It was all about the Barnegat Light Reef this past week, I've been told. As the fluke make their way from the back bays to the ocean, the fishing has been on fire at the reefs and wrecks, with the Barnegat Light Reef, perfectly designed for drift fishing, getting the most attention.
There's also been a good amount of attention paid to the channels just inside Barnegat Inlet, including a surprising one - the gas docks near the Coast Guard station. A friend at my marina spilled the beans this week, saying he caught plenty of keepers there and the local boat rental joints have been telling customers to stay near the dock to find the big ones.
I fished off High Bar Harbor last week, in the main channel heading towards the inlet, and didn't manage any keepers despite steady action. But I haven't hit the gas docks yet, but plan to this weekend. I'll keep everyone in the loop as to how I do.
Bay fishing is still viable, according to one local captain.
"The excellent back bay fluking we've had this year continued right through this week, although the best action seems to have moved off of the shallow flats and into the deeper, cooler water in the channels," Capt. Jack Shea, skipper of the Rambunctious, wrote on his website this week.
"Our custom fluke rigs mixing Gulp baits and our special teasers produced average catches of 70-75 fluke per trip this week, although the ratio of "shorts" to keepers has crept up to almost thirty to one," Shea added.
In the ocean, Capt. Allen Gonzalez, who runs Reel Class Sportfishing out of Manasquan Inlet, fished the deepwater this week. Despite some poor water quality (he described it as "puke green") his party had a slow-but-steady pick of ling and sea bass at wrecks in the 120-foot range, and very good luck on the cod. They also found a handful of keepers among a number of small sea bass back inshore at depth between 30 and 50 feet.
"The crabbing pick up pretty good for the last couple days off the dock," according to the folks at The Dock Outfitters in Seaside Heights. Kingfish, blowfish and snappers are all biting in Barnegat Bay off the dock outside the shop. A 5-pound blackfish was also caught off a jetty.
Anecdotally, I can tell you that most people I've talked to over the past week agree that the fluke bite in the surf has picked up. If you're looking to really sock 'em in the surf with Berkeley Gulp, check out the Willie Hits rigs at Oceanside Bait and Tackle on LBI. Believe me, these rigs work, and it's worth the trip to the shop to pick them up!