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November Trophies
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service

he month of November is an exciting time for both the beach and boat angler as our migration of striped bass and bluefish along our beaches reach its peak. The largest concentrations of both of these species will be found this month and classic Jersey blitzes will continue. We will also have an opportunity at targeting and landing some of the biggest bass and bluefish of the season.

As air temperatures get colder water temperatures will now drop into the mid-to low fifty degree ranges. When water temperatures fall from 56-50 degrees we will see our greatest activity and feeding that will take place. Falling water temperatures are the impetus that triggers striped bass and bluefish to feed as they bulk up for their migration to our south. Peanut bunker will remain the dominant bait along the beach but spearing and sandeels may also be present. Later in the month big sea herring will become one of the prime forage baits.

Like the bass the peanut bunker migration will also occur in a north to south fashion along the beach and reach a peak around the middle of the month. Traditionally the time frame between the 15th-20th of November has been the best time for largest concentrations of peanut bunker exiting from our backbays.

During November it will not be uncommon to land stripers that will weigh in excess of 30 pounds and bluefish that will flirt with the 15 pound mark. On average however most striped bass will range in size from 10-25 pounds and bluefish will average from 8-10 pounds.

During the first several weeks of the month inshore boat action for stripers and blues will occur anywhere from just outside the sandbar to one mile off the beach. Look for visual signs of surface commotion along with diving gulls, gannets, and terns that will mark the locations of the pods. In the surf look for bait that is tight to the beach in your location. If no bait is there, move to another spot. Latter in the month trolling deep anywhere from 30-70 feet of water will consistently put trophy catches on board at this time of year.

As mentioned, be ready for blitz action on just about any day. You can anticipate what I described here as taken from one of my Bergen Record fishing columns from last November. This is what makes this time of year so exciting.

“Blitz,” Webster's has it as a sudden overwhelming attack, an all out assault of predator on prey. Well if you wanted to see this definition in action this past Saturday was a classic one. Our first sustained all day blitz of the fall took place in all of Monmouth and Ocean County waters as big bass and blues were ripping through massive schools of peanut bunker that were spread from Sea Bright down through Island Beach State Park.

I was lucky enough to be in the surf in Deal and fished and witnessed one of the best all day blitzes in my entire career. The action was nothing short of phenomenal with bass ranging in size from six pounds all the way up to twenty-five pounds. The blues also ranged from four pounds up to many monster-headed fifteen pounders.

I have been in on some other all day blitzes in recent years like the one that occurred on November 18th, 1999 in Monmouth County and October 22cd, 2000 at the North Jetty at Island Beach State Park but what made this event so different was the size of the fish that were there all day. By 8:30am on Saturday morning six bass between twelve and twenty-three pounds were already caught on the beach that I was fishing.

The bass would come in waves as they would show up for fifteen or twenty minutes and then disappear but the monster blues never left at all; they hung around for the entire day. Greg Hueth, President of the Shark River Surf Anglers along with other members of his club were in the Deal surf on Saturday and had fish after fish. Greg had twenty plus bass and countless blues. Greg commented that "everyone could catch them" as it was great action.

The action wasn't limited to the beach as boaters did equally well if not better. Being able to quickly move around was one advantage that the boaters had over the surf guys as pods of bait were quickly pushed to the surface and easily recognizable by all the bird activity that was on the breaking fish. Casting into or to the side of the commotion immediately drew strikes."

For the most consistent action in the early part of this month live peanut bunker will be the best bait to use as these can easily be netted or snagged. Fish them whole. If you are using artificials than you can try the Mr. Bunker style rattletrap. It's 4-inch length and 1-1/4 width nicely matches the profile of the peanut bunker. Fish with a slow steady retrieve.

Surface action poppers like the Polaris in white will also work very well but may at times produce smaller fish. If you find this happening then jig down deep with A-27 or A-47 diamond jigs to produce the biggest fish in a school. Allow the jig to hit the bottom and then reel up or lift up for several feet. Drop it back to the bottom and repeat. In the surf big swimmers such as Leftys, Skippys, Wades, MacFaddens, Lex's, Gibbs, and Atoms will work best for the biggest fish.

When trolling from the boat chartreuse or white shad rigs or umbrella rigs with green, red, or wine colored tube tails fished on wire line or heavy mono with drails will put your artificials right near the bottom where the biggest stripers will be. Also large swimming plugs in blue, green, or gold that imitates a sea herring will produce near the end of the month. The six inch Storm Wildeyes in chartreuse or pearl will produce consistently throughout the month.

November will also be a great time for fly fishers as bass and blues will be right at your feet in the surf and easy to find by boat. Stripers and blues will be more than eager to strike out at your flies. Geno's Baby Angel, Popovic's baby bunker, bucktail deceiver, and bangers, Tabory's slab flies, and wide-bodied deceivers will all work well.

These should be fished on a clear cold water intermediate striper line when stripers are in the surf or up in the water column around the boat. These lines will coil less and cast well as the air and water temperatures drop. If stripers are holding deeper when your out on the boat than use a 300-400 grain line or a Rio T-14 sinking head to get your fly down to the level that the fish are out. Use your fishfinder to determine the depth at which the fish are holding. If you are fly fishing for jumbo blues before switching to a wire tippet try a six to eight inch piece of 60-80 pound hard mono as a tippet. When the water is clear the blues can quickly become wire shy. This pound test will help prevent a bite-off as will using flies with a longer shank hooks.

If water temperatures drop quickly near the end of the month than a lot of small bass less than 30 inches will be caught. It's important to remember when catching these small fish to take care in releasing each and ever one and not to haphazardly kick or throw them back into the water. So many times I see anglers dropping and kicking small bass back into the water. Please revive them quickly until they are able to swim away. Crushing the barbs down on your trebles is also a good idea to facilitate removing the hook. You won't lose any fish by doing this as so many anglers presume.

Striped bass should remain in our Central NJ waters until ocean temperatures drop below 45 degrees. When this happens the bulk of the migration will be over. This usually doesn't happen however until the middle to latter part of December.

A word of caution to boaters as temperatures drop and get colder towards the end of this month, be aware of a thin layer of skim ice that will develop on your dock and boat deck. It is very difficult to see so proceed with caution when you go to board your boat. Good fishin!.  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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