Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Saturday April 12 -- Signs that things are seriously stirring

Saturday, April 12, 2008: I ended up testing the south end night waters (bayside) to only a mild response from the fish, though one bass sorely tested the take-home in me. I had no tape but have all my rods marked for a 28-inch point and my one bring-in was near the mar, tail pursed (which is allowed). No go, though. In case there is any doubt, there are some very scattered bluefish in the mix. I had no landings but one telltale bite. The air was so heavy last night that is was soaking despite no actual rain. Crabs are showing, here and there (topwater). West bay areas are supposedly very active, per reports from Forked River all the way down to Great Bay.

Floundering remains very decent for the sharpies – and those actually doing it. My guess is this weekend will see the first real push of heavy flattie traffic. Chum is essential. I’m still inclined to find sod bank ribbed mussels the quickest and easiest heavy-distribution chum. By that I mean the best way to really get the water loaded with smell and small pieces of chum. Though more and more chum buckets are available there’s a lot to be said for ye olde burlap bag. Though I’ve never done it, some of the top blackback hunters I know swear by the bottom plungers. They are long poles with various end devises used to simply rile the bottom mud wherever one stops to test for flounder. The simplest bottom attachment (and I imagine the prehistoric prototype) is a toilet plunger. However, the range of fishing-modified bottom-exciting attachment is all over the board. I’m told some are even powered by motors that spin the end attachment, really whipping up the muck. One modification I saw first-hand was styled to force air down a long PVC tube. Another contraption used an identical PVC tube fitted to attach to the boat’s hose, forcing water downward in a method similar to driving pilings. I’ve never seen any of these devises at a retail level. However, I’ve seen this method work as well as heavy chumming, though I’ve noticed bottom stirring anglers also keep lot of chum around. Note: Flounder reports around the state indicate this is one of the better winter flounder years in quite some time. However, these is often a superior showing of larger flounder early on (back in the day that could be as early as March and even February some years) so the real measure of the angling year (and consequently the overall stock) comes over the next few weeks. Still, the fishery seems to be holding its own.

I read at Scott’s Bait and Tackle that a very large tog was taken in the Graveling Point waters. That always brings back memories of winter flounder fishing at the now-developed bulkhead near Hochstrasser in Ship Bottom. Every year without fail one angler or another would be idly awaiting the barely detectible bite and fight of a winter flounder and suddenly hookup with a bruiser of a blackfish, entering the bay to over-summer near the pilings of the Causeway bridges. Over the years, I saw a couple/few blackies in the serious 6- to 10-pound range landed (or, just as often, only nearly landed) at the sleepy bulkhead by folks using lighter equipment – and as often as not lacking a large landing net to reach over the steep bulkhead to finalize the hook-up. I often tell the similar story of a quiet bulkhead day when a fellow hooked into an anaconda-sized American eel. A couple dozen of us saw that struggle. The eel was simply insanely huge, beyond any size I had heard of that species of eel reaching, though I’ve since heard similar tales of these eels reaching five feet and as wide around as large lemon. The world record (caught regionally, I believe) is pushing ten pounds. Considering how elongated (and generally light-weight) these eels are, that had to have been a five-footer. Oddest by-catch species taken by winter flounder fishermen near the Causeway was a huge sheepshead, caught by a gal down for the day from Pa. That was caught back in the day when we’d fish flounder there clear into summer. I recall that sheepshead was caught in warmer weather because I was fishing blowfish, which would come in there thick as all get-out, mainly during hotter Mays and Junes. A picture was taken of it and the gal released it. I’m guessing it was 7 or 8 pounds. At that size, the telltale stripes are all blended with a low-intensity yellowish color. As you likely know, the state record sheepshead (17-3) was caught near the Causeway Big Bridge in 2003 by boat fisherman Paul Lowe. Winter flounder fishing is allowed through May 21 this year.

Email question:
“can you tell me if you are allowed to fish at the ends of the streets on the bay side of LBI ? i know you can't park at the end of the street but are you allowed to fish there? don't see any signs you can't but that doesn't mean anything with people living right there. don't own a boat so that's the only way i can fish. and if so what streets can you do this at.”

This is not just a reasonable question but it’s a seriously significant one, legally speaking. ALL (!) non-private bayside street ends on LBI are public domain, plain and simple. (That includes 99 percent of LBI east-west roads.) I don’t care how close nearby homes are located or if boats related to those homes are sticking out into waters fishable from street ends, you can fish there to your heart’s content and no one can tell you differently. If they do, let me know. I’ll personally see any such naysayers are put in their proper place.

There are some excellent bayside street end spots, especially those near deeper channels. Obviously, Dock Road in Beach Haven (near the Morrison’s docks) is the most famous – with parking allowed right there at the bulkheading. That borough goes out of its way to encourage folks to fish there. In Ship Bottom, an under-used fishing pier is located near the town’s boat launch (bayside 11th Street). There are a number of street ends in the vicinity of the Acme Market (LBT), with some of the top fishing street ends of all located in the Brant Beach area. I night fish Surf City bayside street ends – the ones with a lot of street lighst nearby. Those lights draw in baitfish, which in turn draw in the big boys. The trick to finding good bayside street end fishing spots is to reconnoiter, looking for locales with a good shot at casting into deeper water. It’s fun to do on a sunny day via bike.

Special note: The Causeway bridges all offer very good to excellent fishing but they can be notoriously tough to bait fish since the remains of the old Causeway are submerged nearby. To work these areas, think in terms of plugs and jigs – and nighttime.

LBI’s bayside street end spots are unsung and untapped fishing zones, many literally still waiting to be discovered. Bayside fishing in general has actually gotten significantly better in recent years, as bass, weaks and blues maraud through bay waters. For years, crabbers have ruled these sites – and are easy folks to hang out around when fishing.

Huge tip: After wiring a bayside spot – learning all the quirks, like snags and how to get a hooked fish up the bulkhead – turn it up a huge notch by going back at night. If you have taken any fish there during the day, I can absolutely guarantee you’ll be getting plenty more action after dark.

By the by, you’re quite right about parking restrictions on most street ends. As with heading to the beach, you can always offload your gear then park nearby. Not that you would, but it is unlawful to drink alcoholic beverages while fishing on street ends. And, obviously, cleaning up is the best way to remain forever in the good graces off the community.

Another email:

jay, you are right again..the herring fishing has become a circus..a local bait and tackle posts the minute to minute action on a web that brings people in w/in hours..they have even caused problems w/ local property owners..at one time it was only a few german guys fishing for pickled herring..they are rolling in there graves..joe m...

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