fish conventional outfits with a fish finder rig. While at anchor, use enough weight to securely hold bottom. I can’t say enough about circle hooks here. Most times I don’t go to wire and use 18 – 24 inches of 50 lb. fluorocarbon and a 6/0 to 8/0 circle hook. If the fish start running into slammer territory I may switch to a wire leader. You can’t beat fresh bunker from Fisherman’s Headquarters, but if that is not available other meaty baits like frozen salted mackerel or mullet will get it done.

Anchoring and fishing fresh bait is a highly effective spring method for spring blues.
Anchoring and fishing fresh bait is a highly effective spring method for spring blues.

Anyone that knows me knows that trolling is my least favorite way to fish.  I’m a live bait specialist and will leave it that. The best areas to troll is the open water of the western side of the bay.  When trolling for spring blues, leave the heavy bass trolling gear home and go with tackle rated in the 8-12 lb. range. You can even use spinning gear if you want. Suggested lures are: pony tails; swimming plugs; Clark spoons with a 1-3 ounce drail (depends on speed and line test-the heavy the line or the faster the speed to more trolling weight needed). Trolling bucktails or plastics will even be effective as long as you keep them greater than two to three feet from the surface. I usually do not troll the bay any faster than 3kts.

Even though our summer inshore bluefish fishery seems to have hit rock bottom, there has not been any change in Barnegat Bay’s spring bluefish run.  Some years we see fish over 10 pounds. Like we did in the years of 2016-2019 where I had several fish around 15 pounds. Hooking a 10 pound blue in 2-3 feet of water rivals world class flats action offered by species such as bonefish. Most years we see fish from a few pounds on up the eight. Regardless of their size, when you match your tackle to the size of the spring blues invading the bay, there is nothing like a screaming drag after a bluefish explodes on your popper!

Lucas Robinson caught this spring run racer fishing top water in Barnegat Bay. When these migrating bluefish arrive they are skinny and hungry after a long travel. You can see this fish has a big head and a very skinny girth. Taking a look at this fish you'll see the fish has some gnarly bacteria growth on its side.
Lucas Robinson caught this spring run racer fishing top water in Barnegat Bay. When these migrating bluefish arrive they are skinny and hungry after a long travel. You can see this fish has a big head and a very skinny girth. Taking a look at this fish you’ll see the fish has some gnarly bacteria growth on its side.

Are you looking to get out fishing Barnegat Bay and the Surrounding waters of Island Beach State Park and Long Beach Island? Give a call to Captain Alex at Lighthouse Sportfishing today!

Captain Alex Majewski – Lighthouse Sportfishing – 609-548-2511

Lighthouse Sportfishing Report

Boy did the last day of fluke season blow or what? Literally, it was windy like no tomorrow. With all that, I was able to put my clients on some schoolie bass by going to some places where the fan was blowing as hard. After making bait, the Debbie M shined crossing the bay. My Dusky 203 center console really chewed up the 3-4 foot chop while keeping all on board relatively dry. We caught the last hour of incoming during which time we caught nothing. Once the tide switched to outgoing it was game on! Which makes sense this time of year. Any of the backwaters bait, like mullet and peanut bunker, will start their southerly migration on the ebbing tide. And the game fish know this. By not chasing their prey on incoming, they wait for the prey to ride the tide out, the predator fish conserves energy in their pursuit of prey. And the bait, prey, conserve energy by swimming with the tide. There you have it, as to why outgoing tide in the backwaters is usually better than the incoming. As for this fishing trip, we ended with seven or so schoolies placing American Littoral Society tags in most of them. Below pic is one about to get released. I plan on including tag returns in upcoming reports. I have days open sthis week and upcoming weekend and am diealed in on the local striped bass and (soem weakfish also) if you want to get out on the water for some light tackle world class action be it morning, afternoon of evening.

Screaming drags,

Capt Alex

609-548-2511

Lighthouse Sportfishing Report 9/7/20

As the unofficial end to summer passes, we are in what some think as a transitional month for the local fisheries. IMO, there is nothing transitional about it. Fluking remains strong with the best catches inside coming around high tide and in the ocean when the conditions are more favorable for ocean fluking. Blues from a pound to four pounds are cruising the inlet and jetty haunts and can pop up at any time chasing rainfish (bay anchovies). Speaking of rainfish, the amount of rainfish in and around the inlet is like the flood gates opened up and rained fish. LOL. Schoolie bass are still making a showing with the low light conditions more favorable, but I have been able to put my clients on a bass or two during most trips recently. Weakfish are around in enough numbers to target and while fishing for weaks you are bound to catch a few other species of fish. Anchor in the bay and let out some clam chum and your rods will contently be bent with species like blowfish, smooth dogfish, baby sea bass, kingfish, snappers, and more. Intel speaks of false albacore and Spanish macks real close (a few miles off) to the inlet. Will let you know if I get a chance or have a trip wanting to chance down those speedsters. Attached are two pictures from recent trips, kids and fishing. Gotta love it! I’m presently running trips full time, so I am available to fish when you are. So if you’re thinking about going fishing give me a call. Also with so many dolphins around, if you want to go for an ecotour give me a call.

On the nature side of things: lots of brown pelicans around lately, maybe the most ever. Being an avid birder, naturalist, and citizen scientist, I kind of keep track of birds sightings amongst other things. Things such as when and where a bird is seen, and how many. APPs such as EBird run by Cornell University allows citizen scientists to record their bird sightings into a global database. There are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of sightings, reported and put into the EBird database every single day. Data that years ago took scientists years to collect, is now being collected every minute of every day thanks to technology and citizen scientists. So back to brown pelicans in our area. Over the last two decades, the frequency and the number of brown pelicans in our area have been on the rise. Thirty years ago they were a southern species and very rare to see in Ocean County. As our climate changes, some animals take advantage, or one may say benefit, from such changes. Brown pelican being one. A few years ago they started nesting in the Chesapeake Bay, the furthest north ever recorded. Will they one day nest in Ocean County? Only time will tell and only Mother Nature knows…..

Screaming Drags,

Capt Alex

609-548-2511
Lighthouse Sportfishing

My YouTube Channel 

Lighthouse Sportfishing Report 4/1/2020

First, let me say I hope everyone is staying healthy and sanitized. In times like these, we often find comfort in things that are always there like friends and family. Some also find solace in the outdoors and reconnecting to important things from our past. Well, I did just that when I socially distanced myself from my friend Chris Lido on one of NJ’s amazing trout conservation areas (ind of an oxymorone there).

Growing up trout fishing the NJ rivers often led to lost sleep from the excitement of hitting the stream in the morning. Chris, a professional fly-fishing guide, did a great job brushing off the dust on me. Dust that accumulated from literally decades. The end results were: I took away a book’s worth of  knowledge: I can ride a bike after not being on it for years; and I caught, photographed, and released 9 rainbows. Some video from this adventure can be seen here Trout fishing, NJ

Screeming, drags,

Capt. Alex

Lighthouse Sportfishing

Never seen before footage :)

Being somewhat sheltered in place, I started going through my computer to clean things up. In doing so, I found some fishing videos that I never uploaded to YouTube. This one here is from day two of an epic bass bite that lasted almost a week in the fall of 2015. Subcribe to my YouTube channel if you like my videos.

Capt. Alex

Lighthouse Sportfishing

Epic Bass Bite

March 3 keeping it fresh

This time of year when we are all itching to bend a rod, you can do that if you go hit some local ponds. Remember to get your NJ FW Fishing Licence before you go. Most of the tax money collected by NJ gets put into the “general fund”, however, the money from freshwater license purchase goes directly to operations of Fish & Wildlife which includes the operation of two fish hatcheries and associated stocking programs, a pheasant farm, enforcement of fish and wildlife regulations, habitat protection, fish and wildlife research, wildlife management area maintenance and improvement, education and other programs and activities.

To see my video click here Pond Pickerel
Remember to subcribe if you like my videos.

Capt Alex

Lighthouse Sportfishing

Lighthouse Sportfishing Report

The weather pattern we have been in blows, literally. We get a day or two of fishable conditions only to welcome the next storm. Last time out pre-storm was on Friday with good friend Capt. Dan Siegel and Bob. We trolled bass to 22 pounds. Here is a picture of your truly with a nice bass.  Saw lots of scattered surface action but stayed on the troll hoping for a trophy which never made it to the shelf. Before that I had consistent action around the inlet and back on live bait.  When the bite is on it is almost drop n reel conditions. With that, the fall bass run is fully underway so get out there. We have the bait to keep the bass coming to the dinner plate for a while in the likes of: big bunker; sandeels; Boston mackerel, and who knows what else.  Atlantic herring should make a showing soon.  Water temperatures over ten miles offshore in the upper 50’s will surly push out the low to mid 50’s along the beach thanks to the latest nor’easter. So look for the bass bite to be spot on once the ocean calms midweek. Still got days open so contact me and book soon before the run runs out.

On the nature side of things: Has anyone thought why are we seeing whales every spring and fall along our beaches??? We are seeing them for two reasons. Number one is the Marine Mammal Protection Act on 1972 which stopped the killing of most whales.  Protected under this act their populations have been come back. It takes a long time for large mammals such as whales to repopulate and increase in numbers.  Large whales like the humpbacks and finbacks we have been seeing have an 11 month gestation period and may only give birth to one. But whales can only truly come back for reason number two, increased forage (what an animal feeds on) in the likes of bunker. Our management of bunker has definitely increased this most import fish of the sea population. Being on Barnegat Bay for some 40 years now I have witnessed a lot of change. First for the worse and now for the better. Two and a half decades ago I did not see the countless schools of juvenile bunker that is now see come late summer and early fall. I did not see massive schools of adult bunker off our beaches for many months of the year like I see now. Speaking of bunker, if you are an American and a fisherman you should be really pissed off about a foreign company, Omega Protein, coming into our waters, Chesapeake Bay to be specific, and overfishing their quota and acting like they don’t give a f**k. You can read the story here: Oemega Protein Breaking the Law

Screaming drags,

Capt. Alex

609-548-2511

Lighthouse Sportfishing

Youtube Channel: Fishing Barnegat Bay

Warning: Loveladies Beach Driving

Heads up for those 4 x 4 going to Loveladies. The beach about one block north of the public tennis court access ramp in Loveladies is almost unpassable. The beach is very narrow there, extremely wet and soft, with most of it sloped downward. I got stuck really bad and had to get towed off. While stuck, I watched another 4×4 try to make it only to get hung up and then turn around. Then the truck that came to pull me out got hung up in the same spot and had to turn around. He had to approach us from the north, coming in at East Coast Ave. I have been driving the beach for years and have never seen a spot like this. I now call my truck the “sand trap” LOL

Screaming drags,

Capt. Alex

609 548-2511

Lighthouse Sportfishing

Youtube: Fishing Barnegat Bay