Ocean water temperatures have remained consistent in the high 70s all week, meaning anglers who fish the local waters may find themselves hooking into some fish species more associated with areas south of the Jersey Shore.
The warm water temperatures have most certainly accounted for a rise in grey triggerfish catches this week, as the fish – often relegated to the bays of the southernmost portions of the Shore this time of year – have been chomping on baits at both Manasquan and Barnegat inlets.
Anglers have caught the delicious warm-water fish species while fishing the jetty rocks at both inlets. Triggers will chomp on a number locally-popular baits, ranging from fiddler crabs to clam and squid strips. Bait should be presented on #1 style hooks. Just make sure to be careful if you decide to fish from the rocks, as always.
Another word of caution brings us to our next warm-water species: cownose rays. Like triggerfish, cownose rays are somewhat common in New Jersey waters, however they usually show up for a limited time later in the season – at least in numbers enough to be visible. This week, I had the opportunity to enjoy a few hours at the beach, and the rays – some of absolutely huge sizes – were visible to the naked eye in the suds from my beach chair 50 feet away.
Last week in this column, I mentioned my neighbor, an avid bay fisherman, caught one or two in a creek in Manahawkin. So whether you fish the suds, the inlet or the back bay, make sure you know how to handle these critters before heading out. They do sting, and from what I understand, it's an intense pain worse than a bee sting. On Thursday night, there was a report of a person having been stung in Beach Haven.
I found a good discussion on this Maryland-based fishing forum on how to de-hook rays.
Fluking seems to have slowed down a bit. It's mostly shorts in the bay, however there seems to be a higher keeper ratio in the Manasquan River. Your best bet in the bay would be the Double Creek channel, however with the warm water I wouldn't be against hitting some of my late-season spots. It's worth a try.
Kingfish were being dragged to shore in the LBI surf, with some reports of them showing up one barrier island north in Seaside Park, according to the folks at The Dock Outfitters in Seaside Heights. Crabbing was decent at the Dock pier – pretty much the same story bay-wide. A fellow boater at the marina where I keep my boat in Manahawkin said he nabbed enough keepers for dinner on a recent crabbing expedition near the Route 72 bridge.
Speaking of bridges: try your luck at night for weakies near the Route 37 and Route 72 spans. I've heard about a few catches near each. Not much to write home about, and they aren't necessarily keepers, but they're there.