The state’s back bay striped bass season opened March 1, but that wasn’t much use to Ocean County anglers. Barnegat Bay is just now thawing out after beginning March largely iced over, and though the weather has seemed to have broken, the chance to score the first keeper bass of 2015 is an elusive goal for many.
It is for that reason that “the wall” along Route 9 over the Oyster Creek power plant’s outflow in Lacey Township has been packed over the past string of nice days, with anglers from across Ocean County trying to hook a 28-inch keeper. (I’ll pause here to write the usual sentence about how Oyster Creek’s cooling system is closed, and none of the bay water actually reaches the reactor, nor does it glow at night.)
Local tackle shops this week seemed to be reporting that the Lacey Township hot spot was essentially the only spot where anyone was catching much of anything in the bays and rivers. But the good news is that anglers were finding success with both stripers and winter flounder in the creek. Mario at Murphy’s Hook House in Toms River said anglers picked up a few flounder on bloodworms – the usual bait of choice – while the bass tended to bite at dusk. Those who caught bass did so using bucktails, swim shads and Fin-S fish, he said.
There didn’t seem to be any reports of flounder in the Toms River or Barnegat Bay. Until recently, the hottest flounder spot on the bay – the Mantoloking Bridge – was iced over.
At Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park, not much was heard about any fish biting, but local fishermen were readying their rods, reels and tackle boxes for the season. That means we’ll likely be hearing about any action – or inaction – on the bay and at Island Beach State Park after this weekend.
On the party boats, the Jamaica II from Brielle was on the hunt for cod and ling, with customers hooking into both as the temperatures improved. The boat will run 12 hour (5 a.m. to 5 p.m.) wreck trips Saturday and Sunday. The crew on the Paramount, also out of Bogan’s Basin in Brielle, was also sailing for ling, cod and pollock. The ling bite has been improving as the weather has gotten warmer, a report from the boat said, and cod were biting too (though most were shorts). The Paramount is currently sailing seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Quick note: If there’s one meeting of the Marine Fisheries Council to hit each year, it’s the marathon session of comments, arguments and opinions that plays out at the meeting where fluke regulations are promulgated for the following year. This year, there is a rescheduled date for a previously snowed-out meeting. The date is April 9 at 4 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Stafford Township municipal building, 260 East Bay Avenue, Manahawkin.