Fishing Barnegat Bay for close to 40 years, Capt. Alex runs Barnegat Bay's premier light tackle and fly fishing service with his custom 203 Dusky Center Console (Debbie M). He knows the back bay, inlet or inshore like no other. 609-548-2511
Well, fall fishing is living up to expectations and then some. Right now fishing opportunities abound. The rough spots have seabass, blackfish, and triggerfish. Along the beach, there are literally acres of small weakfish with the occasional bigger variety. Still some sushi-grade bonito around, as well as jumbo Spanish mackerel. False albacore are making the best inshore showing in years. They love rainfish (bay anchovies). If you have never caught one you don’t know what you’re missing. If you have caught them before, I’m sure the scream of the drag echoes in your memories. Pre-storm I was out with my BFF Capt Dan Siegel and we chased down the albies for a while. The attached picture is of me with that was one over 11 lbs. that headed to the smoker. Speaking of 11 lbs., I also landed several blues in that range at the inlet (pic attached). Bass are active at times around the inlet and throughout the bay. Just put in the time, fish the right place at the right time, and you will find the bass. If I can you can, lol. Blowfish are still holding on strong in the bay but some have started existing to find warmer water. Dates are filling in, so contact me if you want to experience some of the best back bay and inshore fishing this area has to offer.
Just because many have left LBI and Barnegat Bay for the year, the fish do not subscribe to our calendar. With falling temps, shorter days the baitfish are getting ready to push out of the bay and head south. The bay is under 70 @ 69 for the first times in months. Predators with be hot on their tails, get it?? Mullet have started to school and my prediction lots will exit the bay on the next moon. Peanut bunker will follow a few weeks later. And man o man, the bay is loaded with nuts. Fluke season has a few days left. Fluking has been tough lately because of water clarity. The last hurricane swell dirtied up the water. Plenty of nice size weaks around if you chum grass shrimp. They should get easier to target with live nuts on a three-way floating jig head rig. Schoolie bas are already dialed in in the marsh. Had lots blowing up on bait my last two times I targeted them. I’s only going to get better. Inlet holding some keeper bass but big live baits needed. Some monster blues showed up, 8-10 lb. plus variety. These are what I like to call “mullet run” blues. Historically they showed up like clockwork this time of year. Not so much in years past. I just got news from an extremely reliable source of some croaker on steroids of the beach. Still trying to get what depth. Been years since we had a good run of hard heads. Great eating but can be a little boney.
On the nature side of things: before technology birds were tracked by netting and putting legs bands on. The only way to know where they went is when they were recaptured. Not the best success rates. Plus there were lots of data gaps. For example, where were they in between. Now a days gps tracking devices have come into play. The artic tern was always known to be the longest distance flyer doing a 25,000 mile round trip in the Atlantic. But that was not thinking out of the box and making a poor assumption that it flew in a straight line while spending about ten months over the open ocean. And it weighs only 4.2 ounces. Recently, a tracked tern did 42,000 miles in one year as if zig zagged while travel for the south reaches of the southern hemisphere to the far reaches of the northern hemisphere. Isn’t nature amazing.
Now retired and guiding full time, one of the only full time local guides, I have lots of dates available and often available for last minute bookings. It is still best to schedule a dates. Fishing is good to great and only getting better.
“Dialed in”. That is a term us fisherman use when we are out most days and know what fish to target and what tide to fish for them. Having been on Barnegat Bay and Inlet for over 40 years now, and in my 18th year as a professional saltwater guide, man am I getting old, LOL, I’m dialed in to the seasons, tides, how water temperature effects the seasonal bite and the daily bite from being on the water more days than not. On the fishing scene, Blowfishing will not disappoint. If you want to take some home for diner you have to weed through lots of small ones, but worth the effort. Bay fluke are starting to fatten up getting ready for their fall migration offshore to spawn. The channels in the inlet and the back during the end of incoming and the beginning of outgoing have been best. Don’t even think about fishing Gulp in the bay right now. The blowfish and other small fish will chew away at your bank account right now. Live bait is the way to go, if you know what, I’m saying. In the ocean it’s another story. Gulp is fine at the reefs and snags, but still you can’t beat live peanut bunker. Around the inlet, Spanish Mackerel and False Albacore are there for the taking. Nothing fights better than a Fat Albert, hey , hey, hey. The issues here is the floating eelgrass is sure to camouflage your high speed trolled lures at times. At da Ridge the False Albacore are HUGE and in good numbers. Also king mackerel are there for the taking if you troll Clark spoons behind drails or use high speed trolling plugs. I have a bunch of dates open this week and there are many species on the menu item to target right now, your choice. I even love to mix things up on trips and target a multiple species. Give me a call and I’ll hook you up!
On the nature side of things: One of my favorite quotes came out of the mouth of Einstein who said “if you look deeply into nature, you will understanding everything”. No words are truer than when you look at laughing gulls right now or listen to crickets. The Laughing gulls are losing their breeding plumage black heads now which is a sign that September is upon us. And when you start hearing field crickets, it is a sure sign that the mullet are staging in the back waters and will be pushing out of the inlets any day now. Game on!
In case you were wondering where I’ve been, no I have not been on a Space X Rocket heading towards Mars, although that would be way cool. I’ve been on the water most days the last few weeks. It is just that sometimes life gets in the way of well, life. Enough of that, now onto a fishing report. Blowfish, did someone say blowfish? I swear you could walk on them because they are so thick and puffed up at times. You have to weed through a lot of little ones to get to the ones that deserve an invitation to dinner. Same with fluke, lots of shorts to be had, but enough keepers making into the cooler. Live bait is the ticket for the flatties. I recently was on ESPN’s Rack and Fin Radio with Tom P talking about Blowfishing. You can listen to it here Around the inlet blackfish, some triggerfish and occasional holy grail of fish for me, sheepshead. Although I have not personally targeted weakfish on my trips, the word is there are enough around if you want to target them. Schoolie striped bass are in the mix if you know how to put in the work for them.
On the Nature Side of Things: Barn swallows, those fork–tailed birds that live under docks and fly like a F15s fighter jets on a mission. They arrive here in April, build nests made of mud and stuff, and then migrate to their wintering grounds of Central and South America come September. Isn’t that crazy? They are our friends since they love to eat things like greenheads while on the wing, literally.
I have this Wednesday and upcoming Saturday and Sunday open if you want to book a trip to fish, ecotour, or do both.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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…..
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
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.