It's looking to be a rainy end to the 2011 summer flounder season, but most captains reported decent action this past week, with the season rounding out to have produced a few more keepers than last year. Still, the high, 18-inch minimum size limit made things tough for back bay anglers this year.
A few days ago, I went for what (judging by the forecast for this weekend) will probably be my final fluke trip of the season. My dad and I fished the bay, near the Barnegat Light Coast Guard station, and Dad scored his first keeper of the season early on in the trip. Though the day was a bit cloudy, and a bit cooler than the bulk of our trips going back to May, steady fishing action, good conversation, music from the boat's stereo and a quick (but not too quick) drift made it the perfect end to another season of flounder fishing at the Jersey Shore.
Fluke action started almost immediately as the season began in early May, with back bay anglers taking most of the first fish of the season. Interestingly, right to the bitter end, back bay action remained steady, even in recent weeks, the time of year when the fish would traditionally have been moving out to their offshore haunts for the winter. The Manasquan River remained on fire throughout the entire season, and many keeper-size fish stuck around as far west as the B.I. buoy in Barnegat Bay through Labor Day weekend.
Yes, striper season is waiting in the wings, but there's something about summer flounder fishing that makes you not want it to end. Plotting your drift, switching up baits and bucktails, fishing in shorts and T-shirts and feeling the warmth of a summer breeze while a fish yanks on the other side of your line is one of the closest things in Heaven many of us might find on Earth.
Fall fishing is fun as well, but there's one unfortunate fact about fall: winter is often too close for comfort.
But as the boys of summer pack away their fluke rigs and bucktails, the boys of fall as readying their sweatshirts, surf rods, plugs and (for the IBSP and LBI folks out there) our four-wheel-drive vehicles ("beach buggies," if you really want to get local with the lingo) to hit the suds for the fall. Of course, back bay fishing will cotninue on the flats, an activity I'd like to feature here in the next few weeks.
What I've been hearing this week is that the mullet migration has begun, which means the striper action should begin to pick up soon in the surf. Blues and bass have both been hitting a variety of metals and natural baits off all the local beaches, but the bite is hit-or-miss.
A few notes on regulations: fluke season ends at the end of the day Sunday, so don't get caught with out-of-season fish next week! Sea bass season is currently closed, and will remain closed through Nov. 1. Blackfish (tog) season is open, but there is a possession limit of just one, 14-inch fish per angler through Nov. 15. On Nov. 16, the limit will rise to six fish.
For ocean anglers, the best bet is to target porgies until the striped bass run begins in earnest. I know, not the absolute best option when marine fuel is still running around $4 per gallon, but I'm hearing that porgies are plentiful at the local reefs (which are usually within a couple miles from the inlet - Axel Carlson and Barnegat Light are both reefs that are close and hold lots of porgies) and are good table fare.
We will return next week, re-energized to kick off striper season, and I'm hoping to feature a few plugs that will help get everyone started early.