Just days after the ice thawed on Barnegat Bay, anglers began hooking some of their first fish of 2015, as reports of winter flounder and striped bass catches trickled into local tackle shops.
Most of the action has been found at Oyster Creek in Forked River, where anglers from across Ocean County have crammed in to wet a line in the warm water outflow of the power plant.
Dave Merico, a customer of Murphy’s Hook House in Toms River, was one of the lucky anglers to catch a keeper flounder in the creek. His 1.75-pounder is now leading the shop’s contest, Mario from the shop said. The crew at Murphy’s, located on Route 37 East, has also heard of some small stripers being found in the creek. They’ve mainly been hooked on Fin-S fish and bloodworms.
There have also been a few striped bass nabbed near the Mantoloking Bridge, but little was heard about the winter flounder bite at this usual hot spot.
Ocean water temperatures are in the upper 30s, according to the folks at Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park. The shop is mainly focusing on reel repairs and service as the season begins to get underway. The ocean (generally) remains too cold for the stripers to be biting.
With the surf and bay waters both still on the chilly side as far as those types of fishing go, many anglers have taken to the party boats to hook some keepers for the table.
The Dauntless, out of Point Pleasant Beach, is currently sailing for cod, pollock and ling, Capt. Willie Egerter said. Catches of 2-6 cod per person were common, he wrote in a report this week, with high hooks coming in recently at four keeper cod and a ling. The boat sails daily all year long from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
After a “lumpy” ride out Thursday morning, the fishing turned on for those on board the Ocean Explorer party boat out of Belmar, the crew said in a report. The fishing wasn’t the greatest ever, but anglers put together solid catches, including one customer with two keeper cod and a ling. Other keepers were caught “here and there,” although a few guys were stuck with just shorts. The high-hook customer used a clam with a gulp chartruese swimming minnow as bait. Interestingly, a dogfish invasion slowed down the catch, the report said.
The Ocean Explorer sails daily from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with clams provided for bait.
For those who are looking for something “nautical” to do this weekend aside from fishing, there is a great volunteer opportunity available at Island Beach State Park. More than 200 volunteers will be taking part in the planting of dune grass at the park Saturday morning, as part of an annual effort to help protect the important dune system while enhancing the natural beauty of IBSP.
Volunteers from AmeriCorps, the Barnegat Bay Partnership, and the Friends of Island Beach State Park will plant 15,000 dune grass plants on the dunes at Ocean Bathing Area 1, the most popular and visible area at the park. In addition, dozens of volunteers from the Ocean County Vocational School MATES Academy will be placing 4,000 plants in the area of the Ocean House. The planting is scheduled to begin around 9 a.m., weather permitting.
Hopefully, we’ll have a larger number of reports next week as more people get out on the water. Can’t wait to see what’s happening at the Mantoloking Bridge as winter flounder season gets underway to a larger extent.
As always, we welcome your catch photos, which we’ll feature in this column and around our site. Feel free to send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.