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Fishing at Island Beach State Park, NJ
by Bob D'Amico
Park Headquarters - Telephone: 732-793-0506

Related Article: Island Beach History and Beach Buggy Permit Information

A Main Entrance & Gate House
B Station 110: Maintenance Building & Walk In Access
C Aoleum Nature Center
D Governor's Mansion
  GILLIKINS 4 x 4 Beach Access
E Ocean Bathing Unit 1 Beach
F Park Headquarters
G Ocean Bathing Unit 2 Beach
A7 4 x 4 Beach Access Road
A23 4 x 4 Beach Access Road
P Parking Areas also at A3 thru A22
  4 X 4 Travel Limit
  Closed to 4 x4 (May-Sept)
  No 4 X 4's Year Round
  Open Beach

Disappointed? If you were expecting a map with every spot clearly marked and GPS coordinates, sorry, no can do. In fact no one can draw a map that zeros in on the spot to catch bass all the time, it doesn't work that way, the fish won't cooperate and there are just too many variables. Success comes from work, experience, using your Eyes, Ears, Brain and doing your home work. Hopefully the following advice and information will help you.

ou can locate deep water troughs, cuts and points all along the shoreline, the depth of the water is deeper in the north and decreases rapidly from A12 to the Inlet. The best method to select a fishing location is to "Read the Water" at dead low tide. During low water the sloughs, sand bars, points and cross currents stand out and one can note spots to fish (Refer to: Reading the Beach for Soft Structure).

Also look at the beach itself, it's width, slope or height from the surf and the configuration of the dunes themselves are hints at the depth and structure below the water. The beach rises much more abruptly in the northern half of the park and is basically flat in the south. Although there are spots in the south where one can see a high dune with a short high beach, one, the "Judge's Shack" shown below, is easy to find. Going south from A7, past A11 you will see an old fishing shack up in the dunes, there's a small "fishing hole" 50 yards south of it.

Where to Fish: Well known and sometimes infamous spots are at Two Bit Road, on your left, its located immediately after you drive through the Gatehouse. You can pull in and park, it's a short walk to the beachfront. A superb area in the Northern section with minimal competition for fishing space is accessed by the old Life Saving Station 110, now the Maintenance building, there is a path to walk in. The area in front of the Governor's Mansion can only be accessed by walking down from 110 or up the beach from Gillikins. Gillikins is a restricted area, you need a 4 x 4 to get to it because there is no parking immediately available. You MUST be actively fishing to be on the beach here. No picnics, BBQ's, fires, frisbies, etc. Try working the beach about 150 yards on either side of the 4 x 4 access road as well as any cuts you may discern. Another good spot on Gillikins is located approximately 100 yards north of the sign, "No Beach Buggies Beyond this Point", marking the beginning of the bathing beaches.

NJ Governor's Mansion

A14 and A15 are some of the shallowest sections of the beach, easily wadeable, but do not offer much underwater "structure" to attract fish. Look for a real mailbox standing in the dunes between A23 and the Inlet, this marks another large "hole" in the surf. And of course there's the hole immediately alongside the jetty at the Inlet which is referred to as "the Pocket". There is no best time to fish any of these spots although the hole alongside the jetty is usually good right after a Nor'easter and/or when winds are blowing from the north east.

We have also had consistent success at A3, A4, A5, A6, A7 through A10 and A12. It is also always a good idea to look at the dune fence posts, many of them are "marked" by previous fishermen for good reason, then look at the water at that spot to determine if the "good reason" is valid during the time/tide you are there.

JettyThe North Jetty at the southern tip of the beach bordering Barnegat Inlet is one of the best striper and blackfish spots in the late Fall and into December. Now too old be a "jetty jockey" I no longer chance fishing on this dangerous jetty even though it is as the top spot for striped bass along the East coast from late November through December.

This is the not the place to bait fish this is a plug casting spot. It is however the best place in the northern half of New Jersey for casting live eels. Try to work your way out as far as can and still feel “comfortable.”

Some rules for all jetties and especially the North Jetty:

Don't go out on the jetty without, at least, felt soled boots. Spiked boots or boots with "Korkers" are much better since the jetty is far removed from a level surface. It's downright treacherous!

Always keep looking back over your shoulder for a rogue wave bearing down on the jetty. You've been warned!

Don't be a dope and wear waders out on the jetty. Don't be a dope and take a 12 foot spinning rod for casting plugs and bucktails, 7, 8 or 9 feet is enough and a conventional rod and reel gives you better control and accuracy.

Know the stage of the tide before you start climbing out on the jetty, too many people get caught by a rising tide.

If you see people or kids ready to stroll out on the jetty in their Nikes or sandals please give them a friendly warning.

The best and safest fishing is on the ocean side of the jetty on a falling high tide. Don't forget "The Pocket" next to the jetty. The Inlet side is better on the rise however be prepared to lose a few lures and bucktails if you don't work your line properly.

Think about how and where you are going to land a fish before you hook one. Been there, done that!

Take a Walk: If the wind is blowing about 30 knots into your face and you need a 20 ounce lure to cast or 2 pounds of lead to hold bottom it's the perfect time to take a walk around the end of the point and fish the "Bulkhead" and the rip between the barrier beach and the island. This is an especially good place during an outgoing tide and one of the few good spots for flyfishing. Fly fishermen can walk in at A15 and A21 for access to the bay.

Sun & Moon DataTide and moon phase play a major factor in success, I personally have not had a great deal of success during low tide although some guys swear by it. The rule of thumb is that the fish will be more active during the period one hour before and after a tide change. My log shows that low tide for me is basically a wipe out while the two hours before and after high tide, a total of four hours, is "prime time." There are always exceptions, the biggest, longest "bass blitz" I have encountered at IBSP was at 11:30 PM one August night in 1964 at dead low tide at A9. We didn't take a fish below twenty pounds, I still dream of that night. During the full and New Moon periods ("Spring Tide") are the largest amount of water exchange, at low tide during these periods the water level is at it's lowest and one must pick the right spot or end up fishing in two feet of water. AND watch out for high tide because there will be a lot of water coming inshore. If a storm is in the area you can expect flooding and possibly parts of the beach cut off.

Prime Time: Real "Prime Time" is naturally during the hours of dark, first light and twilight. Based on my own success/failure ratio the best time has got to be twilight when the fish move back inshore for feeding. The tide does not matter, the bass are hunting. Night fishing is easy, even with no moon light since there is plenty of illumination from the lights of Toms River and Seaside Heights. The only negative is someone driving on the beach with headlights or shining a zillion watt Q Beam spotlight into the water. If night fishing is not possible your chances are ten times better on any cloudy, heavily overcast day.

Storms, high surf conditions and currents are changing the beach, constantly, a hole or cut in the sand bar may disappear one day and not re-appear for weeks, months or not at all. Therefore it is extremely important to learn to "Read the Water," note where the waves are first breaking (these I call the 3rd wave), they are hitting a sand bar. The middle or 2nd wave's breaking point and finally the beach or 1st wave break. One can easily see a line of 3rd waves forming, hitting the bar but one part of the wave may continue cresting until it breaks much further inshore. This is a sure sign of a gap in the sand bar and the kind of place that striped bass and bluefish will hang out.

Schematic of Sandbar & Surf

Since clams are a prime bait on Island Beach, it naturally follows that where one finds large numbers of clam shells and whole clams on the beach, the bass will be around. Note these locations, most of them are in the southern beach areas, the area near the jetty is a prime spot. Also keep an eye out for the gulls and terns dive bombing the surf, they are following schools of bait fish being attacked by bass and blues. (Refer to "Stripers and Jersey Clams")

Tourist information State of New Jersey Travel Page

NJ DEP Division of Parks and Foresty - Island Beach State Park

Park Headquarters - Telephone: 732-793-0506

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