Over the 40 plus years I have been writing Salt Spray there always is at least one week when conditions conspire to make it truly difficult to find anything good to say about the fishing at the shore.
This is one of those weeks.
If you were down here over Labor Day, you know this was not the most pleasant place to spend the holiday. In fact, Labor Day itself looked like most of the visitors had departed the scene by Sunday.
Then the wind started to howl, and it began to rain. Get the picture?
The result was an ocean that was fit only for fish, not boats, and back bays where the water was chocolate brown.
This past Tuesday also marked the end of New Jersey’s abbreviated summer flounder season ... although our friends in Delaware can visit Jersey waters, catch all the flatties they are legally permitted and take them home to the First State.
Our friend, Capt. Norm Hafsrud, got in one last flounder trip. He stayed in the bay because it was impossible to fish the ocean. With him was Pat Moran of King of Prussia and his daughter Liz. They took home a couple of really nice-sized fish for dinner.
Since Capt. Norm, a retired Boyertown High School teacher and coach, is about as good a flounder finder as anyone I know, I asked him about the season just past.
He said this year had more of the fish in the back bays than he can ever recall. The fishing in the inside was far better than out in the ocean, and why make the trip if you can find them a mile or so from your dock.
He attributed the lengthy back water stay to the fact that those waters were loaded with bait all summer. Even flounder are smart enough to figure out if the dinner table is right in front of you, why bother swimming out into the ocean?
New Jersey gets lumped in with New York when it comes to flounder regulations. But New Jersey actually is two states: One north of Long Beach Island, and one south of LBI.
The fish to the north tend to be much larger than those in the south, so the large minimum size definitely hurts the southern anglers. Then there is the Delaware Bay situation, where the place where you dock your boat allows you to catch fish when Jersey’s season shuts down.
A good solution would be for the regulators to split New Jersey in half and pair the southern half of the state with Delaware, which allows you to catch flounder all year-round — although once it gets cold, they head out to the continental shelf for the winter.
I fear there will be some titanic battles this winter and spring between New Jersey interests and the regulators, who are not happy the state disobeyed their draconian proposals for this year.
For good news, there is the crabbing.
This year must be one of the best seasons in decades. Since there is no closed season on blue claws, you can catch them until their time comes to burrow into the mud for the winter.
Bait shops would be happy to tell you about good spots in their neighborhood, but even if you just drive around on some of the more remote roads around the bays, rivers and creeks you will see areas that practically say “Catch Crabs Here!”.
Personally, I always have been a bunker bait fan. I know many use chicken necks, but the bunker always produce for me.
Put some slashes in their body before you drop them into the water. That will speed up the crabs locating them.
Crabs must be 4.5-inches point to pint, and you can keep a bushel day. And never place those you catch in a bucket of water. They will drown.
The trusty bushel basket is perfect, but a bucket will do in a pinch. Cover them with a wet rag or seaweed to keep them damp and lively.
ACROSS THE BAY
Fishing in Delaware seems to have weathered the weather better than Jersey.
There is nothing to report from offshore because it has been too rough, but the Cape Henlopen State Park Pier has been producing a great mixed bag. You can expect to find flounder, perch, spot, croakers and bluefish on the pier. Delaware has a 10 fish per person per day bluefish bag limit but there is no size limit.
In the surf there has been good kingfish activity, along with some small blues. Buoys B and A and the Old Grounds have been good to excellent on the flounder.
One angler reported catching king mackerel at the 12 Fathom Lump but it is anyone’s guess if they still are there after the rocky water conditions recently.
Like Jersey, the crabbing is outstanding. One area that has picked up would be the upper reaches of the Indian River Bay.