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August, More than Meets the Eye
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service

he first real heat wave of the season finally made it feel like the dog days of summer this past week. The dreaded south wind that blew so hard in prior weeks finally ceased and seas were calm and virtually windless. If you speak to any surf fishermen at this time they will tell you that this is the dreaded summer doldrums when striped bass catches are few and far between. Many hours can be put in during the course of the day with virtually no results.

Each year we enter this period when the weather pattern turns as it has and visions of fall blitzes and cooler days ahead couldn’t come soon enough. On the surface the flat clam sea seems void of fish from the surf fisher’s point of view. Boaters on the other hand can easily find a bounty of fish.

But if you take a much closer look at the surf you will find that there are plenty of striped bass there. This look however has to be one from below the water and not from above. That means sporting the mask and snorkel and getting wet.

This is exactly what we did this past week and noticed large schools of striped bass milling around the jetties that we inspected in southern Monmouth County. This is typical summer behavior for stripers. Many times there will also be large schools of stripers just outside the bathing lanes on a crowded beach. They just sit there near the bottom almost as if they too were enjoying the sun’s rays.

At Island Beach State Park this is the time of year when sight fishing for striped bass in the surf is a viable option. With the surf flat from the west winds and clear green in appearance striped bass can be seen swimming inside the sandbar along the beach. Stepping back from the water’s edge and standing slightly up on the berm gives one a better view to spot these fish. A good pair of polarized sunglasses is a must. It is also advantageous to cast from this position away from the water’s edge so as not to spook the fish. These fish can be spotted in the late morning into the early afternoon.

To catch the striped bass that are around the jetties at this time the surfcaster will need to be an early riser and get to the jetty just before first light. I like to arrive when there is just enough light to see where I am stepping on the rocks but when I look to the west the sky is still dark. With sunrise at 5:57am I would arrive at 5:15am which is about 10 minutes before civil twilight to get ready. Civil twilight is defined when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon. This is the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under good weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished.

To entice these jetty striped bass I will fish small poppers on spinning tackle or Bob’s Bangers on floating lines if I am using the fly rod. In either case however what I will do is lengthen my leader to between 4-5 feet on my spinning gear and 9-11 feet on my fly gear. I will also lighten up to 15 pound test and use fluorocarbon instead of monofilament as my leader.

Most of these striped bass that are present around the jetty rocks right now are small with a big one around the 30-inch range that are caught. But believe me bigger fish are present too, into the 30 pound class. We have seen these this week while snorkeling around the rocks. These small bass that you will catch will still pack a punch however and put up an enjoyable fight. Just remember to take care in releasing them. With wave action at a minimum you can find a flat rock near the water’s edge and release them quickly and safely.

As we move further into August bluefish will reappear strong as they come off of their offshore spawn and move back inshore to feed heavily. Typically the areas around the Farms, Mud Buoy, 17 Fathoms, Klondike, Manasquan Ridge, and Barnegat Ridge will hold the greatest concentrations of fish. On any given day one should now be able to find bluefish at one of these locations that will range in size from 5-12 pounds. Setting up at anchor and chunking and fishing with bunker should yield good results. The bluefish will remain at these locations through the end of October when they will then begin their migration to the south as the water chills down.

These locations will also serve as staging areas for these big blues to move inshore at anytime. In fact this is exactly what happened this week as some phenomenal blitzes have taken place along the beach with gator blues. These blues were pushing 10 pounds and a blast to catch.

I got into several of these this week with clients and lost a lot of hardware in the process. As one big blue was hooked about a half a dozen others would still attack the lure lashing out at it frantically. Inevitably they would hit the leader and break off the hooked fish and my hardware went traveling on its way.

It is also this month that we will see the first snapper blues appear and invade our backbays and rivers giving the kids a great opportunity to get hooked on fishing. The larger snapper blues, eight inches and longer that are present at the beginning of this month are from bluefish that have spawned earlier in the season further to our south along the Mid-Atlantic States. These bluefish stocks are referred to as the southern race.

The snappers that we will see in our bays and rivers later this month will be smaller in size and are the first year young from the spawn that has taken place off our coast in July. These July spawning bluefish have been referred to as the northern race of bluefish that are present in the Atlantic.

A dual spawning period for bluefish like this is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring a perpetuation of the species. If unfavorable environmental conditions prevent a successful early spawn than the latter spawn will ensure that the species biotic potential is achieved or vice versa.  End

Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Jim Freda, All Rights Reserved

Articles by Captain Jim Freda

Capt. Jim FREDAEmail Captain Jim Freda

Jim Freda is a highly respected charter captain, author, outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and photographer. His first book Fishing the New Jersey Coast, has been a best seller and received the “New Jersey Center for the Book Award” as one of the most notable NJ books. He co-authored a second book Saltwater Fishing a Tactical Approach, A Guide for Northeast Beach and Boat Fishermen, with his Shore Catch associates Capt Gene Quigley and Shell E. Caris.

Jim has weekly fishing columns that appear in the Bergen Record, NJ's second largest newspaper and the Coast Star and Ocean Star newspapers of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Nationally, Jim is a contributing editor for Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine and also writes for Fly Fisherman magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Eastern Fly Fishing, Big Game Journal, and Regionally he writes for On the Water magazine where he has is own monthly column, The Fisherman magazine and the NJ Federation of Sportsman Clubs newspaper.

As a seminar speaker Jim is featured as one of the celebrities on the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, as one of the “Stars of the Show” at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ, the Northeast’s largest fly fishing show and is on the National Pro Seminar slate at the Toyota Saltwater Expo also in Somerset. He is also regularly featured each year at many of the local fishing clubs in the surrounding area including the State’s two largest clubs the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and the Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County. Capt Jim has also been a guest speaker at all the Trout Unlimited Clubs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jim has also been a special guest speaker at the Bloomberg Network in New York City.

He is a member of the National Factory Pro Team for St. Croix Rods and pro staff for Fins Fishing Line, AVET Reels, Spro, Gamakatsu, Hogy, Korkers, Costa Del Mar, Columbia Sportswear and Aquaskinz.

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Saltwater Fishing A Tactical Approach Fishing the NJ Coast